The City of Valdosta is responding to the impact of Tropical Storm Hermine, even while storm conditions may continue through midday today. Persevering through hurricane-strength winds, large amounts of rainfall, power outages, and downed traffic signals and power lines, city crews worked throughout the night to address the issues while keeping the safety of citizens and responders a top priority.
“All of our resources have performed remarkably well, given the circumstances we have faced,” said City Manager Larry Hanson. “Our city staff from the Police, Fire, Public Works, Utilities and Engineering, as well as other essential staff members, have worked in dangerous situations throughout the night, including an incident involving a tree falling on a fire truck during an emergency call. We are thankful to have such dedicated public servants, who have worked tirelessly in difficult and dangerous circumstances over the night. The amount of debris on city streets and in private yards and properties is overwhelming today, and we know residents will begin to place this debris at the curbside over the holiday weekend. We ask for their patience as we anticipate the cleanup efforts to continue for weeks.”
In addition to praising the response of city employees, City Manager Hanson praised the leadership of the Lowndes County Emergency Management Agency who provided impeccable communication before, during and after the storm to help the city and other agencies best prepare for the impact.
Earlier in the week, city departments made the necessary provisions for the storm by lowering the millpond to hold the enormous amount of excess stormwater, fueling vehicles, equipment and generators, and clearing out trouble spots in the collection system to ensure the systems run as effectively as possible with the anticipated higher water flows.
With over 7 inches of rain received in a four hour period overnight, our drainage infrastructure is at capacity—even with the lowering of the millpond and other advance efforts.
“In spite of Tropical Storm Hermine’s devastating impact to our area, we feel our city is safe this morning and there have been no reported deaths,” said Hanson.
Perhaps as many as 15,000 electric customers have been or are without power in the city today. Additional resources have been deployed, and power companies are working tirelessly to restore power. In some cases, trees must be removed. It is necessary for winds to calm down before personnel can be placed in bucket trucks to remove trees and repair power lines, as well as for the city to repair traffic signals.
Power outages have also impacted our city department services, making it necessary to employ numerous generators throughout the city. Generators were used to restore power at three VFD stations, at the water treatment plant and at both wastewater treatment plants. The city anticipates some wastewater spills due the power outages and the massive rainfall amounts, which in some locations overflowed into manholes that are normally on dry ground.
In coordination with the Lowndes County Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross, Mathis Auditorium housed over 100 people overnight. At least 50 people remain there for shelter, Friday morning.
Citizens’ safety remains a top priority, as is all responding crews. Until wind conditions calm down, neither power companies nor the city can safely put employees in bucket trucks to make the necessary repairs. The patience of our citizens is greatly appreciated at this time. Here are a few additional ways that citizens can aid in the success of the cleanup process.
- The Valdosta Fire and Police Departments have responded to nearly 200 calls for assistance throughout the night and this morning. Citizens should call 9-11 for emergency calls only. All city departments are fully staffed Friday, and citizens should utilize the office numbers for all non-emergencies.
- Citizens can provide enormous help during the cleanup efforts, through the use of the Valdosta Click ‘N Fix mobile app. Download and utilize the Valdosta Click ‘N Fix mobile app to report downed trees, flooded streets, traffic light issues, etc.
- The Public Works Sanitation Division is only picking up household garbage on Friday, Sept. 2, so that its resources may be used for other cleanup efforts in the city. As a reminder, Monday is the Labor Day holiday, and sanitation crews will also only be picking up garbage. The city is asking for citizens’ patience, while it collects the recyclables and particularly the yard debris over the coming weeks.
- Signals are out in many areas of the city. Motorists need to stop at each non-working signal and proceed with caution.
- Citizens should beware and stay clear of any fallen traffic and power lines. Specifically, citizens should avoid Country Club at Eager and Gornto Road at Jerry Jones, until fallen traffic and power lines can be safely removed.
- Trees are a known hazard during any storm. Citizens are urged to stay off the roads if at all possible. If you must travel, be aware of fallen trees or limbs and report them using the Valdosta Click ‘N Fix app or by calling 229-259-3530.
“We praise the partnerships that we have with the Lowndes County Emergency Management Agency, our local government partners and all the agencies who have and continue to communicate and keep each other informed to best serve our community,” said Mayor John Gayle. “We anticipate some additional assistance from the state in the days and weeks ahead, as we return to a new normal.”