It appears that Columbus escaped the worst of Hurricane Michael overnight as local public safety, public works and power officials survey the damage Thursday morning.
But that doesn’t mean Columbus escaped all of the damage.
More than 4,500 Muscogee County Georgia Power Company customers were without electricity at 7:30 a.m., according to the company’s interactive statewide website. There were also more than two dozen reported cases of trees and limbs down on power lines and across the roads, said Public Works Director Pat Biegler.
“This was much less than what we anticipated,” Biegler said.
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Part of the reason is the storm passed to the south and east of Columbus, leaving Muscogee County on the weaker side of the hurricane that devastated the Florida panhandle before moving inland. The highest reported wind gusts in Columbus were 41 mph at 11:14 p.m. Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service Peachtree City office. About that same time, sustained winds were 30 mph.
The winds to the east of Columbus reached as high as 69 mph near Cordele, 63 mph in Eastman and 61 mph in Dublin, according to the National Weather Service.
The storm was still a Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds of 125 mph at 5 p.m. when the eye crossed the Florida-Georgia line. At 11 p.m. when the eye was near Cordele, it was still classified as a Category 1 hurricane with winds the National Hurricane Center was reporting at 75 mph. It was downgraded to a tropical storm at 2 a.m. when it was east, southeast of Macon.
Georgia Power reported 4,509 Columbus customers without power caused by 170 different outages at 7:30 a.m. The power company is evaluating the damage and working to repair it, said spokesman Robert Watkins. By mid-afternoon, the power company expects to have a restoration time for getting Columbus back online.
Columbus Emergency Management Director Riley Land said his office was still surveying the damage, but said it looks like the city came out of the storm much better than expected.
“It looks like the wind that we got was the equivalent of a good summer thunderstorm,” Land said. “It must have taken the perfect path to give us a break.”
The damage that was reported was not isolated to any particular part of town, Biegler said.
“It’s pretty much scattered,” she said.
There were reports of trees and limbs down along River Road and Green Island Hills, in the Historic District, Midtown at 22nd Street in front of the Pastoral Institute and in south Columbus.