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Hurricane Irma weakens to tropical storm but brings damage, deadly winds, rain to Forsyth
Atlanta Highway blocked at Piney Grove
Atlanta Highway was blocked Monday afternoon as the storm dropped a large tree branch into the roadway and then onto a power line. - photo by Jim Dean

UPDATE: Wednesday, Sept. 13, 7:45 a.m.

There were still 1,338 Sawnee EMC customers without power Wednesday morning, 627 of whom are in Forsyth County.

Georgia Power outage maps show 1,282 customers affected by outages out of nearly 350,00 statewide.


Hurricane Irma kept governmental, law enforcement and emergency response agencies in Forsyth County busy well into Tuesday as trees continued to topple a day after the storm hit metro-Atlanta and north Georgia, bringing wind gusts of up to more than 60 miles per hour in some places.

While the height of the storm seemed to blow in between 9-11 p.m. on Monday, Forsyth County Emergency Management Agency Deputy Director Chris Grimes said crews from all active departments worked throughout Monday, overnight and into Tuesday.

For a photo gallery and video of the storm rolling through Forsyth County and the damage it left in its path, CLICK HERE.

“We worked with all our partner agencies very well. When we activate the Emergency Operations Center, we coordinate to make sure we respond in the most efficient way that the situation allows us,” Grimes said.

While Irma may not have caused the devastation in Forsyth as it did in the Caribbean and Florida and the flooding it brought to coastal Georgia and South Carolina, the 911 Center was inundated with calls for help.

From noon Monday to noon Tuesday, the center received 1,387 reports, which may include emergency and non-emergency 911 calls or events called in by first responders in the field, according to 911 Center Director Pat Giordano. She said that was double the average number of calls they receive in a typical 24-hour period.

Utility companies were still on roadways and at homes Tuesday trying to restore power to tens of thousands that lost it when Irma swept in.

Cutting up a tree on Buford Dam Road
A Cumming Utilities worker saws up a tree that has fallen on Buford Dam Road. - photo by Jim Dean
Grimes said remaining trees that have not been removed from blocking roads likely have power and electric lines wrapped within them and that residents should not touch them or try to remove them on their own.

“Leave it for us to get to, and we’re getting there just as quick as we can,” he said.

Forecasts came to light how agencies working from the EOC predicted, which included the fire department, sheriff’s office, 911 center, ambulance service, county government, parks and recreation, roads and bridges and utility companies.

“We work closely with the weather service, and we share information a lot with them and with GEMA, so we addressed the issues as they came up,” Grimes said.

He said there were about 20-25 representatives of those departments and agencies holed up in the EOC during the storm to make decisions and react to its progress.

Those decisions included the fire department responding to 210 emergencies, 31 of which were structures damaged by fallen trees, according to Forsyth County Fire Department Division Chief Jason Shivers.

Shivers said there were 76 fire personnel in the field from noon Monday to noon Tuesday – 61 firefighters and 15 from the administration department.

That number went down to 68 total personnel Tuesday – 56 firefighters and 12 from administration.

“Those numbers were and are, of course, supplemented by numerous personnel from fire and other agencies and departments in the EOC and 911 Center,” Shivers said.

Crews responded to a car crash that involved an entrapment on Shady Grove Road Tuesday morning that initially appeared to have serious but non-fatal injuries.

Another incident that stood out was an early Tuesday morning call on Browns Bridge Road about a propane tank being hit by a tree, knocked off its foundation and ripping its gas line as it rolled down a hill before hitting the homeowners’ truck, spilling propane.

Sawnee EMC crews working
A Sawnee EMC lineman works high above Dahlonega Highway as crews work to restore power and remove downed power lines in 2017. - photo by Jim Dean
“It was a serious emergency because they were somewhat trapped in their home due to the extent of propane spilling out,” Shivers said.

No injuries resulted from the incident, and a propane service technician was called to the scene, but Shivers did describe it as a “bizarre series of events because of the weather.”

There were no reports of fires due to the storm.

Shivers said the “vast majority” of the calls received were from the north portion of the county, north of Highway 20. He said that was likely because the “foliage is heavier” in that area of Forsyth.

He did not discount the damage and emergencies that occurred in south Forsyth, as falling trees, downed power lines and power outages were widespread throughout Irma’s impact.

As of 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, there were still 6,334 people without power from Sawnee EMC, and Forsyth had the highest number of affected customers in Sawnee’s seven-county service area.

Georgia Power also had customers remaining to be affected Tuesday afternoon. While there were only 2,697 customers affected in Forsyth County, Fulton, Gwinnett, DeKalb, Hall, Henry and Clayton each had more than 15,000 customers out.

The most significant tragedy attributed locally to Irma was the death of a 67-year-old woman who was struck by a tree in her vehicle in a relative’s driveway in north Forsyth.

Nancy Eason was returning home after checking on her sister who had health issues with her husband, Mike, a former Cumming police chief, when the tree fell, entrapping her and killing her on the scene. Her husband survived with minor injuries.

Buford Dam Road blocked
Deputies block Buford Dam Road Monday as night falls so power company workers can clear the roadway. - photo by Jim Dean