• 66°

Area spared Zeta’s wrath

“We dodged a bullet last night.”

That’s how Andy Kimbro, South Alabama Electric Cooperative manager member services, described the weakened Zeta as she blew a path through Alabama early Thursday morning. “Some of our neighbors got hit a lot worse but it was nothing like what hit us in April.”

Kimbro said the peak of the tropical storm come through Pike County between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. causing about 1,900 power outages. But that was nothing like in April, when the outages totaled around 12,000.

Kimbro said expectations were that all power would be restored by 8 or 9 p.m. Thursday

The biggest spread of outages was in the northwest section of the county and most were caused by trees on the lines.

“We have a lot of pine trees and 3,000 miles of line exposure,” Kimbro said. “But, we didn’t have broken poles and that’s what slows down the efforts to get service back so some customers.”

Kimbro said those working to restore service to South Alabama Electric’s customers have done a commendable job in doing so in a very manageable and reasonable amount of time.

Russell Oliver, Pike County engineer, said between 15 and 20 county roads were closed for a time due to downed trees.

“Most of the closed county roads were in the area between Banks and Brundidge and in the Pronto and Shiloh general area,” Oliver said, adding that all the roads were open by late mid-morning Thursday.

“Thankfully, this was nothing like we saw in April and with Hurricane Sally,” Oliver said.

Brian Chandler, Troy utilities general manager, said as of 10:30 Thursday morning things were back to normal following a night of strong winds off Tropical Storm Zeta.

“Throughout the night, we had several small outages that affected only a handful of customers — around eight to 10 — due to small limbs falling,” Chandler said. “This morning, we have been out checking for hanging limbs that could cause problems but most everything is back to normal.”

Chandler said Evergreen was harder hit and Troy sent a crew from the utilities department to assist with getting power back to their customers.

Vaughn Daniels, Troy environment services director, said Troy weathered the storm with only one report of trees being down.  However, that was out of the City of Troy’s jurisdiction.

Willie Wright, Brundidge City manager, said Brundidge came through the storm with only one issue which was a power outage on Tennille Road. “Our guys got out and had the power back on in about 20 minutes,” Wright said. “We were blessed.”

Zeta sped across the Southeast on Thursday, leaving a trail of damage and more than 2.6 million homes and businesses without power in Atlanta and beyond after pounding New Orleans with winds and water that splintered homes and were blamed for at least six deaths.

A Category 2 hurricane when it hit the southeastern Louisiana coast Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said Zeta weakened to a post-tropical storm by afternoon with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph (85 kph) about 25 miles (45 kilometers) southeast of Charlottesville, Virginia.

The storm was still buffeting North Carolina and southeastern Virginia with gusty winds, but it was moving along at 53 mph (85 km/h), meaning no single place was blasted too long.

Some voting places were affected and hundreds of schools canceled classes or planned to open late across from the Gulf Coast to the Carolinas. Widespread power outages occurred across seven states from Louisiana to the south Atlantic seaboard. Some places could be in the dark for days.

The latest punch from a record hurricane season left people shaken. Will Arute said it sounded like a bomb went off when part of a large oak snapped outside his home in New Orleans, and crashed into his car and a corner of his home.

“I did not anticipate this to happen. It was pretty intense along the eye wall when it went through here,” he said.

Mackenzie Umanzor didn’t make many preparations because the last hurricane to threaten her home in D’Iberville, Mississippi, a few weeks ago did little damage. Zeta blew open doors she had tried to barricade, leaving her with a cut hand, and the top of her shed came loose. “You could hear the tin roof waving in the wind. … And there was a couple of snaps, lots of cracks of branches and trees falling,” she said. “It was pretty scary.”

Officials said life-threatening conditions would last into the day, with Zeta crossing the mid-Atlantic states as a tropical storm before moving offshore around Delaware.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said the most severe destruction — what he described as “catastrophic damage” — appears to be on the barrier island of Grand Isle in Jefferson Parish.

with search and rescue efforts, including door-to-door checks on property.

The governor also urged people to be cautious during the recovery.

“Oddly enough, it isn’t the storms that typically produce the most injuries and the fatalities. It’s the cleanup efforts. It’s the use of generators. It’s the carbon monoxide poisoning. It’s the electrocution that comes from power lines. So, now is the time to be very, very cautious out there,” Edwards said Thursday.

Four people died in Alabama and Georgia when trees fell on homes, authorities said. The dead included two people pinned to their bed when a tree crashed through, Gwinnett County fire officials said.

In Mississippi, Leslie Richardson, 58, drowned when he was trapped in rising seawater in Biloxi after taking video of the raging storm, Harrison County Coroner Brian Switzer said. Richardson and another man exited a floating car and desperately clung to a tree before his strength “just gave out,” Switzer said.

A 55-year-old man was electrocuted by a downed power line in New Orleans, a Louisiana coroner said.