Heavy hurricane season expected

Published 3:00 am Sunday, June 17, 2018

By Mynecia Steele

Hurricane season got an early start this year when Subtropical Storm Alberto swept up through the southeastern U.S., including Pike County. Although the area hasn’t been affected by anything since then, interim EMA Director Herbert Reeves said there’s reason to believe more wicked weather is on the way.

“We’re going to be under the gun, so to speak,” Reeves said. “We’ll make sure we’re ready” for potential emergency situations.

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During the last hurricane season, Hurricane Irma hit many surrounding areas.

“We didn’t get the brunt of that,” Reeves said. “I think the biggest thing for Pike County was people looking for places to stay who’d evacuated from Florida. The City opened a shelter. We didn’t have any significant challenges, other than a few trees down and in the roads.”

“There’s representatives in the Emergency Operations Center from state troopers, forestry, the department of transportation, the department of corrections, public health, DHR, national guard and of course the state EMA folks are there,” Reeves said.

When warnings are released that Pike County is potentially in the path of a storm of that level, the EMA will begin to prepare as quickly as possible, Reeves said.

“These regional Emergency Operations Centers were put in place to better coordinate the state and regional resources,” Reeves said.

As EMA director, Reeves is the point of contact for Homeland security within the state and works with local resources to execute the plans of the state EMA.

“Right now, predictions are that it’s going to be an active hurricane season,” Reeves said. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to have a hurricane every week.”

But the chances of Pike County experiencing potentially disastrous weather as a result of a hurricane in the Gulf is likely, Reeves said.

Alabama News Center and Alabama Power also reported a prediction that storms will be greater this year, both in strength and in number.

The EMA addresses the community’s needs during and after the crisis of a storm, Reeves said.

The EMA coordinates joint efforts and emergency resources with surrounding areas.

“The way the relationship is with the state, the university and Monroeville county, we kind of work all three of those together; we put all our resources together,” Reeves said.

He works with the Division B Emergency Operations Center, which includes the 10 southeastern counties.

“It goes down as far south as Houston County and as far up as Pike, over to Greenville, Luverne, Evergreen and goes over to the Georgia line,” Reeves said.

Local EMA officials are the first to handle emergency situations within those 10 counties, but the responsibly is then passed on the Reeves at the divisional level, if local resources cannot provide a solution.

“We see if we can handle what the needs are for a particular county or city with our regional resources,” Reeves said. “If not, we push it on up to the state.”

The state gives direction regarding which Emergency Operations are necessary in individual regions.

“The state dictates down to the region, which regions will be open,” Reeves said. “How long they’re going to stay open all depends on how severe the weather may be and what path the storm may take.”

There is typically a few days warning to see what path a hurricane will take, Reeves said.

“So, go ahead and prepare, assess your situation and figure out where you are going to be staying,” Reeves said. “Determine if you need to seek another type of shelter.”

The Trojan Center and gymnasium are usually opened as refuge for university students. Other shelters are announced throughout the county.

Alabama News Center and Alabama Power released information to prepare residents for this time of the year.

Those tips include having an escape route for the entire family, having a predetermined meeting place in the case family members are separated, and having an emergency kit prepared with essentials like flashlights, batteries, first-aid supplies, prescriptions, cash and important documents.

If a storm approaches, seek shelter in a sturdy building, preferably away from windows and doors, and keep a radio handy to stay informed about changing conditions, according to Alabama Power’s report.

After the storm has passed, avoid flooded roads, broken power lines, fallen trees.

“As the hurricane season comes into play be aware,” Reeves said. “We’ll be sending out emails to make sure that information is out, and send out tracks of the storm.”