SYLACAUGA -- While Tropical Storm Zeta did not quite devastate Talladega County the way it did south Alabama or Louisiana, most of the county did sustain damage from the storm and will likely be trying to dig out for a while.
Thursday morning there were downed trees and power outages everywhere and no landline or cellular communications in large swaths of the county.
The Talladega County Emergency Management Agency did not have a detailed breakdown of where the damage had been most concentrated as of Thursday afternoon. The phone lines to the EMA’s emergency operations center in the middle of the county were down for most of the day.
According to EMA specialist LeighAnn Butler, there were also reports of trees falling on houses all over the county, but as of mid-morning, there had been no reports of any injuries in the damaged homes.
Although the damage was distributed across the county, Sylacauga seemed to be the hardest hit area.
According to Sylacauga fire Chief Nate Osgood, his city was almost entirely without power at lunchtime, and it was likely to be “a minute or two” before power was restored.
Sylacauga fire had answered well over 50 calls between when the storm hit early Thursday and just before midday.
“And I’m sure we’ll be taking a lot more,” Osgood said. “We got calls for trees, power lines, multiple houses and vehicles with trees on them.
“Part of North Main was closed all morning but is reopening now, and part of East 10th Street was closed down. And, of course, we’ve got a lot of other streets in town that are blocked by downed trees as well. We’re trying to get everything back open as quickly as possible.”
Primary communications in Sylacauga went out early in the morning, but the backup was online quickly.
Every firefighter, along with every police officer and Street Department employee who was able to come in was called in, according to Sylacauga Mayor Jm Heigl. Because there was no power and no phone service, Heigl added City Hall was closed Thursday.
Childersburg City Hall was also closed due to power outage, according to City Clerk Amy Burnette. There was no one in the Police or Fire departments available to comment on the extent of the damage there, but Burnette said portions of DeSoto Avenue and Childersburg-Fayetteville Highway had been closed, among others.
Oak Grove fire Chief Charlie O’Barr said he and his department were still “dealing with a multitude of downed trees” early Thursday afternoon.
“I don’t know exactly what our call volume has been, but I do know we’ve still got a lot of people with power out and we’ve had a couple of houses with trees fallen on them, but nobody’s been hurt so far,” O’Barr said.
He added, “We’ve responded to at least 30 calls about trees in the roadway, us and the county Road Department. We’ve got a good roster of 10 or 12 volunteers here, and we’ve called everybody in, no mutual aid, just our folks. Of course, if we did call for mutual aid, I doubt anybody would have been available.”
Although calls were continuing to come in, he said he was optimistic that “we can have just about everything wrapped up by tonight.”
City of Talladega
The city of Talladega took a pounding as well.
According to Talladega fire Lt. Brandon Fuller, the city answered 53 calls between 1 a.m. and late Thursday afternoon. Of those, two were structure fires, and a third was a single-vehicle accident without serious injury that may or may not have been related to the storm.
Personnel working on the next shift were called in early Thursday morning, and Talladega also struggled with communications issues due to a downed tower. Talladega fire, police and community appearance coordinated most of the emergency calls between them.
Two downed trees damaged a house near the corner of Steven J. White Memorial Boulevard and Burr Avenue, but again, no one was injured.
Another tree appears to have fallen on a vacant house, and a vacant church building on Court Street also sustained some tree damage.
Straight line winds damaged the roofs of several buildings around The Square, and roof and facade damage was reported by businesses all over town, Fuller added.
“Community appearance people were out as soon as the sun came up,” he said. “We had significant damage all over town and we’re still in the process of working on it now. We’ve still got streets blocked off for the Alabama Power crews to work on the lines.”