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Storms knock down trees, wires across Gwinnett

LILBURN — Mary DePaepe is an elderly woman behind on rent, making due with a little Social Security money, the help of her sons, and provisions from the food bank.

On Tuesday, two massive pine trees fell on the roof of the Lilburn home she’s rented for the last decade.

“I’m beginning to think this house is a jinx,” DePaepe said.

Shortly after 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, DePaepe and her son awoke to a loud bang, soon finding trees on the roof over the garage and utility room of their home on Elizabeth Way. Electrical service lines were pulled down, knocking out power.

The largest tree was easily 60 or 70 feet tall, its roots two or three men tall.

“They said that we’re real fortunate because we could’ve died in there,” DePaepe said.

Thanks to thunderstorms and heavy rains, DePaepe’s home was just one of several sites that kept Gwinnett County firefighters busy Tuesday morning. Over a three-hour span between 6:15 and 9:15 a.m., crews responded to trees on houses at six other addresses: Carlysle Park Lane, Edgeley Lane, Linden Drive and Suwanee Terrace, all in Lawrenceville, as well as on McDaniels Bridge Road and Norman Drive in Lilburn.

Wires were reported down at nine separate locations in Buford, Dacula, Duluth, Lawrenceville, Lilburn, Norcross and Tucker.

No injuries were reported in any of the incidents and damage was generally minimal.

Scattered thunderstorms were expected to continue Tuesday and Wednesday. Much of Gwinnett remained in the National Weather Service’s tornado threat area Tuesday, and the entire county was expected to fall in that zone Wednesday.

“Fire officials will be monitoring weather conditions throughout the day and night as the threat for severe weather continues,” fire department spokesman Capt. Tommy Rutledge said.

A handful of men worked to remove the trees from DePaepe’s home Tuesday morning. The woman said she wasn’t sure when power would be restored and lamented that she couldn’t cook anything to eat in the meantime. She talked about her husband leaving and about a stranger’s car slamming into her basement, both several years ago.

Times have been tough, she said.

“Then something like this happens and you have so many people helping you,” DePaepe said. “It makes you feel like somebody does care.”