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Storm drenches Gwinnett, downs tree, power lines

Staff Photo: John Bohn
Waldemur Lopez, left, and Luis Matius work to attach tarps to the roof of a home at 3838 Willow Wood Way in Lawrenceville. The home was damaged by a falling tree on Wednesday afternoon.

Staff Photo: John Bohn Waldemur Lopez, left, and Luis Matius work to attach tarps to the roof of a home at 3838 Willow Wood Way in Lawrenceville. The home was damaged by a falling tree on Wednesday afternoon.

LAWRENCEVILLE — A fast-moving storm drenched Gwinnett on Wednesday as at least an inch of rain fell in the mid- to late afternoon hours.

Gwinnett was among 11 counties in metro Atlanta and north Georgia that were part of a severe thunderstorm warning and a tornado watch issued by the National Weather Service. NWS Meteorologist Alex Gibbs said southern parts of Gwinnett saw about an inch of rain in a 36-hour period that ended at 5 p.m. with another quarter of an inch expected later Wednesday night. The central and northern parts of the county counted about an inch and a half of rain, Gibbs said.

The storm traveled on a line from Lovejoy to southwest of Hamilton at about 65 mph, according to a NWS severe thunderstorm warning report. The report also said the storm was capable of producing quarter-sized hail.

Gwinnett County Public Schools officials reported delays by buses because drivers used extra precaution in the storm, and several schools canceled after-school activities.

Gwinnett Fire Capt. Tommy Rutledge said firefighters responded to a live wire down at Plantation Road and Arnold Road in Lawrenceville that blocked a roadway. In Snellville, a power outage was reported due to a transformer in the area of the Kroger shopping center at Five Forks Trickum Road and Oak Road.

Rutledge said public safety officials from five departments monitored the weather from Gwinnett’s emergency operations center, and the fire department had two additional engines in service.

“We were fortunate that Gwinnett County was able to escape the brunt of today’s powerful storm system,” Rutledge said. “This is an early wake-up call for the spring and summer severe weather season.”

Georgia Power officials reported at 5:30 p.m. that the storm caused more than 200 separate outage events, and 12,200 power outages. Among those, 2,300 were in metro Atlanta.

The first report of damage in Gwinnett from the storm came at about 2:30 p.m. when lightning struck a tree and caused it to fall on a house in the 3800 block of Willow Wood Way Northwest in Lawrenceville. The impact of the tree, about eight inches in diameter, caused a hole in the ceiling and roof of the home where Esperanza Perez sat reading a business motivation book by author John C. Maxwell.

“This is terrible, terrible,” Perez said.

When the tree fell on the house, Perez said the sound of the impact caused three dogs, two rottweilers and a beagle, to race out the front door.

About two hours after the incident, insulation and a large section of the ceiling hung below a hole in the roof. Perez’ son, Adrian Renigio, said a neighbor helped remove the tree from the roof, and gave the family some plastic to cover the hole. The plastic measured about eight feet by 12 feet on the roof. Rainwater filled two large buckets in the family’s living room.

Renigio said the family felt fortunate that his younger brother decided to play after-school basketball on Wednesday because he usually sits on the couch in the spot where the tree fell through the roof.

The tree was one of about 20 in the backyard that Renigio said the family worried about falling.

He said only two of the five people who live in the house were home at the time, and they tried to have a positive attitude considering the circumstances.

“We’ve just got to let it go, and do what we’ve got to do,” he said. “Be patient, and work this out with the insurance.”

Map

Location of house

Location of house