BRACK: Hurricane Irma caused havoc on Georgia’s Golden Isles, here too

By Elliott Brack, editor and publisher   |  Fall is the perfect time to visit Georgia’s Golden Isles.

Some just love Tybee Beach, while others enjoy the more pristine and primitive Cumberland Island. For our family, St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island, both outer islands near Brunswick, are our choice. There’s something that seems to pull us back there from time to time. We’ve been going since in our teens.

Our recent visit was from curiosity: how much damage did Hurricane Irma do to the Islands?  Gov. Nathan Deal, you may remember, put the dollar figure of $4 million for cleaning up the state-owned Jekyll Island. That, we learned, was most from severe beach erosion on mostly the north side of the island.

When first driving onto Jekyll Island, the work crews had done an admirable job of removing the debris from the main thoroughfares. Now, understand, this was seven weeks after the hurricane, so they would have cleared most of the island.  We saw a good deal of limbs and trunks of trees down on the marsh side of the island.

The clean-up on St. Simons Island has been similar, as Kings Highway, the main entrance to the village, was essentially in good shape, with only a few and small piles of damage seen.  But then going back and forth several times along this way, we began to see trees downed behind the initial tree line and bushes. Many downed were huge.

Delving more into the interior of the island, the story changes. Get just a block off any of the main roads, and you see piles of trash of limbs in front of many, many homes.  Again, we’re not just talking about limbs, but often massive trees.

In effect, the trees in the interior of the island seem to bear the most damage. We ran across a work crew (from Atlanta) on North and South Harrington Drive, near Bennie’s Red Barn Restaurant, and could not believe how extensive the damage was.

From all the debris we saw, we thought it might take three or four months just to haul away the piles of trees and limbs. But Dave Austin of the Glynn County Public Works office says that he thinks most will be cleared by Thanksgiving.  In addition, the large “Johnson rocks” on the beach were moved around. One estimate of the total cost of the clean-up in Glynn County was between $9-10 million  Most of that is usually repaid to areas by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

We also saw lots of tall bodied trucks moving to and from these areas.  It appeared that those clearing the living areas were working their way northward, having cleared the more settled areas initially.

Though we are sure there was extensive damage to homes, we saw no blue tarps, indicating roof repair. Perhaps the roofers had finished their work.

HURRICANE IRMA also moved its destructive winds to our own area, though the winds were not as strong as near the ocean. Jackson EMC officials tell us that it was maybe their worst outages ever.

At the peak out the outage, at one time 123,600 homes were without power, some lasting days. Altogether, the EMC had to replace 178 power poles! If there was a good side to the storm, work crews tell us that when Jackson EMC normally has severe damage, it’s often in the winter, with iced trees causing the problem, plus having cold-harsh weather to work in. However, after the Hurricane Irma storm clean-up, the linemen tell us that at least it was warm, comfortable weather to work in to restore the power.