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Posted: April 7, 2011 9:08 a.m.

Storm costs Covington $20,000-plus

Tharon Giddens/

Ronnie and Sherri Spell survey the damage to their Elks Club Road property early Tuesday.

Wednesday Update: The windstorm early Tuesday may have cost Covington's electric department $20,000 to $25,000 in labor, overtime, equipment and parts.

The $25,000 estimate doesn't include work by other departments, including fire, police and public works, Covington Utility Director Bill Meecham said Wednesday.

Less than 50 Covington customers remain without power, primarily in areas where only one or a few houses were affected.

"We give priority to putting our initial efforts toward areas where we can benefit the most customers," Meecham said.

One utility crew member was released from the hospital late Tuesday and is OK after suffering burns when he touched a downed line that he believed was dead in an effort to clear debris at a work site at Baker Road.

As of 11:12 a.m. Wedneday, Snapping Shoals EMC still has 65 customers without power in Newton County and about 485 system wide, said spokeswoman Leigh-Anne Burgess. About 22,000 customers lost power Tuesday morning, but the company had more than 100 workers making repairs at the cleanup effort's height. She said the company had no estimate Wednesday of the cost to repair its system.

There were 148 reports of storm damage across the state, the most since May 2, 2006 when another spring storm front raked Georgia, according to Pam Knox, assistant state climatologist.

"The front that went through was unusually strong," she said.

Tornadoes can occur any month, but are most common in Georgia from March through May, with a peak in April.

There is a slight chance of rain on Friday and Saturday, with a high of 80 on Friday and a high of 86 on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service. It should be mostly cloudy on Friday, giving way to a partly sunny sky on Saturday, and lots of sun on Sunday, with a high Sunday of 86. There's a 30 percent chance of rain Sunday nights and a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms on Monday.

Newton County has received 1.39 inches of precipitation since the first of the month.

Original Story: Ronnie and Sherri Spells got some unexpected and unwanted help early today in clearing pine trees from their Elks Club Road home.

Strong wind splintered several pines and uprooted others when the storm roared through Newton County just before 1 a.m.

"I'm not believing we've still got a house," Sherri said. "We've been very lucky.

Pines destroyed a storage shed and just missed a dog pen on the property. The power line was ripped down from the home, but the pines crashed along the west side of the home proper.

"That was rough all night," Ronnie Spells said. "It snatched the meter slap off the house."

Work crews early today were out across the county removing trees and restoring utility service.

About 22,000 Snapping Shoals customers lost power last night, and 13,000 remained without power as of 8 a.m., said company spokeswoman Leigh-Anne Burgess. As of 9:45 a.m., about 300 Covington customers remained without power, with 800 to 1,000 losing power overnight, said Utility Director Bill Meecham.

Elks Club Road was one of the worst-hit, but trees had been removed from the roadway by 9 a.m. Other areas with trees downed included Salem Road at Kirkland Road, Ga. Highway 81 at Dial Road, Ga. Highway 142 at Ga. Highway 11 and on Henderson Mill Road. In Covington, a large tree fell on West Street and a downed power line and limb fell on Eberhardt Street.

Nearly 300 calls poured into the 911 center, accoridng to officials, with the Newton County Sheriff's Office responding to 153 calls, Covington Police Department 46, Newton County Fire 44 and the Emergency Management System 24, among others.

The storms cut a swath of damage across the South, killing at least three.

Two of those deaths occurred in Butts County in Jackson, when an enormous tree limb crashed through a family's bedroom and killed a father and the young son he was holding in his arms.

Paramedics found the 4-year-old boy, Alix Bonhomme III, wrapped in the arms of his father, Alix Bonhomme Jr., in a sight so wrenching that even grizzled rescuers wept. Miraculously, a younger son in the bedroom wasn't hurt, nor was Bonhomme's fiancée, Marcie Moorer, who was sleeping in another room.

Moorer, who was still in pajamas hours later, said she still couldn't fathom what happened when the storm rumbled through Jackson. Her 3-year-old son Iysic rode his tricycle around a relative's front yard as she looked on.

"I'm still in shock. It hasn't hit me yet," said a bleary-eyed Moorer, who was planning to marry Bonhomme in July.

Later in the day, she added: "I'm just happy I have Iysic. That's all I can think about."

 The National Weather Service says a tornado touched down in Dodge County and struck two mobile homes, including one that was ripped from its foundation, killing an occupant.

The Dodge County Sheriff's Office says the tornado that touched down there early Tuesday uprooted a double-wide mobile home. One occupant, 45-year-old Christopher McNair of Cochran, was killed and three others were injured.

Forecaster Vaughn Smith says  a possible tornado also touched down in Gilmer County.

Nearly 167,000 customers were without electricity as the result of the powerful storms.

Georgia Power brought in out-of-state utility crews to help restore electricity to 87,000 of its customers who lost power. Company spokesman Jeff Wilson said Tuesday that about 39,000 of those outages have been reported in metro Atlanta.

Wilson said utility crews were brought in from Tennessee, Louisiana and Mississippi to assist with the cleanup and repair work.

The Georgia Electric Membership Corporation reports that about 80,000 of its customers are without power statewide. GEMC spokeswoman Terri Statham said it may take until Wednesday to fix some outages.

Both companies said the storm brought down a large number of utility poles.

  High wind will continue through the morning, and the high will only reach about 60 today, according to the National Weather Service. Frost is possible overnight, with a low of 34.

The high should rebound to 72 on Wednesday and 78 on Thursday, with lots of sunshine.

Associated Press reports were used in this story.

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