Recovery efforts

Published 9:11 pm Saturday, September 6, 2008

By Staff
focus of officials
Clearing of roads,power restorationamong priorities
Staff Writer
Cleaning up after Tropical Storm Hanna could take days, according to area officials.
John Pack, Beaufort County’s emergency-management coordinator, expects downed power lines, damage caused by falling trees and flooding to be among the major problems in the wake of Hanna. The threat of tornadoes also looms, he said.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation will do all it can to keep roadways safe and clear of debris, said Robby Taylor, a DOT district maintenance engineer. DOT will have between 30 and 40 people, making up eight work crews, spread throughout Beaufort County, he said.
Taylor said all of the necessary cleanup equipment is at DOT’s maintenance yard in Washington, “fully gassed and ready on stand by.”
The road cleanup effort will start with the county’s “primary routes,” including U.S. Highway 264, U.S. Highway 17, N.C. Highway 33 and N.C. Highway 32, Taylor said. If need be, the crews will move to the county’s secondary routes.
As a precaution, DOT stationed a skeleton crew at the maintenance yard Friday night. The cleanup is expected to start this morning, with crews working until conditions get too dangerous.
DOT will do all it can to keep the roads clear for emergency vehicles during the storm, said Mike Nichols, another DOT spokesman.
If any downed power lines are on roads, DOT must wait for the responsible power provider to clear the lines.
Keith Hardt, electric director for the City of Washington, made assurances that his employees are properly trained for such circumstances.
The utility’s employees are ready to respond to power outages, Hardt said.
If an individual encounters a downed power line, he or she should notify emergency personnel, Hardt said.
When outages occur, the utility tries to get power restored to public buildings such as Beaufort County Hospital first, then work to restore power to residential customers. Those restoration efforts are based on the population density of neighborhoods, he said.
Hardt said the utility does so “to get the most number of customers in the shortest period of time.”
Beaufort County also is counting on help from the North Carolina Forest Service to help clear downed trees from roadways, according to Pack.
Storm surge in the county, expected to be as much as 5 feet in some areas, is more than first predicted, Pack said. However, he doesn’t expect a lot of road damage or flooding.
Hyde County anticipates a 2- to 4-foot storm surge on the mainland and Ocracoke, said Jane Hodges, deputy director of Hyde County Emergency Management.
There is no evacuation scheduled for the county, she said.
Hodges expects flooding around low-lying areas such as Engelhard, Scranton, Sladesville and the Ponzer community.
She said the cleanup effort in the county “just depends on what kind of damage” there is.
In regard to Beaufort County’s cleanup plan, Pack said, “I hope we are ready to address most people’s issues and fears.”
Taylor is trying to remain optimistic.
Allen Lewis, director of Washington’s Public Works Department, is more confident that Hanna’s effects will be minimal.