Emergency leaders prepare for hurricane season - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Emergency leaders prepare for hurricane season

May 17, 2006

Albany-- Now is the time to prepare for hurricane season. The season starts two weeks from tomorrow and experts say it could be another bad one. What are emergency managers doing to make sure they're ready?

Anyone who's spent much time in South Georgia knows we often feel the effects of the storms. During the big flood of 1994, the downtown area was underwater. Just last year, water almost completely covered Riverfront Park. Emergency Management officials watch the water and the weather carefully.

Xavier Bailey found a private paradise right in his own backyard with a clear view to the springs. "Aww man, take a look at it. It's gorgeous. I mean, you can see the fish through the waters," says Bailey.

Back here he escapes to a world made up of more than the fish he points out. He finds birds and peace of mind. "I come out here three times a week, three or four times a week," says Bailey.

But the peaceful view was quite a different sight last year. The blue, green water of Radium Springs turned dark and murky as it crept all the way past Bailey's stone stairs and near the house. "It was a mess," says Bailey.

A big mess, and with hurricane season approaching just as quickly, Bailey isn't ready to reminisce. "It makes you a little nervous," says Bailey.

"Anytime we have heavy rains and winds, individuals who live along the rivers and the creeks are obviously concerned," says Emergency Management Director Jim Vaught.

Vaught says concern is warranted but citizens can be assured that officials are working to get ready. They're stepping up the hurricane program.

"Making sure that our shelters are ready to take people, making sure that we have distribution sites that we can pass out water, ice, food," says Vaught. Vaught will soon begin using an upgraded version of the National Weather Service website daily to predict rainfall and monitor river flows and levels. There's also a new navigator tool this year that uses a camera to evaluate routes.

"It can give us an idea if we have a flow of traffic coming our way," says Vaught. The traffic is a good indication of what kind of weather is headed our way as well. Vaught says the city and county is ready.

"We start year-round. Soon as one season ends, we start right again for the next season," says Vaught. That's good news for this backyard fisherman. He says he already bared one flood.

"God don't give you anymore than you can bare so He saw fit to where the water go back to where it should be," says Bailey. But it's where the water is today that makes it all worth the price and preparation.

"Oh yes, it's worth it. It's definitely worth it," says Bailey.

There are things you can do to be safe this hurricane season. Have a survival kit prepared with 72 hours worth of supplies like flashlights, water and non-perishable food to survive. Also work out a place with family members where everyone can meet in the event of an emergency.

Public works has a proactive program to make sure drains and storm sewers and ditches are cleaned out. Dougherty County Emergency Management met with GEMA, FEMA, the Department of Transportation and the National Weather Service Tuesday to go over this season's plans.

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