Weekend storms result in outages, property damage

Published 5:56 pm Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Gates/Gendron family’s shed was flattened by straight-line winds this weekend, and debris littered across their yard.  Their home was relatively unharmed, however.

The Gates/Gendron family’s shed was flattened by straight-line winds this weekend, and debris littered across their yard. Their home was relatively unharmed, however.

A one-two punch of powerful storms swept the Southeast, reportedly leaving at least 18 people dead across Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.

Though Butler County once again managed to dodge the brunt of the force, the region didn’t escape entirely unscathed.

“Several waves of severe weather over the weekend disrupted service to approximately 530 Alabama Power customers in Butler County,” said Mike Jordan, public information representative with Alabama Power’s Southern Division.

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“Damage included a number of broken power poles and several spans of downed wire as a result of fallen trees and limbs.  Lightning also contributed to outages as well.

Casey Rogers, Pioneer Electric communciations specialist, added that the waves of weekend storms caused similarly large outages across the Pioneer Electric system.

“The men and women of PEC worked around the clock throughout the weekend and Monday to restore power to the 3,400 members that experienced power outages,” Rogers said.

“I’m proud of my Pioneer Electric colleagues and co-op family.  This was an all-hands-on-deck event, and the men and women of our co-op worked dillegently until the last member’s power was restored.

Butler County EMA director Shirley Sandy said that the county had no confirmed tornado touchdowns, despite reports in surrounding areas.

“We’ve had reports of damage to houses, barns and a few cars from this weekend’s storms,” Sandy said. 

Sandy added that straight-line winds were responsible for most of Butler County’s property damage, which is a term used for damaging winds that aren’t produced by tornados.

Still, the straight-line winds were damaging enough to cause significant damage to portions of the county.

The weekend storms struck while one Butler County family was away from their home, creating a difficult obstacle course of debris to navigate and evoking some painful memories in the process.

“As we tried to make it home to check the damage, trees were across the road on County Road 11 at Wolf Creek and County Road 54 (Ridge Road),” said Cheryl Gates.

Cheryl and her husband, Dale, took the closed Wolf Creek dirt road, clearing small trees by hand as they went and passing over a bridge that was out of commission.

“Finally, we made it within a half-mile from home and trees and power lines were down everywhere in Monterey.  Volunteer fire departments from Shackleville and Forest Home were on site working to remove many trees from Forest Home and beyond.  It took nearly three hours jus to get a glimpse of our house.”

The damage was noticeable.  Power lines and trees lay scattered across both of the Gates family’s roads and driveways.  A massive old oak tree snapped on their front lawn, along with numerous pine trees, and their garage was flattened to the ground.

But there was a silver lining amid the chaos.

“Thankfully, the house was relatively unharmed, except for some small debris,” Gates added.

“The home, which has been standing since 1835, is proving strong enough to weather another storm.  The panic and struggle to make it home and seeing the loss of many trees and downed power lines really brought back memories of very similar damage to the same area from Hurricane Ivan.

“Thankfully, no one was home at the time.  We were all in church, where we were supposed to be!”