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Fast-moving hurricane deals direct blow, causing damage comparable to Katrina in parts of county
From Staff Reports
Clean-up and damage assessment efforts are continuing as Greene County recovers from a direct hit from Hurricane Zeta late last week.
County crews and emergency response teams were still clearing roads and assessing damage across the county on Tuesday after the powerful storm tore through the area overnight last Wednesday, toppling trees onto homes and power lines and leaving a path of destruction not seen in the area since Hurricane Katrina.
Damage across the county is widespread, but some areas, such as the southeastern part of the county and the Town of Leakesville were particularly hard-hit.
“In the southeastern part of the county we saw damage comparable to, if not worse, than Katrina,” Greene County Emergency Management Director Trent Robertson said Tuesday morning. “For the county as a whole, Katrina was worse, but for areas in the southeastern quadrant of the county this appears to be as bad, if not worse, than Katrina.”
Dozens of homes throughout the county sustained heavy damage from winds and fallen trees, and power was out in most parts of the county well into the weekend with many still without electrical service on Tuesday.
According to Robertson, assessment teams had documented 168 homes impacted in the county from the storm. Of that number, 31 homes received major damage due to Zeta, while 116 more suffered minor damage. Seven residences are considered to be completely destroyed.
A spokesperson for Singing River Electric, which serves 7,821 customers in Greene County, said shortly before 3 p.m. Tuesday that 2,000 meters remained without power in the county, but that crews were working as rapidly as possible. The spokesperson said the number of customers throughout the entire
SRE service area without power stood at 8,862 as of Tuesday afternoon.
She added that 300 additional line workers had been brought in to assist SRE crews and that numerous other contractors were also working with the power association to replace the over 400 power poles throughout the service area that were destroyed by the storm and perform other services needed to restore power.
Mississippi Power Company, which serves all three county municipalities, said late Monday that 99 percent of customers who could accept power at their meters had been restored.
“The power crews have been amazing,” Robertson added. “They have been working nearly around the clock and my hat is off to those guys because they are working through some tough situations to get power restored to everyone as quickly as possible.”
The center of Zeta moved through the heart of Perry County on a northeasterly track putting Greene County on the most destructive side of the storm. The storm moved quickly at nearly a 25 mph pace. Robertson said the county was hit by 90-95 mph winds at the peak of the storm.
A Category 2 hurricane when it hit the southeastern Louisiana coast Wednesday, Zeta was still a tropical storm Thursday morning with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph as it approached North Carolina on its way back out over water in the Atlantic.
Zeta was the 27th named storm of a historically busy Atlantic hurricane season — with almost a month left to go. It set a new record as the 11th named storm to make landfall in the continental U.S. in a single season, well beyond the nine storms that hit in 1916. This extraordinarily busy season has focused attention on climate change, which scientists say is causing wetter, stronger and more destructive storms.
On Tuesday, Oct. 27 Zeta raked across Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula before regaining strength over the Gulf of Mexico along a path slightly to the east of those of Hurricanes Laura and Delta from earlier this year.
From Staff Reports
Six deaths have been blamed on the storm as it moved across the southeastern states. A New Orleans man was electrocuted by a downed live wire and four people died in Alabama and Georgia when trees fell on homes. In Biloxi, a man drowned when he was trapped in rising seawater.
In Greene County, however, EMA Director Trent Robertson said he was aware of just a single injury report locally and that was in the storm’s immediate aftermath as clean-up efforts began. Fortunately, while there were many close calls, no injuries were reported in the county during the storm itself.
“I am extremely surprised we did not have any injuries during the storm,” Robertson said, noting the number of homes with severe damage. “I have heard multiple stories of really close calls from people who had just stepped out of their kitchen or a bedroom prior to a tree falling into their home and obliterating the room they had been just a matter of seconds earlier.”
“It really makes you think about the important things in life when you go through a situation like that. We were very blessed.”
Robertson said while there were no injuries during the storm county residents are not out of the woods yet in that regard. He said the cleanup period is historically the most dangerous time for residents who try to work too quickly or tackle jobs they are not prepared for.
“I urge residents to use extreme caution when they are doing clean-up in their yards or elsewhere,” Robertson said. “When you try to do stuff too quickly it is going to result in problems.”
“After Katrina we had several injuries and even fatalities from people cleaning up around their homes and farms – tractor accidents and limbs falling on people and I just hope that we can avoid that and use more caution and take our time and use the right tool for the job. If you don’t have the expertise to do the job properly, just hold off until you can get somebody that does.”
Another issue concerning Robertson and other county leaders is what residents are doing with their storm debris. While officials get specific directions on how to handle storm debris removal, residents are continuing to clean debris from their property. That can become a problem if the debris is piled into areas that restrict visibility along roadways or create obstacles for emergency response.
Dist. Two Supervisor Elton Clark said county leaders understand that residents need to clear debris from their property and are being advising to pile debris at the edge of their property at the right-of-way where it can be picked up when that process gets underway. However, there are already situations where debris is being placed too close to signs or in a manner that obstructs visibility for motorists.
“We are asking our people to be very careful not to block intersections or signs when putting debris at the right-of-way,” Clark said. “And, to make sure not to obstruct fire hydrants.”
“It could be a few weeks before the debris is removed and we don’t want to have additional problems because of obstructed views or emergency responders being unable to get where they need to go or unable to access a fire hydrant.”