Storm surges: System rages through area; winds near 70 mph

Photo by Michael Buckelew

Photo by Michael Buckelew

COVINGTON -- A storm producing winds of up to 70 mph swept through Newton County on Monday night, toppling trees and power lines and damaging homes.

At least one person was injured in the storm's aftermath, a city of Covington utility worker who was burned when he made contact with a downed power line on Baker Road midday Tuesday.

"His injuries were reported to me as burns to the hand, elbow and knee. He was taken to Newton Medical Center. We understand that he was alert and was walking after the accident, so we're hopeful that the injuries are not severe," said Utilities Director Bill Meecham. Later Meecham reported that the worker was expected to be released Tuesday afternoon.

Jody Nolan, deputy director of Emergency Management for Newton County, said multiple houses were damaged and at least 16 roads were blocked due to falling trees. He said there were no Doppler readings indicating a tornado had passed through, just powerful straight line winds.

Leigh-Anne Burgess with Snapping Shoals EMC said as of Tuesday afternoon, there were about 660 outages in Newton County, and a total of about 5,000 systemwide.

"Our crews will be working through the night to restore power as quickly as possible to our members. We also have out-of-town crews coming in to assist," she said.

Meecham said West Street was blocked by a downed tree and limbs and power lines were down on Eberhardt and Odum streets.

"We had power out in a number of areas outside the city, including (Ga.) Highway 81 North, Ellis Road off Gum Creek, areas off Duncan Road, Elks Club Road, and other scattered areas. Initially calls began to come in around midnight. Fortunately, we didn't lose our main lines. At its peak, there were an estimated 800 to 1,000 customers affected. Most are back on, but a few areas remain as of now," Meecham said Tuesday afternoon.

Newton County Fire Chief Mike Satterfield said all seven full-time stations and four volunteer stations were responding to non-stop calls beginning a little after midnight. Downed trees blocked both lanes on Ga. 81 N., backing up traffic for hours, Satterfield said. The fire department set up generators for several residents on oxygen who lost power, he said.

Nolan reminded residents not to touch or drive over power lines because they may remain energized. Nolan also encouraged the public to keep an eye on weather predictions.

"I'd like everybody in the future to monitor the weather situation. The National Weather Service has become very accurate with its storm predictions. If this is any precursor to what the summer may be like, the storms may be as intense or more intense through the summer months and they need to monitor the weather situation and have a family plan of where to seek shelter inside the residence in the event of a storm incident," he said.

To learn more about forming a weather emergency plan, visit www.ready.gov.