Utilities watching tropical storms

Published 9:21 pm Wednesday, August 11, 2004

By By Anna M. Lee
Tropical Storm Bonnie looks to be the first storm of the 2004 Hurrican season to truly threaten the Gulf Coast.
While the storm's winds had died downto 45 miles per hour by 4 p.m. Tuesday, the National Weather Service predicted the storm could strengthen again by Wednesday night, possibly to hurricane strength.
The storm's track should have it making landfall somewhere in the Florida panhandle by Thursday, according to predictions.
When hurricanes and tropical storms threaten the Gulf Coast, local agencies and power providers already have plans in place for dealing with them.
"Leigh Shaughnessy, assistant administrator, and I are on call 24 hours a day to respond to any equipment related problems that might occur," said Escambia County 911 Administrator, Janie Hamric. "Each public safety agency, or answering point, is equipped with a battery back-up and generated power.
In the event that an agency cannot answer calls, the 911 call is automatically routed to another of the five answering points in the county.
"The equipment is designed with great care to operate under extreme circumstances. During the next few days we will be watching the weather with concern as everyone is, and we will respond accordingly."
At press time, weather services reported that Bonnie would hit land late Wednesday or early Thursday near Panama City, Fla. In that case, the Brewton area would only be affected by rains associated with the storm – not the severe weather.
David Jennings with the Escambia County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) says that Tropical Storm Charley might be a greater concern to this area as it approaches landfall Sunday afternoon. Jennings and the EMA are in constant contact with the Mobile Weather Service, to keep the public updated on developments related to Bonnie, Charley or any other tropical disturbances.
According to Danny D'Andrea with Alabama Power, if weather reports indicated that Bonnie or Charley were going to be a direct threat to the Brewton area, Alabama Power would begin assembling crews to handle problems.
"We'll be prepared before it hits," D'Andrea said.
At Southern Pine Electrical Cooperative, a disaster plan is in place at all times, and everyone knows what will need to be done and when to do it, in the event of a severre storm. "Right now we're just sitting on that and waiting to see what happens," said Southern Pine's Melanie Harrison.

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