By Tia Lynn Ivey
Hurricane Irma tore through Morgan County this week, causing widespread power outages and damage to power lines, trees, and properties throughout the county. Officials warned residents ahead of the storm to stay indoors and off the roads due to the dangerous conditions Irma would bring.
“Hurricane Irma is a life-threatening weather event,” said Gwen Ruark, director of Morgan County’s Emergency Management Department.
After the storm passed, thousands of residents were left without power.
“The effects of Hurricane Irma were felt in Morgan County early Monday morning,” said County Manager Adam Mestres. “Morgan County experienced widespread power outages estimated at 6,000 residents without power. The county also saw over 100 downed trees, many with power lines on them causing a large portion of our county roadways to become impassible.”
All Morgan County Schools were closed Monday, Tuesday, and will be closed Wednesday, Sept. 13 due to continued power outages at the schools. The school system will announce late Wednesday afternoon whether or not schools will be closed again on Thursday, Sept. 14.
“Superintendent James Woodard has attended several briefings with GEMA (Georgia Emergency Management Agency) and city/county officials even before Irma reached the United States,” said Sarah Burbach, assistant superintendent. “He has used the information shared in those briefings to make informed decisions about closing school.”
During the storm, the power lines outside of Madison’s City Hall were damaged.
“Ironically, the tornado siren came down taking out all our power lines,” read a closure notice from the City of Madison.
According to Mestres, as of Tuesday morning, there were still 3,900 county residents without power. Emergency personnel and government work crews have been working diligently to safely remove fall trees. Officials are warning the public to steer clear of trees in the road, especially ones entangled with power lines.
“We urge all residents to use caution when approaching downed trees as a potential electrical shock threat does exist,” said Mestres.
Hurricane Irma first made its way to America’s mainland Sunday after devastating parts of Cuba, Haiti, The Florida Keys, and other islands in the Carribbean. Although Hurricane Irma began as a Category 5 Hurricane, by time it reached North Georgia, the storm was downgraded a Tropical Storm with winds whipping up to 60 miles per hour.
“Morgan County will continue to experience significant sustained winds of 35 miles per hour through the early morning hours. Wind gusts are expected to exceed 60 miles per hour throughout the evening,” wrote Gwen Ruark, director of Morgan County’s Emergency Management Department.
Morgan County’s Emergency Management Department issued an advisory for a voluntary curfew, asking all non-essential travel throughout Morgan County to cease on Monday, Sept. 11 at 6 pm until Tuesday, Sept. 12 at 7 a.m.
The county decided to close all countywide government offices on Monday and Tuesday, urging local businesses to do the same.
“All non-essential personnel should not report to work,” said Ruark.
Public meetings were also cancelled Monday and Tuesday, including the highly anticipated Madison City Council meeting at which the fate of the controversial Foster Park development was supposed to be decided. Garbage pick-up was also cancelled due to the storm.
In the City of Madison, multiple roads were blocked by fallen trees, causing a number of road closures while crews worked to restore safe passage. Streets included: North Main Street, College Drive, Maxeys Lane, South Main Street, Foster Street, East Avenue, Walker Circle, and Old Post Road.