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Sawing out of Georgia

September 15, 2017  - By

Just one of the many trees that snapped in the constant winds earlier this week and brought down power lines. All photos by Tony Strickland

When the national news covered Hurricane Irma the main focus was on the state of Florida. The brutality of the storm decreased to a tropical depression when it approached Georgia, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t leave destruction in its wake in the Peach State.

Tony Strickland, CSFM, president of Athletic Construction Inc., Oakwood, Ga., has temporarily shut down his business because of fallen trees in the area. His own house suffered minimal damage but some of his employees and family members were not as lucky.

“We’ll be down for two weeks just at our office because so many roads are shut down and we can’t get to it. So, we decided to close down operations to focus on recovery,” says Strickland, whose company has worked on projects varying from local high school and university sports complexes in the area to the Atlanta Falcons’ Training Complex. “We’re out in the community helping ourselves, our neighbors, our friends and our family. Whoever needs help that we could get to… we’re bringing our chainsaws to move fallen trees so they can get out of their homes.”

Strickland (kneeling) takes a chain saw to a fallen tree.

Strickland adds that it’s not uncommon to see five to eight trees laying across the roads that tore down power lines on their way down. Residents have been without power since the storm came through on Monday, Sept. 11, and the fallen trees are blocking any exit from the side streets.

“If you go down the major highways you don’t see the damage, but if you go into the side streets and back roads there’s pandemonium and devastation,” says Strickland, who lives almost an hour away from downtown Atlanta. “Trees everywhere broken off like toothpicks. We’re trying to recover from all this.”

This tree fell in front of this home’s driveway, preventing the owners from leaving.

When we spoke to Strickland on Thursday, Sept. 14, he was surrounded by the sounds of chainsaws and the beeping that signals the backing-up of tractor trailers carrying out more debris. Strickland estimated that he and his team had loaded six or seven trailers full of limbs and leaves.

Although they knew the storm was coming toward them, Strickland said there was very little for them to do to prepare for Irma’s remnants.

“We do get thunderstorms that last for 30 to 40 minutes but then they stop, but this storm had sustained winds of 40 to 60 mph that lasted for 24 hours and gusts that were estimated between 90 to 100 mph,” explains Strickland. “As the Oak trees were swaying in the wind their roots were slowly being lifted out and then rain water and mud would fill-in behind the roots. That process kept happening until the trees lifted themselves out of the ground.”

Strickland takes a break and poses for a photo with a tree that had lifted itself out of the ground.

According to Strickland, he has never seen anything like this happen. The only comparable destruction he has seen like this has been after tornadoes, but the affected area is mostly limited to where the funnel cloud touches down. For now he is out with his chainsaw helping remove fallen trees from roads so people can get back to their normal lives as soon as possible.

“I’m a triple bypass heart surgery survivor but I have to do this,” adds Strickland. “I still have to do this or else I won’t be able to get out.”

Photos supplied by Tony Strickland

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