Friday October 20th, 2017 7:09PM

Several northeast Georgia structures damaged by winter storm

By Rob Moore Reporter
  Contact Editor
UNDATED - Now that the snow and ice are all but melted across northeast Georgia, emergency management officials are beginning the process of evaluating the damage.

Banks County
In Banks County, EMA Director Deidra Moore reports she learned Friday that at least three structures there were damaged due to partial or total collapse.

"I found out just [Friday] morning that we had a chicken house collapse," Moore said late Friday afternoon. "I do know there were chickens in it, and are still under it. They are working on that now - they being the private owner and the grower and the supplier, as well as the Georgia Poultry Lab."

Moore said replacement cost for the poultry house is estimated by the owner at about $100,000.

"The chickens themselves are insured by the supplier," Moore said.

During the interview with WDUN late Friday afternoon, Moore received a call alerting her to additional structural damage.

"We've had another collapse on an old store that hasn't been open," Moore said. That was an awning on the front of the former Rob's Superette in downtown Homer.

"Then I've got another roof collapse at Thorne's Tractor and Equipment [on Georgia Highway 198]," Moore said. "The sheriff said it collapsed on one of the tractors.

Banks County declared a local state of emergency, making the county eligible for assistance from the National Guard.

"I can tell you that what the Guard did was phenomenal," Moore said. "What they did was help the sheriff's office go door to door on what we knew were some of our homebound citizens, and some that couldn't have gotten out before who were shut-ins, and checked on them, working through the senior citizens' center and through what was in the CAD [computer-aided dispatch], as well as what people were telling us, to make sure that they were ok," Moore said.

Banks County Fire/EMS equipped each National Guard team with oxygen bottles in case residents were running short.

National Guard teams "also were able to help with at least one medical call down at the interstate, where a mother and child were staying at the hotel and the child got sick and the ambulance got stuck - they couldn't get anywhere because of the ice and snow," Moore said. "An ambulance got to the hotel, but couldn't transport, so the National Guard and the sheriff's office took them from there to the hospital. There was another call earlier [Thursday] morning where they escorted the ambulance to Northeast Georgia Medical Center. Those resources that they provided alone were invaluable really."

Banks County Sheriff's Office employed its military surplus vehicles, as well as its four-wheel drive units.

"The military surplus vehicles that we do currently have helped us tremendously to travel the roads in Banks County," said Deputy Carissa McFaddin. "We were able to get to areas to check on residents where we might not have if we didn't have these vehicles. They have been a great help to us."

Banks County also utilized their amateur radio emergency services (ARES) emergency coordinator for two days during the event to monitor conditions in the surrounding area.

Moore was impressed with how quickly the Guard responded to Banks County's request for assistance.

"When we brought the National Guard in, I put the request in Tuesday night about 9 o'clock and had them in place at the high school by 4 a.m.," Moore said. "They got in here quickly."

The Guard began work around 8 a.m. Wednesday, splitting up into zones.

There were two teams of four Guard personnel, and one team of two. Each team was paired with two sheriff's deputies. The four-member teams were in Humvees, while the two-member team was in a truck.

"We also had four deputies in their Humvee operating out of the south end of the county based at District 3, the Banks Crossing station," Moore said.

Overall, Banks County dealt with eight abandoned vehicles, one wreck with injuries, eight wrecks without injuries, two downed trees, five motorist assists, two public assists, one hit and run, 29 escorts, and 76 residence checks on the elderly and disabled.

Habersham County
Habersham County faced the challenge of having its 9-1-1 center/emergency operations center lose conventional power overnight Wednesday.

"The Center was on generator for about 11 hours overnight Wednesday into Thursday," said 9-1-1/EMA Director Lynn Smith.

In addition, the county had the usual winter storm-related calls.

"We had multiple one-vehicle wrecks, vehicle breakdowns, assist motorist, alarms, lookouts - such as someone pulling people on tube behind car down Highway 365," Smith said.

There also was one water line break in Cornelia, Smith said.

"The road department, fire, law and of course 9-1-1 did an excellent job," Smith said.

A warming center also was opened in Cornelia, and was utilized.

"We had the shelter open at the First Baptist Church in Cornelia," Smith said. "It is my understanding that we did have a few in it."

During Wednesday night's power outage in Mt. Airy, a surplus military truck had to be used to pull a fire truck up slickened Railroad Avenue, town officials said.

Rabun County
In Rabun County, Sheriff Frank Andrews reports that his office responded to six separate motor vehicle crashes with no injuries from Tuesday, Feb. 11, through Thursday, Feb. 13. Two of those were in Mountain City, one in Wolffork Valley, one in Tiger and two in the Glassy Mountain area of Bridge Creek Road. The Georgia State Patrol assisted RCSO by working three of the six crashes.

Rabun County Sheriff's Office also responded to multiple trees down in the Bridge Creek, Warwoman, Pinnacle and Highway 76 West areas. Andrews said there were two instances of trees falling onto homes - one on North Valley Street and the other on Bradford Road.

GSP and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources assisted RCSO throughout the weather event, Andrews said, as did Rabun County Road Department, Georgia Department of Transportation, Rabun County 9-1-1, Rabun County EMS, Rabun County EMA and Director Marty Dixon, and public safety personnel involved with the operation of the emergency operations center.

White County
The most serious injuries in the area were reported during a sledding-type incident on a college campus in Cleveland Wednesday afternoon.

Four students were sledding down a hill and struck a utility pole.

"Two serious injuries occurred with the sledding accident at Truett-McConnell," said White County Public Safety/EMA Director David Murphy.

Cleveland Fire Chief Ricky Pruitt said one of the seriously-injured individuals had a broken leg, while another was knocked unconscious and lost numerous teeth.

Overall, the county didn't have a large number of weather-related incidents.

"White County fared well in comparison to many of our friends in central Georgia," Murphy said. "Our citizens heeded the warning to stay off the roadways for their safety and the safety of our public safety teams. It also allowed the state, county and city crews to effectively remove the snow/ice accumulations on the roadways."

Murphy said overall the weather event went smoothly.

"No major incidents were reported, with some minor damages occurring due to accidents and ice accumulations," Murphy said. Also, there were "no major power outages and all have been restored by [Habersham] EMC and Georgia Power."
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