Much like one year ago when Hurricane Hermine made a visit to the Thomasville area, all eyes are once again monitoring an approaching tropical storm. This year, monster storm Hurricane Irma is churning and strengthening out in the warm Atlantic waters and, while her eventual track is still unknown, the City of Thomasville is actively monitoring the situation and preparing for adverse weather conditions.
“In advance of the activation of Thomas County’s emergency operations center, City staff is meeting to review our storm recovery plans,” said Steve Sykes, City Manager/Utilities Superintendent. “While Irma’s track is still very much up in the air, we are taking the time now to make sure our City crews are ready to respond to any adverse weather conditions we may have for our area .“
“Public Works, Fire Rescue, Police, Utility Operations – each department is monitoring the weather situation carefully and preparing equipment, vehicles and personnel according to established response plans,” said Sheryl Sealy, Director of Marketing. “We are addressing many areas in advance of the storm so that we can be prepared.”
Some of the preparations City of Thomasville staff is addressing include:
-Coordinating with Thomas County EMA and GEMA in regards to storm information;
-Discussing mutual aid agreements with other utility providers for electric restoration efforts;
-Clearing out trouble spots in the collection system to ensure the system runs effectively with the anticipated higher water flow;
-Ensuring adequate personnel are on standby, and additional personnel are assigned to key city facilities—such as the Wastewater Treatment Plant, Fire Rescue, Electric Operations, Public Works, etc.—to respond quickly to storm damage;
-Cleaning out catch basins, road culverts, and storm pipes of leaves, debris and anything that could clog inlets or culverts to ensure water flows properly throughout the city stormwater system;
-Inspecting erosion control measures, open excavations and material storage at City construction sites and asking private contractors to do the same;
-Ensuring all necessary small equipment—chainsaws, weed eaters, etc.—generators and vehicles are inspected and fueled and that an adequate fuel supply is on hand;
-Verifying inventory of materials and supplies needed for restoration efforts;
-Fully charging all handheld radios, cell phones, and other electronic devices and ensuring all internal and external communications protocols are in place.
At the very least, rain is expected in our forecast from Irma. With this in mind, Thomasville residents can assist with storm preparations by making sure that they do not have debris blocking any stormwater drainage areas on their private property. Additionally, residents may also assist by reporting any areas that need to be cleared by work crews.
“We’ve had a great deal of rain this summer already, and Public Works crews have been actively working to make sure stormwater is draining properly in all areas of our city,” said Sealy. “Should anyone notice an area that needs to be addressed now, it can be reported by calling Public Works at 227-7025. The time to make sure these areas are clear is now, prior to there being a significant rain event in our area.”
Severe weather, particularly those of a tropical nature, can also impact utility operations, including electrical service. In the event of an outage, electric crews will work to bring customers back online as quickly as possible. Utility customers should have preparations in place prior to any approaching storm to sustain a loss of power. “Customers should make sure that they have adequate food, water, batteries, medications and fuel for vehicles.”
“It’s also important that utility customers understand how to report an outage,” said Sealy. “The best way to report a loss of electric service is by calling 227-5499 and not through social media. If we are experiencing wide-spread outages, the call may be answered by the auto attendant. For easier reporting, it is a good idea to make sure your telephone number – both cell and home – are on your account.” This can be verified by calling 227-7001 prior to the storm.
Additionally, the City of Thomasville has invested in an outage management system that assists with monitoring and identifying outages in the electric system. “The benefit of this system is that a customer’s telephone number is recognized when calling into our system to report an outage when the telephone number is associated with a utility account,” said Sealy.
Customers are urged to use caution when encountering downed lines and wires. “Never assume downed wires are inactive; always treat them as if they are energized and use caution.”
Electric customers should also be aware that electric service cannot be restored until any damage is repaired to connections that run from the residence to the utility pole. “If the line is down between your home and the utility pole, it will need to be repaired by an appropriately licensed contractor before we can reconnect the service.”
Whether or not Irma makes a visit to the Thomasville area, citizens can begin storm preparations as follows:
-Assess your property and be sure yard furniture, trash bins, yard toys and equipment are secured or put away.
-Avoid performing any large pruning of shrubs and trees unless immediate disposal of waste material is possible.
-Be sure there is no other debris on your property that can float or be blown away, as these things can block the storm drains and prevent the flow of water through our community.
-Obtain a working NOAA Weather Radio.
-Monitor weather situations and be alert to changing conditions.
Citizens should also keep the following city department numbers handy:
-Outage Hotline – 229-227-5499
-Public Works & Other City Services – 229-227-7001
-After Hours – 229-227-5499
The City of Thomasville will monitor Irma’s track and post updates as appropriate to Facebook. Updates will also be posted on Thomasville.org. Citizens should continue to monitor the latest forecast and local emergency management information through the following websites:
-National Hurricane Center, www.nhc.noaa.gov
-National Weather Service Tallahassee, http://www.srh.noaa.gov/tlh