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by Steve Bracci

It’s just two weeks till Masters and most city streets are still piled with remnants of the catastrophic ice storm that hit Augusta in February. The worst of the storm occurred while the city slept, or tried to sleep. The constant crash of ice-laden limbs and trees hitting the ground could be heard throughout that long night. It sounded like a war zone. |

And when the sun came up, it looked like a war zone. Trees and limbs littered yards and roads and rooftops. Power lines hung from trees and lay in streets in tangled masses. Countless people had serious damage to homes and cars. Very few of the more than half-million CSRA residents had power or heat or hot water and many couldn’t get out of their neighborhoods or driveways, which were blocked by debris. The snowy  winter weather that typically “makes Southerners happy” had rendered the Garden City a disaster area. Thankfully no one was killed.

Despite the shock and awe, neighbors and friends reached out to check on each other and share resources: food, coffee, hot showers, freezer space and chain saws. Equally impressive was the help that came from outside. Literally hundreds of power trucks and line men from all over the country descended on the city to restore power. The National Guard was enlisted to provide emergency assistance, transportation and to generally help in any way they could, even physically removing limbs from streets. I don’t know where all these good Samaritans came from, but they put themselves in harm’s way to get Augusta up and running in record time. We are eternally grateful to them.

As golf enthusiasts flock to the city, amid the brilliantly blooming azaleas and dogwoods, it might be hard to imagine such a thing ever happened. A closer look beyond the foliage, however,  reveals scars on far too many ancient live oaks, delimbed pine trees and broken azaleas. Even the storied grounds of the Augusta National was not exempt. Those who are fortunate enough to attend the Masters every year will no doubt mourn the loss of the iconic Eisenhower Pine—damaged beyond saving. And judging from the number of bucket trucks and tree experts that have frequented the property along Berckmans Road, the landscape there likely will reveal other losses as well.

But in spite of everything, Augustans are busily preparing their homes and yards, painting and trimming and planting, in anticipation of the annual visitors to the city. It’s what we do. And with arms wide open we welcome you again to our beautiful, if a little bedraggled, Garden City.

    Happy Masters! 

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