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Severe Weather Hits County

Heavy winds and rain hit the area multiple times Wednesday night causing several downed trees and a fire.

A series of severe thunderstorms blew through Snellville Wednesday, bringing high winds, heavy rain and frequent lightning, and keeping emergency personnel on their toes.

The storms, some of which packed winds up to 45 mph and dime-sized hail, according to the National Weather Service, moved through Gwinnett County just before 7 p.m. At least two more lines of  rainstorms moved through by midnight.

The worst part seemed to be the first wave, which kept county firefighters on the go, according to Capt. Tommy Rutledge, spokesman for Gwinnett Fire and Emergency Services.

Rutledge said between 6:45 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. that fire crews responded to 124 incidents including vehicle injury accidents, live wires down, fires (possibly from lightning strikes), trees downed on houses, woods fires, and alarm-activated calls. There also were 535 calls per hour coming in to the 911 center during the height of the storm.

"Just to note, [fire crews] normally run 200 to 250 incidents in a 24-hour period," Rutledge said in a media release, issued about 9:30 p.m. "That shows how busy we actually were due to the storm."

Rutledge said the fire department activated its emergency operations plan at its "War Room" center at the fire department's headquarters. From there, fire officials deployed resources, tracked incidents, monitored the weather. Staff responded responded to downed power lines and help keep people from coming into contact with energized lines until the power company arrived, Rutledge added.

Gwinnett County road maintenance teams also helped cut trees blocking roadways.

Significant incidents included trees falling on homes at 3138 Sloping Terrace in Snellville; 3000 Dowry Drive in Lawrenceville; 1000 block of Saw Grass Court, SW in Lilburn; and the 2800 block of Cardinal Lake Drive, NW in Duluth. In the Snellville incident, the residents of the townhome were displaced. No injuries were reported.

There was also an apartment fire on Plantation Trace Drive in Duluth that officials believe was caused by a possible lightning strike. The blaze damaged two townhome units in a two-story building.

"Firefighters, emergency dispatchers, police officers, and other county staff worked tirelessly to respond and mitigate storm related incidents throughout the evening hours," Rutledge said in a second media release about 1 a.m.

Crews continued to handle storm related incidents until 11 p.m.

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