09/07/08 — Tropical Storm Hanna a non-event, but a 'good test' for Wayne County

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Tropical Storm Hanna a non-event, but a 'good test' for Wayne County

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on September 7, 2008 11:50 AM

Tropical Storm Hanna brought several inches of rain and wind gusts of up to 52 miles-per-hour to Wayne County early Saturday morning, but Joe Gurley, county emergency services director, said he believes the area was lucky.

Progress Energy Truck

News-Argus/Bobby Williams

A Progress Energy truck checks power lines on Dixie Trail.

For more Hanna pictures, please check our Photo Gallery.

The county's Emergency Operations Center -- where a group of emergency services personnel man phones in order to organize county resources in times of possible weather disasters, and community leaders can meet to discuss action plans on the verge of those disasters -- got word of some damage, but overall, Gurley said the center was more of a test for the next storm that would hit the area.

The damage included 28 fallen trees that interfered with power lines or crossed roadways.

At least 12 areas reported downed power lines, including at Ridgewood Drive, Rose Street, South Berkeley Boulevard, O'Berry Center Road, Mulberry Street, Indian Springs Road, Rosewood Road, Lee's Country Club Road, Highway 55 and Pineview Cemetery Road, Jackson Street and Evergreen Avenue, Sheridan Forest Road and Stevens Mill Road.

Also affected were about 5,800 Progress Energy customers and about 7,000 Tri-County Membership Electric Cooperative when three substations went down in the southern part of the county. Power outages also were to the EOC from the 300 block of Main Street in Fremont, EMS Station No. 1 and 8, Mimosa Park, Audubon Avenue and Ash Street, Spring Creek High School and North Park Drive and Cuyler Best Road.

Four transformers were reported blown on Old Mount Olive Highway near GAF, William Street and Tarboro Street, across the street from Fremont's fire station and on Central Heights Road.

Progress Energy Operations Manager Keith Westbrook said the worst came at about 6:15 a.m., when the lights went out in areas scattered throughout the county. Even the power company's command center lost power at one point.

By 8:30 a.m., there had already been 13,254 outages in Wayne County alone, and the alarm was still going off alerting Progress Energy personnel to more outages.

"All hands are on deck. We have contractors from off the system, and we have tree contractors from off the system helping us," Westbrook said.

Hanna's center of circulation passed through the county between 6 and 7 a.m., with wind gusts up to 50 miles per hour. Then, the back edge of the storm passed through and the winds began to lose their force.

By 8:30 a.m. in the Eastern Region that runs from Goldsboro to the beaches, Progress Energy had restored power to 78,000 customers.

But there were still another 56,804 customers still out of power.

Even though the county was under flash flood warnings for much of Saturday, Gurley doesn't believe area rivers and creeks will be anything to worry about.

Gurley expects the water ways won't really fill up until Raleigh's rainfall rushs down stream. He expects to see levels up in about three days, but even then, he doesn't expect any problems.

The EOC officially opened at 1 p.m. Friday -- the first test of the operational center since 2005, and really, Gurley said, the first critical test since 1999 when Hurricane Floyd hit.

The center didn't have any callers reporting damage from 2 to 6 a.m. Saturday, but Gurley said the phones picked up after that.

Gurley said he would rather people be "concerned" than "complacent" in a storm situation.

And he is glad that they got the EOC together, even if it was just for preparation for the next weather scare.

"We are apprehensive with any type of weather event. It is unknown what Mother Nature is going to do in general, so we just have to wait it out," he said.

Though the center might not have been needed for Hanna, it was a "good test" for the future, the director said.

"Anytime you have an event with multiple agencies re-sponding, you will always have concerns, and I always try to find ways to improve," he said. "Since the last test, there has been new technology. And there are constantly different people in different roles, so it's hard to get that continuity back."

The EOC ended its run Saturday with a skeleton crew from about 10 a.m. to noon as the storm started to dissipate.