Storm knocks out power to thousands in Gwinnett, 300K statewide

Thousands of Gwinnett residents experienced power outages on Wednesday as the winter storm packed with snow, sleet and freezing rain descended on the area.

At 9:30 p.m., Georgia Power reported it had 160,714 customers statewide without power across 2,551 outages. Spokeswoman Carol Boatright said about 357,000 customers were affected statewide, and the company had restored power to nearly 190,000 customers.

Northern and eastern Gwinnett experienced the first major outages when the Jackson Electric Membership Corporation reported that 1,528 customers were affected, mostly north of Ga. Highway 324 by mid-morning. Jackson EMC reported that it restored power to about 620 customers in the Hamilton Mill area in less than an hour.

In an area south of Sugar Hill, Georgia Power reported 1,122 customers were affected.

The Walton Electric Membership Corporation reported 1,958 of its customers were without power, 1,882 of those were in Gwinnett. The rest were in western Walton and northern Rockdale counties.

“We haven’t changed any plans yet as we’ve been able to keep up with the outages fairly well,” Walton EMC spokesman Greg Brooks said. “If predictions hold and we get additional ice, I expect outages to go up. If we get wind on top of the ice, it will really compound things.”

Brooks added that Walton EMC had restored about 10,000 outages.

"Fortunately, most of the outages have been relatively short-lived," he said. "Crews were strategically pre-stationed throughout the area and were able to respond quickly. Most parts of the territory did not receive the amount of freezing rain predicted which limited tree damage."

By 12:30 p.m., Jackson EMC had restored power to all of its affected customers. Jackson EMC serves 106,198 customers in Gwinnett.

Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft said the power outages started at about 7 a.m. and steadily grew throughout the morning to top 100,000 by 10:30 a.m.

“It’s been a pretty rough day,” he said. “Crews are working as they reach these spots, but we need to get a lot of branches off of power lines and polls.”

Georgia Power had restored power to about 75,000 customers by 2 p.m., Kraft said.

Georgia Power has 2,500 utility crews from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio and Texas. Crews are staged in areas where they expect the most severe damage.

At a news conference, Gov. Nathan Deal said he appreciated that residents heeded warnings from authorities. Because some affected residents had their power restored, Deal said the numbers of affected residents would fluctuate. Deal said downed power lines were the greatest concern, and warned residents to stay away from them.

“We will provide transportation if it’s necessary for those who feel like they need to go to a shelter,” Deal said. “We are a resilient state, we are a resilient people. We will bounce back.”