City, utility provider prepared for any storm

Published 2:00 am Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Even though Isaac didn’t deliver the punch first expected, city utility and other power officials were ready — and remain on alert.

Ray Madden, supervisor for the Brewton utilities department, said crews have been making sure things are ready in the event of large amounts of rain.

“We’re as ready as we can be in this kind of situation,” Madden said. “Our crews have been out to make sure that all of the drains are clear and ready to handle the rains as they come down.”

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Just weeks ago, the Brewton area experienced flash-flooding when an afternoon thunderstorm dropped an estimated six inches of rain in just under an hour. The city recovered from the incident quickly, Madden said.

“We recovered from that little flooding experience pretty quickly considering how much rain fell in such a short time,” Madden said. “We now what our system can handle and we’re ready to handle it again. We have checked to make sure that our pumps are working to take care of the drainage. All of the generators used for the pumping have been checked and we are ready for whatever comes in this storm or after.”

On the electrical end of the spectrum, workers at Southern Pine Electric Cooperative continue to be on alert and are ready to tackle any needs for their own customers — or for customers across the country.

Melanie Harrison, communications specialist at Southern Pine, said crews are always ready for any electrical emergency but are in a higher state of alert in response to Isaac.

“We are prepared and ready to move if needed,” Harrison said. “We have an emergency operation team and a plan in place before hurricane season even begins. We have table-top exercises at the beginning of the season to make sure everyone on the team knows what their responsibilities are in the event of an emergency.”

Harrison said when the call comes in about electrical problems caused by the storm; crews will be ready to react.

“We will keep our crews right here at home until after the storm is passed and we are able to determine our damage,” Harrison said. “If we have minimal damage, or no damage at all, we will then be working with the Alabama Rural Electric Association who helps to coordinate assistance to cooperatives across the state and across the nation. We are ready to go to other areas if our help is needed.”

In the wake of previous storms — including Hurricane Ivan — crews from across the country have come to the aid of the members/customers of Southern Pine Electric Cooperative’s service area.

“Our state is coordinated through AREA in Montgomery,” Harrison said. “They get in touch with cooperatives across the country to determine who may need assistance. This is a nationwide cooperative system. After the last big storm, we brought in contractors initially but other cooperative workers joined us as soon as they could. We had teams from cooperatives in Tennessee, North Carolina, Indiana and Mississippi here helping out. That’s the great thing about a cooperative network — we truly are a national coop system.”

Harrison said crews are on standby if a request comes in for assistance from any other cooperatives in the country.

“We are ready to send crews if needed to anywhere we are needed,” Harrison said. “That’s true for this storm or for any other time when cooperatives need our assistance. We have crews lined up and ready to on a moments notice. Our crew will stay where they are needed as long as they are needed.”

Harrison said as in any situation, crews will stay put until the danger of any storm has passed.

“We will make sure our people are safe and keep them in until the storm is over to protect their safety,” Harrison said. “We probably won’t know the full effects of the storm or any damages we may have until late Wednesday or Thursday. But, we are ready to do what it takes to make sure power is restored as quickly as possible.”