Columbus area utility crews on standby for storm repairs

The rain is gone, but the gusting winds have local Georgia Power Co. utility crews remaining in the Chattahoochee Valley rather than charging north to help those hit hard by a brutal winter storm.

"We are going to make sure they are not needed here first," said Georgia Power spokesman Robert Watkins.

About two dozen linemen, engineers and support personnel from the Columbus office are designated to move into needed areas, whether it be north Georgia or beyond, Watkins said.

"They are packed and ready to go," Watkins said.

As of late Friday afternoon they were still on hold, even though no major outages and only small isolated issues were being reported.

The forecast for today calls for wind gust of 30 miles per hour or more, said WRBL Chief Meteorologist Bob Jeswald.

That is a concern for the local power company.

"With the ground as wet as it is, we are worried about trees and limbs falling," Watkins said.

Over the last two days, there has been more than 1.7 inches of rain recorded at the Columbus airport. The rain has also caused minor flooding on the Chattahoochee RiverWalk.

The island below the Eagle & Phenix Mill was flooded Friday afternoon as three flood gates of the Oliver Dam had been opened. There was a small amount of water on the RiverWalk in downtown Columbus, but it was not even close to the Christmas Day flooding last month.

"We may have to open a fourth gate," Watkins said of the dam just above the J.R. Allen Parkway that is operated by Georgia Power.

The temperatures will also be falling over the weekend with it expected to reach a low of 27 on Sunday morning, Jeswald said.

"With the wind chill, it will feel like it is in the teens," Jeswald said.

Because of the forecast, SafeHouse, a homeless outreach center at Rose Hill United Methodist Church, will be open tonight, said Chattahoochee Valley Jail Ministries Director Neil Richardson. Those who do not have a place to stay can check into SafeHouse and spend the night out of the cold.