A tree fell to a wind squall Wednesday evening along Demere Road near Ocean Boulevard on St. Simons Island, taking out power for a block as Hurricane Dorian approached in the distant Atlantic Ocean.
Sheltering at home on the island during a hurricane event for the first time, Steve and Angie Sapp could not help but thinking the worst was yet to come.
Then a Georgia Power crew arrived. A team cut up the fallen tree and hauled it away in short order. Power was restored within an hour.
The next morning, Steve Sapp was attacking what passed for storm damage from Dorian with the only tool needed — a leaf blower.
“You see it,” said Sapp, 52, holding up the blower he was using to scatter leaves and twigs from a neighbor’s driveway on Demere Road. “We had power out for about 45 minutes to an hour. A tree went down over there, and it was gone in about 30 minutes. They were here right after our electric went out and, boom — it was back on in no time.”
Wind speeds flirted with tropical storm strength Wednesday as Dorian skirted offshore from the Golden Isles with Category 2 hurricane strength Wednesday night. With only minimal accompanying rainfall, the storm that had earlier pummeled the Bahamas with deadly 185 mph winds passed the Golden Isles over with little more than a spattering a power outages and downed trees.
Glynn County Emergency Management Agency officials confirmed wind speeds just inside tropical storm strength at 40 mph Wednesday. The National Weather Service in Jacksonville recorded sustained winds of 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 45 mph at its weather station at McKinnon St. Simons Airport, meteorologist Scott Cordero said. The storm dropped more than an inch of rain on St. Simons Island and more than 1 1/2 inches in Brunswick, the weather service reported.
Standing outside his home on Lady Huntington Drive, St. Simons Island native Donnie Revels felt fortunate that the tall pines in his front yard still pointed to the sky.
“I think we dodged a bullet, no doubt in my mind,” said Revels, 72. “I thought it was a lot less than what it was going to be.”
The Waffle House on Demere Road remained open throughout. On Thursday morning it was about the only place open on the island to get a bite to eat. Michael Akers and Jacob Boyd were heading inside to do just that Thursday morning. The two employees of Brogen’s in the Pier Village did not want to second guess the folks who heeded Monday’s state and county orders to evacuate ahead of Dorian. But ...
“It was like a big rain storm, really,” said Boyd, 20. “Compared to the last time, this was nothing.”
“So many people left for no reason,” added Akers, 25.
But Akers also stuck around for both Hurricane Irma in 2017 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016. He knows what it is like to awaken to impassable roads, widespread power outages and more.
“After what happened in the Bahamas, oh yeah, I’m definitely relieved,” he said. “I’m definitely grateful it didn’t destroy the island or anything like that.”
When it comes to hurricanes, Steve Roberts and his wife have a mixed marriage — he has stuck around for every hurricane since Dora in 1964; his wife goes to stay with family in Atlanta for every storm. He thinks many others who remained for the storm did not want to go through the hassle of re-entry after evacuating.
“They messed up two hurricanes ago when everybody left, and they wouldn’t let them back on,” the 71-year-old Roberts said as he left the Waffle House. “But Dorian could have been a lot more trouble.”
The Sapps’ decision to stay home for Dorian was informed to some degree by the frustration of trying to return after evacuating for hurricanes Irma and Matthew.
“It took us about three or four days to get back on the island, so we decided to stay,” Steve Sapp said.
But Sapp reminded himself that the night before a tree fell on Demere Road. At the time, he thought it was only the beginning of the damage Dorian had in store for the Golden Isles.
“We got very luck, brother,” Sapp said. “We were blessed, I can see that.”