Tropical Storm Irma blew through Coweta County with little fanfare on Monday - much to the relief of residents and public safety officials.
Power outages, downed trees and a storm-related house fire in Senoia were the only reports of damage around the community as of Tuesday afternoon, said Coweta County Emergency Response Director Jay Jones.
“Our 911 center received over 1,160 phone calls from midnight on Sunday to noon today (Tuesday),” Jones stated. “But not all of those were related to the storm. We had some 254 reports of trees and power lines down, and reports of trees on homes … No one was killed during the event, and that’s the important thing.”
According to the National Weather Service, wind gusts ranged from 39-51 miles per hour around the county, and the community received between 3-4 inches of rain. Some residents reported over 5 inches of rain in various locations across county.
Carly Kovacik, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Peachtree City, said Irma weakened into a Tropical Depression Tuesday night as the storm moved off to the north and west into Alabama. But the tropical system will remain in our area through the end of the week.
“The remnants into the system will still bring some breezy wind conditions and drizzle across the state… Then we’ll slowly start to clear out as we head into Wednesday,” Kovacik said. “But once Irma pushes north and east, it’s still going to keep some moisture in our area. We will see some rain showers and possible thunderstorms toward the end of the week.”
Irma’s path through Georgia
Irma triggered the National Weather Service to issue its first tropical storm warning in Georgia for counties that were not along the coast.
The agency did not officially start announcing those type of warnings until 2000, about five years after Opal came through the area, Kovacik said.
Irma’s seemingly unexpected turn toward western Florida and Georgia kept many guessing on when the storm would hit - and how bad they would be.
“In the weather briefings before the storm, the NWS (National Weather Service) said they were having a difficult time because the weather models were showing different things. So there was a little bit of certainty,” Jones stated. “We dodged a bullet on the amount of damage we could have had versus what we did have. But you still want to have people prepared for any event.”
“We relied on the National Hurricane forecast,” explained Kovacik. “They were pretty confident it (Irma) was going to move northwest, through Florida, into Georgia … Once the storm was past Puerto Rico and going toward, Cuba that’s when we became more confident it was going to come this way.
“Usually it has a lot to do with what’s going on in the upper portion of the atmosphere,” she continued. “The upward flow steers the hurricane into which direction it will go.”
Once Hurricane Irma hit land, the storm weakened significantly.
Most of the damage was in the northeastern quadrant of the storm as it continued to circulate and push into Florida and Georgia, Kovacik confirmed.
Places like Jacksonville, Fla., Brunswick, Savannah and Charleston, S.C., experienced some of the worst damage and flooding from Irma. The destruction was also caused by the storm surge and high tides.
Monitoring Hurricane Jose
The National Weather Service is now focusing its attention on Hurricane Jose.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the storm was a low, Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The storm was located east of the Bahamas and expected to weaken by Wednesday, NOAA officials stated.
According to the NWS, Hurricane Jose is still too far away to determine how it might impact the United States and Caribbean - if at all.
Meanwhile, public-works crews continue to clean up roads and restore power around the county.
According to Jay Jones, Tropical Storm Irma was a wake-up call for emergency responders - one they were prepared for and realize could have been worse.
“We were surprised. When Hurricane Opal came through (our area) in 1995, we had a lot more damage to deal with than we did with in this event,” Jones said. “ … With the support of the community and public safety, we strive to do the best we can and prepare the best we can. But we were prepared. It (Tropical Storm Irma) didn’t blindside us like a pop-up severe thunderstorm or a squall line of tornadic activity.”
Melanie Ruberti: firstname.lastname@example.org