By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Winds of tropical storm strength made their presence known in Atmore overnight October 28 and into the morning of October 29, but Hurricane Zeta caused relatively minor damage to a town still recovering from Hurricane Sally.
The sometimes whistling, sometimes roaring winds reportedly were steady at nearly 35 mph for several hours, with gusts of more than 50 mph. Sally’s earlier onslaught left fewer trees to slow the progress of the fierce wind movement, and roofs — especially metal ones — bore the brunt of Zeta’s wrath.
A large section of the local ambulance service’s roof was blown into the parking lot of First National Bank & Trust’s North Main branch; several vehicles at Jason Pilger Chevrolet on East Nashville Avenue were damaged when Zeta’s winds tore a chunk out of the dealership’s metal roof; and the roof over Atmore Truckers Association, at the corner of West Ridgeley and Carney streets, was rolled up by the blustery conditions.
No injuries were reported in either incident.
Small limbs littered many city streets, and Atmore Fire Department reports show that only two trees fell that were large enough to affect traffic. When Hurricane Sally launched a direct attack on Atmore in September, more than 44,000 cubic yards of trees, limbs, bushes and other vegetative debris were scattered across the local landscape.
As Zeta moved out of the city, Alabama Power crews sprang into action. By mid-morning Thursday, APCO had restored service to more than 80 percent of its customers who were subjected to a widespread outage. The loss of power was mainly due to transformers that were blown down or short-circuited by the whipping wind. Service was restored citywide by Friday.
State troopers are reportedly investigating a Thursday morning (October 29) collision, reportedly between a bicycle and a passenger vehicle, near Alabama 21’s junction with Woods Road. The bicycle rider was reportedly taken to an area trauma center by helicopter after the incident, which happened around 6:30 a.m.
Local emergency officials have not discounted the fact that weather could have played a role in the wreck, but troopers said late last week the agency didn’t investigate a crash involving a bicycle on the state highway, nor anywhere else in the county, on or around that date.
Nor, they said, did their reports show the evacuation by air of any victim of any accident they did investigate along Ala. 21.
“There was no one airlifted and there was no bicycle involved,” said a spokesman for the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s Evergreen Trooper Post.
Atmore police were first on the scene of the mishap. But according to Capt. John Stallworth, who serves as APD’s assistant chief, the department otherwise had a relatively quiet night and morning as the community rode the storm out.
“APD was called, but the troopers worked it,” Stallworth said. “I’m not sure (about the evacuation), but (the injured man) could have been airlifted from Atmore Community Hospital after he got there. Other than that, I think most folks stayed home, so we didn’t have anything major during the storm.”
Fire Chief Ron Peebles said AFD personnel, who tackled dozens of trees with chain saws and other tools and equipment after Hurricane Sally, handled a relatively small volume of calls during Zeta.
“Not one rescue call at all, so we’re blessed for that,” Peebles said. “I didn’t get any reports of any kind of injuries or anything like that, and that’s our main thing. We came out of it a lot better than we could have.”