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Powerful hurricane, politics among state’s top 2018 stories

December 29, 2018
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FILE - In this Nov. 24, 2018, file photo, Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson calls for a timeout during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Georgia in Athens, Ga. Johnson announced his retirement at the end of the season. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

Georgia’s contentious race for governor and a hurricane that ruined cotton, pecans, and other crops were among the state’s top stories of 2018.

A state law requiring motorists to drive hands-free and a cyberattack on Atlanta’s computer network were also among the Top 10 stories in Georgia for the year.

2018 was also a big year in sports, with Atlanta United winning the Major League Soccer championship among the highlights.

The top stories in Georgia during the past year:

GEORGIA ELECTIONS

After a grueling and contentious race for Georgia governor, Republican Brian Kemp emerged victorious over challenger Stacey Abrams, a Democrat. Abrams had come within about 60,000 votes of becoming the nation’s first black woman governor. Abrams said the race was not a fair election , and her supporters alleged that minority voters had been suppressed. Kemp denied those allegations.

HURRICANE MICHAEL

Hurricane Michael slammed southwest Georgia as a powerful Category 3 hurricane after crossing the Florida Panhandle, still packing more than enough force to shred homes and ruin valuable cash crops in a destructive march toward the Carolinas. The hurricane is blamed for more than $1.6 billion in lost cotton, pecans, and other crops. The Georgia Legislature later approved $470 million in hurricane aid.

HANDS-FREE DRIVING

Georgia lawmakers enacted a hands-free driving law , banning motorists from holding their cellphones while behind the wheel. Proponents of the legislation said that distracted driving had led to a recent spike in fatal crashes.

ATLANTA CYBERATTACK

A cyberattack that disabled vital city computer systems in Atlanta disrupted city operations and caused millions of dollars in losses. Authorities say the suspects demanded a ransom payment. Prosecutors say two Iranian men already indicted in New Jersey in connection with a broad scheme targeting multiple government agencies, face multiple charges in connection with the Atlanta crime and others.

ZELL MILLER DIES

Zell Miller, the former Georgia governor and U.S. senator whose political career spanned four decades, died March 23 at his home in the north Georgia mountains. He was 86. A Southern Democrat with a stubborn independent streak, Miller as governor successfully championed selling lottery tickets to fund scholarships in a Bible belt state.

ATLANTA UNITED

Atlanta United won the Major League Soccer championship with a 2-0 victory over the Portland Timbers. The victory gave the city its first major league title since the Atlanta Braves won the 1995 World Series. The team, in just its second season, shattered attendance records.

GEORGIA FOOTBALL

The University of Georgia made it to the Southeastern Conference championship game, but lost to the University of Alabama 35-28. The game drew the highest television rating for a regular season college football game in seven years.

GEORGIA TECH COACH

Paul Johnson, the longest-serving Georgia Tech football coach in a half-century, announced his retirement in November. Johnson revealed the surprising decision after meeting with his players following a loss to the University of Georgia that closed the regular season.

LEAKER SENTENCED

A former government contractor who pleaded guilty in Georgia to mailing a classified U.S. report to a news organization in August was sentenced to five years and three months in prison. Reality Winner, a former Air Force linguist, had worked as a translator for the National Security Agency. Prosecutors say it is the longest sentence ever imposed for a federal crime involving leaks to the media.

MILITARY PLANE CRASH

Nine airmen from the Puerto Rico National Guard were killed when their C-130 cargo plane dropped from the sky and crashed into the blacktop of a busy highway outside Savannah. The airmen belonged to the 156th Airlift Wing in Muniz Air Base from Puerto Rico. An Air Force investigation blamed human error , saying the crew failed to follow standard procedures to deal with an engine problem in the air.

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