If relief’s needed, here’s how you’ll get it

Published 11:05 pm Monday, August 27, 2012

Before the heavy rain and winds from Isaac arrive today, local residents are urged to apply the 72-hour rule of hurricane preparedness.


County EMA director Susan Harris issued the advice Monday as Isaac approached the Gulf Coast. She said the heavy rains are to begin locally this afternoon or early evening. Harris said when the storm makes landfall, it is projected to make a turn to the north, putting Covington County in line for eastern bands of thunderstorms and winds.

According to the American Red Cross website, residents should have food and water for three days, flashlights, batteries, first aid kit, medications and a host of other items.

“Residents need to be prepared for 72 hours (without power),” Harris said. “We have PODs (points of distribution) set up in Andalusia, Opp and Florala if we have them where people can get supplies like ice, tarps and (Meals Ready to Eat) if they’re need. They’re on standby now.”

PODs are located at the Kiwanis Center in Andalusia, the Ace Building Material store in Opp and at the Florala Volunteer Fire Department. If activated, residents can get needed supplies without having to leave their vehicles.

And as of Monday, there was no need to open the county’s eight American Red Cross shelter, said Don Johnson, local chapter executive director.

“Area shelters have not been placed on alert to open, and we don’t expect to have to open a shelter,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the Red Cross will work in conjunction with EMA if the need arises to open a shelter, which are located at Opp Methodist Church, Bright Beginnings Preschool in Andalusia, New Hope Lutheran Church, Gantt Baptist Church, Florala’s old armory building, Horn Hill Community Center, Wing Volunteer Fire Department and the Red Level Community Center.

Residents should also fill up gas tanks in vehicles and for generators, while watching for downed trees and power lines as Isaac drops more rain on an already-saturated Covington County.

So far, the county has recorded nearly 8 inches in rainfall in August and another 5 inches in July.

Weather officials say forecasts show Isaac could drop between 8 to 15 inches of rainfall locally and bring winds in excess of 39 mph. The scenario has drawn comparisons to the record rainfall and winds of Hurricane Opal, which hit Covington County in 1995.

Derwood Cleland, owner of Cleland’s Tree Service, said like many residents he’s “been praying for the storm to go some place else or just dissipate.”

“When you’ve got the ground saturated like with Opal, and wet from torrential rains, it makes it so easy for trees to be blown over,” Cleland said. “Unfortunately, when the wind starts blowing and the storm happens, it’s too late to take down those problem trees.”

Cleland said as a tree professional, he urged residents to exercise caution when dealing with storm debris.

“It’s one thing to cut firewood,” he said,” but when you add the twists from hurricane winds and tornados, it’s dangerous. You have to be very careful when the storms come through. There’s a lot of danger involved in it, and it’s easy for people to get hurt.”

Cleland said he expects to be inundated with calls for tree service, but said he will wait until the storm is over before heading out.

“Trees and property can be replaced, but not a life,” he said.