published Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

People trapped, roads impassable, buildings damaged from storm

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    3416 Pinewood Terrace, Chattanooga - corner of Montview and Pinewood. Contributed Photo by Jennifer Milsaps

An intense storm battered southeast Tennessee and northwest Georgia this morning, knocking down trees, cutting power and lifting the roof off Dade Elementary School.

But National Weather Service officials say the worst may still be to come.

The main source of the storm is still to the west and should move through the Chattanooga area by mid- to late afternoon, according to NWS meteorologist Matt Sena in Atlanta.

“The next round has every potential to be just as strong, if not stronger,” he said.

The storm should have passed through the area by the early evening, but Sena said those in the path of the storm should stay alert for any danger.

“The main thing is to just keep their eyes and ears open for what’s coming in,” he said. “Just be prepared to take action.”

There are reports from Hixson, Tiftonia, St. Elmo and Brainerd of trees down and roadways blocked, said Chattanooga police spokeswoman Sgt. Jerri Weary.

As of about 10 a.m., there were no confirmed fatalities but there were several calls of people being trapped in their homes, she said.

Police are scrambling to deal with a flood of 911 calls and ask anyone not needing immediate emergency assistance to hold off on calling until those in serious need have been helped, Weary said.

“Everything’s going on at this time,” she said. “Trees down, houses on fire, people trapped, it’s kind of chaos right now.”

The National Weather service reported widespread tree damage in Gordon, Murray and Gilmer counties. A roof was blown off in downtown Calhoun.

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There are about 65,000 homes and businesses without power as of 10 a.m., said EPB spokeswoman Lacie Newton. The outages are widespread throughout EPB’s 600-square-mile service area, she said.

About 15,000 North Georgia EMC customers are without power as a result of high winds, fallen trees and downed power lines. Crews are working to restore power in Catoosa, Chattooga, Gordon, Murray, Walker and Whitfield counties.

The public should stay away from downed lines and report them immediately to North Georgia EMC, their local power company or call 911, said Jeff Rancudo of North Georgia EMC. Extra crews are on ready to respond should storm conditions cause more power outages, he said, and crews will remain on duty until all power has been restored.

Whitfield County 911 reported some trees down and a tree on a house on Watson Drive.

Officials in Dade school’s officials said there were no injuries reported at the elementary school and there aren’t any plans for early dismissal of the school system.

Hamilton County schools will dismiss at 11 a.m. in response to power outages and as a precaution against severe afternoon storm forecasts.

“We’ve got a lull,” school spokeswoman Danielle Clarke said. “Let’s take care of business.”

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