More show for hurricane conference ahead of new season
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) – Organizers of a hurricane conference near Georgia’s coast say attendance was up by 25 percent from last year as participants discussed the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew and prepared for the next tropical system to strike the state.
The Chatham Hurricane Conference was held Tuesday in Savannah.
The Savannah Morning News reports (http://bit.ly/2p6VEv0) that a report on Hurricane Matthew reflected a need to improve communication.
But the first order of the day was money.
Homer Bryson, director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, presented Savannah and Chatham County with checks totaling $22.9 million in federal disaster assistance funds. Chatham County received $8.9 million for debris removal, $64,000 to repair roads and bridges and $34,000 for repair of parks and recreational facilities. Savannah received $8.1 million for debris cleanup, $60,000 for repair of roads and roads and $15,000 for repair and restoration of utilities.
Jones estimated the storm, which brought Category 1-strength winds to Tybee and tropical storm-strength winds to the rest of the county, caused about $62 million in damages in Chatham. About half of that has already been reimbursed by the state and federal government. More reimbursement is on the way. The county and municipalities will ultimately be on the hook for about 12 to 15 percent of the costs, Jones said.
Chatham County Manager Lee Smith urged local government leaders to make sure their debris pickup and monitoring contracts are in place for the coming hurricane season.
As Matthew approached there was a scramble to make sure the documentation would be adequate for FEMA reimbursement.
“We literally were working in the night because I don’t think anybody was prepared for this as far as the documentation,” said Chatham County Manager Lee Smith, who noted that as a native North Carolinian he’d seen plenty of tropical storms and hurricanes. Matthew was his 26th by his own count. “We got it done before the storm but everybody was rushing, all the cities, because they thought they had them.”
He’s urging the eight municipalities to piggyback on the county’s contracts to streamline future cleanup and reimbursement.
Chatham County is on track to break ground in 2018 on a $17 million emergency operations center at the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport that will be large enough to house county and municipality representatives under one roof to improve communications among them. It won’t be ready for at least another two hurricane seasons, though.
The 2017 hurricane season begins June 1.