Photo By RAPHEL MADDOX
A tree knocked down a power line and snapped a pole on Beville Street.
Slow and laborious recovery from the tropical storm named Irma continues in the Waycross area as road department employees in Ware, Pierce and Brantley counties are busy making road repairs and linemen are working diligently to restore electricity to those who remain without service.
Schools in Ware, Pierce and Brantley are closed today and may well remain that way into the latter part of the week.
Ware County Emergency Management director Jonathan Daniell said the overall storm recovery process is moving along.
He said, “slowly but surely, we’re getting there. There are still some power outages but we are making progress. Some roads remain closed but I do not have any of those names. We are working on them and trying to get them passable.”
At last count, 1,500 customers in Ware County remained without power, Daniell said this morning.
In Brantley County, 1,900 residents remain without power as trees still need to be moved off power lines and many dirt roads there are either closed or in need of massive repairs.
Meanwhile, Irma caused two sewage treatment problems here. City Manager Raphel Maddox announced Tuesday that the city’s wastewater treatment plant experienced a breach. The plant is operated for the city by ESG Operations, Inc., which said the spill amounted to 3,857 gallons.
A Satilla Regional Water and Sewer Authority lift station just east of Waycross has been spewing raw sewage since Monday morning because of power outages.
A resident on Seminole Trail said she believes “tens of thousands of gallons” of sewage has gotten into a ditch and then a creek that empties into the Satilla River.
Henry McLaughlin, director of Satilla Regional Water and Sewer Authority, said the problem stemmed from a power outage at the station caused by Irma.
He said primary power was out because of the storm and one of the lift station’s backups (a generator) malfunctioned.
“Yes, we have had a spill but Georgia Power is out there restoring power and we have another generator on the way here from Pearson,” said McLaughlin this morning. “Everything shorted out over the weekend. We had the option of turning it off and letting it flow back into people’s houses, or to keep it running as it is.
“We have been scrambling to find another generator. It is a small station but we do have some problems right now. Nobody is without sewer service.”
Maddox said the City of Waycross plant’s discharge of untreated wastewater into the Waycross drainage canal was caused by excessive flows into the treatment plant during the passing of Irma. The spill was cleaned and limed and reported to the Ware County Health Department, Georgia EPD and the local media, ESG said.
Daniell said it is taking “a little longer than normal” to restore school bus routes in the far-flung regions of Ware County where school buses traverse remote dirt roads.
“Yesterday there were still a lot of roads with trees down, some on power lines,” he said. “The county road department and the BOE will be assessing that situation.”
There is no way to estimate at this point monetarily how hard Irma hit Ware County, Daniell said.
“We have not been able to make any damage assessments as yet. We have some roof leaks, a few trees on houses but so far we don’t have any estimate of dollar damage,” said Daniell.
Officials with the FEMA and GEMA agencies have not yet visited Waycross, Daniell said, as they have a wide area to cover.
“They will eventually get to us, but there are a lot of places that are far worse off than us,” said Daniell.
Brantley County and its many miles of dirt roads was hit hard by Irma. Even paved roads there were compromised, and some are still closed. In similar shape is Charlton County.
The southbound lane of U.S. 301 from Nahunta into Folkston has been closed because of water across the road in Charlton County.
“Road department crews assessed damage today (Tuesday) and closed many roads and began temporary repairs. They will continue again Wednesday and beyond,” said Michelle Lee, Brantley County EMA director.
“Utility crews continue working to restore power and we are monitoring the rivers and creeks for flooding,” said Lee.
Emergency management personnel say they expect the Satilla River at Atkinson to be at flood stage at least by Thursday. At 7 o’clock this morning, it was less than a foot away from the 13-foot flood stage. The river is anticipated to crest Friday or Saturday at about 17 feet.
The Satilla’s level this morning at the Ware-Pierce line was 14.1 feet (flood stage is 16) and it’s expected to crest late Thursday at 15.7.
Lee warned Brantley residents living on the Satilla River that they need to evacuate now.
Buffalo Creek, Little Buffalo Creek, Little Satilla River and several other smaller tributaries are also showing signs of rising and heading toward flood stage.
All Brantley County government offices remain closed as well as the Department of Family and Children Service and the Brantley County Health Department.
“Recovery is not a fast process,” said Lee. “We ask that everyone be patient as we try to put our county back together.”
Ware County schools superintendent Jim LeBrun announced Tuesday that the Red Cross shelters have been consolidated into one unit at Ware County High School.
“There are 72 people still at the high school,” Daniell said. “They are mostly evacuees from Glynn County. Most of them are hopeful for departure by today.”
The Georgia Department of Transportation was using Ware County Middle School as a staging area, Daniell said, adding that personnel has cleared out.
“The Glynn County Government remains at Williams Heights Elementary,” said LeBrun. Daniell said the shelter is mainly for family members of Glynn employees who are busily working in the Brunswick area to restore order after Irma.
“The shelter is mainly to give their families a safe place to stay,” Daniell said. He added that they originally were being sheltered at Center Elementary until a power outage there forced the shift to Williams Heights School.
It seems doubtful that Ware will resume normal school operations by Thursday.
“Although a decision has not been made yet, it is very questionable if school will resume on Thursday,” LeBrun said.
LeBrun added that Friday’s Ware High home football game has been rescheduled to Sept. 22.
“While the school system looks forward to a return to normalcy,” LeBrun said, “there are many factors to consider. Our future decisions will be based upon road conditions, electricity being restored and the safety and security of our students and stakeholders first. Red Cross and other shelters are also considered
“We have a long way to go within our own county before we are ready for students, buses and others to travel the roads.”
He said on Tuesday that trees are “… still falling by the hour. As we get them cleared, others fall. The ground is so saturated and was even before Irma arrived.”
Road crews, LeBrun said, are working on Ware’s roads, but that is an extensive undertaking.
“We are also working to clean up and repair the damages in the schools,” said LeBrun. “Power remains off at some locations, including the board office. Everything is a day-by-day effort.”
LeBrun said school officials will continue discussions with city and county officials as well as EMA director Daniell to determine the best course of action, considering all factors.
“We will continue to communicate with the public via Facebook, One Call, our school/system websites and tv/radio stations.”
Beginning today, the Ware County Board of Commissioners will have a yard debris removal site set up at the old Erin Johnson Softball Complex, 3230 Smith Drive, in the Waycross-Ware County Industrial Park for the removal of storm related debris associated with Hurricane Irma.
The area will be open from 7:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. and includes the weekend days.
The site will be monitored and only yard waste materials will be accepted, said Daniell. Large limbs and trees must be cut to approximately 4 feet in length.
No household garbage or building materials of any kind will be allowed. Commercial haulers are not allowed.
Southland Waste Services was not able to collect garbage for customers Monday or Tuesday. The crews began to pick up garbage this morning about 4 o’clock and plan to run collections around the clock until they catch up.
City of Waycross spokesman Wilton Deloach asked that residents leave garbage cans curbside and garbage will be picked up this week.
“The city’s garbage collection will return to normal rounds by Monday,” Deloach said.