‘In the clear’

Published 6:00 am Friday, April 7, 2017

By Melanie Ruberti


 LaGRANGE – A second wave of severe storms swept through Troup County late Wednesday night and left the community relatively unscathed.

The storm dropped pea size hail, heavy rains, gusty winds and lightning. The National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning for northern Troup County until about 10:45 p.m.

Many people stayed glued to their televisions, cellphones and social media for weather updates. In some cases, there was confusion whether the county was under a weather “watch” or a “warning.”

According to the National Weather Service, a “watch” means weather conditions are “favorable” for producing a severe storm or tornado.

A “warning” indicates a severe storm or tornado is “occurring” and will shortly be in your area. Those alerts mean people need to immediately seek shelter from the storm.

“This is what we train and practice for throughout the year,” explained Connie Hensler, executive director of the American Red Cross of Central Midwest Georgia. “Our staff and volunteers meet together and talk about different scenarios … update our shelter agreements so we know which facilities are ready and available should a natural disaster strike our area.”

Fortunately, ARC volunteers were not needed in Troup County following the storms Wednesday night.

The wild weather also did not warrant any extra calls for service for officers with the LaGrange Police Department.

When the weather turns bad, officers remain on patrol looking for downed limbs and trees, power outages and flooded streets, said Senior Patrol Officer Wesley Engle.

“Parts of North Greenwood always flood,” he said. “The drainage system gets backed up with leaves and there’s nowhere for the water to go … We (officers) also look for trees down on homes, cars and across roadways.”

If the storms cause a lot of damage in the city, extra officers and investigators are called in to answer 911 dispatches and help with the clean-up effort.

But most the officers’ time is spent working car accidents, Engle said. Motorists tend to drive too fast for conditions during heavy rainstorms, when visibility is at its lowest on the roadway.

“The speed limit may be 45 miles per hour, but when it is raining, you (drivers) need to go slower – and not follow too closely to the vehicle in front of you,” explained Engle. “When you’re driving in those conditions (storm or ice), people need to get off their cellphones and pay attention to the roads and other drivers around them … look as far ahead as possible to make sure there are not trees or telephone poles in the roadway.”

Some accidents occur when a car hydroplanes, meaning a layer of water (or ice) prevents direct contact between a vehicle’s tires and the road.

When that happens, drivers should not hit their brakes, Engle said. Instead, motorists need to turn the steering wheel in the direction they want the car to go.

During power outages when traffic signals go out, motorists should treat the intersection as a four-way stop, the officer added.

It’s good information for residents to keep in the back of their minds, as summer approaches and sets the stage for those familiar, routine, pop-up afternoon thundershowers.

For more information on creating a severe weather preparedness kit, visit www.redcross.org.

The American Red Cross also offers free tornado and severe weather apps that can be downloaded to cellphones. It will alert you when severe weather and tornadoes are approaching your area.

The LaGrange Daily News will also keep you updated on severe weather events. Just visit our website at www.lagrangenews.com or our Facebook page at www.facebook/LaGrangeDailyNews.

Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She can be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.