Chattanooga region dodges most storm damage, central parts of Georgia, Alabama take brunt

Chattanooga region dodges most storm damage, central parts of Georgia, Alabama take brunt

March 20th, 2018 by Ben Benton in Breaking News

In this Sept. 11, 2017, staff file photo, Interstate 75 traffic is peppered by rain and wind from the outer bands of tropical storm Irma at the Highway 153 interchange in Chattanooga.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

Most of the Chattanooga area was spared heavy wind or hail damage, but there were scattered electrical outages due to wind-downed trees and power lines, especially in Dade County, Ga., where a few folks are still without power this morning.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Storm Prediction Center reports on the storm system indicated quarter-sized hail was seen in Dade County along Brow Road and Saddle Club Road, a few miles northwest of Trenton.

Georgia Power's outage map this morning showed less than a handful of customers were still without power in the area with the reported hail damage in Dade, as well as about nine homes along U.S. Highway 11 north of Rising Fawn. News partner WRCB Channel 3 reported that as many as 295 North Georgia Power customers were without power at around 10:30 p.m. Monday.

EPB's power map this morning showed no outages remaining and there were only three outages reported at the time of the storms, EPB spokesman John Pless said Tuesday morning.

"In terms of our system, I don't think we had a whole heck of a lot," Pless said. Three customers were without power around 6:30 p.m. Monday but the reasons were possibly unrelated to the weather, he said.

Likewise, there were no remaining outages Tuesday morning in counties served by Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative, west and northwest of Chattanooga. 

Volunteer Emergency Cooperative's outage map Tuesday morning showed just a couple of customers without power in Cumberland County and a couple of customers had no power in the Fentress County area. VEC's outage map showed no other problems in the Chattanooga area.

Skies will remain overcast all day with light drizzles throughout the day, according to WRCB meteorologist David Karnes' Monday forecast.  It will also be a bit windy with 10-20 mph winds west-northwest.  A high of 58 should mark the arrival of spring at 12:15 p.m., and temperatures will begin dropping through the afternoon. Showers are expected to continue Tuesday night possibly leading to some snow showers that could leave behind a half-inch to an inch of snow and possible patchy areas of ice in the higher elevations early Wednesday, Karnes said in his forecast.

Further to the south of the Chattanooga region, tornadoes dealt out heavy damage in Jacksonville, Ala., and other communities in the central Alabama and Georgia.

According to the Associated Press, daybreak Tuesday revealed widespread damage after a night of violent weather in the Deep South, with a college campus shattered by an apparent tornado and thousands of buildings and vehicles battered by hail as large as baseballs.

The area around Jacksonville State University was among the hardest hit as storms swept across the South, part of a large system that prompted tornado warnings Monday in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, the AP reported.

Using couch cushions for protection, Richard Brasher hid in the bathtub with his wife, daughter and two grandchildren as the storm passed near the college. The roar was terrifying, said Brasher, 60.

"I thought we were gone," he told the Associated Press. "It happened so fast."

Several shelters opened, schools were closed, trees and power lines were down, and Jacksonville State advised people to avoid traveling near campus Tuesday morning, the AP reported. Most students were away for spring break.

Part of the roof was ripped off the nursing school and Pete Mathews Coliseum, the basketball arena. Pieces of lumber and bent metal covered the ground along with insulation that looked like yellow cotton candy.

To the west in Cullman, the lots of automobile dealerships were full of cars and trucks that no longer had windows. The sheriff shared a photo of a county jail bombarded by hail but said the prisoners were fine.

Schools were closed in several counties because of damage. Alabama Power Co. said more than 9,000 homes and businesses were without electricity, the AP reported.

Forecasters had warned that the storms would threaten more than 29 million people, raising the risk of powerful tornadoes, damaging winds and hail the size of tennis balls.

Cities in northern Alabama reported power outages and the National Weather Service in Huntsville reported at least three confirmed tornadoes in the area.

Officials suspected a tornado was to blame for the damage in Jacksonville, where Brasher told the AP he was standing in his hall when the kitchen windows exploded.

With electrical transformers exploding and trees crashing down all around, Brasher said, it felt like wind "picked up and shook the whole house."

"We were scared to death. It blew the paint off my house," Brasher said.

The National Weather Service said five teams were out in Alabama assessing storm damage.

Forecasters say it would be a rough day for cleaning up. Highs were predicted in the lower 50s, and wind gusts as strong as 30 mph were likely, along with rain. Dense fog shrouded some areas Tuesday morning.

Thousands of Georgians in the central part of the state were still without power and homes were heavily damaged southwest of Atlanta after storms struck late Monday and into Tuesday morning, AP reported.

The National Weather Service said it would send survey crews to the Georgia city of Haralson and to south Fulton County to investigate whether tornadoes caused the damage.

In Haralson, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southwest of Atlanta, the Haralson County School District said schools would be closed Tuesday due to storm damage "throughout our community."

Much of the damage in Fulton County was in Fairburn, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) southwest of Atlanta.

Georgia Power reported that about 8,000 customers were without power Tuesday morning statewide, with more than 2,000 of them in the Haralson area. Separately, Georgia's electric cooperatives said power was interrupted for 13,000 customers.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.


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