A combination of freezing rain and gusting winds walloped much of the state this weekend, causing power outages for tens of thousands of homes and businesses.
Georgia Power said it restored power to more than 50,000 customers after freezing rain and snow swept through the area Friday night. The Atlanta utility appeared to be well on the way to restoring power to other affected customers after gusty winds Saturday morning caused ice-laden trees to fall or drop limbs on power lines, unleashing another wave of outages.
The number of affected customers roughly doubled in an hour Saturday morning, from about 8,000 at 8 a.m. to more than 15,000.
But by 5 pm Saturday, the utility had restored power to all but about 2,200 homes and businesses, according to Georgia Power's outage map.
Metro Atlanta had the largest number of remaining outages, with more than 2,100 affected customers, according to Georgia Power’s map. The hardest-hit areas were in the northern and western parts of metro Atlanta.
Saturday afternoon, Christy Sloat and her two children, 8-year-old Julian and Ella, 12, were holed up in an upstairs bedroom because it was the warmest spot in their Atlanta home.
“I’m trying to find any activities for the kids that don’t involve screens,” said Sloat, because their home had been without power since about 4:30 a.m.
That’s when, four houses down the street, a large, two-trunked tree fell in two directions, she said. It took out her neighbor’s fence, three cars and the power lines and pole, knocking out power to the neighborhood.
“All the sudden there was just a huge crash,” she said.
She said Georgia Power crews had been working on the downed tree since morning, and had a replacement pole ready.
“I’m hopeful that we’ll have power in a few hours, because it’s getting pretty cold up here,” she said.
Customers of smaller utilities were affected as well.
Georgia EMC, which represents 41 electrical utility cooperatives in the state, said about 1,500 customers were hit with power outages. The organization said electricity was expected to be restored today to affected customers.
Georgia Power did not have an estimate for when power will be restored to all customers, but said it was making progress.
“(We) have already restored well over 50,000 since the storm began, with about 5,000 remaining,” Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft said Saturday afternoon. “Most of the remaining outages are newer outages from today’s continuing winds.”
Kraft added, “As always, we also remind everyone that there are downed wires caused by this storm, so please stay far away from any fallen or low-hanging lines.”
Kraft said about 1,200 Georgia Power employees and out-of-state contractors were working to repair power lines in metro Atlanta.
Earlier in the week, Kraft said the utility had notified crews to be ready to respond to outages caused by falling trees and downed lines if the winter weather brought freezing rain and accumulating snow.
Freezing rain is the biggest threat to power lines. Snow, which is what forecasters initially expected, typically causes less damage if it isn't accompanied by ice and freezing rain.
Georgia Power usually doesn’t pre-position crews before a storm, Kraft said, because the company doesn’t know where the worst damage may occur, and it already has local crews in most parts of the state.
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