Ledger Inquirer

Give a nod to the folks who brave the storms on your behalf

In the wake of last week’s violent weather, more than a few readers are wondering when the city is going to get all the storm debris cleaned up. And in the more immediate wake of the storms, folks were no doubt asking when their electricity would be back on.

In the latter case, it already is. So hush.

In the former case, trust me, they’re working on it. Even as Monday’s storm was still raging, crews from the city’s Public Works Department were working overtime and through the night to respond to calls about downed trees and blocked roads, according to Public Works Director Pat Biegler.

One thing folks need to realize about such a situation is, their first order of business is to get the streets cleared so vehicles, especially emergency vehicles, can get through. After that’s done, crews can come back and start the task of cutting up and hauling away everything the storms blew down.

“Between Monday and Tuesday, we received about 250 calls about trees being down,” Biegler said. “We got no or very few calls Wednesday. Actually, we were still taking care of trees that were down on roads on Wednesday (from Monday’s storm), and even into Thursday, I believe, because we had to wait for Georgia Power to come in.

“We found three (downed trees) that nobody even called in about, which surprised me.”

As of late Thursday, city crews had all the streets cleared and had begun the process of cutting the stuff up and loading it onto trucks to haul to the inert landfills.

“We’ll be well into next week (this week) before we can finish that,” Biegler said. “And of course, there will be a lot of people who will be putting out their debris on the curbside, so we’re going to see piles of stuff for quite a long time.”

Biegler said her crews work extremely long hours during violent storms, but her department builds a certain amount of overtime into their annual budget to take such events into account.

And it’s not just the crews on the trucks who are putting in the hours.

“We have to have people at the landfills because we have to be able to empty trucks,” Biegler said. “And we usually have someone at the garage, because if there are breakdowns, even with things like chainsaws, we have to have a mechanic there to help keep things running.”

And it’s not just city crews working overtime to get things back to normal. Remember that Biegler mentioned Georgia Power a minute ago?

The storm knocked out power to more than 30,000 homes and businesses, according to Georgia Power spokesman Robert Watkins. In addition to the many crews that are normally available locally, about 225 full crew trucks swarmed into the area from other unaffected regions to help get the power back on.

And those folks put in grueling hours, too. Linemen (linepersons?) are on call anywhere and everywhere, and they’re expected to drop everything, pack a bag and hit the road at a moment’s notice.

“These guys come in at all hours of the night, whenever there’s trouble,” Watkins said. “They can be told, ‘Come in tomorrow and pack enough clothes for two weeks. We don’t know exactly where you’re going, we don’t know when you’ll get back, but we’ll wash your clothes if we need to.’

“They may go from one place to another, for example, working their way up the east coast. We’ve gone as far as New York City.”

So next time a tree’s in your yard and your electricity is out and you’re thinking it really stinks to be you, think about all the folks who are outside in miserable and dangerous conditions working to get your situation back to normal as quickly as is possible.

And say thanks.

Seen something that needs attention? Contact me at 706-571-8570 or mowen@ledger-enquireer.com.