Diego bears down on Foothills

Published 5:25 pm Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Power outages continue from Sunday’s winter storm

POLK COUNTY — Winter storm Diego wreaked havoc on the Foothills Sunday, with thousands still without power as of Tuesday.

Trees are still down on power lines in many locations, and snow totals were the most the area has seen in years.

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Saluda received the most snow at 18.5 inches, with Columbus and Green Creek receiving an estimated 10 inches of snow and Tryon 7 inches. Residents report 9 inches at Lake Lanier, which is one of the many areas still without power as of Tuesday.

Polk County set up a shelter at the Polk County Middle School, but on Monday moved it to the high school. A shelter was also set up at the Saluda Fire Department, but it closed on Monday. The shelter at the high school is still set up.

Polk County Manager Marche Pittman said Tuesday morning there were 45 people staying in the shelter.

“Emergency crews have been working tirelessly to respond to calls and keep our citizens safe,” Pittman said. “We have also been working to ensure that children and elderly are being transported to the shelter from all over the county.”

As of Monday morning, there were 6,000 people still out of power, according to Polk County officials. Many residents were restored late Monday, but thousands were still out as of Tuesday morning.

Main roads were scraped but many residents were still trapped early this week because of downed trees on secondary roads.

“The main roads are in good condition, but some of the secondary or back roads are still sketchy and travel is in one set of ruts,” said Tryon Fire Chief Geoff Tennant. “We have had a number of people that have been transported to the shelter basically because of a lack of power/heat. There is still a substantial number of trees that are in need of removal, and progress on that front is being made.”

Saluda City Manager Jonathan Cannon said city crews have been clearing streets since Saturday evening.

“[Monday] we finally began to make real headway in opening the streets and city center,” Cannon said. “Police officers assisted motorists and citizens throughout the storm to go to the shelters.”

Tryon has had over 100 trees fall, according to Tryon Town Manager Zach Ollis.

The Tryon police and fire departments had over 100 calls since Saturday for welfare and service checks.

Snow began to accumulate by Saturday evening and by Sunday morning the area woke up to snow and ice. Many roads were impassable Sunday, including Interstate 26 being shut down for a time Sunday morning between Columbus and Saluda. All major roads are now open.

While not classified as a blizzard because the winds did not make it to 35 mph sustained, Diego is the most similar to the Blizzard of 1993 the area has seen. The last time Polk County has seen power outages for this amount of time was during an ice storm that occurred on Dec. 5, 2005.

Polk County Government offices and many of the town offices were closed Monday and Tuesday, but with temperatures expected to get to 50 degrees Tuesday, most offices are planning to be open on Wednesday.

The Tryon Christmas parade scheduled for Wednesday has been postponed. The parade will be held at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19. Line up will begin at 4 p.m. in the Godshaw Hill neighborhood. 

Polk County’s shelter is still open. The shelter is located at 1681 Highway 108 E., Columbus. The county has transportation options available if needed and if the location is accessible.

For tree removal on state roads, residents may contact the North Carolina Department of Transportation at 828-894-8980.