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Power outages, blocked roads, damaged homes: Zeta storm deals heavy blow, cleanup continues in Hall
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A car is covered by tree limbs along Ridgewood Avenue in Gainesville following overnight storms Oct. 29, 2020. - photo by Scott Rogers

Nov. 4 update: Laurel Park has reopened after being closed on Oct. 29 due to downed trees and power lines, according to the county website.  River Forks Park is set to reopen Thursday, Nov. 5 with the exception of The Retreat facility, which will remain closed until further notice. River Forks Park had also seen downed trees and power lines.

Nov. 2 update: Hall County Emergency Management Agency Director Casey Ramsey said Monday that all roads that had been blocked in the storms of Oct. 28 and 29 had been cleared. Ramsey said all roads were open to vehicle traffic, and road maintenance crews would be clearing debris from the sides of the roads in coming weeks.

Two Jackson EMC customers in Hall County remained without power Monday afternoon, according to the company's outage map. Those two customers were in separate areas of the county. Georgia Power also had limited outages in the area Monday, with fewer than five customers affected in the Oakwood area, 17 near Gainesville and fewer than five near Clermont, according to the company's outage map. Habersham EMC reported four Hall customers still without power as of Monday afternoon, and Sawnee EMC reported no Hall customers without power.

Oct. 31 update: Jackson EMC linemen restored 500 outages overnight, decreasing the number of members remaining without power to just over 1,000 across the cooperative’s 10-county service area, according to a news release. That included 877 in Hall County, as of 7:30 a.m. Saturday. By 4 p.m., just 26 outages, affecting 34 members remained. Georgia Power still had 3,320 customers without power Saturday morning, according to its online outage map. By Saturday evening, there were 1,579 without power.  

Thousands of Hall County residents were still without power or otherwise cleaning up Friday evening after powerful winds and rain from Tropical Storm Zeta tore through Northeast Georgia early Thursday morning. 

The storm, which forecasters say brought gusts of wind as high as 60 mph to some places in Hall, felled trees, broke power poles and blocked roads, leaving some residents stranded or with damaged property. 

A falling tree killed two people in a Buford home, and a few minor injuries were reported in Hall. 

Casey Ramsey, Hall County’s Emergency Management Agency director, said Friday the storm was indiscriminate as it blew through Hall, inflicting the same amount of damage in all areas of the county. 

Ramsey said Zeta, which made landfall in Louisiana Wednesday as a Category 2 hurricane before weakening to a tropical storm, was not as harmful as Hurricane Irma in 2017. Irma, Ramsey said, resulted in more power outages and road closures. However, he still considered Thursday’s strong wind and rainfall significant. 

"This is a moderate storm we had to deal with, and we’re fortunate we could get the roads back open in a day to get traffic through,” he said.  

Ramsey said Hall’s Emergency Management Agency hasn’t listed any road closures in the county yet because portions of roads are still open. In the case that an entire road does shut down, the agency will let the public know, he said. 

Ramsey said the county’s road maintenance team will soon begin removing debris and have the job done by the end of next week. 

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A tree across Garden Boulevard is cut up Thursday, Oct, 29, 2020, following early morning high winds - photo by Scott Rogers

As of 7:50 p.m. Friday, 5,108 Georgia Power customers in Hall were without power. The company stated in a press release that it expects power to be restored to 95% of Georgia customers affected by Hurricane Zeta by Sunday night.  

Georgia Power compared the damage from Hurricane Zeta to the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in 2018. The power company’s damage reports across the state from Hurricane Zeta include more than 350 broken poles, 120 damaged transformers and 1,600 wires down.  

For Jackson EMC, estimating when all Hall customers will have their power restored is difficult, especially with the high number of broken poles and downed trees, spokeswoman April Sorrow told The Times on Friday. 

As of 7:50 p.m. Friday, Jackson EMC reported 1,217 power outages for its Hall customers, down from 50,000 on Thursday morning at 7 a.m. Sorrow assured customers that the company is continuing to add lineman from other co-ops to help restore resident’s power sooner rather than later.  

Habersham EMC, which serves a portion of North Hall, reported 290 power outages among its Hall customers at 7:50 p.m. Friday, and Sawnee EMC reported 286 outages during the same time. 

At the storm’s peak, the power companies reported more than half of Hall customers without power. 

Blake House, Sawnee EMC’s vice president of member services, said Friday he could not speak to restoration times but knew around 100 crews are working to get the job done as soon as possible. 

“This is undoubtedly the worst storm, outage wise, that we have dealt with in our 82-year history,” he said. “With an ice storm, you have limbs breaking and falling and trees leaning into power lines. With this storm, there were thousands of trees uprooted, breaking poles and entangled in our lines.” 

April Truett, who lives in a mobile home off Ledan Extension in West Hall, told The Times she was still without power on Friday afternoon, though her property sustained minimal damage during Thursday morning's strong winds and rain. She said she first lost power at about 6 a.m. Thursday. 

Truett, a Jackson EMC customer, said she wasn't sure of the cause of her outage, but she did see several broken power poles and trees that had fallen nearby, some resting on power lines. 

She said she was concerned about tree limbs or trees falling and damaging her home during the worst of Thursday morning's winds, but she added that late Thursday and early on Friday, "those winds were worse than Thursday (morning)." 

"Last night, you could really hear the winds," she said on Friday. "The winds were crazy, like howling, almost." 

Still, she only had limbs lying in her yard when the winds stopped, she said. 

"I was surprised that nothing fell at my house, because I do have some questionable trees," she said. "I was like, OK, thank you Jesus." 

Overall, Truett said she considers herself lucky. She said just around the corner, a neighbor's trailer was crushed by a tree. Her biggest concern now, she says, is that she's getting close to having to throw away food in her refrigerator.  

"As a single mom, this is hard," she said. 

Lake Lanier and its marinas also saw its fair share of trees and debris lying on docks, Army Corps of Engineers property and private property, according to Jennifer Flowers, executive director of the Lake Lanier Association. But, she said, “It hasn't been the same type of inflow that we saw with the last rain event, where it was just a ton of debris on top of the water, natural debris and the big logs and everything floating." 

She added that she had not heard reported higher-than-usual pollution from runoff. 

Updated road closures in Gainesville as of Friday evening: 

  • Alta Vista Road  
  • Arbor Walk Drive  
  • Beechwood Boulevard     
  • Bradford Street at Stillwood Drive and at Rudolph Street          
  • Chattahoochee Drive   
  • Chestatee Road    
  • Club Drive at East Lake Drive           
  • Crescent Drive       
  • Crestview Terrace             
  • Crystal Court     
  • Cumberland Valley Road   
  • Dixon Drive          
  • Dunlap Landing Road                  
  • Dunn Drive at Cry Creek subdivision  
  • East Lake Drive at Peninsula Road              
  • Edgewood Circle                  
  • Enota Avenue NE              
  • Etta Vesta Circle   
  • Forrest Avenue                 
  • Green Street SE                
  • Hamilton Place  
  • Holly Drive at Springway Drive              
  • Hwy. 129/Athens Highway at Monroe Drive            
  • Ivey Terrace    
  • Lakeshore Circle  
  • Lakeshore Drive   
  • Lakemont Drive             
  • Lanier Avenue              
  • Lanier Springs Drive NW                  
  • Lee Street NW              
  • Main Street                  
  • Mountain View Drive  
  • Nix Drive  
  • Northside Drive                  
  • Norton Drive NE              
  • Nottingham Drive  
  • Old Hamilton Place       
  • Overlook Drive  
  • Park Hill Drive NE at Enota Avenue              
  • Park Street     
  • Patton Drive  
  • Piedmont Avenue at Green Street Circle              
  • Pearl Nix Parkway    
  • Rainey Street at Martin Alley      
  • Ridgewood Avenue           
  • Ridgewood Terrace                  
  • Riverside Drive              
  • Robinhood Trail at Fairview Drive          
  • Roper Hill Road         
  • Skelton Road at Spring Road  
  • Summit Street  
  • Thompson Bridge Road at Enota Avenue NW and at Christopher Drive      
  • Washington Street SW    
  • Wessell Drive           
  • White Sulphur Road               
  • Wilshire Road       
  • Woodland Way NE                  
  • Woodlawn Avenue 


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