EOC: We're in Recovery Mode

'Before things happened, we already had a process in place. We just transitioned into recovery mode and headed to normalcy.'

(TNS) - Now that the most damaging aspects of the storm has passed, local emergency management officials are in recovery mode.

"Before things happened, we already had a process in place," said acting Emergency Management Director and Incident Commander Adrienne Owen. "We just transitioned into recovery mode and headed to normalcy."

Hurricane Michael ripped through the Panhandle Wednesday, leaving an aftermath of a trail of downed trees, power lines and broken communication systems. Most of the damages have been reported at private property, officials said.

"I'm extremely proud of the way the first responders and EOC cooperated together," Owen said. "This is their family and their friends. We know this county and we know the needs of this county. We were able to make sure pre-storm that we had supplies coming in - that made a tremendous difference in us being able to bounce back as fast as we can."

While 17 deaths caused by the storm have been reported throughout the region, no fatalities have been reported in Holmes County.

Owen met Monday with a representative from Federal Emergency Management Agency who assured they would get someone on the ground to further assess damages.

Residents may notice some restored lines may have become again disconnected. Owen said that is due to the tree removal process and a result of limbs being hooked on repaired lines. Those lines will be restored.

As of Tuesday morning, Gulf Power only had 23 people without power. All businesses along Highway 90, as well as all schools, with the exception of Bethlehem High School and Poplar Springs, had power.

Prior to the storm, there was some discussion about the influx of residents from other counties fleeing north from the catastrophe of the then impending then aftermath mega storm. However, officials reported only a handful seeking refuge in the county.

"We will have a family that would show up - no money, no where to go - and the local churches and residents took on those on a one-on-one basis," Owen said, noting locals have offered bus tickets and other forms of assistance. "I've been very proud of Holmes citizens. There's always been someone that stepped up to say 'what do we need to do to help.'"

As a rural county, Holmes has struggled to improve its communication systems. Owen said much preparation went into mitigating interruptions, including incorporating prior to the storm a communication-on-wheels system from National Guard. The EOC was without power for less than two days.

It was that kind of preparation - thinking ahead of the disaster - that led the county to emerge resilient and in high functionality, Owen said.

"I think we've all learned a lot of lessons with this storm and I think we'll be better prepared in the future," she added. "Everything seems to be working so well together. It's been a joint effort with the community."

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