Thursday, May 15, 2008
Stormy Saturday night
By SUE WATSON
Marshall County took a pretty good hit as Saturday evening thunderstorms and tornadic winds knocked down trees and power poles and hit the substation at Ashland.
Holly Springs Utility Department crews were still working to restore power to isolated outages over the county and two extra volunteer crews were not expected to get power restored to the Snow Lake Community until Tuesday or Wednesday, HSUD general manager John Collins said Monday.
Outages were widespread across the HSUD service area including Holly Springs, and rural communities starting at Red Banks and stretching to Mt. Pleasant, due to one heavy storm Saturday night. The loss of the power at the Ashland substation also affected Ashland and Snow Lake.
The entire community of Snow Lake was still waiting for power Monday as crews from Tippah County and Chickasaw Electric in Fayette County, Tenn., offered assistance, Collins said.
The majority of Ashland was back up to power Monday, he said.
Collins estimated 15 utility poles were down in the Snow Lake community and some were down in Holly Springs.
“Crews started coming in as the storm hit and we called all the available resources we could get,” Collins said.
Power crews worked from Saturday night through Sunday night and were back to work Monday. A contract tree trimmer was also asked to come clear trees so crews could get in at Snow Lake, he said.
“We will work extended hours until we get everyone back on,” he said.
Several customers called and asked for emergency generators for life support systems, he said. And Snow Lake is asking emergency management to set up generators on site so Snow Lake can get the water supply back on, he said.
Collins said he believes soil saturation and wind-weakened tree roots damaged by several dry summers also contributed to the heavy loss of trees.
Approximately 70 trees fell across and blocked county roads beginning Saturday evening and continued to topple even into Monday, according to Hugh Hollowell, emergency management coordinator for Marshall County.
“These were just the trees on public rights-of-way,” Hollowell said. “Soil saturation is part of it.
“Larry Hall and his crews worked all night Saturday and all day Sunday cutting trees left and right. About 30 trees were down Saturday night and the number was up to about 70 Sunday. Power lines were down everywhere.”
These estimates did not include trees down on state highways through the county.
“Wind, leaves on the trees, rain on the leaves and soil saturation all play together to cause trees to go down.”
Hollowell asked the board of supervisors Monday to declare a local emergency so the county could take emergency actions from now until the order is lifted.
Declaration of a local emergency gives jurisdictions the legal authority to get on private rights-of-way to take actions to establish and maintain the public safety.
Supervisors praised county foremen and crews, fire departments, the county road manager, and citizens for getting out to help clear roadways. Supervisors got a chance to use new chain saws recently purchased for such emergencies.
Trees began falling in the northwestern section of the county in District 3 and then continued toppling in District 2 as the storms crossed the county.
Seven or eight trees were down over Dogwood Road first, according to supervisor Keith Taylor. From there the storms spread, knocking down trees on Taska Road, to Highway 311 and to Scales Tower Road and Knotty Road. Several culverts washed out or nearly washed out.
Hall said crews are busy trying to get everything put back in place before storms predicted for mid-week cause repeated damage.
Dixon said the chain saw was the right size for the job. As a routine, Dixon begins riding the roads as soon as his constituents call in reports of roads blocked by trees.
He asked if the county could purchase lights good enough to spot power lines brought down or caught up in fallen trees.
Hall suggested it is safer to wait until the rain clears because lines are hard to see in the pouring rain.
Supervisor Willie Flemon also voiced concern that citizens who assist in clearing the roads could get hurt by power lines.
Taylor added that some citizens do not know that county crews clear roads with only one way out before clearing roads with two ways out.
Dixon felt it important to have crews out on the roads as soon as possible to warn drivers who sometimes run into fallen trees in the road before they see them.
Hall applauded good organization and management within the agencies in the county - county road crews and foremen, fire department crews, and local government employees.
In other business, the board of supervisors, Monday:
Attorney Kent Smith advised there could be several issues, including how the county gets money to repay the low-interest community block grant loan portion of the project.
Hall suggested there are several ways to deal with the economic impact on low-income customers.
Taylor suggested the county Industrial Development Authority be asked to assist in paying back the loan if necessary.
“I would like to know if there are other areas like this in the county that were built in a flood zone and should not have been,” Taylor said.
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