Storm spares county – Local residents face power outages, debris

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Hurricane Ivan blew through Shelby County last Thursday, dropping up to eight inches of rain in some neighborhoods and rattling windows with 60 mph wind gusts.

No serious injuries or deaths were reported in the county from the hurricane, and streets were mostly cleared of debris by Friday afternoon.

According to the National Weather Service office in Calera, more than eight inches of rain fell in the Greystone area. Countywide averages were between five and seven inches of rain.

Wind gusts in the county reached between 55 and 60 mph.

What began on Alabama’s Gulf Coast as a dangerous Category Four hurricane entered Shelby County early Thursday morning as Tropical Storm Ivan.

By Thursday afternoon, the worst was over. Powerful wind gusts and thick sheets of rain faded into a clear and breezy Thursday night.

By Friday, the sun cleared cloud remnants from the skies as a cold front moved into the state.

In the storm’s wake, county emergency officials are meeting with individual municipalities to review disaster procedures.

Don Greene, director of the Shelby County Emergency Management Agency, said Monday the main problem was sheltering people from the storm.

&uot;What we would like to get is some representatives from each municipality together and talk about what went bad and what went good,&uot; Greene said.

In addition to several Red Cross shelters that opened in the county, individual communities opened various shelters, Greene said. The Pelham Civic Complex hosted just more than 400 people at one time during the worst of the wind and rain.

First Baptist Church of Columbiana housed more than 100 people at one point.

The Red Cross also opened shelters at the Shelby County Instructional Services Center and Thompson Intermediate School in Alabaster, and officials opened a shelter at the University of Montevallo, hosting only three evacuees.

Although Greene said there was not a big demand for shelter in the county, power outtages and a lack of food caused problems at some shelters.

At one point during the storm, evacuees were shifted from the shelter at First Baptist Church of Columbiana to Shelby County High School, and Greene said the move caused additional problems because there was no power at the high school. There was power at the church. He said structural concerns led to the location change.

Eventually, due to the lack of food and power, evacuees were moved once more from Shelby County High School to Columbiana United Methodist Church.

Once the storm passed, shelters remained open since most businesses were closed. Food and power were still unavailable to many in the shelters, Greene said.

&uot;On Thursday, most retail businesses were closed and you couldn’t get food. You can’t start sending people back out into the elements,&uot; he said.

Road and utility crews didn’t wait long before hitting the streets on Thursday afternoon.

Hurricane Ivan had barely rumbled off into the distance, travelling north, when trucks moved out to undo what the once-powerful Category Four hurricane had done.

Between 40 and 50 county employees worked at any given time beginning Thursday afternoon, Greene said.

Only trees and debris obstructed by downed power lines were not cleaned up by Friday afternoon, Greene said.

And by Monday, there were no closed roads in the county.

This week, Greene gathered cost estimates to send to state and national offices. Shelby County was one of 20 counties statewide that qualified for assistance from the federal government. Shelby County residents did not qualify for individual assistance to compensate for property damage, however. Twelve counties, mostly in the southwestern area of the state, did qualify for federal and individual assistance.

Greene encouraged residents to call the Federal Emergency Management Agency at 800-621-3362 to report property damage.

He said the storm could have been much worse.

&uot;Overall, we’re fortunate our expectations were not met on the severity. Most people expected the worst, and fortunately (in Shelby County) that did not happen,&uot; Greene said