After the wind: County officials working through problems
More than a week after a substantial windstorm blew through Auglaize County, officials are putting their heads together to address concerns.
“We are looking at what worked and going in and revising our game plan,” said Auglaize County Emergency Management Agency Director Troy Anderson.
Countywide emergency response agencies plan to meet within the next week to discuss further areas still in need of improvement.
“Each weather event, every time, I think you’ve got something different,” Anderson said.
“How can you write a plan for everything?” he asked.
“But each time, we try to enhance it,” Anderson said.
Part of efforts to address concerns after the June 29 storm are plans for a practice exercise focused on a fictional wind event affecting the whole county with a lack of communication capabilities with internet and cell phone towers down. The exercise also is to address the best means for getting information out to the public.
“In the case of a total power outage, what is the best way to communicate?” Anderson asked.
“It will allow us to revisit a lot of issues that came up,” he said.
Although the recent wind storm in some ways was comparable to the ice storm in 2005, Anderson said it had its differences, too.
“During the ice storm, there wasn’t that solid county wide power outage,” Anderson said, noting that only 10 percent of the county retained power throughout the wind storm.
“During the ice storm, the majority of the county still had power to some point,” he said.
The climate during the storms was different, with one occurring in January and the other in June, and during the wind storm, the majority of roads remained open with county residents able to get out and move around or go somewhere for a meal.
The biggest problem Anderson said they encountered was communication problems. With many people relying on cell phones, towers were up and down after the wind storm and several locations had no internet access. Radio stations could not get information broadcast in a timely manner after regular hours.
“One of the hardest things was the difficulty getting information out to the county,” Anderson said.
He said the time of year also posed a problem in finding assistance, with many people on vacations.
As far as information used by county officials in their planning, Anderson said one of the local electric providers also made it harder by not specifically releasing when it was aiming to get power returned to certain areas, instead only giving vague answers of several days.
Generators, especially for critical infrastructures such as sewer and water treatment plants, water and ice remained the biggest needs throughout the county after the storm.
Ultimately, county officials opted not to open any shelters or cooling centers, in part because there weren’t many requests.
“One community looked at a shelter but because it cooled down in the evening, we opted not to open one,” Anderson said.
“There are certain criteria required to open a shelter and we were still accessing the need when in the morning the power was back on,” he said.
Addressing how opening a shelter works with elected and appointed officials throughout the county is also on Anderson’s upcoming agenda so they become better informed.
While the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has issued an emergency declaration for the state based on storm events that day, Anderson said the county has until Friday to turn in its damage assessment to try and get aid. To quality, at least 25 Auglaize County homes had to be damaged or destroyed.
He’s asking for residents with damage to call or email that information to his office before then so he can include it in his report. Pictures are helpful as well. To date, more than 100 county homeowners have reported damage with 42 being affected by the storm, 40 having minor damage, 20 major damage, and 12 destroyed.
“By the time the state does survey the area, most of it is cleaned up,” Anderson said of the helpfulness of pictures taken immediately after a weather event.
Throughout the county, many barns were significantly damaged, but Anderson said those don’t count in FEMA reports unless they were primary occupancies.
Some of the properties Anderson said he still needs to investigate closer to see what kind of insurance was on them and how high the deductibles may have been.
Despite calls some area residents have been getting, Anderson said FEMA has not offered reimbursements to anyone at this time. If that time comes, Anderson said he plans to officially spread the word through media outlets, but for now, any such phone calls or communications residents receive should be considered scams and reported to local law enforcement.
Although Anderson has received several calls about the possibility of residents who purchased generators being reimbursed, he is not anticipating that to be something FEMA covers. He said most likely if the county is approved for disaster funding it would be to cover home damage for uninsured loss after deductibles.
“Right now, we don’t know what they will cover or have a dollar figure,” Anderson said.
Some disaster service funding has been made available through Auglaize County Job and Family Services to help those that qualify with home repairs and food reimbursements.
Assistance for both government agencies, who experienced overtime and equipment costs for cleanup efforts, and money for individuals will have to wait until the forms are turned in and FEMA notifies the county if it qualifies.
To report storm damage to the Auglaize County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) contact Troy Anderson at 419-739-6725 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.