Most of Carroll County was breathing a collective sigh of relief after Tropical Storm Irma came through Monday.
The remnants of what had been a powerful Category 5 hurricane that wrecked much of the Caribbean and Florida caused damage to some Carroll County homes, but little else. There were no fatalities or injuries reported.
The National Weather Service said the county received 3.97 inches of rain from Monday until 7 a.m. on Tuesday. The recorded wind speeds reached 40 mph and as high as 50 mph in some locations.
“We have had about 150 calls for trees and powerlines down,” said Tim Padgett, director of the Carroll County Emergency Management Agency. “That was throughout the county. We had about 20 trees on homes and some caused pretty good damage and others not too major damage.”
Padgett said Midway Church on Highway 61 served as a shelter for those in need, taking in about 20 people.
“We activated the emergency operations center Monday at noon and we scaled it back at 9 p.m. Monday,” said Padgett. “All public safety and support departments in the county had full hands on deck. We had, at the sheriff's office weather station, 40 mph winds. The Department of Transportation station on I-20 recorded 50 mph winds.”
Padgett said it was cooler temperatures that sapped much of Irma's strength.
“You have to prepare for the worst because you never know what it may bring,” said Padgett. “We were just blessed by the man upstairs.”
Because of the low temperature, the possibilities for a tornado to occur were very minimal. Warm weather increases the chances for a tornado to form. Tropical storms often spawn tornadoes.
“You just never know,” said Padgett. “I heard some of the meteorologist who said, within their 35 years of reporting, that they have never seen a storm like this. You have to prepare for the worst and pray for the best. We were able to handle the calls in a timely manner. All roads are back open and power has been restored for many places.”
Padgett said Carroll EMC and Georgia Power worked hard to restore power to several locations.
“Carroll EMC actually had extra crews to handle this,” said Padgett. “But honestly you just don’t know how bad a storm is going to be till it hits. We sat in the briefings and heard the worst case scenarios.”
Padgett said that looking at the damage to the east, many counties experienced much worse than Carroll County did.
“With these events, I don’t really care to say that it was not as bad as we thought,” said Padgett. “We think that it was not too bad in some ways, but the fact of the matter is that some people were affected badly and had a tree on their house.”
Marty Smith, chairman of the Carroll County Board of Commissioners, said there were sporadic calls of downed trees blocking roadways, some causing power outages.
"The majority of calls started as the weather changed, from about 3 p.m. till 10 p.m.," said Smith. "We suspended the EOC about 9 p.m. and went back to regular staffing of 911 and regular procedures. We originally had extra staff at 911 helping assist the calls and we had 14 two-man crews up until 10 p.m. helping with the roads. We cut that back to two crews at 10 p.m."
Smith said the plans in place worked extremely well and most calls were handled very efficiently due to the work and preparation by Padgett, who coordinated early meetings, and the efforts of all those involved, ranging from city and county schools to volunteers to public works department, the power companies and all the public safety involved.
"Pre-meeting and having everyone in one room to discuss each of their plans of preparedness goes a long way when it comes time to react to the actual storm situation at hand," said Smith. "Thanks to all entities, 75-80 people that met at each of the weather briefings prior to the event and the open communication. Looks as if it will take a couple of weeks to clean all the tree debris up that was left from Irma. I consider it to be a very successful recovery. Even though most people think we didn't have much in our area to occur, we probably had just over 200 trees down that had to be dealt with last night and early this morning on Tuesday."