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Irma not as bad here as Matthew
Bulloch Countys schools reopen Wednesday; special rules for waste collection centers
W 091217 IRMA 02
David Hodges of the Georgia Department of Transportation finishes up removing a pine tree from Hwy. 46 near Jack Kennedy Road Tuesday morning. Hodges said he didn't have much work to do at that location because a church group was already removing the debris from the road when he got there. GDOT employees were hosted overnight at Langston Chapel Elementary School to get an early start on cleanup in Bulloch County.

Some homes were damaged, but far fewer. Power outages affected most of the local population, but line crews made rapid progress Monday and Tuesday. No lives were reported lost here as a direct result of the storm.

“While it was very intense, this was not a Matthew,” Bulloch County Emergency Management Agency Director Ted Wynn said Tuesday morning.

“We’ve got about 35 roads that we’re working on this morning to get those passable with trees on them,” he said.

Power lines were in the tangle on 11 of those roads, so the county’s Transportation Department was working with the power companies to clear those, he said.

Monday, the county’s Emergency Operations Center, which is next to the Sheriff’s Office, clocked gusts of 46 mph with sustained winds of 31 mph “but that was for a short period of time,” Wynn said.

A little over eight inches of rain was recorded at the same site.

“But it was spread over about 35 hours, so hopefully we are not going to find a lot of our roads washed out,” Wynn said.

He had learned of three damaged homes and a few damaged businesses Monday but said the county was working on a more complete list Tuesday.


Power outages

Georgia Power reported that about 950,000 of its customers across the state were affected by outages Tuesday, meaning that many metered locations, not individual residents.

Between 16,000 and 17,000 of Georgia Power’s customers in Bulloch County were without power during the peak of the storm, said Matt Sawhill, Georgia Power’s incoming Statesboro area manager. That was about 80 percent of the company’s 20,428 total customer locations in the county.

But Georgia Power line crews had restored several thousand Bulloch County customers by Monday evening, and fewer than 300 were still offline by 3 p.m. Tuesday, Sawhill reported.

“Within the first day we had it down to 12,800, and then today we’ve pared it all the way down to 290,” he said. “That said, still currently for the company, we’re at 638,690 total customers out statewide.”

Georgia Power had 5,500 personnel working on power restoration statewide. Although less devastating locally, Hurricane Irma was a much bigger problem for Georgia Power than Hurricane Matthew had been.

“It’s obviously been a statewide event, unlike Hurricane Matthew, which affected more of a localized, coastal region,” Sawhill said.

Every downed power line situation is unique, he said, and confirmed that the easier restorations, and those affecting the most customers, are handled first.

“By Friday I would certainly expect a hundred percent,” Sawhill said. “The last ones are always the hardest ones to do. But we have all the confidence in the world that we’ll get there.”

Meanwhile, Excelsior Electric Membership Corporation reported 18,110 of its member customers were without power throughout its eight-county service area at the peak of outages Monday. In an update emailed before 11 p.m. Monday, Excelsior reported that it was working to restore electric service to 9,761 customers still affected by outages.

As of 9 p.m. Tuesday, Excelsior’s online outage map showed the number had been reduced to 3,196 customers throughout the service area. This included 1,547 customers in Bulloch County.


Bulloch Schools reopen

Power and water remained concerns as Bulloch County Schools officials decided when to welcome students back after the storm. But eventually, Hayley Greene, the school district’s public relations specialist, announced that all 15 schools will be open for classes Wednesday. Nevils Elementary School was the last to be confirmed, about 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, after its water supply was restored.


OTC, GSU later

Ogeechee Technical College announced it is reopening for faculty and staff members Wednesday, with classes for students to resume Thursday.

Georgia Southern University will be closed and classes will be canceled “through Thursday, Sept. 14 and until further notice,” the university’s communications office stated in an email Tuesday.

“We will continue to monitor campus conditions and travel issues across the state in an effort to ensure that our area is safe and our students are able to travel safely back to campus,” the notice stated.

The university’s updates are posted at

Bulloch County government offices and Statesboro City Hall were set to reopen Wednesday.


Waste restrictions

Bulloch County’s solid waste collection centers will reopen for normal hours Wednesday. However, the staffed solid waste convenience sites will accept only spoiled food and household garbage for now, said Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch.

“No bulk or yard waste at this time,” said his emailed notice.

Once the demand for disposing of spoiled food passes, the centers will transition to taking yard debris, as well as household garbage, but only after further notice is given, Couch said.

Additionally, the county is asking residents not to put yard waste at the curb. Instead, it should be taken to solid waste convenience centers, he said.

With far less vegetative debris than was created by Hurricane Matthew, county and city officials don’t know yet whether there will be any federal disaster funding to cover the cost of a special cleanup effort.


VOAD efforts

Volunteers with Bulloch County VOAD, the local Volunteer Organization Active in Disaster, set up a free kitchen at lunchtime Tuesday at First United Methodist Church in Statesboro, offering hot meals to people who lost their home food supplies or had no electricity

Because of limited demand, VOAD had not announced an additional hot meal service or shower stations after Tuesday. But Statesboro Food Bank and Christian Social Ministries will be providing bags of food for home preparation 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday with no eligibility requirements, said DeWayne Grice of Bulloch VOAD.

See or the “Bulloch VOAD” Facebook page for information on recovery efforts.



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