Irma roars through Griffin-Spalding County causing significant damage

storm damage 1

Tropical Storm Irma ripped through Griffin-Spalding County leaving significant damage in her wake. The strong winds uprooted trees throughout the area, including this one in front of the old school building on Taylor Street. Photo courtesy of Jason Turner and Jennifer Elizabeth Blanton


Tropical Storm Irma stormed through Griffin-Spalding County, leaving in her wake much property damage and thousands of homes and businesses without electricity.

Widespread damage has been reported throughout the city of Griffin and Spalding County. Much of the damage appears to have been caused by fallen trees toppled by strong winds.

“We’ve all got crews out all over the county. We’ve all got crews out all over the county. There’s trees down. There’s power lines down all over the city and the county,” said County Manager William Wilson, who said the damage is widespread. “I’ve heard all the way out to West McIntosh and all the way out to South McDonough, North McDonough, so it’s a good area out in the county, and I’ve heard about lots of damage in the city.”

Wilson said city and county officials are working closely together in Griffin’s Emergency Operations Center, where authorities gathered for a meeting at 9 a.m. Monday, and at the Spalding County Fire Department’s Administrative Headquarters for a noon meeting.

“We’re going to meet again with the city in the morning at 9 a.m. at the city’s EOC in their basement,” Wilson said.

Wilson stressed the dangers posed by ongoing hazardous conditions, and urged residents to stay off the roads.

“If you see lines down, go around. Don’t assume they’re dead,” he said for those who must travel.

Wilson said county services are working according to plans.

“They’ve (the Sheriff’s Office and Fire Department) got extra folks coming in and they’re rotating shifts and things like that. Along with Public Works and the 911 Center, everything is operating per the Emergency Operation Plan,” Wilson said.

City Manager Kenny Smith said Irma had created hazardous conditions in Griffin

“It’s hectic. It’s pretty bad – a lot of trees down, a good bit of power outage,” Smith said, citing ongoing dangers. “People just need to stay at home and stay off the roads, especially like College, Maple and Hill where we have these big trees that hang over the roads. We’ve got several in the road and we’ll get to them as quick as we can, but it only takes is just a limb or tree coming down on a car and you’ve had it.”

Smith said emergency services is fully-staffed for the storm response, but said calls are being prioritized.

“We’ve got ample manpower out. We are categorizing our calls and responding to priority one calls. We need to keep those guys off the road, too, unless it is absolutely necessary to go out,” he said, as he explained which calls for service are receiving responses. “Basically, an emergency, a life and death type situation or some emergency situation – auto accident with injuries, people trapped in a house, something like that. We’re not going to worry too much is someone’s got their keys locked in a car. Those are the kinds of things we aren’t going to worry about, but if there’s an emergency, people have an emergency, they need to call 911 and we’ll get to them just as quick as we can.”

Smith also requested that residents be patient during the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irma.

“If the winds are 35 to 40 miles per hour, we’re not going to put the guys in a bucket, so there are some cases where power is out and it’s just going to have to stay off until conditions are safe enough for those guys to do something. Just be patient is the main thing. We pretty much know where the power outages are. The Systems Operation Center can tell which circuits are operational and which are down, so if they call and get a busy signal, don’t fret because the phones are ringing off the hook, but still, we pretty much know where the outages are,” Smith said. “And like I said, once it goes out, it’s probably going to be out for a while. It isn’t like it happened without notice – we knew that it was coming – so hopefully people have got their flashlights ready and they’re just going to have to hunker down and be patient for a while.”

Smith said projections call for continued strong winds and rain through early Tuesday morning.

“I don’t see any relief any time soon,” he said. “Once it gets dark, it will be even more dangerous for the crews, so just hunker down and we’ll reassess it with daylight Tuesday.”

A countywide curfew has been put in place from 10 p.m. Monday through 6:30 a.m. Tuesday.

“It doesn’t apply to folks going to work and stuff like that. It just applies to people who are out with no purpose – sight seers,” Wilson said. “We realize people have different shifts and things like that, so it doesn’t impair them going to or coming from work or anything like that. It’s for people who are out driving around looking at damage.”

All nonessential city of Griffin and Spalding County offices will be closed Tuesday.

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