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Hermine storms into Georgia
Damage around state, but no deaths reported
W Tropica Weather Hermi Ledb
A tree service company removes a fallen tree from the roof of a damaged home Friday in Valdosta in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Hermine. - photo by Associated Press

VALDOSTA — Hermine flooded roads and sent trees crashing into homes and power lines Friday across a wide swath of south Georgia, cutting electricity to more than 100,000 customers at one point as the storm roared inland after making landfall in Florida as a hurricane.

Still, the overall damage was less than many feared, as Nick Wykoff found out after winds uprooted a burly pecan tree that punched several holes in his roof before dawn Friday. With water leaking into his bedroom, kitchen and garage, the 27-year-old Air Force mechanic braved the nasty weather in Valdosta to go buy extra buckets. The drive to Wal-Mart was stunningly uneventful.

"Out of all the stuff that happened, the only real damage I see was on my own house," Wykoff said.

Georgia's top emergency response official said that by midday Friday, the storm was having less of an impact on the state than he had expected.

No deaths or major structural damage had been reported in 56 Georgia counties under an emergency declaration, Jim Butterworth, director of the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency, said in a telephone interview. Tropical storm force winds seemed to dissipate quickly as Hermine moved over dry land into Georgia.

"With a storm like this you absolutely can't tell until the true impact comes inland," Butterworth said.

Property damage appeared to be mostly scattered reports of trees on homes and cars, Butterworth said, and a few people suffered minor injuries from cleanup efforts — including a couple of mishaps with chain-saws.

Emergency officials were looking into a report of a possible tornado touching down early Friday at a gated golf community in Savannah. The upscale community called The Landings is on Skidaway Island in east Savannah.

The most widespread problem appeared to be power outages. More than 107,000 homes and businesses were without electricity across Georgia as crews worked to repair damage left by Hermine, utility companies reported around the lunch hour Friday.

About 30,000 of them were in the Savannah area, and more than 20,000 others were in the Brunswick area near the coast, Georgia Power reported on its online outage map shortly before noon Friday.

More than 11,000 customers were without power in hard-hit Lowndes County, the utility company reported. Thousands more outages were reported by the state's electric cooperatives, which cover many rural areas in south Georgia.

The National Weather Service reported winds up to 55 mph tore through Valdosta and surrounding Lowndes County early Friday.

Melvin Gatlin Sr., 84, of Valdosta awoke with a fright before dawn to the sound of a thundering crack that shook his whole house.

"I thought somebody had shot me, the way it sounded," Gatlin said a few hours later in his living room, where a cooking pot on the floor caught water dripping from the ceiling.

The storm's winds toppled a pine tree in the backyard onto Gatlin's home of more than 40 years. The trunk crushed a storage shed where Gatlin kept his deep freezer and lawn mower. It also made a tear in his roof.

"Nobody got hurt," said Gatlin's son, Melvin Gatlin Jr. "That's the best part."

Howling winds, falling limbs and trash cans rattling across yards kept some of Gatlin's neighbors awake overnight.

"I couldn't sleep. I walked the floor," said Betty Campbell, who lives three houses away from Gatlin.

Campbell watched the rain with her daughter and a friend under the shelter of her carport Friday morning. Her husband was still dozing inside.

"He slept through it," Campbell said. "He told me to leave him alone."

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