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Blackout blamed on storms
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Crews survey the damage to an electrical transmission line near Plant McIntosh in Effingham County on Sunday. Two tornadoes tore through the area near shortly before 10 the night before damaging homes as well as the power plant and lines. The resulting problems knocked out power throughout the region, including in Bryan, Liberty and Longs counties. - photo by Photo by Tara Pivotto for Effingham Herald
Many Liberty County residents had St. Patrick's Day weekend celebrations cut short Saturday when much of the Coastal Empire was plunged into darkness by Mother Nature's wrath.
Both the National Weather Service and Georgia Power confirmed Monday two F2-category tornadoes that touched down in Effingham County were to blame for the power outage that left more than 150,000 customers in the region without electricity.
According to the National Weather Service, the first tornado touched down at 9:34 p.m. northeast of Springfield. The twister traveled southeast for about two and a half miles and demolished three mobile homes, damaged three to four dozen homes, destroyed or damaged 20 cars and knocked down 15 high-voltage transmission lines in its path.
The tornado was about a quarter of a mile wide and carried wind of up to 120 mph.
A second cyclone, measuring 100 yards at its widest point and carrying winds between 120 and 130 mph, landed two miles outside Rincon around 9:43 p.m. It moved southeast about half a mile through Georgia Power's Plant McIntosh, destroying two water-cooling towers and several buildings, collapsing two transmission towers and flinging tractor-trailer cargo containers up to 100 yards.
Georgia Power spokesperson Konswello Monroe said the plant suffered "some damage to its infrastructure, but remains operational."
Monroe said the blackout began around 10 p.m. Saturday and crews worked throughout the night to re-establish power, although workers were slowed by the darkness.
"(Power) was restored to most customers by Sunday morning," she said. "The remaining customers were restored early Monday morning."
Customers of other utility companies, such as Coastal EMC, were reportedly 100 percent restored by Sunday.
There were reports of a separate outage earlier Saturday night in the western portion of Hinesville being caused by a vehicle striking and pulling down a power pole, but Hinesville Police Department Chief George Stagmeier said those reports were inaccurate.
"A long pine tree that the wind blew over just a short distance...touched two of the primary (electrical) lines and caused the power to go off," Stagmeier said. "There was no vehicle accident that caused (outage)."
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