By the time Hurricane Irma reached Coffee County, she had weakened to tropical storm status. But that doesn’t mean she let us off easy. Irma unleashed what was left of her fury on South Georgia. Though she was but a shell of the storm that annihilated southwestern Florida, Irma made quite an entrance. Heavy winds and hours upon hours of steady rainfall wreaked havoc on Coffee County, resulting in flooding, downed trees and power lines, and the widespread power outages that accompany both.
Irma ravaged downtown and took out one of Douglas’s most prominent landmarks – the large tree that sat at the corner of Sims Funeral Home’s front yard. For over a century, people have gathered under that tree, and the tears of thousands of mourners have fed her roots over that time. After standing strong for so many years, one ill-tempered storm brought her to the ground. Thankfully, the tree fell in such a way that resulted in minimal physical damage. The loss of the tree, however, will be felt for a long, long time.
As people attempted to return to work and regain some sense of normalcy Tuesday morning, there remained signs everywhere of Irma’s destruction. Many citizens had trees fall on cars and homes, and a number of roadways remained blocked by trees and debris. Thousands of citizens remain without power, though crews from Satilla REA, Pike Electric, the City of Douglas, and Georgia Power were working around the clock to restore electricity.
The Red Cross, with assistance from churches and volunteers across the community, cared for the needs of hundreds of evacuees, including many from Coffee County who lived in mobile homes and or in low-lying areas. Volunteers and Red Cross staff worked non-stop to ensure that those who fled the storm had what they needed. It was neither easy nor glamorous but it was necessary. They put the needs of others above self and while they probably won’t receive much in the way of recognition, they can rest easy knowing they made a tremendous difference in the lives of those in need.
It will be a long time before Coffee County returns to normal. Clean-up has already begun and will continue for weeks and months. Most of these hurricanes and tropical storms miss South Georgia. Irma didn’t. And as a result, she will be talked about for a long, long time.
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