With wind gusts toppling trees, dropping live power lines and taking out traffic lights, authorities are warning Columbus residents to stay home as Tropical Storm Irma moves through.
Georgia Power has stopped deploying crews because of the danger, and city public works crews also are being called in because of the hazardous conditions.
At Broadway and Sixth Street in the Historic District, city workers warned bystanders to stay clear of a toppled tree blocking the northbound lane, as the canopy was tangled in a live power line,
A city crew that started cutting the limbs backed off, with one employee saying Georgia Power would not have anyone there until the winds died down.
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Just a few blocks away, on Second Avenue at 9th Street on the Government Center block’s southeast corner, a large limb fell, partially blocking the road.
Columbus Fire Marshal Ricky Shores said authorities are advising residents not to travel unless they have to, as falling limbs and windblown debris made traveling particularly hazardous.
He said the brunt of the storm is expected to hit Columbus from 8 to 11 p.m., and first responders will not deploy when sustained winds reach 40 mph.
“It’s just not safe enough for them to be out there,” he said. “That’s a national standard.”
He said winds were coming out of the northeast, primarily, but the direction likely would shift overnight as the storm moves through.
A wind speed of more than 40 mph is considered gale force, and can damage trees and structures as well as carry debris. Residents have been warned to secure loose objects such as lawn and porch furniture as the wind’s power builds.
The low-lying areas that typically flood in heavy rains, such as the 11th Street underpass and Weracoba Creek through Lakebottom Park, are expected to do so again during downpours.
Anyone who sees fallen trees blocking roads or damaging utilities is asked to call 911.
Though officials are asking residents to stay home, no one is compelled to, Shores said: “There’s no curfew in place. People need to make their own decisions.”