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Marion County spared major damage as Irma’s remnants wash out over area

As many of us have watched on the news and weather outlets for days, Hurricane Irma eventually did make landfall in Florida on Sunday. First battering the Florida Keys where efforts are currently underway to assess the damage there before moving further inland. Search and rescue workers in the Keys and other areas continue to search for anyone who might have ignored evacuation requests by officials and could be trapped in debris from the storm as residents who did evacuate start returning to see what’s left of their homes and property.

Irma, which tore a path of destruction across the Caribbean and through Florida, has caused at least 12 deaths as of this writing in the United States and left about 6.7 million people without power in five states affecting areas throughout the state with some of the hardest-hit areas in addition to the Keys being cities along the Gulf Coast and Jacksonville where flooding from the storm surge rose to historic levels during the storm.

MarionCountyMessenger.com had a member of our staff, Robert Frye, who is a degreed professional Meteorologist, on the ground in Florida.

He and another family member were in Florida ahead of a planned vacation and cruise. Frye was able to provide our readers and followers on our Facebook page with live video from the Fort Meyers area, where he and many others were taking shelter in a local hotel away from the beach and any possible storm surge as Irma made landfall in that area. He was able to provide some video of the storm as it passed and answer questions our Facebook followers had regarding the storm and how it was impacting that area of Florida in addition to how it could impact our own area.

Frye wants to assure those who were concerned or worried about their safety during the storm that they are indeed safe and made it through the storm with no problems. They were in a very safe building with more than adequate shelter during the events. He and others assisted special needs evacuees that were staying at the hotel to ensure their safety during the storm. Since he has returned to the Fort Lauderdale area where the damage was less severe to embark on his cruise.

In addition to the damages the storm did cause in Florida after making landfall, some impact was felt in southern Georgia as Hurricane Irma was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone where it has since moved north and continues to bring rain today to the southeast as it slowly begins to wash out over the area.

Forecasters said the storm would have an impact on our area as it continued inland; however, we’ve seen that impact to be thankfully very small over the past 24-hours time and we’ll see it continue to die down through the day on Tuesday.

With area schools closing early on Monday and some in surrounding areas remaining closed on Tuesday as a precaution all in anticipation of tropical storm force winds and torrential rain, most residents locally are thankful never truly developed, at least for the Marion County area.

While we escaped the damaging winds here, we weren’t denied any of the rain from Irma receiving quite the deluge of precipitation since the system moved in on Monday. Winds, while never reaching their full potential, did gust for a while with a few high gusts recorded of only around 15 mph in the valley while the higher elevations along the Cumberland Plateau and other area mountains received a few gusts a bit higher.

Locally, Richard Hardy Memorial School decided to close in light of the potential of hazardous conditions and debris that might affect their morning drop-off, the Marion County School district opted for a 2-hour delay which proved to be a good option considering we didn’t see much damage from the storm.

Chattanooga and areas in North Georgia seem to be the hardest hit areas from the storm’s remnants. Chattanooga’s Public Works crews worked through the night and into the morning on Tuesday clearing downed trees and clogged storm drains and ditches to ensure the morning commute would be easier on those still forced to make their way out to work or school.

Several Chattanooga area schools also opted for a delayed start time on Tuesday with Hamilton County Schools opting to close early on Monday morning due to the number of downed trees, debris, and power outages reported across the area.

EPB, the largest supplier of electrical power to the Chattanooga area and portions of Hamilton County, reported at least 1,000 customers were without power during the event, maintaining they were able to keep 96% of their customers online last night (including the portion of Marion County in Haletown, Riverside, and Whiteside served by EPB). Cleveland Utilities was reporting less than 40 outages as of Monday night, Volunteer Energy Cooperative reported 1,956 outages in Benton, Cleveland, Decatur, Georgetown, and Spring City.  The Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative (SVEC) saw only minimal and isolated outages across their service area through the weather event.

Many people think back to past tropical weather events that came through our area in the past and are breathing a sigh of relief following Irma. The most recent event was 12 years ago in 2005 when the Category 5 storm Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the New Orleans area, moved into the Tennessee Valley still as a tropical storm before it was downgraded to a tropical depression near Clarksville, TN with its remnants lasting all the way to the eastern Great Lakes region.

Prior to Katrina was Hurricane Ivan a year prior in 2004, which caused devastation in the Carribean before making landfall in Gulf Shores, AL and then weakening to a tropical depression as it came through our area circling back through the Northeast and into Virgina going back out to sea with Ivan’s remnant surface low completing what forecasters call an anticyclonic loop, moving back across the Florida peninsula and building a bit of strength over the Gulf before making a second U.S. landfall as a tropical depression in Louisiana near the Texas border before finally dissipating over Texas.

One that really stands out in most local’s minds is Hurricane Opal in October 1995. The storm made a strong Category 4 landfall on October 4th of that year near Pensacola, FL, traveling up the Ohio Valley into Alabama and Georgia causing widespread damage as far inland as Atlanta and the Blue Ridge region of North Georgia before finally weakening and being downgraded to a tropical storm over Tennessee. It went on to cause more damage and very high rainfall amounts into the mid-Atlantic, Central, and Northeastern states before finally dissipating over Canada and Nova Scotia totalling 63 deaths since it formed — the most being in Guatemala and Mexico, followed by 8 deaths in Georgia, 2 in Alabama, 2 in North Carolina, and 1 in Florida.

Currently, we are just passing the peak of Hurricane Season, which lasts November 30th, 2017.




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