Gov. Riley visits Escambia County
Published 12:03 pm Tuesday, July 19, 2005
By By Adam Prestridge
Gov. Bob Riley dropped by Atmore City Hall Wednesday to address city and county officials while taking a tour of damaged areas throughout Escambia County.
Although the storm has been likened to a thump of sorts compared to Hurricane Ivan, Riley expressed his feeling differently.
"As we just rode around and did a windshield tour a while ago, to be honest with you, it seemed like you had as much or more limbs down, trees down and roofs off than you did with Ivan," Riley said. "The mayor said it was about 30 percent of that."
Riley made it a point during the meeting to commend the city and county officials for their roles before and after Hurricane Dennis.
"I want to compliment all the people with the county and each one of the cities," Riley said. "You had a great plan in place, you really did. It makes it a lot easier for us to find out exactly what you need and try to get it to you just as soon as we can. It's never easy. I wish we had a way that we could make it fool proof, but we can't. You had a great plan and you worked the plan and as long as you do that you're going to be able to recover as quickly as possible. I'm delighted to see the response and the coordination that we had in this county."
Escambia County Emergency Management Agency director David Jennings was on hand to give Gov. Riley and the rest on hand an update of the county's recovery efforts.
"The majority of the damage probably occurred in Flomaton heading west as the eye kind of tracked through Escambia County," Jennings said. "The east end of the county was spared this time. That's where we've been focusing our efforts. The response at the state level has been tremendous."
Escambia County Sheriff Grover Smith agreed.
"Governor I just want to thank you for sending 32 State Troopers to Escambia County prior to the storm making landfall," Smith said. "There are at least a half a million people that live across the Florida line that were evacuating through Escambia County, Alabama. We're the only county in the state that has to contend with that population. Without state assistance we can't get it done. They do come by and fill up at gas stations, shop at our groceries stores and eat at our fast food restaurants, we expect that, but what we can't do is put officers standing out there for 12 to 14 hours directing traffic and still provide service to our citizens of this county. The state stepping up to the plate made a tremendous difference."
At one point following the storm, 77 Alabama State Troopers were assisting in Escambia County as well as 400 Alabama National Guardsmen.
Jennings was also complimentary of the efforts by the residents throughout the county.
"I can't say enough about the cities and the local citizens," Jennings said. "By Friday we saw gasoline stations out of gas, so a thanks goes out to the locals for preparing themselves. The city officials both here in Atmore and throughout the county and the County Commission, everybody is taking a lot more serious. It was a lot tighter effort this time and it was a lot more coordinated. We're getting there as far as preparedness in Escambia County."
Atmore Mayor Howard Shell also expressed how pleased he was with the county's preparedness.
"I agree with our EMA Director David Jennings and the Sheriff that we were a lot more prepared for it this time than we were for Ivan," Shell said. "We learned a lot of lessons from Ivan on things that we need to do. I can't say enough about the cooperation that we've got, not only out of the Governor's Office, but also with Cong. Jo Bonner and our Sen. Jeff Sessions. They've all been up here touring and have made themselves available for any needs we've got throughout the county."
The best news during the meeting was that no lives were lost as a result of the storm.
"The most important thing is during the actual storm we had no reported injuries from the storm, which is always a blessing," Jennings said. "We had an unfortunate situation yesterday (Tuesday) as far as trying to get the power up. Our hearts definitely go out to the family of the utility worker that lost his life yesterday."
As for the next time a hurricane threatens the state, Riley said there's not much more city, county and state officials can do to better the circumstances.
"What else can we do," Riley said. "I think we're doing all we can. There's no way that you can ever get to the point where there's not some inconvenience, but I think they have limited it as much here as they possibly could."