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Katrina hits Western counties hard

REGION-The arrival of Hurricane Katrina brought mixed results for the Black Belt Monday. For the most part, Marengo County and its Eastern bordering counties were stricken with down trees and power outages. However, Sumter and Greene was a different story. Throughout East Mississippi and West Alabama Katrina’s wrath was evident. Sumter and Greene clearly took some of the fury from the storm

Throughout both counties trees were over power lines, houses, churches and many other structures.

Fortunately, in Demopolis widespread damage was avoided. Demopolis Mayor Cecil P. Williamson said the River City had come out of the storm in fairly good condition.

“We came out a lot better than some other people,” Williamson said. “Of course there were some things down and some other things that will probably have to come down. That is what we are doing right now. We’re just letting people know about those situations.”

Marengo County Commission Chairman Freddie Armstead said their biggest problem had been power outages. He said county workers were able to clear the roads in a fairly timely manner.

“I think we have got it under control,” Armstead said. “We have the roads cleared so people can come and go as they please.”

Armstead said most of the problems the county faced were south of Linden.

“Most of our damage was in the South end of the county,” Amrstead said. “They got some pretty good wind down there and there are a lot of down trees and things like that.”

Through it all, Armstead said the county had also been lucky. He said workers from Alabama Power had been working around the clock and positive results should be on their way.

“As for the power outages, there are a lot of people in the South end of the county that are still without power,” Armstead said. “But Alabama Power is down there working hard to get that restored and we appreciate all they have done. We are just thankful tot he good Lord for sparing us again.”

Armstead also said the county had kept an open line with AME and would continue to do so during the recovery period.

Local leaders in other affected areas could no be reached for comment.

Power outages in the all damaged areas have become a major concern. Early indications in the area were that Hurricane Katrina has caused extensive damage to the Alabama Power system and customers should expect extended outages.

Katrina is the second-worst storm in Alabama Power history in terms of outages, leaving 636,891 customers without power at its peak. Company officials anticipate that restoration efforts may take far longer than those following Hurricane Ivan, which left more than 825,000 customers without power in 2004. Ivan restoration took eight days.

In comparison, Hurricane Frederic in 1979 left 239,400 customers without power, but restoration took 21 days due to the level of damage to the system.

Emergency crews worked through the night. Damage assessment teams were out at first light today. The company hopes to have a full assessment of the damage later today. Early reports indicate there has been significant damage to the company’s transmission system and other infrastructure.

Alabama Power has commitments from outside utilities to support our restoration efforts.

However, resources are limited and are also needed in hard hit areas in Mississippi and Louisiana.

As of 10 a.m. Tuesday, 551,455 customers were without power statewide.

As always, safety is the first priority in any storm restoration effort.

While power is out, Alabama Power has asked citizens to be patient if their power is not restored right away. Alabama Power gives priority to hospitals, water and sewer treatment facilities, police, fire and other critical customers for the overall safety and well being of the community at large. Individuals with critical medical needs should consider making contingency plans in case of outages.

They also ask people to stay away from downed lines and beware of lines that are touching a vehicle. Do not drive over lines lying on the road, and do not drive under low hanging lines. Keep children and pets away from downed lines.

Always assume a downed power line is live.

Do not attempt to remove tree limbs or anything else caught in power lines.

Call Alabama Power at 800-888-APCO (2726) or a local law enforcement agency if downed lines are spotted.

Other safety tips include:

u Do not connect portable generators to your household electrical wiring.

This can cause serious injury to you and to Alabama Power employees working on the lines in your neighborhood.

Connect only essential appliances – such as freezers and refrigerators – directly to the generator.

u To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, operate generators outdoors in a well-ventilated, dry area that is away from air intakes to the home and protected from direct exposure to rain or snow. A good location is an open shed, under a canopy or a carport. Never use a portable generator indoors or in attached garages.

u Most small gasoline powered generators purchased at home improvement stores are designed for appliances to be plugged directly into them rather than plugging the generator into the home’s wiring. Be sure to use heavy-duty, outdoor-rated cords with a wire gauge that is adequate for the appliance load.

If you need to connect a generator directly to your home wiring, it should be done by a qualified electrical contractor, and a switch to disconnect your home wiring from the utility system should be installed and used before connecting the generator.

u Having a generator connected directly to household wiring without this switch can result in power from your generator feeding back into utility wires, creating a deadly threat to you, your neighbors and to repair crews.