Area braces for Ivan hit

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Dallas County’s Emergency Management Agency Director Brett Howard says it’s time for area residents to get ready for Hurricane Ivan.

Though the latest projections show the storm going east of Selma, they also predict sustained winds of 60 MPH with gusts up to hurricane forces.

Howard adds depending on the size and speed of the storm; Selma could see 5-10 inches of rainfall as well.

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“Right now I would say, yeah stock up on water, make sure you have a generator and do not put the generator in your home should the power go out,” Howard said referring 12 people in Florida that died from carbon monoxide poisoning from bringing the generator inside. “Make sure you’ve got gas in your car, batteries, flashlight and a weather radio, just your general severe weather package.”

The storm, which is currently a Category 5, is in the Gulf of Mexico and heading straight for the Alabama coast.

“Right now, they’re predicting the hurricane to hit between Pensacola and Mobile, that can very a little bit,” Howard said. “What they’re looking at for Dallas County is sometime between 2 a.m. Thursday morning to 10 a.m. Thursday morning.”

Selmians have already begun to prepare.

The hotels in town are quickly filling up while the stores have seen runs on things like water, batteries and other storm essentials.

Both Alabama Power and Pioneer Electric have begun preparations as well.

“Right now, our storm center in Birmingham is open and we’re monitoring closely,” Alabama Power Public Relations representative said.

“All of our employees have been put on level of high alert. We’re preparing for the worst. We haven’t seen a hurricane of this magnitude hit our systems in I don’t know how long.

We’re asking our customers to be prepared and patient.”

Pioneer Electric spokeman Terry Wilhite said also urged customers to be prepared and patient.

“Pioneer Electric Cooperative’s storm response center will be up and running until every member has electricity. If we are hit head on, as we were with Opal, expect, at some point, to be without electricity. Thousands of people usually call to report power outages at one time,” Wilhite said. “With technology today, Pioneer Electric is actually able to monitor major outages as they occur, so we will probably know about an outage before somebody reaches for the phone. If we could keep the phone lines free for extreme urgent calls, I’m sure those callers would be grateful. Of course, all calls are welcomed. Patience is certainly appreciated too.”

Storms the size of Ivan can cause several problems, even for communities as far inland as Selma.

“We’re looking at power outages, of course there’s always a good possibility of isolated tornadoes from this, trees down, local flooding,” Howard said. “Since we haven’t had a whole lot of rain lately, the river can hold a lot of rain.

If we get 10 inches, we’re probably going to have a good bit of flooding. That type of flooding will occur later.”

“Expect a twisted mess. It will be common to see snapped poles, powerlines across roadways and perhaps lines draped across vehicles and structures,” Wilhite said. “In addition to Pioneer’s forces, out-of-state electric cooperative crews will be arriving Wednesday morning. They will be here when the storm strikes. They will not have to drive hours from out-of-state after the storm strikes, which greatly help to reduce Pioneer Electric’s outage time.

Ellis said Alabama Power has also contacted out-of-state agencies to be prepared for help.

Howard said Selma’s emergency agencies are preparing as well.

“Police departments, fire departments, ambulance services and all the first responders have been briefed and are going to staff accordingly,” Howard said. “The mayor and city council have been briefed, the county commission will be briefed shortly.

I’ve contacted all the city schools, county schools and private schools and advised them.”

Still, as much planning has already been put into preparing, Ivan could still change direction.

“This can all change tonight,” Howard said. “If it does show a more westerly track, it’s going to be worse on us.

That puts us on the east side of the hurricane and that’s not good.

A more easterly track is better for us. I would start preparing now.”

Maybe Wilhite summed it up best.

“We’re hoping for the best and preparing for the worst, and that’s what we remind our members to do,” he said. “Praying is known to work too.”