Hurricane Hermine’s forgotten victims

Valdosta — Georgians will likely recall Hurricane Hermine as a wimp. Except for people like Nick Wykoff, who’s doing battle with a fallen tree clawing into his roof.

Most Georgians were thankful the storm left no deaths, major injuries or widespread damage here. In hurricane terms, that’s the equivalent of no hits, no runs and no errors. But Wykoff was having to raise a burly 75-foot-long pecan tree off his home in Valdosta.

Then there was Melody Mauldin in Savannah. At about 5:15 a.m. Friday, she heard a tree crash into her roof, opening a hole you could drive a golf cart through. She’s had to abandon the place until repairs are made.

These are the forgotten victims of Hermine, the people who - while everybody else was happily getting back to the holiday weekend - were still suffering the ravages of a tropical storm that, for most Georgians, left little lasting impression.

In Chatham County, the Red Cross did not receive a single request for assistance, officials said. Some streets flooded, but those streets flood all the time. The worst damage hit about a dozen homes in The Landings area, a sprawling, gated community of condos and homes. Maudlin’s was among them.

Roofers arrived and tried to fix it Friday morning, but abandoned the project because the weather was expected to get worse.

“They say if it falls, it’s going to crash right through the center of the house,” she said, climbing into a neighbor’s SUV with a small brown terrier clutched to her chest.

The storm - which was moving up the East Coast Saturday dumping rain on the Carolinas, Virginia and the Delmarva Peninsula - spread other pain around south and coastal Georgia before departing. About 100,000 people lost power. Some 75 people holed up overnight in a Valdosta shelter, including 28 kids. Boats were banged around at St. Simons Island.

But shortly thereafter, the rain and winds had died down and people were sweeping tree scraps to the curb. Stores reopened, traffic swelled and people essentially enjoyed some extra time added to the Labor Day weekend.

For his part, Wykoff was staring up at a sky-high crane hoisting heavy tree limbs off his roof. The tree had punched a half dozen holes in the roof, one wide enough to fit a man through.

Looking around at the serenity returning to his neighborhood Friday, the helicopter mechanic at Moody Air Force Base felt a little picked on.

That morning, Wykoff’s wife heard a crash over the bedroom loud enough the shake the one-story home on Branch Point Drive. Suddenly, the hard rain scratching and pushing at the exterior of the beige home started dripping into to the bedroom, kitchen and garage. The family scrambled for buckets.

“The bedroom ceiling started to sag,” he said.

The Wykoffs and their two little kids are renters, and the landlord has offered them another home nearby. But the 27-year-old figures he’ll still be taking time off from work to pack and move. Then there’s dealing with the insurance company on all their damaged stuff.

Wykoff, to his credit, took it all in stride.

“Stuff happens,” he said. “There’s nothing I could do about it.”

Water was also leaking into the Lowndes County home of Melvin Gatlin Sr. Despite his son’s best efforts, the man refused to leave the house. Melvin Jr. saw that his father was upset, though the proud man was putting on his best stiff-upper-lip. Still, the 84-year-old needed extra breathing treatments for his lung troubles.

“I couldn’t pull him away from that house if I put a rope on him and dragged him,” said the son.