Drought finally relents as havoc breaks loose

The wind whipped up late Monday afternoon into gusts in the 30-40 mph range, blowing down drought-weakened trees and dry limbs onto arcing power lines, setting a last whirlwind gasp of woods and brush fires across the county, until mid-evening Monday night, when – mercifully – came the deluge that will keep them at bay for awhile.

Power outages reached close to 2,000 last night, with all except about 400 restored by noon Tuesday. Alabama Power Oneonta manager Kelley Stone said outages were widespread across the county, with Straight Mountain being hit somewhat harder than other areas. She also said power company crews are being summoned in anticipation of thunderstorms predicted Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. She reminded customers to call the Alabama Power outage line at 1-800-888-2726 to report further outages resulting from storm damage. Fire

Volunteer fire department crews from around the county mustered out in the late afternoon and early evening Monday to fight the outbreak of fires caused mainly by sparking power lines downed by falling trees. Wind

“Those wind gusts wreaked havoc on limbs and trees, which fell across power lines causing them to arc and start fires in the dry fuel from the drought,” said Oneonta public works director Brandon Horton. Rain

When the rain finally came, amounts ranged from .99 inch to 1.55 inches at nine weather stations across the county, with average precipitation of about 1.2 inches – not enough to truly break the drought, but a step in that direction, with more forecast in the coming days. According to the National Weather Service data, Oneonta’s official tally of days without measurable rain ends at 98 (Aug. 21 to Nov. 28). Calls for assistance

It made for a busy night at the 911 Center with 68 calls for assistance, with downed tree calls accounting for the highest number at 18, followed by wild fires with 14 calls, with downed power lines and security alarms (mostly activated by motion sensors reacting to windy conditions) accounting for another dozen calls. For a comparable 12-hour period on a normal night, calls average in the range of 20 to 25. Damage

Official property damage reports were unavailable Tuesday, but, beyond downed trees and power lines, residential damage was apparently light or nonexistent, according to reports.