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Storms produce high winds in Southern Crescent

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Road signs twittered and shook in the wind as rain pelted parts of Central and North Georgia.

The severe weather caused slowing along several state highway routes late Tuesday afternoon, according to Kimberly Larson, communications officer for District 3 of the Georgia Department of Transportation (DOT). Larson said only debris and fluttering road signs had been a concern for DOT road crews heading into the early evening hours.

Later on, however, the severe weather spurred the Henry County Emergency Management Agency to investigate the impact of high winds in Locust Grove, according to Henry County Communications Director Julie Hoover-Ernst. "We received reports about downed power lines and damage from debris in the area," said Hoover-Ernst.

High winds associated with a cold front and a storm-cell push eastward from Alabama, were observed by radar, and prompted the National Weather Service (NWS) to place Henry County under both, a severe thunderstorm warning, and a tornado warning.

The severe thunderstorm warning also affected Butts, Newton, Lamar, and Spalding counties, between 4:03 p.m., and 4:45 p.m., according to NWS Meteorologist Robert Garcia. The tornado warning was issued at 4:12 p.m., for Butts, Henry and Newton counties, and expired at 4:45 p.m.

Garcia noted that there were no reports, or sightings, of tornado activity from the ground by mid-afteroon Tuesday. He said radar picked up some circulation near Locust Grove, along the Butts-Henry county line, where the storm produced wind speeds of up to 60 miles per hour.

Butts County Fire Chief Mike Wilson reported that the BP station on Ga. Highway 42, at the county line, sustained considerable damage, as did a nearby facility in Butts County that sells small, storage buildings. He said there were no local reports of injuries from the storm in the Southern Crescent area, however.

Chief Wilson said there were numerous reports of trees and power lines down elsewhere in Butts County, notably along Dean Patrick Road.

"We've had very few outages," said Jeff Wilson, a spokesman for Georgia Power. He said Georgia Power serves about 1 million customers in metro Atlanta, but only 19 customers in all of south-metro Atlanta were reported to have power outages. Most outages were reported in Gwinnett and DeKalb counties, with a majority of those (about 3,000) originating in the Lawrenceville area.

Metro Atlanta is expected to dry out today, as skies clear from Tuesday's line of storms, which produced 1.2 inches of rain, as observed at the NWS Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport observation site.

Garcia said about 0.45 inches were recorded at the airport on Monday.

He said residents should expect drastically cooler temperatures today, compared to Tuesday's high of 70 degrees, recorded at 2:12 p.m. Today's highs will be in the upper 40s.

"On Thursday, we'll recover to the mid-50s, with lows in the upper 20s -- slightly below average," said Garcia.

Jackson Progress Managing Editor Michael Davis contributed to this article.