Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 9, 2005

Damage from Dennis limited within Butler County

By Kevin Taylor

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley said late Sunday afternoon that he didn't want to say that this state "dodged a bullet," but he said that analogy fits perfectly in this instance.

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The same can be said for Greenville and most of Butler County.

Power along Commerce Street was out through most of the morning, but damage to homes seemed limited after Hurricane Dennis sprinted through the southwestern part of the state.

Alabama Power customers north of Greenville seem to be sitting in the dark than fellow customers to the south, according to numbers released at 9 a.m. Monday.

So far there are 110,138 Alabama Power customers without power throughout the state as of 1:30 p.m. Monday. Almost half of those are north of Greenville.

The Birmingham area has 32,617 residents without power, which is the largest outage within the system. Montgomery has 32,488 residents without power, while Mobile just over 21,000 customers in the dark.

Almost 3,000 Alabama Power customers could be without power as late as Tuesday afternoon, according to Alabama Power spokeswoman Jan Ellis.

"There are 21 cases of lines on the ground in the Fort Deposit area and 15 cases within Greenville," Ellis said.

As of 3 p.m. Monday there are almost 1,900 homes with without power in the Fort Deposit area and 2,000 in Greenville, Ellis said. At the height of the storm there were 8,000 customers in the Greenville-Fort Deposit area without power.

Pioneer Electric, which services most of Butler County, has about 30 percent of its 14,400 customers without power, said Pioneer spokesman Terry Wilhite.

"The outages are scattered throughout the system, but the more significant damage is in Dallas and Wilcox County because that was where the storm tracked," he said.

Wilhite expects that 100 percent of Pioneer's customers will regain power by the end of the week.

"It took us seven days to restore power after Hurricane Ivan, so we're hoping to beat that mark," he said.

Crews from Edgecombe-Martin of Raleigh and Wake EMC from Winston-Salem, N.C., as well as other outside contractors are assisting Pioneer Electric this week.

Pioneer also services the Butler County Water Authority, which reaches 4,500 customers. Wilhite said that while the power to the pumps are out, customers did not lose water and the quality of the water is safe to use.

The Butler County School System will again be operational beginning at 8 a.m. Tuesday , according to Butler County Schools spokesman Wayne Boswell.

All summer school classes and summer camp activities will continue as scheduled.

The high school graduation exam will also be administered as planned.

However, all McKenzie School test applicants should report to Georgiana High School at 8 a.m. Tuesday because of loss of power.

Hurricane Dennis made landfall around 2:25 p.m. Sunday in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., as a Category 3 hurricane packing 120 mph winds. Once Dennis made landfall, it quickly moved northwest through Alabama leaving more notable damage in Atmore and Flomaton.

Dennis was the same category storm as Hurricane Ivan last September, but the damage from Dennis was not even close to that left behind by Ivan.

Cellular service was another concern when Hurricane Ivan ripped through the state, but it seems that cell service did not take as hard of a hit.

As of 8 a.m. Monday, less than 1,000 CenturyTel customers in the state did not have service. And most of those affected were on Dauphin Island, where technicians powered down and removed two switches in anticipation of the storm.

Crews were re-installing the switches early Monday morning.

In Georgiana, half of the town is without power Monday morning after Hurricane Dennis blew through Sunday evening.

&uot;About 7:30 Sunday evening, a tree fell on a main power line, causing the power outage," said Georgiana Mayor Barbara Clem. "Even though there are reports of some trees down, there seems to be no major damage to the town."

Clem said that the town's water system is "fine," and that some stores re-opened on Monday.

"City Hall is operating on a generator, and I do know that Whitney Bank has electricity, and it is open," Clem said.

"The People’s Bank on Highway 106 announced this past Friday that it would not be open today. We’re just very thankful that things turned out as well as they did."

After bracing for Hurricane Dennis, the town of McKenzie considers itself very fortunate.

&uot;The power is out in some parts of town, but, overall, there is not a whole lot of damage,&uot; McKenzie Town Clerk Tina Brooks said.

&uot;There are a few trees down, but it’s not the kind of major damage that we saw with Ivan.&uot;

Some businesses within town were open on Monday.

Brooks said that McKenzie Hardware is open as well as McKenzie Mall Service Station, however, People's Bank did not open.

McKenzie Mayor Betty Stinson said that her town fared well overall.

&uot;Even though not everyone has power, the fact that we do have water is a big plus," she said. "After Hurricane Opal, a generator was purchased just for the water system. That was one of the best investments we could have made for the city.

Also, people need to know that the garbage trucks will be running Tuesday instead of today."

— Staff reporter Regina Grayson contributed to this report.