(TNS) — Sept. 12 — ALBANY — According to the Dougherty County Emergency Management Agency (EMA), crews will be out in the community Wednesday and the rest of the week to assess damage caused by Hurricane Irma as it passed through the area Sunday and Monday.
"We are not sure exactly how many people in the community are still without power, but we know that number has dropped significantly already and continues to drop hourly," EMA Director Ron Rowe said. "Yesterday (Monday) when the storm was on top of us, that number was somewhere in the thousands, and today it has dropped to the hundreds.
"Our crews will also be out in the community throughout the day and probably the rest of the week to assess the true scope of the damage."
According to Rowe, although there has already been significant damage reported throughout the community, that damage has been minimal compared to the disasters that struck Albany and Dougherty County in January.
"I don't want to minimize any damage that occurred, because I know that any damage is significant to the person that it happens to, but, so far, it looks like we've been pretty lucky," he said. "For the entire time that we have been tracking Irma since it formed out in the Atlantic, that storm did not follow any of the predicted paths and finally came barreling right at us.
"Things could have been way worse, and we are so thankful that we are not seeing the kind of damage that we saw in January."
Reports indicated that by Tuesday afternoon, much of Albany and Dougherty County's power had been restored, but the Emergency Operations Center was still receiving calls regarding neighborhoods with downed power lines and damaged weather heads.
"The Irma system is dissipating outside of our area and all of our Dougherty County residents have been encouraged to return to their regular daily activities while exercising caution on the roads and in their own homes because there are still limbs down all over the county," Dougherty EMA Deputy Director Jenna Wirtz said at Tuesday's commission meeting. "We experienced sustained winds around 30 mph for many hours over the weekend and yesterday with gusts into the low 40s."
According to Wirtz, almost all of the large debris — including trees blocking roadways — around the county has already been cleared, but a large amount of small debris remains.
"There is a tremendous amount of small debris still all around the county," Wirtz said. "Most of the large debris, like trees blocking roads, has been cleared, but there are still reports of trees down on power lines, which crews are taking a little more time and care with.
"Currently, 200 to 300 customers remain without power. Crews are working diligently to restore services as expediently as possible. Damage assessment crews are out today working off a list of 28 initial reports of residential damage. They were instructed to look for additional damage while in the community; trees on houses and pulled weather heads."
Total power outage numbers during Irma reached as high as 7,500, according to Albany Assistant City Manager Phil Roberson.
"The outages reported during the storm were estimated to be 7,500," he said. "We were fortunate that we did not have a lot of trees down on lines and blocking streets."
Before and during the storm, 527 people were sheltered in Dougherty County, officials said.
The Red Cross opened the Albany Civic Center as an emergency shelter and an additional seven Good Samaritan Shelters were opened at Byne Memorial Baptist Church, East Albany Church of God, Mt. Zion, Albany Worship Center, Pine Bluff Baptist Church and the Boys and Girls Club.
"The Red Cross shelter at the Albany Civic Center is the only shelter still open with about 57 people still using the shelter," Wirtz said. "They will close tomorrow (Wednesday) at noon."
Wirtz also explained, to assist in the aftermath of Irma, the Georgia Department of Defense would be sending a point of distribution to Albany which would provide 10,000 people with water and other emergency supplies.
"Albany will be receiving a POD, or point of distribution, from the Georgia Department of Defense," Wirtz said. "It will serve 10,000 people and will contain water, emergency meals, tarps, blankets and those immediate-needs commodities that may not be readily available in the community.
"It will be set up and operation Wednesday at 8 a.m. for people to drive through. People should be patient as it could take some time to get people the supplies they need."
The Albany Police Department did not report any unusual activity or uptick in crime during Irma.
"No significant criminal activity was reported," APD spokeswoman Phyllis Banks said. "The Albany Police Department and other law enforcement agencies will continue to monitor storm-impacted areas."
According to Rowe, Albany's preparation paid off, and the city and county fared well.
"There was a lot of preparation for this storm and the community has been so cooperative," Rowe said. "We have seen trees down, traffic lights out and some trees on homes. There has been a lot of small debris, but overall it looks like the damage has really been minimal compared to what it could have been."
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