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Counties escape major damage from storm

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

Severe storms swept through Georgia Wednesday hitting some areas hard, but caused little damage in Henry and Clayton counties.

Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John W. Oxendine said the violent weather caused an estimated $10 million in insured losses around the state.

"That figure will rise as new claims are reported," he said. "The damage was quite extensive in some areas."

One person was killed and at least 16 were injured when the severe weather moved through Georgia and Alabama, with tornadoes, hail and lightning, according to Associated Press reports.

At least three tornadoes touched down in central Georgia, according to National Weather Service (NWS) teams that moved through the area to assess the damage. Touchdowns were reported in Coweta, Jasper, Putnam Taylor and Spalding counties, said Matt Sena, a meteorologist with the weather service.

Winds measured at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport at 5:44 p.m., during the storm, peaked at about 32 mph, said Barry Gooden, a meteorologist for the NWS in Peachtree City.

Flights in and out of Hartsfield were significantly delayed because of the high winds, said Al Snedeker, public relations manager for Hartsfield-Jackson. Departing flights were delayed by 30 to 40 minutes, he said, while arriving flights were delayed by one to three hours.

Heavy rains, high winds and large chunks of hail fell on parts of Henry, resulting in scattered power outages, broken tree limbs and fallen trees.

Henry County Emergency Management Agency 911 operators handled more calls than usual during the storm, said Don Ash, the agency's director. "We probably had an increase of 20 percent to 30 percent over normal," said Ash.

One residence at 87 Church Street in McDonough was damaged when a tree fell on the house. A commercial building on Harkness Street in McDonough was also damaged when high winds ripped off a portion of the roof.

The Henry County Fire Department responded to calls for trees and power lines down, said Sabrina Puckett, community relations division director for the department.

"During the midst of the storm activity, the Henry County Fire Department did experience an increase in call volume, but nothing that required any additional resources," Puckett said, in a prepared statement. "The storm that came through last night had the potential to have caused much greater devastation, but we are very thankful that it did not, and that there were no injuries reported."

Puckett stressed the importance of having a family disaster plan in place.

Electric crews worked to restore power following the storm. Georgia Power workers were out until early Thursday, said company spokesperson Konswello Monroe.

More than 340 electric customers in the south metro area, which included Henry, Clayton, Butts, Fayette and Coweta counties, and portions of Fulton, were without electricity from 5 p.m., Wednesday until 2 a.m., Thursday. Georgia Power reported that all of its customers had their power restored by Thursday.

According to Monroe, the areas hit hardest included the city of Newnan, and Haralson and Coweta counties.

Snapping Shoals Electric Management Corporation responded to storm-related emergency calls. A tree limb fell onto a switch controlling the flow of electricity at the McGarity Substation near McGarity Road, said Leigh Anne Burgess, communications director for Snapping Shoals EMC. The limb knocked out power to 1,500 meters along Airline, McGarity and Lake Dow roads.

Central Georgia Electric Management Corporation reported power outages affecting customers in five counties, said Christy Chewning, a spokesperson for the company, in a prepared statement.

At the height of the storm, Chewning said, about 3,640 EMC customers were without power.

Central Georgia EMC identified 15 -20 broken poles in its service territory, and efforts to restore power to those affected continued into the evening Wednesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.