Hurricane Opal caused severe damage and 10 deaths in Georgia 20 years ago this week, in 1995. Although its most forceful days were Oct. 4 and 5, the aftermath lasted well beyond.
According to reports at the time, the storm peaked on a Thursday morning leaving 410,000 Georgia Power customers in the dark. Hardest hit was metro Atlanta with 296,000 – many went powerless for days.
Five thousand trees were down on power lines statewide, including 4,000 in metro Atlanta. More than 1,000 power poles were toppled by winds, which gusted up to 69 mph.
Gov. Zell Miller declared a state of emergency in 45 counties, and schools throughout metro Atlanta and northwest Georgia remained closed for a days.
Perhaps the only folks reaping benefits were carpenters and arborists — many called to the same residences.
Druid Hills resident Mary Foltz was an unfortunate victim of the storm. She went to sleep Wednesday night not expecting to be awakened by a tree crashing through her house. With the sound and force of train wreck, the 100-year-old oak put a skylight in the space once occupied by a ceiling fan.
“You know that cartoon where the cat screeches and flies up to the ceiling? That was me. I was in a stupor and I ran to the girls and said, ‘You need your shoes, we’re going downstairs.’ “
Another tree fatality that was mourned throughout the city was one of Atlanta’s most visible veterans of the Civil War, the ancient oak at Piedmont Hospital on Peachtree Street. The tree stood on the site of Confederate Capt. Evan P. Howell’s battery, which fired shells northwest toward Peachtree Creek, said historian Franklin M. Garrett of the Atlanta History Center. The uprooted tree blocked one lane of Peachtree.
“We’ve had people walking out all day and looking at it, ” said a hospital spokeswoman at the time. “It really is a landmark. We think it is one of the oldest oaks in Buckhead.”
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