UPDATE: EPB continues effort to restore electricity to about 90 locations

Storm knocks out power, closes W Road as remnants of Hurricane Irma bring strong wind, rains to area

Interstate 75 traffic is peppered by rain and wind from the outer bands of tropical storm Irma on Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, afternoon at the Highway 153 interchange in Chattanooga.

UPDATE: With the assistance of crews from other regional municipal utilities and contractors, EPB continues to restore power to customers who have experienced outages caused by tropical storm Irma, according to a news release from the utility.

Crews are repairing damage to infrastructure at about 90 locations scattered across the area.

Because the remaining damage requires extensive work, restoration efforts will continue into the night for the few hundred customers who are experiencing outages.

To stay informed about outages and repairs, please download the myEPB app to report an outage from your smartphone and continually monitor restoration efforts. Customers can also call 423-648-1EPB.


More than 7 million home and businesses across the Southeast lost power at some point from Hurricane Irma, including thousands who had temporary power outages in the Chattanooga area.

But the electrical disruptions in the Tennessee Valley were relatively limited compared with the 4.5 million customers of Florida Power and Light who lost electric service sometime during the hurricane and another 1 million Georgians who also lost power from the same storm.

The Tennessee Valley Authority, the government-owned wholesale power source for 9 million customers in the Southeast, didn't experience any disruptions of its power delivery to 155 municipalities, power coops and major industries in the Valley, TVA spokesman Jim Hopson said.

"We know some local power companies still have some power outages, but all of the preparations that everyone did to get ready for the coming storm seemed to help prevent the kind of widespread problems that some had feared," Hopson said.

By late Monday, EPB said 98 percent of its customers had full power after heavy winds and rains that blew in the Chattanooga region Monday afternoon had interrupted power, at least temporarily. to many of the utility's 170,000 customers.

At noon today, EPB spokesman John Pless said about 1 percent of EPB's customers were still without electrical service.

"Thanks to Smart Grid automation and remote efforts to re-route power, about 32,000 customers saw little to no impact from the storm rather than experiencing a lasting outage," Pless said today. "Because the remaining damage requires extensive work to resolve at nearly 300 work locations scattered across the area, restoration of customers who are currently without power will likely continue into the night."

EPB has created a computer app, myEPB, for customers to report an outage from any smartphone and continually monitor restoration efforts.

Customers also may call 423-648-1EPB.


Hamilton County Schools are closed today.


As of 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, Irma's strong wind and rain continues to take down trees and power lines, leaving 4 percent of customers in the dark, EPB reported in a news release.

As crews and the smart grid restore power to customers other trees fall and cause new outages, according to the report. No change is expected until the weather improves.


Bradley County, Cleveland City and Hamilton County schools will be on a two-hour delay on Tuesday. Cleveland City Schools buses will also run on a two-hour delay.

Bledsoe, Grundy, Marion and Rhea schools will also be on a two-hour delay Tuesday.

Catoosa, Chickamauga, Dade, Dalton, Fannin, Murray, Trion, Walker and Whitfield schools will be closed Tuesday.


Our news partner WRCB reports Signal Mountain's W Road has been closed because of several trees knocked down by rain and winds.


EPB is reporting power outages across Hamilton County. The most significant outages appear to be in the areas of East Brainerd, Hixson and Signal Mountain. Efforts are underway to restore electricity to affected areas, according to the EPB website's outage map.

As strong winds and heavy rain continue to impact the area, more than 96 percent of EPB customers have power as of 9:45 p.m.

"The smart grid is preventing and rapidly restoring power to thousands of customers, and crews continue working in stormy conditions to clear trees and repair damage caused by tropical storm Irma," a message stated on the utility's website. "EPB will continue to work through the night and into Tuesday morning to restore customers as quickly as possible. Please download the myEPB app to report an outage from your smartphone and continually monitor restoration efforts. Customers are also welcome to call 423-648-1EPB."

As of 2:50 a.m., North Georgia Electric Membership Corp. currently has about 175 members without power, according to the utility's website.


Hamilton County Schools will be on a two-hour delay on Tuesday, as the region continues to deal with the effects of Hurricane Irma.

School Age Child Care will not operate during the morning.


Catoosa County Government offices will open two hours late at 10 a.m. on Tuesday. Emergency services personnel will report for duty and rotate shifts at regular times.


The Chattanooga Community Kitchen will be extending their hours to open the dining and day center spaces overnight today to provide relief to those with no other place to turn.

The kitchen asks those who encounter anyone outside and/or without shelter to send them to the Chattanooga Community Kitchen. Overnight entry for these spaces will begin at 7:00 p.m. at the 727 East 11th Street entrance (under the green awning).


The Union is cancelling Worship Night originally scheduled for tonight at 7 p.m. at the Chattanooga House of Prayer due to the threat of severe weather.


This evening's Framework Plan Presentation for South Broad District event has been canceled due to inclement weather as the public's safety is the highest priority.


Walker County will be opening five public shelters at 4 p.m. today for those in need of a safe location to stay as Hurricane Irma passes through the area.

Walker County CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) will handle staffing at the following shelters:

  • Walker County Civic Center, located at 10052 N Highway 27 in Rock Spring (this shelter will be equipped to handle crated animals)
  • Fire Station 14, located at 11471 East Highway 136 in Villanow
  • Cedar Grove Community Center, located at 5423 W Cove Road, Chickamauga

Good Samaritan shelters will also be established at the following locations:

  • Elks Lodge, located at 3158 N Highway 27 in LaFayette
  • Old Doctor's Office at the end of Highway 2, located at 2367 Chattanooga Valley Road in Flintstone

Those in need of help getting to a shelter should call 706-375-7810 for assistance. This number should also be used to report non-life threatening events, such as downed trees and blocked roads.

All Walker County buildings will close at 3:00 p.m. today, and will not reopen until 10:00 a.m. Tuesday.

Walker County Emergency Services will also open an Emergency Operations Center at the 911 Center in Rock Spring at 6:00 p.m. for county and city services to coordinate operations during this potential weather event.


About two dozen departures from Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport to Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., and Tampa Bay today have been cancelled.


Hamilton County Schools will dismiss two hours early today and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga will close at noon due to the threat of heavy rain and flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Irma.

School Age Child Care will not operate this afternoon and all after school activities are cancelled for Monday.

The worst of the storm is expected this evening. Hamilton County Schools will monitor the weather throughout the evening and if the need arises, they will adjust Tuesday's schedule.


The Whitfield County Schools Board of Education has cancelled its meetings scheduled for today. A makeup date has not yet been set.


The North Georgia Health District in Dalton, Ga., and all county public health departments and services that were not previously closed in Cherokee, Fannin, Gilmer, Murray, Pickens and Whitfield Counties will be closed from noon today through Wednesday morning.


Gilmer County Health Department will be closed today and Tuesday, and Cherokee and Pickens County Health Departments will be closed, today due to anticipated severe weather conditions. This closing applies to all public health services and programs in these counties.

For any further updates regarding closings in the district, please log onto the North Georgia Health District website at www.nghd.org or look for the health district on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.


ORIGINAL STORY: Remnants of Hurricane Irma are expected to move in to Chattanooga and surrounding areas this afternoon and will probably stay until early tomorrow.

"We're mainly looking at minor impacts overall for the Chattanooga area," said Jeremy Buckles, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Morristown, Tenn. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said Irma will likely be a tropical depression by the time it gets to the Volunteer State.

As of Sunday night, the weather service estimated the area could see 1 to 3 inches of rain. Wind gusts could reach up to 45 mph, especially in higher elevations. A wind advisory will be in effect this afternoon and through tonight.

North Georgia, however, will be under a tropical storm watch, with wind gusts up to 55 mph. Estimated rain could be up to 4 inches or even more in some areas from stronger storms embedded within Irma's rain bands.

Five-day forecast

Today 70/5570 percent chance of rainTuesday 70/6050 percent chance of rainWednesday 69/6140 percent chance of rainThursday 72/5930 percent chance of rainFriday 77/6020 percent chance of rain

"It could be possible to have some flash flooding in the streets and possible creeks and rivers overflowing their banks," said Sid King, meteorologist for the weather service in Peachtree City, Ga.

King warned that people who must be out driving should beware of water on the road.

"If you see water on the road, you never know how deep it could be," he said. "So in those flash flooding events, we always encourage people to turn around and don't drown."

He also warned of brief tornadoes in the North Georgia area.

"Any tornadoes that do occur will be moving rapidly and will most likely be rain-wrapped," meaning surrounded by rain and hard to see with the naked eye, he said.

"But you can see them on radar, and we'll have several people watching the radar and issuing warnings during the event," King said.

Folks in Southeast Tennessee are urged be prepared but not to panic.

TEMA encouraged residents to monitor local news and weather broadcasts and be ready if local authorities issue warnings or emergency actions in their area.

WRCB-Channel 3 weekend meteorologist Nick Austin said he was mostly concerned about the potential for scattered power outages and some areas of flash flooding, "especially in some of the usual trouble spots."

EPB was already making initial preparations for emergency line crews and equipment. The utility's Storm Alert email sent Saturday stated, " we want to assure you that EPB crews are ready and available 24/7 to restore service as quickly as possible."

Austin suggested families should make sure they have flashlights, batteries, candles, cash and some nonperishable food.

"I don't want to cause panic and empty all of the shelves, but folks should have at least a few things on hand," he said. "They don't necessarily have to stock up. If we do lose power, it's most likely not going to be for a week.

"It's not going to be catastrophic, Armageddon, but it'll be bad enough that people should just be prepared," Austin said.

But food that needs to be in a fridge may spoil if power isn't restored quickly, and EPB's email said it's not always possible to estimate how long it will take to restore power.

Hamilton County schools plan to open as scheduled.

"We have been in close contact with Hamilton County Emergency Management and have decided to open based on the timing of the event," said Amy Katcher, spokeswoman for Hamilton County Department of Education.

Katcher said schools will follow their standard procedures for weather events and will continue to check in with emergency management and take appropriate action if needed.

Farther south, though, the threat from Hurricane Irma is more severe. Atlanta faced its first-ever tropical storm warning, and Savannah was evacuated for the second time in less than a year, according to The Associated Press.

Chattooga County is also included in the tropical storm warning area.

"It's very unusual that it extends that far inland," Austin said. "They're expecting wind gusts of 50 mph or higher."

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency in all 159 counties. State government will be closed Monday and Tuesday for all except essential personnel, according to a news release from the governor's office.

Hurricane Irma stories

Schools across Georgia also are closed today and tomorrow, including in Dade, Walker, Catoosa, Whitfield and Murray counties. Georgia Northwestern Technical College has also closed all of its campuses.

In Chattanooga, East Brainerd Church of Christ has been designated as a Special Needs Shelter for evacuees with health issues. The church has a capacity for 200 people and had 169 spaces available as of Saturday.

Budgetel Inn in East Ridge has taken in about 200 Irma refugees free of charge, despite not being set to open for another two months or so.

General manager Casey Steinman said the hotel was at capacity Sunday night, but has a crew working to ready another 30 rooms by today.

Steinman said the hotel is taking families' pets, too.

"We have small dogs, large dogs, hamsters, birds, gerbils, cats, everything but a Shetland pony," he said.

He is taking donations for toiletries, clothes and other items at the hotel, located at 1410 N. Mack Smith Road.

"We weren't expecting to have anybody here yet, so we didn't have anything like toilet paper and soap and shampoo," he said. "We've got people dropping off little boxes of stuff like that. ... Kind of all the things that you use every day that you might not think about."

Contact staff writer Rosana Hughes at rhughes@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @HughesRosana.

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