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Storm Damage 006

Big Canoe morning after the big blow found cars lined up to leave for work and other
destinations. PHOTO BY JIM FRANCIS

Wild March winds take down more than 100 trees in Big Canoe

By Laura Link, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

A loud moaning wind—some thought sounded like the freight train sound used to describe a tornado—hit Big Canoe Tuesday night, March 21 with large hail, taking out over 100 trees.

The heaviest part of the storm occurred approximately between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

One car was hit by a falling tree, breaking the windshield and a Dodge pickup truck ran into a downed tree on Wilderness Parkway. No injuries were reported. The Main Gate entrance into Big Canoe was blocked until Public Safety and maintenance crews, called in for the emergency, began to clear at least one lane of main roads on property.

Lt. Todd Lanning, public safety supervisor on duty put the storm situation this way: “If you ever wanted to see a grown man scared it was going out in the middle of the storm to where the truck had run into the downed tree on Wilderness Parkway. It was my job and I had to go.”

Lanning and his crew joined maintenance and public works crews to clear at least a single lane on all main roads Tuesday night. Big Canoe’s volunteer firefighters manned Fire Station 3 to answer any emergency calls and assist with the overwhelming number of calls being made to the dispatcher at the Main Gate and the North Gate keeper.

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Activity at Big Canoe's Main Gate at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, March 22, 2017.
PHOTO BY MELINDA LOWRIE

With Wilderness Parkway from the North Gate blocked by a tree, drivers of trucks trying to make it home took matters into their own hands and pushed the tree aside with their bumpers so traffic could pass.

Jason Brownell, director of operations, said Wednesday morning the landscape crew, maintenance, roads and trails and two outside contractors were working to clear and cleanup the property. One of the hardest hit areas in Big Canoe was between the Main Gate and the POA Lodge, he said. Ridgeview and Blackwell Creek were other heavily damaged areas.

“It was a smorgasbord of trees that came down. Hardwoods and pines down from two inches to 24 inches in circumference,” he reported.

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The big tree that fell across the cart path on Big Canoe's golf course was only one reason
the course was closed Wednesday after the storm. PHOTO BY JIM FRANCIS

Although he named Ridgeview Drive as a heavy area, Brownell said the lower elevation trees seemed to take a hard hit too. “I could drive for two miles and see no trees down and then there would be more trees down. It skipped about.”

Chainsaws were in big demand Tuesday night by not only public service employees – some of whom needed gas refills and found electricity off at the pumps in Dawson. Georgia Department of Transportation and utility companies stayed busy throughout the night. Several gas leaks resulted from the storm.

On Cherokee Trail a resident smelled smoke after a lightning strike. Lanning said in responding to a fire call, they found the lightning had probably hit the ground outside the house and traveled up to the outlet where outside lights were. There was no fire found and the homeowner was advised to have an electrician inspect the house Wednesday.

 

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Several trees were down in Blackwell Creek after the storm. Big Canoe crews arrived and were clearing debris just after 9 a.m.,
March 22, on Sycamore Trail. PHOTOS BY MELISSA LOWRIE

 

With underground electrical lines in Big Canoe, the power during the height of the storm went out for a few seconds but no long outages occurred. Lanning said Pickens emergency personnel reported 30 or more power lines down in Bent Tree along with many trees. In Jasper, power was out all over the city. The traffic light at the intersection of highway 53 and 515 had blown so low that big trucks could have taken it down had they not seen it. Live wires on trees and in roadways across Pickens and Dawson counties made for dangerous working conditions for emergency crews and drivers.

One emergency call received in Pickens County was from a woman who said a tornado had hit and destroyed her house. The Red Cross was called out to help this family. In Dawson, people also thought a tornado had touched down but Dawson County emergency services reported it was too early to confirm. The weather bureau will study the scene before confirming tornadoes in the area.

Pickens County schools were closed Wednesday and Dawson County schools opened two hours late.

Bennett Whipple, Big Canoe’s unofficial weather guru, reported Wednesday morning, with all that huffing and puffing of hard winds and hail, he only collected eight tenths of an inch of rain in his gauge on Columbine Drive.

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