City, County prepare for worst

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 9, 2005

City and county officials are continuing to prepare for Hurricane Dennis, which is expected to make landfall in Alabama Sunday afternoon, and are working with state officials in an effort to make sure aid comes quickly to the county, which is still feeling the affects of Hurricane Ivan.

Gov. Bob Riley formally declared a state of emergency Friday, which he said allows all state agencies to begin implementing necessary plans, including evacuating people from the Gulf Coast.

"We have all the assets in place today, but we're going to need the cooperation of all the people in the southern part of the state," Riley said during a noon press conference.

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Riley also said there is a plan to turn Interstate 65 into northbound traffic only, but did not say during the press conference when that would be implemented. Locally, officials said they expected the governor to implement that plan early this morning.

Greenville's Fire Chief, Mike Phillips, is coordinating the city's efforts and he said the city is about as prepared as it can get.

"We've been working pretty hard to make sure we're taking care of the city's responsibility of having work crews available to get out after the storm passes," he said. "

We'll probably have 100-plus employees out working around the clock to try to take care of things."

Phillips said the city crew's rallying point will be the Senior Center on Cedar Street, which will be used to dispatch crews to remove debris and handle other resident's needs.

Greenville Public Works Director Milton Luckie said his entire staff is on call and that the majority of his crew will spend Sunday night in the Public Works building.

"As soon as it's safe to get out our main concern will be getting the major arteries cleared such as the ones leading to the hospital," Luckie said. "After those are cleared we'll be clearing roads in residential areas."

County Commission Chairman Jesse McWilliams said the county has positioned road clearing equipment in "strategic locations throughout the county" and that they're coordinating response efforts with various agencies. He also said county road crews will be out working as soon as it's safe to do so, with the emphasis on clearing roads for emergency vehicles only.

"After all roads have at least a clear path to travel, we'll then begin clearing roadways for regular traffic," he said. "If you have an emergency and need to get a road cleared, please contact the road department at 382-3232. If nobody answers, please call 382-9911 and they will relay the information to us."

State EMA spokesperson Scott Adcock said his agency will be working closely with Bob Luman, Butler County's EMA director.

"We're opening up lines of communication to make sure we have a coordinated response to whatever potential impact we might face," Adcock said. "We've got state EMA coordinators that will be going to local EMA's to make sure they're side-by-side so we'll be able to expedite resources."