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Residents still cleaning up from storm; Worst damage caused by “significant downburst,” not tornado

Crews worked through the week last week to remove downed trees and continue the process of helping those affected by the March 25 storm that swept through Polk County.

A group led by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Disaster Response Team spread out in the days following the storm to help residents with any damage to their homes as well as delivering generators and supplies donated by area businesses and churches.

The Salvation Army and the American Red Cross initiated efforts to help those affected the most by the storms, which led to widespread power outages and minor flooding.

The most concentrated area where damage occurred was a narrow path from Cason Road along Tuck Street and across Lees Chapel Road just south of downtown Cedartown.

While many eyewitness accounts and preliminary reports from county officials attributed the damage to a possible tornado, the National Weather Service’s Peachtree City office released its public information statement on the storm Tuesday, indicating that the most extreme damage in Polk County was caused by a significant downburst with estimated peak winds at 105 mph.

The service used damage surveys, including the direction trees fell, as well as radar data to confirm the downburst, according to the information statement released last Tuesday. It noted the center of the downburst was located east of Main Street and south of U.S. 278 in Cedartown, leading to the damage along Tuck Street and continuing east beginning around 12:32 p.m.

A secondary, smaller downburst was also indicated in the area of Cedartown High School, where several large trees in Northview Cemetery were toppled and air conditioning units were moved on the roof of the high school’s administration building. The backstop of the school’s baseball field was damaged and the first-base dugout sustained structural damage.

While Polk County Schools had classes canceled for the day after the storms, Superintendent Laurie Atkins praised the district’s employees and local businesses for helping get students back in classes after the weekend.

“The district is grateful for all of the hard work put in this weekend by our maintenance department, Trammell Lawncare, Miller Welding and local volunteers,” Atkins said. “The maintenance department has inspected and secured all HVAC units, tested for the HVAC operation and quality, and repaired roof damages.”

She said there was no severe water damage inside the building and any water that entered the building was immediately cleaned up.

Crews worked to repair the metal poles on the baseball field’s backstop the Saturday after the storms and were able to have it ready for the Bulldogs’ game against Pickens last Tuesday. The first-base dugout has been condemned, however, and will not be able to be used again this season.

No fatalities were reported as a result of the storm, although Polk County EMA Director Randy Lacey said a man sustained a shoulder injury when a tree fell on his house on Lees Chapel Road.

MLB All-Star Game pulling out of Georgia in protest of new voting law

ATLANTA — Major League Baseball announced Friday it is pulling this summer’s All-Star Game from Georgia in response to the General Assembly’s passage of an election bill that has been heavily criticized as voter suppression.

“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box,” Commissioner of Baseball Robert D. Manfred Jr. wrote in a prepared statement.

“In 2020 … we proudly used our platform to encourage baseball fans and communities throughout our country to perform their civic duty and actively participate in the voting process. Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support.”

Baseball’s decision to relocate the All-Star Game from Truist Park in Cobb County follows corporate criticism of the law by Atlanta-based companies, primarily Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola.

The Republican-controlled legislature passed the voting bill along party lines on the afternoon of March 25, and Gov. Brian Kemp signed it into law later that day.

The sweeping measure overhauls the absentee voting process and early voting in Georgia.

It replaces the current signature-match method for verifying absentee ballots with a requirement that absentee voters provide a driver’s license or one of several other forms of identification.

The law expands opportunities for early voting on weekends, a provision Kemp and other Republicans have pointed to in arguing the legislation is not aimed at restricting voting access.

The provision that has drawn the strongest criticism prohibits people who aren’t poll workers from handing out food and drink to voters waiting in line outside polling places. Republicans have said the provision is intended to prevent illegal electioneering by candidates or campaign workers within 150 feet of the polls.

Democrats around the country — notably President Joe Biden — had called on Major League Baseball to pull the All-Star Game out of Atlanta since passage of the election law.

But in Georgia, Democrats have responded by opposing the move because of the economic consequences of losing the game.

“Disappointed MLB will move the All-Star Game, but proud of their stance on voting rights,” 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams wrote on Twitter. “Georgia GOP traded economic opportunity for suppression.”

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms expressed similar sentiments and warned further fallout from the voting law could follow.

“Unfortunately, the removal of the MLB All-Star Game from Georgia is likely the first of many dominoes to fall, until the unnecessary barriers put in place to restrict access to the ballot box are removed,” Bottoms wrote.

Georgia Rep. Teri Anulewicz, D-Smyrna, whose state House district includes Truist Park, said she was disappointed by the move.

“The American Rescue Plan exists because of the very Georgia voters who will be most impacted by the economic brunt of the decision to pull the MLB All-Star Game,” she said. “At the same time, I absolutely understand the disgust and frustration with our leadership in Georgia that ultimately led to this decision.”

Kemp released a statement after Friday’s announcement accusing Major League Baseball of caving in to “fear, political opportunism and liberal lies.

“Georgians — and all Americans — should fully understand what the MLB’s knee-jerk decision means: Cancel culture and woke political activists are coming for every aspect of your life, sports included. If the left doesn’t agree with you, facts and truth do not matter.”

Both Kemp and Georgia House Speaker David Ralston attributed baseball’s decision to lies from Abrams about the new law.

“This decision is not only economically harmful,” said Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. “It also robs Georgians of a special celebration of our national pastime free of politics.”

In a news release, the Atlanta Braves wrote that businesses, stadium employees and baseballs fans will all be hurt by the decision.

“The Braves organization will continue to stress the importance of equal voting opportunities, and we had hoped our city could use this event as a platform to enhance the discussion,” the release stated. “Our city has always been known as a uniter in divided times, and we will miss the opportunity to address issues that are important to our community.”

The new voting law has drawn the largest national outcry against Georgia since the General Assembly passed religious freedom legislation in 2016 that critics slammed as discriminatory. It drew boycott threats from local and national businesses, including the film industry, and then-Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed it.

Manfred said Major League Baseball still plans to celebrate the memory of Braves Hall of Fame slugger Hank Aaron, who died in February, as part of the All-Star Game festivities.

A decision has not been made on a new host city for the game.

Polk Medical Center hosting free vaccine clinics

Polk Medical Center is offering a new way to get the free COVID-19 vaccine that it hopes will be more convenient for people as the process of vaccinating the public from the coronavirus continues.

The facility located on Rockmart Highway in Cedartown is taking appointments for vaccine clinics on a series of Saturday’s in partnership with Cedartown, Rockmart and Polk County governments.

Polk Medical Center will offer the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on April 10 from 8 a.m. to noon and on May 1 from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the hospital. Since the Pfizer vaccine requires two doses spread three weeks apart, second doses only will be scheduled on May 22 from 8 a.m. to noon.

Second doses will also be scheduled during the May 1 clinic for those who received the first dose on April 10.

Registration is required by visiting floyd.org/covidvaccine to make an appointment for the first dose. An appointment for the second dose will be scheduled when the first dose is given.

Under the Georgia Department of Public Health’s rollout plan, the vaccine is currently available to anyone 16 and older. For more information about the vaccine’s effectiveness and safety, visit https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-vaccine.

As part of its “Live Well Polk!” program, Polk Medical Center recently hosted a listening session with representatives from the city of Cedartown, the city of Rockmart and Polk County, along with the Development Authority of Polk County and other leaders from the civic and faith communities.

A need mentioned by several of the participants was access to the COVID vaccines outside of normal business hours.

“We are glad to be able to help them out,” said Tifani Kinard, Polk Medical Center Administrator and Chief Nursing Officer. “We know it is difficult for many people to take time off from work. The Saturday clinics will give us the opportunity to vaccinate even more people and make Polk County a safer place to live, work and play.”

Anyone with questions can call 770-749-4125.

March was one of the least-serious months for Polk County during the COVID-19 pandemic as more people began to be able to be vaccinated.

A total of 139 new confirmed cases of the virus were reported by the DPH in residents of Polk County, down from the more than 800 new cases reported in January, with 22 of those requiring hospitalization.

Still, the severity of the virus was evident as six deaths occurred as a result of complications from the coronavirus.

As of Saturday, the two-week total for Polk County was 43 cases and five hospitalizations, with a positive test rate of 5.2%, the lowest it has been in some time.

Standard Journal Area Calendar of Events from the Wednesday, April 7, 2021 edition

Tallatoona CAP is accepting appointments for the LIHEAP Cooling Assistance Program for households with seniors age 65 or older. The general public may call to schedule an appointment starting May 3 at 8:30 a.m. Appointments are on a first-come, first-serve basis and can me made online at www.tallatoonacap.org or by calling 770-817-4666 or 770-773-7730 and selecting option 2. Applicants must qualify based on the FY 2021 annual income guidelines.

Keep Polk Beautiful is sponsoring two community events on April 24. The first is a community-wide clean up in Rockmart as part of The Great American Cleanup that will start at 8 a.m. at Seaborn Jones Park. Volunteers will help clean up litter and brush along the Silver Comet Trail and around downtown Rockmart. Also, an electronics recycling event will be held at Fenley TV on West Avenue in Cedartown from 8 a.m. to noon. All electronics are welcome except for CRT televisions.

The Rockmart Cultural Arts Center is hosting the 2021 Rockmart High School art exhibit through April 29. The theme for this year’s exhibit is “Cyber Quarantine” with works from students done in the 2020-2021 school year a reception and gala will be held April 24 from 6-9 p.m.

Second Baptist Cedartown is celebrating its 100th Anniversary with Old Fashioned Sunday on April 18 at 11 a.m. Gospel bluegrass band The Servers will lead worship service. Men are invited to wear overalls, while ladies wear bonnets or anything old fashioned. Photos and documents from the church’s last 100 years will be on display.

The Rockmart Cultural Arts Center is putting out a call to artists for its Floral Expressions exhibit at the arts gallery, 316 N. Piedmont Ave. Artwork featuring flowers or has flowers in it should be submitted by April 10 in a .jpg image to rcac@rockmart-ga.gov. Up to three separate pieces can me submitted. The exhibit is scheduled for May 6 through June 24 with a reception on May 15. for more information contact Peggy Cline at rcac@rockmart-ga.gov or 770-684-2707.

The Northwest Georgia Center for Independent Living holds a COVID-19 Peer Support call every Monday at 2 p.m. via the Zoom website and by phone. For the link and password, or if you need assistance, contact Christina Holtzclaw at 628-246-1825 or choltzclaw@nwgacil.org.

The NWGA Center for Independent Living is offering free Personal Protection CARE Kits to people with disabilities who live in Northwest Georgia. The kits include three face masks, two disposable thermometers, give pair of gloves and alcohol wipes. To request a kit and become a consumer, contact the center at 706-314-0008 or info@nwgacil.org.

Want to get your event or announcement on the calendar? E-mail JStewart@polkstandardjournal.com.