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Storm Cleanup Begins In Century

Photo courtesy of NorthEscambia.com

Century residents hit by Monday’s severe storm are beginning to pick up the pieces. An investigation by the National Weather Service is also underway.

Up to 50 homes and businesses were either damaged or outright destroyed by the winds, which is believed to have been a tornado that touched down in a wooded neighborhood near U.S. Highway 29.

John Dosh, Escambia County’s Emergency Manager, says commercial and not-for-profit organizations are out working to complete damage assessments.

“Southern Baptists and Christian Ministries and those types of organizations are on the ground, doing assessments with law enforcement escorts,” Dosh said. “If you’ve ever had a piece in your heart to do volunteer or something like that, maybe this is your opportunity to step up and do that.”

The American Red Cross is assembling a family service team, delivering meals, and will soon have available cleanup and comfort kits.

While they plan to ask for a disaster declaration from both the state and federal governments, Dosh warns that the damage may not meet the required levels.

“For [Escambia] County, we’d have to have about $1.2 million worth of loss, and then we’d have to have $26 million loss for the State of Florida in order to make the federal request, [and] we’re not even close,” said Dosh. “We will make some phone calls to Tallahassee to see what we have, what our options are as far as individual assistance is concerned.”

Meanwhile, a team from the National Weather Service in Mobile is in Century to determine just what did hit the area – a tornado or straight-line winds. Forecaster Cody Lindsey says they’ll be looking for some tell-tale signs, such as the pattern of the damage.

“We’ll look at the trees that have been downed by the winds in the storm,” said Lindsey. “When you have a rotating storm, or a tornado that’s on the ground that’s obviously rotating, the damage on the ground will be in a sort of circular pattern. If it was a straight-line wind, the damage and debris may be lying in just one direction.”

Gulf Power crews overnight restored service to more than 21,000 customers. As of midday Tuesday, about 700 were left. Spokesman Jeff Rogers says they’re getting help from sister companies Georgia Power, Alabama Power and Mississippi Power.

The warning is going out about downed power lines – stay away from them, and report them either to Gulf Power or law enforcement.

In the aftermath of a severe storm, downed power lines are just the tip of the restoration iceberg. If the pole has been damaged, that’s an extra, massive layer of work.

“Removing the poles and the attachments, and getting the new poles back in and getting everything put back on before you can energize,” said Rogers. “It’s a lot more work, that’s for sure.”

In Pensacola, severe storms hit the area of 9th Avenue and Creighton Road, damaging stores at Eastgate Shopping Plaza and at Walmart. As the cleanup begins, Escambia County Emergency Chief John Dosh has one message to those affected – have patience.

“I understand you had a rough night, but there’s a lot of things going on and we want to make sure that everything we do is in a safe manner and nobody else gets injured,” said Dosh. “We’ve got folks here to get things back to normal as quickly as we can get there.”

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.