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Hurricane Idalia slams Cook County

a large tree is toppled, blocking the roadway with natural debris

Photo by Nicole Moar

Last week, Hurricane Idalia hit the Gulf Coast of Florida as a Category 3 storm and then roared up through Cook County and other communities in South Georgia.

The high winds and heavy rains toppled trees, closed roads, damaged homes and other structures, and left most of Cook County’s residents without power by knocking down lines and utility poles. 

The community was blessed in that no local injuries were reported as a direct result of the storm. However, some in the area did suffer serious injuries caused by falling trees during the cleanup effort. 

Cook County Schools and Community Christian Academy were closed Wednesday through Friday due to the power outages and road conditions. However, the schools were scheduled to reopen for students on Wednesday, after the Labor Day holiday. (Tuesday was a Teacher In-Service Day in Cook Schools).

County and City officials were monitoring the situation with Hurricane Idalia and attended briefings with the National Weather Service to be prepared for the storm. A local Emergency Operations Center was activated. Authorities urged citizens to shelter in place as the hurricane hit. 

Thank you to all the first responders, public works employees, and utility workers who have been working so hard above and beyond their job duties for their community’s recovery. Volunteers from various local groups and churches, the Salvation Army, and American Red Cross also pitched in to help with the cleanup and/or delivery of food, water, and other supplies.

Photo by Jessica Hudgins Joiner

Last week, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security and the Georgia Forestry Commission loaded water, MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), and tarps to send to Lowndes, Lanier, and Cook Counties. The Cook County Emergency Management Agency coordinated the delivery of supplies to distribution locations in the community. 

Cook County EMA noted that Crisis Cleanup activated a private property, property debris cleanup, and home repair hotline. The number is 1.800.451.1954. Please share this information with anyone who may still need assistance clearing debris from private property. The purpose of Crisis Cleanup is to coordinate efforts between nonprofit and faith-based organizations.

Cook EMA Director Johnny West urged citizens to still self-report damages at “We are working with GEMA and FEMA on assistance and are hoping to start getting some answers in the coming days,” according to Cook EMA.

The hurricane damage was much more extensive in the neighboring communities of Berrien, Brooks, and Lowndes Counties – Valdosta-Lowndes, in particular. Wind speeds reached speeds of more than 70 mph in that community. Mayor Scott James Matheson described Idalia as the first major hurricane to reach Valdosta in 166 years. 

In the storm’s aftermath, emergency responders used boats to rescue residents from flood waters in low-lying areas of Valdosta. A man died after being struck by a falling tree. He had been trying to help cut and clear another tree off Bemiss Road. Another person suffered serious injuries.

On the days prior to Labor Day weekend, Lowndes County and Florida residents crowded the restaurants and stores and roadways of Cook County while searching for food, fuel, and other supplies.    

Gov. Brian P. Kemp visited Valdosta on Friday to assess the storm damage and pledge assistance. On Sunday afternoon,  United States Senators Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock visited areas of hurricane damage in Lowndes County and discussed their efforts to obtain federal relief. Second Harvest Food Bank in Valdosta reported providing more than 10,000 meals in three days, 84,000 waters, and 30,000 tarps through partner organizations to those in need. 

Gov. Kemp’s State of Emergency order for all of Georgia in response to Hurricane Idalia will expire at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 8, 2023.

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