Winter Storm Hits Coweta
Ice brings down trees, power lines
by Sarah Fay Campbell
(Editor’s note: Because of icy road conditions Wednesday evening, delivery of the print editions of today’s paper was delayed. Plans were for it to be delivered along with subscribers’ Friday paper.)
Wednesday dawned wet in Coweta — the ground and roads were wet, but not icy. Then freezing rain started to accumulate, causing trees and limbs to snap, resulting in power outages and major damage to a home in the Moreland area.
Leigh Ann Rhodes said she had stood up to get her phone charger. She turned around and “the ceiling was caving in around me.” The top of a large pine tree crashed through her home, taking off the front porch and destroying the kitchen. It also hit her car.
“If I had been getting a cup of coffee, I wouldn’t be talking to you,” she said. After the incident, Rhodes was busy trying to get out of the house. Her car was damaged, but drivable, and she was heading to her uncle’s home in Sharpsburg to wait out the storm.
“Thank goodness the house is sturdy and it held. And we’re OK. It’s just property damage,” Rhodes said.
Downtown Newnan was almost a ghost town at 9:30 Wednesday morning. Nothing was open, and no one was out.
Power outages began early, before daybreak.
And conditions were only expected to get worse, with significant ice accumulation expected Wednesday evening and an inch to an inch-and-a-half of snow forecast for Wednesday night and today.
Coweta County School System will be closed today, as will The Heritage School. Other closings are expected.
At 11 a.m. Wednesday, Coweta-Fayette EMC reported nearly 16,000 electric power outages across its service area. That was up from 8,500 outages two hours earlier.
Some customers indicated in Facebook posts that they had already been without power for several hours by 10 a.m.
In Newnan, “we started seeing outages at about 7:30 this morning, from trees and limbs falling because of the ice,” said Dennis McEntire, general manager of Newnan Utilities. He said it was very surprising to see limbs falling so early, because “just from looking at it, there was not that much ice on the trees.”
“We have been pretty steady with outages all morning long,” McEntire said. But, as of 11 a.m., there hadn’t been any extended outages. “Probably the longest we had anybody out was about 30 minutes,” he said.
They were expecting more outages through the day Wednesday “as the wind picks up.”
“All our crews are in and we are prepared for whatever happens,” McEntire said. “We’ll stay with it until everything gets back up.”
All hands were on deck at Newnan Utilities, as were three contract crews brought in from out of town.
“At a time like this, everybody in the company, whether they work in the water department or the electricity department — they are all working here,” McEntire said.
He said Wednesday that it looks like Newnan may be fortunate in that “we’re are going to be on the low end of the ice.”
“We will hang in there and see what happens," he said.
Things were much worse on the northern and eastern sides of the county.
Of the 16,000 outages, only about 4,000 were in Coweta, said Mary Ann Bell, vice president of public relations and communications for Coweta-Fayette EMC.
“The hardest hit areas for us have been Fayette and over into South Fulton,” she said.
Trees didn’t look that icy at the EMC headquarters on Collinsworth Road in Palmetto. But farther east toward Tyrone “it seems to be much worse,” Bell said.
“We would like to assure people that all of our crews are out there, plus crews we have from other areas,” she said. “We want to assure customers that yes, we are out there working and it’s a very tough situation and to please bear with us. Because we are trying to restore the power as quickly as possible.”
Coweta County Road Department crews had been doing some pretreatment of bridges and overpasses, said Jay Jones, Coweta Emergency Management director. There were a few slick spots. With the lull in precipitation and very little icing by late morning, some crews had gone home to rest and get ready for working through the night.