Despite property damage, no injuries reported from storm

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 17, 2004

It was a harrowing night with high winds, masses of rain spent under constant threat of tornadoes, but Selma survived.

Hurricane Ivan arrived early Thursday morning.

As it passed over Dallas County, the storm weakened to a Tropical Storm, then as it moved on to the northeast, Ivan became a Tropical Depression.

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Despite countless downed trees, limbs and power lines, the Dallas County Emergency Management Agency had no reports of fatalities or storm related injuries Thursday morning.

“That’s amazing. I think we’re very fortunate, not only with the injuries but with the amount of damage,” EMA Director Brett Howard said. “It looks bad but it could have been a lot worse and we were expecting a lot worse,”

Howard, whose agency plans for just these types of disaster years in advance, said things went about as well as possible.

“It’s bad, but we got lucky,” Howard said. “We got blessed on this one, the good Lord was lookingout for us on this one.”

Ivan, a Category 4 Hurricane when it connected with the Gulf Coast, was still a Category 1 Hurricane when it hit Selma.

Several people in Florida were killed as tornadoes spun off of the massive storm.

Several counties in Alabama saw tornadoes and tornado warnings, but Selma and

Dallas County never got past the tornado watch stage.

“We never had one in Dallas County, not one tornado,” Howard said.

Howard said Thursday morning that the result was the best case scenario Selma could have hoped for, aside from the storm missing Dallas County all together.

Howard, who was working with the sheriff’s department when Opal came through in 1995 said it was hard to compare the two storms.

“It’s hard for me to tell you that because I have not been out there and seen it,” Howard said. “I’ve heard reports of it, but I have not seen it. However, we’re better off because in Opal there were injuries and there were deaths, as a result of tornadoes.”

The work done by the EMA and other agencies like the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, the Fire Department, Sheriff’s Department and Police Department apparently paid off.

“I think everybody did a wonderful job,” Howard said. “Everybody came in here and hung in together and did a wonderful job.”

Mike Reynolds, who served as the EMA’s media liaison throughout the night, talked about how impressed he was by the effort. “I a whole different view of an emergency management operation today than I did yesterday,”

Reynolds, who owns radio stations WDXX and WHBB said. “I had no idea how

organized they were. I had no idea how advanced their technology was. Being able to stay on top of the storm, tell the folks where it was, what was happening, provide accurate predictions on the wind speed and potential damage was pretty amazing.”

The war room of the EMA, which is located under the court house annex building, is a high tech bunker from which Howard coordinates Dallas County’s reaction.

“All that just really intrigued me,” Reynolds said. “I can’t say enough about the coordination.

Every agency, the city and the county were involved. Every law enforcement agency, all the key city agencies, they were all involved in the planning and the briefings that took place prior to the activation of the center.”