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West Pickens residents describe devastation

"When I came here I just cried," says resident returning to storm damaged area


A home in west Pickens shows the effects of the tornadoes which hammered the northwestern corner of the state Wednesday. Advanced warning which pushed many people to take early shelter plus "total luck," according to one emergency official, lead to no significant injuries here in the wake of the violent storms. Photos/ Damon Howell.


More scenes of the storm damage in Pickens County.


By Angela Reinhardt

staff writer

Thursday morning, residents of the Henderson Mountain Road area surveyed destruction left by tornadoes that ripped through part of west Pickens overnight, destroying numerous homes and flattening three chicken houses.

Families were out in their driveways at late morning beginning the long process of cleaning up damage, cutting up fallen trees and removing belongings from their mangled homes.

The destructive path of the tornadoes was clearly visible through west Pickens. Hundreds of trees were snapped off at the tops, revealing bright white wood inside.

Officials say Bryant Road, Childers Lane and Henderson Mountain Road were the worst hit areas in the county, but despite extensive damage, no serious injuries have been reported.

According to Pickens County Sheriff’s Office Captain Frank Reynolds, it was “total luck” no one was seriously hurt or killed in the storm that struck in waves Wednesday night into Thursday morning.

No serious injuries, no missing persons reported in Pickens from storm

Residents, neighbors, and contractors begin cleaning up from a massive storm that swept through Georgia Wednesday night. In the above home on Henderson Mountain Road, four people were trapped for more than 30 minutes until emergency crews could get them out. A relative of one of the residents said another part of the house was "just gone."


More scenes of the storm damage in Pickens County.


Hotline established for storm reports

Fire Chief Bob Howard said this morning that there were no significant injuries or missing persons reported in Wednesday night's storm.

The extent of the damage to homes, however, remained unknown. The worst hit area in Pickens County with the massive storms that swept across the south was described as Jerusalem Road to Bryant Road to Childers Lane (off of Henderson Mountain Road).

“This is not a densely populated area,” Howard said. “We’re still assessing the damage to structures.”

Howard was scheduled for a flyover in a GSP helicopter later this morning.

He said emergency personnel did a sweep of the area that was completed at 2 a.m. and found no significant injuries or reports of missing persons.

Howard said he knows of damage to several mobile homes and chicken houses in the area.

Howard said reports from utility companies indicate 1,900 homes without power in Pickens County. He said as of Thursday morning, there is no indication of when they may have power restored. He said the scope of the storm will create problems getting necessary manpower and supplies, such as power poles, to the affected areas.

First reports from across the state indicate that 11 people had been reported killed in Georgia from the tornadoes that hit the hardest to the counties west of Pickens. Gov. Deal has  declared some northwest Georgia counties emergency areas.

Hotline – Pickens County has established a hotline to take reports from homeowners of non-emergency storm calls. Howard said this is the place to call to report damage and it will be helpful to their assessment and clean-up efforts. The number is 706-253-1878. He said later in the day the operators there may be able to provide some information, but at this point “the information we have is very limited.”

Power crews are attempting to restore power to more than 1,900 homes in Pickens County without power. No estimation has been given of when they believe service will be restored.

Pickens Couple takes to New Zealand by motorcycle

This is Part I of a three-part travelouge series. See the second installment in this week's print edition.

                                    Barnesnewzealand   Joan and Ely Barnes during their hog-style tour of New Zealand.


                                     Submitted By B. Joan Barnes


In mid-February, late summer there, my husband Ely and I traveled to New Zealand. We arranged through a tour company to rent a Harley Davidson motorcycle and have it delivered to our hotel in Auckland upon our arrival. For the next 15 days we rode along the farmlands, mountains, coasts, valleys, cities and villages of both the North and South Islands of New Zealand. We rode on glorious sunny days when the brilliant blue sky was uninterrupted by even a jet stream, much less a cloud.  And we rode in rain and gale force winds. We had a bird’s eye view of the lush roadside vegetation, smelled the countryside flowers and farms, and snapped amazing pictures as we zipped along. In this synopsis of our trip I give my impressions of the grandeur of New Zealand’s landscape, the greatness of its people, and the glory of seeing it from the back of a motorcycle.

We were riding a bike different from ours, in a country where people drive on the left side of the road, and we were unfamiliar with the roads and signage. But we were not apprehensive. The people were so eager to help us we never feared being lost, robbed or stranded.  And we found them to be hard working, honest, kind and friendly. They  keep their environment sparkling clean. There is no trash and no  billboards along the roads. Children dress well and use free time to swim, bicycle or play school yard games. The country seems  addiction free. We saw no evidence of drug or alcohol abuse or video game fixation. And we saw firsthand the compassion and resiliency of the people when Christchurch was demolished by an earthquake.

The tour company provided the bike, raingear, helmets, daily itineraries, maps, accommodations (mostly at B&B’s) and emergency contact information for one inclusive price. This worked well for us. The accommodations were excellent, the daily rides were 200 to 300 kilometers, not too tiring but long enough to give us a variety of landscapes, and the proprietors of the B&B’s were all gracious and interesting. The tour company even modified their standard route so we could attend an Indian Motorcycle Rally and see the famous Indian Motorcycle racer, Burt Munro’s, legendary bike.

The North Island

We began our ride from downtown Auckland. I clutched a set of driving directions as we pulled out of the hotel driveway into the left lane.  I yelled things like “left at Mayoral, here it is, left, left” at Ely as I tried to read the map and street signs and make sure we were on the left side of the road. We immediately  encountered  a long detour that rendered the driving directions useless. We miraculously survived and were soon marveling at the stunning scenery: a blue bay filled with white sailboats within the city limits, followed by a country side of white sheep and black cows grazing on Irish green grass against deep green forests accentuated with light green palms.

By mid-afternoon we were on scared ground: The New Zealand Indian Motorcycle Club 2011 Annual Rally in Whangarei, New Zealand. And we met Gwen Munro Henderson, Burt Munro’s daughter.  The movie, The World’s Fastest Indian, is the story of his passion to build the world’s fastest motorcycle and to learn exactly how fast it could go on the Bonneville Flats. It went 197.4 mph on his first trip and then successively faster on subsequent trips.   Gwen told us she met Anthony Hopkins, who starred in the movie as her father, and that he was a very charming and gracious gentleman. We encountered several people who had met or worked with him and they all agreed.

The bikers at the rally were welcoming. They made us honorary members of the New Zealand Indian Motorcycle Club, gave us pens and patches with the club logo and shipped 2011 Rally T-shirts to our home.

The next day we were off to Paihia and the Bay of Isles. What a scenic ride! The young, but giant, yellow-green palm fronds leaned over the road and waved us along as the wind from our bike stirred them from their growth sleep. We topped a long, winding hill and saw a bay below us. Dots of white, yellow and red bobbed up and down as anchored sail boats waited for their captains to return from lunch or shopping on shore.

The lodge we stayed in that night was awesome. The front wall of our room was all glass.  We had a splendid view of the bay and its islands that seemed to float in its deep blue waters.  We were so mesmerized, we sat almost transfixed and watched the colorful changes upon the water as the sun sank closer to and then behind the mountains on the far shore.

What could match such beauty? That question was answered the next day as we rode cross country from the East Coast to the West Coast through farmland and onto the Discovery Coastal Highway to Opononi on the Northwest Coast. There we watched children diving from a pier and one brave lad from a high pillar into the water.  Near the pier was a magnificent sand dune as tall as a small mountain.   A rowing team was racing by the sand dune. What a sight!

Within minutes of leaving the sand dune, we were in a rainforest. Moss climbed up gigantic tree trunks, towering palms leaned over the road, and the forest floor offered a pungent smell of moist pine needles and bark. We soon saw a sign for the Tane Muhatta, a 2,000-year-old Kauri tree, believed to be the son of Father Sky and Mother Earth. He broke the embrace of his parents to come to earth to give us light and air, or so the Maori Tribal people believe.   Tane Muhatta is a challenge to photograph as he is 167 feet high and 42 feet around.

Later, we rode by hedges of cedars that grew 40 to 50 feet high and were neatly trimmed into perfect English-garden like walls of evergreen. The cedar aroma was heavenly. One of the pluses to riding a bike through New Zealand is the countryside smells. A wonderful sweet floral scent accompanied us most of the way. We also had whiffs of cow, chicken and horse manure.  But it just added to our sense of being close to nature.

When our gas tank was almost empty we were relieved to see a petrol station. I was also relieved we were on a motorcycle and not in a large vehicle. Gas prices were near $3 a liter; close to $10 a gallon!

The next day we continued Southward to Rotoroua and the famous thermal springs. The Kaurau Lodge where we stayed had a pool heated by the thermal springs and the house was heated the same way.

We learned about the devastating Christchurch earthquake that evening. New Zealanders seem to be members of one large family, perhaps because the population is only 4 million.  Everyone was profoundly touched by the quake and showed tremendous compassion for the victims, their families, and the survivors. The news reporting was in depth, descriptive and poignant.

The next day I walked through the thermal park and was surprised at how close I could get to the hot springs. As we drove toward Napier we saw more thermal activity. It was eerie to see the steam rising up from backyards, manhole covers and hillsides along the expressway.  After the news of the earthquake these “hotspots” were reminders of the ongoing turmoil just below the earth’s surface.

The landscape changed again and we had lunch at Lake Taupo where we had an unobstructed view of the azure water of the lake and mountains that ringed the distant side. Later we rode through the Hawkes Bay wine region as a mist descended upon us just outside Napier. We had dinner, enjoyed some of the famous wine, and stayed in a hotel on Marine Parade, a broad esplanade lined with Norfolk Pines. It followed the curve of the ocean and we watched bicyclists pedaling along a white sandy shore with their dogs trailing along.

The following day, we rode through spectacular mountains and dropped down into a valley with a  wide river lined with glacier rocks. The river led us to an ocean bay that curved around the city of Wellington.     Wellington is a vibrant town  filled with  young professionals who meet at waterfront cafes for after work drinks and conversation. The cargo ships, ferry boats and kayakers plying the clam, blue waters provided a lovely scene. The sun did not set until after 8 pm, making a most pleasant evening.

The next morning we rode the bike onto the Interislander Ferry for the crossing to the South Island via Cook Strait.   When we landed we were ready for our South Island Adventure.

See segment on the South Island in this week's edition.

Work completed at Cove Road rockslide site


County Road crews move concrete barriers into place Monday on Cove Road where a rockslide stopped traffic April 16.

Commissioner Rob Jones said the barriers should increase safety along the S-curves section of road. No other work is planned at this point, but the commissioner noted the steep rocky roadbed is not unique for North Georgia or the southern Appalachians.

“It was designed and installed by the state DOT in 1964. It’s as safe as it ever was,” he said. “It is what it is.”


Gas prices continue to rise

Prices .99 cents per gallon higher than same time last year

Georgia, April 25- Average retail gasoline prices in Georgia have risen 1.4 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $3.73/g yesterday. This compares with the national average that has increased 2.8 cents per gallon in the last week to $3.83/g, according to gasoline price website

Including the change in gas prices in Georgia during the past week, prices yesterday were 99.0 cents per gallon higher than the same day one year ago and are 27.2 cents per gallon higher than a month ago. The national average has increased 28.1 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 97.9 cents per gallon higher than this day one year ago.


GasBuddy operates,, and over 225 other local gasoline price-tracking websites that follow prices at over 125,000 gasoline stations in the United States and Canada. GasBuddy also uses Facebook ( Twitter (, and phone apps to keep motorists ahead of changing gasoline prices. was named one of Time magazine's 50 best websites and to PC World's 100 most useful websites of 2008.