County agencies and others work together well as Irma takes out power for most of Greene
A combination of fire department volunteers, Greene County Road Department employees, Greensboro Public Works employees, Sheriff's Office personnel, Emergency Management, utility contractors, and power company employees (Rayle EMC, Georgia Power, and many others) worked from Monday morning, September 11th, and for days after to clear fallen trees from roads and power lines after Tropical Storm Irma blew through the area.
The storm’s sustained winds of 30 to 40 miles per hour, as well as higher wind gusts, caused hundreds of trees to fall across power lines, roads, and houses. The large majority of homes in Greene County lost power, and thousands of homes and businesses waited for days for their power providers to restore power. Many are still without power. The County’s office buildings, including the Courthouse, lost power Monday morning and were out of power until late Friday evening.
While County crews, firefighters, and others worked diligently to remove trees from roadways, they could not remove trees that were mixed in with downed power lines given the uncertainty of which lines may be live with electricity. Instead, the County urged all those affected to be patient while Georgia Power and Rayle EMC made decisions as to how, when, and where power restoration efforts were undertaken.
“I understand everyone’s frustration. Going a long time without electricity and water for a long time is a huge problem,” said Chairman Gary Usry. “But it’s out of the County’s hands on when you get your power back. While many believe that the County directs the power providers where to restore power first, that has never been the case. The County does not have and never has had a role in directing the power providers where and how to restore power.”
Usry added that he isn’t upset with the power providers either. At one point, over 14,000 of Georgia Power’s 18,000 customers for this region lost power. The sheer number of trees and damage done was staggering.
“I am thankful for and pray for all those that were out during the storm, after it, and even now are continuing to work to restore power to all those that were affected,” he said. “I know they are working as hard as they can.”
On top of many downed power lines, there were even more instances of trees blocking state and county roads. The Georgia Department of Transportation employees that would ordinarily clear downed trees from I-20 and State Routes would not respond during the height of the storm, so to keep these roads and highways open, County public safety personnel had to remove these trees as well.
The importance of getting roads clear from obstruction cannot be emphasized enough as these roadways are not only important to the everyday travels of the public, but important for quick response to public safety emergencies. Over the course of the storm, all of the county’s nine fire departments were dispatched by the Greene County 911 Center to respond to numerous calls related to Irma including countless downed trees.
A week before Irma made her way to Greene County, the County also undertook efforts before the storm to make sure it had topped off all Road Department vehicles and equipment, all public safety vehicles, and all the county's generators that serve critical facilities. The underground fuel storage tanks themselves were filled up before the storm as well to give the county plenty of reserve to maintain response and recovery operations.
The generators have done an outstanding job of making sure critical systems continued to run such as the County's 911 Center, Jail, and Public Works facility. Other generators, such as the one at the Health Department only provide enough power to keep critical medications cold, and the Administrative Building generator only provides enough power to support the County's computer systems and technology needs so that critical information is accessible and backed-up.
During the storm, the County and the Sheriff’s Office used their emergency alerting systems to make sure citizens were aware of the dangers posed by Irma. Even after Irma blew through, they still sent messages out to citizens and media urging everyone to stay off roads and give those working to restore power as much space as possible.
The Road Department employees, 911 Center employees, Sheriff's Office personnel, and other public safety responders did an exceptional job in performing their duties during and after the storm. The seamless teamwork demonstrated across the board was truly incredible to witness. Greene County should be proud of the work these individuals performed.