Hurricane Matthew thrashed Liberty and Long counties as it made its way up the East Coast over the weekend.
No deaths and few injuries were directly attributed to the storm, which packed powerful category 2 force winds and hours of rain that combined to pound the area Friday night into Saturday morning.
While no data is yet available for the Liberty coast, Fort Pulaski, east of Savannah, hit a record 12-foot surge, according to the Weather Channel.
Once the storm cleared the area, what it left in its path was a tangled mess of downed trees and power lines. Numerous homes and businesses were damaged, but no estimate of the total was available Tuesday. Nearly all of Liberty, an estimated 19,000 homes, and most of Long County were in the dark Friday night.
Georgia Power reported Tuesday afternoon it still had about 1,000 customers in Liberty County and 100 in Long without power. Coastal EMC was reporting Tuesday that about 750 of its customers in east Liberty County were still without power.
Within hours of the storm subsiding Saturday, the thrum of small engines indicated residents and recovery workers were clearing roads, restoring power and providing aid.
By late Saturday afternoon most of the larger trees that blocked major roads were cleared.
That meant the electrical restoration efforts could begin. Canochee and Coastal EMC had ramped up relief workers and placed them in strategic areas of the county in order to facilitate a quicker response time. Georgia Power had workers on standby and once the winds died down, a convoy entered the county. Georgia Power set up a tent-city at the intersection of Highway 84 and Leroy Coffer Highway to support its work crews.
By Sunday, some areas were returning to normalcy. Businesses that could open did. Curfews were lifted and people were allowed to return home.
Many still returned to no power, infrastructure or cell service.
A Verizon Mobile cell tower, used by several other local carriers and Comcast Cable, was damaged and lost fiber optic connections during the storm.
Work to improve spotty cell phone communication across the area had paid off by Sunday night, but service still had problems into Tuesday.
As recovery efforts continue, sections of the east end of the county are still waiting on power. There were ever-smaller areas in the city and county still waiting to be re-connected Tuesday.
As areas got powered up, attention turned to debris removal and claims.
Tuesday, the Liberty County Commission and cities of Hinesville, Midway and Riceboro hired a private contractor to handle storm debris pickup. Residents of those communities and the rural areas are being asked to put all of their storm debris along roads near their property.
This includes trees, limbs, and anything else damaged during the storm. Trees and limbs need to be separated from any household items.
Be sure not to block your mailbox, fire hydrant or the roads. Debris pickup is scheduled to begin Friday in Hinesville and Monday in other locations. Everything needs to be on the roadside by then for pick up.
Spoiled food will need to go in normal trash receptacles.
Residents who live in a city not listed above will not have roadside service and will have to remove their own debris.
The Liberty County Building and Licensing Office and Hinesville have also compiled a list of contractors licensed locally. Part of the list is on this page and all of it is available on the county website, www.libertycountyga.com.
The list will be posted on the Courier site when our staff has improved internet access. Review the list before choosing a contractor.
No individual federal assistance had been approved for the area by Tuesday.
Anyone seeking reimbursement for damages to their homes and personal belongings or spoiled food needs to file claims with their insurance companies.
Residents should be vigilant of anyone claiming to be from FEMA as there are no FEMA representatives in our area.
Liberty County School System and First Presbyterian Christian Academy will re-open to staff and students Monday.
Long County Schools is requesting staff and faculty return to work Friday. Students are off until Monday.
Classes at Armstrong State University’s main campus in Savannah and at the Armstrong Liberty Center in Hinesville have been canceled until Monday. All special events, including Treasure Savannah, have been canceled through Sunday evening.
Armstrong’s residence halls will re-open on Friday at noon.
Additional information is available at Armstrong.edu/emergency or by calling Armstrong’s Emergency Hotline at 912-344-2500.