16 March 2008

The Night the Lights Went Out in (Rincon,) Georgia

As I previously mentioned, Saturday started out pretty. Then by afternoon the wind was beginning to pick up.

And last night ..... man, talk about a crazy night of weather.

Normally, severe weather doesn't tend to be as severe once it reaches the Georgia coast. Tornadoes happen, but nowhere as often as further west.

I'm sure by now you're familiar with the twister that struck downtown Atlanta late Friday, doing damage to the Georgia Dome, Centennial Park and the CNN Center. Well, that same storm system scooted toward the east-southeast, and by Saturday night the storms were beginning to take aim for the Coastal Empire.

After I mowed the gra--I mean, weeds in the backyard, and got showered up, The Gleckfolk went down to Pooler. We had a couple of things to get at Sam's, and also met somebody there for a "Freecycle transaction." I'm now the proud owner of two boxes full of empty CD jewel cases, with insert cards. I flip over the cards and use those as label inserts for my CD/R and DVD recordings. From there, it was across the street to Carey Hilliard's for supper (yes, of Gleckfest '08 fame), and finally to Kroger on the way home for several things.

By then it was 8:00 and very windy ... we're talking 20-30 MPH gusts outside ... and it was a juicy kind of wind which foretold ugly weather in our future. After those Atlanta storms, I had a weird feeling that we were in for some rough sailing later in the evening.

Indeed, we were. On my bedside table, we have a little Midland weather radio, the kind you can program for individual counties, and by 9:00 that thing was beginning the workout of its life! It was going off every 5 minutes. Tornado warnings were piling up for the area west and northwest of us, and they were headed in our direction.

The first storm into Effingham County was a doozy. The radio tripped its alarm, and this one was not a "Doppler indicated tornado"; no, this was a tornado on the ground sighted by a weatherspotter, near Oliver and headed toward Springfield and, possibly, Rincon.

It didn't hit Rincon proper, but skirted us to the northeast. It was a confirmed tornado and just as it was mere miles from us, the streetlight near our yard was beginning to sway back and forth, and our lights were beginning to flicker. I saw the radar image on our NBC affiliate -- amazingly enough, they actually INTERRUPTED PROGRAMMING (something our TV stations hardly ever do) and the radar was tracking the storm just around us. We picked up some high-ish winds, and that was about it. Not a drop of rain.

Then the lights went out. This would've been about 10:15 p.m.

That's when the twister knocked over a couple of high-voltage transmission towers, and then zeroed in on Georgia Power's Plant McIntosh, which generates all the electricity for the Savannah metro area. Depending on which report is to be true, either half or the entire plant was taken out by this twister. All of Chatham and Effingham counties, plus much of Bryan and Liberty counties were plunged into darkness. Oh yeah, and all of Savannah ... with its St. Patrick's Day festivities in full-tilt on River Street ("I got river-faced on Shit Street!").

That power plant, by the way, is a mere four miles from our house! Oy!!

The second storm -- also prompting a tornado warning for Effingham -- came about 30 minutes later. This one passed over us. Into the hallway we went, Seraphim, Puddy (on her leash), myself, sofa cushions, bottle of water, Grundig wind-up radio (which we got two years ago for our GPB pledge!), and Sera's pocket TV. Luckily, the Midland wx radio had batteries in it as backup, so as long as those held in, we heard all the weather warnings.

We watched WSAV on the mini-telly while they were giving another weather break-in, and their radar image had purple (the worst level) right over Rincon, and we were hearing hail on the roof. The wind was really going out there, and for about five minutes it looked as if a twister might be imminent.

Well, by 11:15 or so, things in our vicinity were beginning to improve. The storm that'd terrorized us was now aimed for Savannah and all of the electrically-challenged St. Patty's Day party-goers.

Fortunately for them, it stayed north of the river and didn't do much damage as it went into the Atlantic.

Meanwhile, we got ready for bed and called it a night. Pretty easy to do without any electricity. The news reports we saw told us that Georgia Power estimated some 150,000 people in the dark, but no way to tell when we'd all have power back. However long it takes to tap into backup sources of electricity, I suppose.

The lights returned to our fair abode at about 9:30 this morning. Outside, you couldn't tell there was any bad weather at all! The cars were fine (the hailstones weren't big enough to cause damage, thank goodness), and all was good.

Up Fort Howard Road toward Ebenezer, though, it was a different story. Just three miles from us, a couple of trailers were destroyed by a twister. Three miles. Geez.

Sorta reinforces the mantra "There but for the grace of God go I", doesn't it?

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Armchair weather geek" Gleck

1 comment:

Kate/Susan said...

So glad to hear you are all OK!! I heard about Atlanta, but not about Savannah... Scary!