Storm races swiftly across city, leaving little damage
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
A storm system that was predicted to be a potent and damaging weather event roared through Atmore swiftly but relatively quietly during the predawn hours of Tuesday, January 9, leaving hardly any damage in its wake.
The system appeared ready to meet the expectations of forecasters as it arrived packing strong, gusty winds and intermittent periods of heavy rainfall.
The winds toppled two trees, both on Rockaway Creek Road, and left limbs on several streets and roadways across the area. The system moved through so fast, though, that the rain didn’t have time to accumulate in low-lying areas that usually are flooded when significant downpours occur.
“It was moving on when it came through,” Fire Chief Ron Peebles said. “It came through so fast, there was no time for the water to accumulate in the ditches and on the roads, so overall we came out pretty good.”
Police Chief Chuck Brooks agreed.
“There was a lot of wind and a lot of lightning, but it all went away quickly,” Brooks said. “There was a little bit of flooding along Cindebran Road, near the creek, and in some of the areas in town that normally flood. That was about it.”
Streets & Sanitation Department Director Calvin Grace said he and his crews were ready for more than the storm brought with it.
“Everything went good,” he said. “The water in the ditches didn’t get too high. We had some drains that stopped up, but that’s all. We had all our tractors, generators and other equipment ready, just in case.”
The Canoe community, just east of Atmore’s city limits, was the area hardest hit, as dozens of homes and businesses were still without power at mid-morning Tuesday, January 9.
A spokesperson for Southern Pine Electric Cooperative did not have an exact number of customers who were left powerless when the sometimes-swirling winds sent limbs and small trees into power lines but said Tuesday morning that electricity to most should be restored within a relatively short time.
Beth Thomas of Alabama Power Company said in an email received shortly after the print edition of Atmore News had gone to press Tuesday morning that hundreds of customers in the area lost power to the storm.
“At the peak of the outages, about 900 customers were without power in the Atmore area,” said Thomas, who added that the lengthy service interruptions were a result of the storm’s steady wind gusts. “Service has been restored to about 600 customers at this point. Most of the remaining outages are in the Canoe and Flomaton areas. Our crews will be working as quickly and as safely as they can to restore service.”
The city’s new storm siren was remotely activated around 4:45 a.m., apparently by National Weather Service personnel, when a tornado warning was issued for the area just to the north and east of Atmore.
Most local private schools, as well as Bratt, Fla.’s Northview High School, canceled Tuesday classes and extracurricular events, while the county’s public schools observed a day of e-learning.
Peebles said the trees that fell across Rockaway Creek Road were more a hindrance than a threat, although one motorist had a close encounter with one of them.
“There didn’t but two trees fall that we were called to,” the fire chief said. “The biggest tree was covered in vines, and it took longer to cut the vines away than it did to cut up the tree and move it out of the road. A woman drove her truck up into one of the trees, but nobody was hurt. Otherwise, it was just scattered limbs.”