County ducks Dennis

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 14, 2005

Dennis had more bark than bite. At least that's what city and county officials are saying after Hurricane Dennis weakened considerably before making landfall near Navarre Beach, Fla., Sunday afternoon and trekking west of Butler County.

With memories of Hurricane Ivan fresh on people's minds, what damage Dennis caused in the county was being called "minimal."

"We're very fortunate. The damage, I consider, is very light," said county engineer Dennis McCall. "We had scattered trees down and some damage to roads, but we've had no road closures so far."

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McCall said the hardest hit area was in the Garland community in the western part of the county, which he estimates received six inches of rainfall during the storm.

Damage estimates for the county so far put the total at $250,000, a far cry from Ivan's estimated $2.5 million, but Butler County Emergency Management Director Bob Luman said officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency would be in the county over the next few days inspecting damage.

President Bush included Butler County in a disaster declaration Sunday, making the county eligible for repayment for certain costs, but it's not yet known if FEMA will allow individuals to be reimbursed for storm damage related to Hurricane Dennis.

In Greenville, which had more than 1,000 trees downed during Ivan, very little damage was reported from the storm.

"Compared to Ivan, which was a 10, this was a one or a two," said Mayor Dexter McLendon, saying this time the city was better prepared for the threat. "Overall we were better organized, and the Red Cross did a good job getting our shelters up and running."

Butler County E-911 coordinator Janice Stamps said her agency fielded some 500 calls for help during the height of the storm, but overall, she said the county got off easy, even though the storm moved faster than anticipated.

"It went a whole lot better than we expected," said a tired Stamps, who along with four other workers spent Sunday night at the E-911 center. "There were a lot of people caught out in the storm because it came in earlier than was expected. Most of the calls came in from those on the Interstate, but we had no injuries, which is a good thing."

Stamps said one of the biggest problems was people calling Sunday evening wanting to know where they could buy gas. A mandatory business shutdown Sunday afternoon idled gas stations in the area.

"I can't tell you how many people were caught out on the Interstate who didn't have gas," Stamps said. "Luckily Jordan's Hilltop opened (Sunday) night after the storm so we sent a lot of people there for gas."

Greenville Fire Chief Mike Phillips, who coordinated preparations for Dennis, said the city was as prepared for the worst, but luckily came out with the best.

"We were just very fortunate this time" he said. "The damage in the city is very minimal. We have a few trees down, but not many and most of the power has been restored in the city. We weren't caught totally off guard like we were (with Ivan) and we learned some things this time that we'll do better next time."

In Georgiana, half of the town was without power Monday morning but by Tuesday power had been fully restored.

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

After Ivan, the town had major problems with its water system, but Clem said that the town’s water system is &uot;fine,&uot; and things are getting back to normal as some stores re-opened Monday.

Further south, the town of McKenzie considers itself very fortunate.

"Overall, there is not a whole lot of damage," McKenzie Town Clerk Tina Brooks said.

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

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

"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."