The Gwinnett County Fire Department responded to dozens of calls for assistance on Saturday afternoon due to powerful storms with strong winds that rolled through the county.  Calls ranged from a house fire to a river rescue to trees on homes to trees across roads.

The storms rolled through from approximately 4:59 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. as noted by the National Weather Service in Peachtree City.  The storms were capable of producing 60 mph wind gusts and penny-sized hail, as well as, cloud to ground lightning.

First responders handled close to 60 calls for assistance during the course of the storms.  That is approximately two calls every minute that the storms lasted in our area.  The areas affected were widespread impacting areas all the way from Buford to Loganville and Snellville.

There was one structure fire due to the storms which was struck by lightning.  The house was located at 4490 Brookridge Drive NW in Loganville.  A neighbor reported the fire to 911 as the homeowners were away during the storm.  A dog and cat were located and removed to safety by firefighters.  The attic and second floor of the home sustained heavy fire damage while the first floor had substantial smoke and water damage.  The homeowner returned home while fire crews were extinguishing the fire.

Gwinnett firefighters responded to a call for assistance on the Chattahoochee River at Abbotts Bridge in Duluth. A group who were part of a tubing company tour became stranded when the violent storm rolled overhead making the river turbulent.  Gwinnett along with assistance from the Johns Creek Fire Department worked to get the people to safety.

Rescue operations took place directly below the bridge on Abbotts Bridge Road.  There was already a large group of people taking shelter from the storm under the bridge.  It became too dangerous for the people to stay under the bridge prompting fire crews to relocate the people to a staging hut that belongs to the tubing company.

“During the approximately two-hour incident, a total of 111 river patrons were assisted to safety until the storm subsided. Approximately 35 patrons were assisted by Johns Creek Fire and Gwinnett Fire rescue boats. A local fisherman also assisted a number of people to safety during the incident. The majority of people were able to self-ambulate and there were no injuries or medical complaints,” said Lt. Justin Wilson, Public Information Officer for the Gwinnett County Fire Department. “Firefighters and swiftwater rescue technicians from both departments worked in unison to safely remove and shelter the large group of people.”

Eight trees fell on structures around the county.  In the 5500 block of Little Mill Road in Buford, fire crews found a large tree that had crashed through the rear wall of the home causing heavy damage.  No injuries were reported among the five residents however, they have been displaced and they must stay with relatives.

Crews responded to calls for trees/power lines down for the following locations in the northern Gwinnett area.

  • 4000 block of Hamilton Mill Road NE in Buford – A line was down across the road.  Jackson EMC responded to the scene and advised they would take over.
  • 400 block of Pirkle Avenue NE in Buford – A residential power line fell across a driveway.  Buford Power responded to the scene.
  • 3000 block of Buford Drive NE in Buford – The police department and traffic engineering were notified about a traffic signal that had become detached from the cable.
  • 2500 block of East Maddox Road NE in Buford – Crews found a tree and power lines down across the road.  Jackson EMC was notified.
  • 3000 block of Ridge Oak Drive NE in Suwanee – A street lamp was damaged by a fallen tree.  Jackson EMC was notified.
  • 1000 block of Auburn Road NE in Dacula – Crews arrived to find a tree down on a power line and an active fire. The scene was turned over to Jackson EMC once they arrived.

— Staff Reports

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