Katrina clobbers coastal areas

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 31, 2005

High winds and driving rain from the far right edge of hurricane Katrina left more than 200,000 residents in Shelby and Jefferson counties without electricity Tuesday; but local officials say the outages and damage could have been a lot worse.

As of Tuesday morning, Alabama Power officials reported that a total of 223,996 residents in the Birmingham metro area were without power.

Shelby County Emergency Management Agency director Don Greene said despite the power outages and tree damage, he thought Shelby County fared the storm well.

&uot;The storm certainly didn’t meet our expectations as far as its impact on the county,&uot; Greene said. &uot;We’re very grateful for that.&uot;

Officials from across Shelby County met Monday morning to discuss emergency provisions and plans for reporting weather damage.

Local police and fire chiefs from a number of county municipalities joined representatives from the sheriff’s office, highway department, Shelby County schools, public works, the humane society and the Red Cross to plan for the onslaught of hurricane Katrina’s outer bands.

&uot;I hope this is wasted trip for all of you,&uot; Greene told county officials at the meeting. &uot;I know we’d all like to see this pass with as little damage as possible.&uot;

Greene said highway department employees were up most of the night working to clear roadways and driveways of debris, and Shelby County schools closed early Monday and Tuesday as clean-up continued.

High wind advisories, tornado and flash flood watches were issued for most of Alabama Monday, with the wind advisory stopping at noon on Tuesday.

The Alabama Red Cross opened a shelter at the Pelham Civic Complex Monday afternoon for residents worried about riding out the storm in their homes, but Greene said that as of Monday evening the shelter for the most part remained empty.

Initial reports from Louisiana, Mississippi and southern Alabama, however, left Shelby County residents feeling grateful for the little damage the area saw.

As of Tuesday morning, hurricane Katrina had reportedly killed a number of people, including two in Alabama, and caused billions of dollars in damage.

Officials were estimating that the price tag on Katrina’s destruction could surpass to $16 billion.

Gas prices also saw the brunt of Katrina, which shut down oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico that provide for almost 40 percent of the U.S.’s oil supply.

AAA of Alabama officials estimated that gas prices could rise as much as 15 cents a gallon in the coming days.