Roberson talks lessons learned since January 2017

Phil Roberson is Albany's assistant city manager. (Source: WALB)
Phil Roberson is Albany's assistant city manager. (Source: WALB)
(Source: WALB)
(Source: WALB)

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - City officials say Albany has come a long way since January of 2017, especially after the straight-line winds tore much of the city.

"When you ride around Albany today, you can tell there was a storm, but we've come a long way since January 2nd," said Assistant City Manager Phil Roberson.

January 2, 2017 is a day most Albany residents will remember forever.

For Roberson, the storm meant weeks of no rest.

"We sort of expected we were going to have bad weather, but when it hit. You know the way it hit, the magnitude, you know none of us were expecting that," said Roberson.

The storm left behind a mess in Albany. Historic neighborhoods, like Rawson Circle could only be traveled by foot. Hundreds of trees sat on homes and cars, putting residents at a standstill. And it the timing didn't help.

"This was sudden. And it was at night. You know the emergency services were having trouble getting out," explained Roberson.

It was the first time in decades the Good Life City had a weather event so destructive. But in the spirit of southern kindness and hospitality, the community came together.

"When Albany really needed help, and needed the citizens to step up and needed volunteers that weren't in the affected areas to come forward, it was immediate," said Roberson.

Neighbors were helping neighbors everywhere. It wasn't just the night after. It was for weeks. And the emergency response shouldn't go unnoticed either.

"I think the emergency services did a really good job of getting emergency services established and kind of calming residents," said Roberson.

Roberson said some employees were walking to works. He was even getting calls to pick many up from their homes so they could start helping.

"Once they saw their families were safe, they didn't worry about their property, they walked to work, they walked to get there," said Roberson.

Roberson credits now retired EMS Director Ron Rowe for his dedication to the city during both storms.

"He has a lot of experience in this area and he immediately took control. Anytime I needed anything in the field he was always there with the supplies," explained Roberson.

Roberson said the city's damage between the two storms totals $14.3 million. Between FEMA and GEMA, about $10.5 million is back in the city's pockets, along with new wisdom and protocol for weather related incidents.

"You're never going to have a script that's perfect, just by the nature of the work, it's something you just do. But I wouldn't change a whole lot about what we did. I think the fact that nobody lost their life in storm one is something we are all really proud of," smiled Roberson.

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