The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

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June 16, 2014

City, county examine recovery

Friday, June 13, 2014 — Friday marked the one-year anniversary of the storm that ravaged the city of Albemarle and parts of Stanly County. Despite the devastation experienced throughout the area, Albemarle City Manager Ray Allen said the city is prepared should a similar storm hit again in the future.

“We were very well prepared a year ago and we’re just as prepared now should we have another storm to hit,” Allen said, adding that the city also has a proactive program in place to trim trees away from the power lines.

“We already have a regular tree trimming plan in place to trim branches away from power lines so that there is less chance that they would fall onto the lines. We also ask residents not to plant large trees in close proximity to the lines because that can cause problems as they grow.”

The National Weather Service called last year’s storm a microburst, which is characterized by an intense downburst of wind over a small area. When the downburst hits the ground it spreads out rapidly, according to Nick Petro, warning coordinator meteorologist with NWS.

The storm began at about 6 p.m. June 13, 2013, and lasted for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, while the intense winds lasted only three to five minutes. Exact wind speeds are not known, but the NWS estimated wind gusts exceeded 70 mph.

In what many compared to Hurricane Hugo from 1989, the storm blew numerous trees down throughout Albemarle and around the county, many of which fell on power lines. In the immediate hours following the storm, all of Albemarle had lost power.

“One hundred percent of our customers were without power,” Allen said.

The city provides power service for approximately 12,500 people and businesses.

With the help of city employees, as well as crews from outside Stanly County, the city was able to restore power to every customer within a week, according to Allen. Those responsible for assisting with restoring power included 20 employees from Asplundh tree trimming company, 35 from Lee Electric, 11 from the city of High Point, 15 from the city of Wilson, 11 from the town of Wake Forest and 15 from the North Carolina Forestry Service.

Crews were also on hand in the weeks following the storm to remove debris from around the city.

Work groups with Ceres Environmental Services, a debris and environmental services provider based in Florida, began picking up the debris on July 11. The groups worked through 10 zones within the city, beginning with the hardest hit areas near Stanly Regional Medical Center. The crews then worked through the less affected areas before making a second pass through the city.

Within three weeks of beginning cleanup, the streets were clear of debris, and the project was declared complete by Aug. 2.

The city’s Street Division crews also manually cleared blocked storm drains and removed twigs and leaves in the curbing areas.

More than 46,000 cubic yards of vegetative debris was collected and taken to the former Wiscassett Mills property. Grinding of the debris began Aug. 3 and was completed by Aug. 9.

The total cost of the debris removal was $924,603.11, making up the bulk of the cost for the storm recovery. Other costs included $44,099.23 for emergency services and $13,657.61 for repairs to roads and bridges.

“The city received a state disaster declaration to help with recovery efforts,” Allen said.

“However, it didn’t help pay for the electric restoration. It did help, though, with up to 75 percent for debris removal, emergency response and road repairs.”

The city received more than $736,000 from the state as a result of the declaration. The city was responsible for the remaining $245,000 of these costs, as well as approximately $1.3 million of expenses related to repair of the electrical distribution system.

Despite these figures, Allen says it’s hard to put an exact amount on how much the storm cost the city.

“We can’t quantify everything,” he said.

“We have the loss of revenue for several days from the loss of electricity to our customers, and that’s a hard number to figure out.”

Tiffany Thompson is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News & Press.

 

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