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Irma doesn’t meet expectations, but impact still felt in Rome-Floyd County

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At the height of Rome’s encounter with Tropical Storm Irma on Monday night, from 9 to 10 p.m., 3,000 customers lost power, as trees dropped onto power lines across the county. However, by Tuesday afternoon, Georgia Power had restored service to all but 46 customers.

By Tuesday morning the storm had all but up and left the area, said Tim Herrington, director of the Floyd County Emergency Management Agency. All together, this was Irma-light compared to what emergency officials had been preparing for.

Herrington said 911 received 37 calls from Monday through Tuesday concerning downed trees and fallen power lines. However, he expects more calls to come in, as the ground is still saturated and “it doesn’t take a whole lot to get these trees to blow over” once the winds pick up.

Tropical Storm Irma, which was downgraded to a tropical depression Tuesday morning, dropped 2.98 inches of rain on Rome on Monday. The highest wind speed recorded in Rome on Monday was 33 mph, with gusts reaching 46 mph, the National Weather Service reported. Herrington said the Texas Valley area was the focus for much of the wind.

“We were expecting a lot worse than what we actually got, and that’s a good thing,” said Herrington. “A lot of rain and not a whole lot of wind associated with it.”

The power outages were spurred by trees falling on power lines and, in some cases, this set off fires, he said. One pole caught fire on Reeceburg Road and a tree that landed on a power line off Ward Mountain Road also went up in flames.

Over 630 of the outages locally were in the area of Wax Road, from its intersection with Rockmart Road south to an area near Gribble Road, then stretching east into Bartow County. This was caused by a tree falling on a power line, Herrington said.

Chris Jenkins, director of the city’s public works department, said the storm was pretty much on par with an average weather event, and the cleanup was similar as well.

“We were prepared for it to be bigger than what it was,” said Jenkins, speaking to an alteration in the workers’ schedule to have a crew specifically dedicated to responding to 911 calls from 8 p.m. Monday to 8 a.m. Tuesday.

City crews responded to about three calls during the storm: there was one tree down on Pine Bower Road and another on Horseleg Creek Road, along with a big limb on Pearl Street. Workers were out Tuesday cutting up the tree debris that had been pushed to the side of the road overnight and looking for small debris stuck in storm drains that they could clean out.

Overall, it was a routine storm cleanup, Jenkins said.

Michael Skeen, director of the county’s public works department, said his crews got about 10 calls from Monday evening to Tuesday morning, when several crews were sent out to pick up debris. A handful of roads were shut down, the most critical being off Ward Mountain Road, as fire was involved. Others included Harmony Road, George Road and Edwards Street.

A section of Bells Ferry Road, just north of West Hermitage Road, remained closed Tuesday afternoon, as Georgia Power continued to work to get a downed power line up off the ground. According to the utility’s outage map, less than five customers were impacted.

Across the state, there were 1.2 million customers without power as of Tuesday morning — Georgia Power had nearly 800,000 outages and Georgia Electric Membership Corp. had around 466,000 customers without power. Georgia Power had whittled down the outages by Tuesday afternoon to 649,000 customers without power.

The Associated Press reported Georgia Power indicated much of the state, including coastal Georgia and metro Atlanta, experienced the most outages after parts of the state received widespread damage caused by high winds and heavy rainfall. The AP also reported two Georgians died from the storm, one from a tree falling on a house and another from a tree landing on a vehicle parked in a private driveway. At least one other death occurred in the state as a result of the storm, according to the AP.

The NWS forecast for Wednesday indicated 30 percent chance of rain throughout the day and into the night, with a high near 74 degrees and a low around 60.

Herrington said he would be keeping an eye on Hurricane Jose, which is several hundred miles off the east coast of Florida, and what its path may be. It hasn’t been determined if the hurricane will strike the U.S. or stay out at sea.