Georgia Power crew working on power lines in Roswell in April. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Power outages hit more than 1.2 million Georgia customers

More than 1.2 million households and businesses were without power Monday evening after tree-snapping winds from Tropical Storm Irma rolled into the state.

In metro Atlanta, roughly 336,000 customers were dealing with power outages. Georgia Power cautioned customers to be prepared for a long slog before their electricity is restored, given the widespread damage from downed trees, broken limbs and other problems whipped up by Irma’s wind gusts.

“It could take from days to weeks, honestly,” said Georgia Power spokeswoman Ashley West.

The Georgia coast and southern half of the state took the brunt of Tropical Storm Irma’s wrath early in the day as it headed north from Florida. But by the end of the day, customers were in the dark across the state.

Georgia Power reported more than 800,000 customers were affected, while Georgia EMC, a trade group that represents electrical utility cooperatives, said some 471,000 homes and businesses were without power in its service areas.

According to the Atlanta utility’s outage map, the eastern part of metro Atlanta was hit with largest number of outages, with roughly 194,000 affected customers. Especially hard hit was DeKalb County, where almost 116,000 homes or businesses — roughly one out of three customers in the county — lost power.

Savannah had more than 88,000 customers still without power in the evening, down from more than 80,000 earlier in the day.

Other coastal areas were hit hard as well, with almost 70,000 homes and businesses without power in St. Simons Island and Brunswick and surrounding areas.

Columbus had almost 34,000 customers with outages, while Macon had more than 75,000. Augusta had almost 31,000.

Coastal and south Georgia accounted for most of the outages at electric coops through most of the day, according to Georgia EMC, with more than 208,000 affected customers at one point. But by the evening, that region’s total had dropped as power was restored to about 30,000 customers, while the number without power swelled to more than 198,000 in metro Atlanta as the storm moved north.

Georgia Power said it was able to restore power to some customers automatically through re-routing around breaks in power lines. The utility also initially dispatched crews to repair damaged power lines in the Atlanta area Monday morning, but recalled them to staging areas as the winds began to pick up.

West said crews remained on hold Monday afternoon because the high winds made working on power lines dangerous. Georgia Power has 3,400crew personnel from Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi waiting in staging areas in Atlanta, Macon, Tifton and Valdosta.

Heavy winds with gusts of more than 50 miles began hitting the Atlanta metro area in the early afternoon.