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Frances closes in on Labor Day

By Justin Boron

Looming clouds propelled through the sky above the festive atmosphere at The Beach Monday, as many Labor Day celebrators refused to concede their good time to sporadic showers and 30 mph wind gusts.

Even as droves of children shivered in the unrelenting wind, waiting for their turn to dip down a 25-foot slide, Tropical Storm Frances took grip of the Henry and Clayton County area.

The storm, which caused the largest evacuation in Florida history, edged toward North Georgia Monday, with its outer rim of clouds covering the metro Atlanta area.

Signs that the storm would hit the hardest sometime today prompted the National Weather Service in Peachtree City to issue a flood watch until Wednesday for the entire metro area.

Forecasters expect Frances to dump 4 to 8 inches of rain, leaving open the possibility of tornado and thunderstorm watches.

The storm's initial impact has already threatened some of the south metro area's infrastructure as trees and power lines began to fall amid increasing winds.

More than 5,000 residents surrounding Jonesboro went without power for close to two hours Monday because of the inclement weather, said John Sell, a Georgia Power representative.

At the outage's epicenter on Fielder and Mt. Zion roads, the Chic n' D'Lite had no power for almost two hours, said Sohel Chowdhury, the store's owner.

Hampton also experienced some power loss after lines fell in the late afternoon.

As power flickered throughout the day in parts of the south side, drivers experienced some of the preliminary roadway inconveniences that weather officials expect Frances to offer.

At least six times during the day, transportation workers had to clear the path where trees had blocked roads, causing some confusion and minor traffic delays, said Capt. Jeff Turner, the public information officer for the Clayton County Police Department.

But Frances' encroachment did little to sway the 1,500 people at The Beach, who ignored the weather, eager to get in one more party before summer runs out.

Several members of Pactiv, a manufacturing company from Covington, ate hot dogs and hamburgers, weighting their plates with full drinks to prevent the wind from whisking them away.

Larry Norman, unbound by the wind and rain, spoke with a full mouth at a picnic table near the water.

"Any time you don't have to work is a good time to have a party," he said.

Likewise, Roger Smith said he wouldn't skip the company's annual picnic because of weather.

"Its still a nice day, you just got some strong wind to deal with," he said.

Police incidents on Labor Day

An off-duty Clayton County police officer accidentally shot himself in the left shoulder Monday while cleaning his weapon.

Patrolman Rodney Lee left in a stretcher, although his brother said he was still able to stand and continued to communicate after the incident.

He was in stable condition at the Atlanta Medical Center and will undergo surgery today, said Capt. Jeff Turner, the public information officer for the Clayton County Police Department.

An unruly group of 500 to 700 people gathered for a concert Sunday night at Rusty Rooster, a club on Lake Harbin Road.

Several fights broke out in the crowd as it approached "near-riot conditions," Turner said.

Both the sheriff's office and the county police responded to quell the mob, he said.