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Officials assessing storm’s damage

Emergency officials said while Hurricane Gustav’s initial dangeris in the books, people still need to stay off the roads as much aspossible until the cleanup is further along.

“If people don’t need to be out for any particular reason theyshouldn’t be out,” said Lincoln County Civil Defense DirectorClifford Galey. “It’s dangerous. Stay home.”

Galey said continuing weather conditions are the primary danger,but road blockages and downed power lines also pose hazards.

“The power lines crossing the roads may still be live, and therecould be some more trees to fall,” he said, citing current tornadowatches and flood warnings. “We have had greater than 6 inches ofrain in Lincoln County and they’re expecting 2 to 3 more today.Just a little bit of wind and more rain will cause more trees tofall.”

Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing said officials are not justasking people to stay in for their own safety, but for the safetyof emergency workers as well.

“The power crews are out, the county crews are out, and ifpeople could stay off road it would help us greatly,” he said.

Rushing said deputies were on county roads helping to clear themthrough the nights after county supervisors pulled their crewsafter dark.

“We were out clearing the roads as much as we could, just one ata time,” he said Tuesday. “The county’s been out this morningclearing a lot more, and from what I’ve gathered a we still have agood bit of work to do, because we’ve got a lot still down.”

Rushing said there are deputies riding the roads calling indowned tree limbs in order to get them on the list forclearing.

Hurricane Gustav brought wind gusts up to 75 miles per hour andmore than 6 inches of rain before Tuesday morning.

Brookhaven Police Chief Pap Henderson said the city had 26reports of trees down in the city, with six of those being onhouses and two on cars.

“That’s just what we’ve gotten in so far, what was reported thismorning,” Henderson said today. “We’ve had no flooding reported,but we do have a lot of power out all over town, and they’reworking on it this morning.”

Rushing and Galey said so far there have been a few minorreports of structure damage in the county, but that county workersare still trying to assess the damage there.

“We do know that we’ve had city and countywide power outages,with power lines and trees blocking roads all over the county andthe city and we’re trying to get around to get an assessment teamto see where we are on that,” Galey said.

Area law enforcement stayed on the roads throughout the worst ofthe weather, officials said.

“We more or less stayed out and about as much as we could andstill rode the roads, checking them and clearing them and going tocalls,” Rushing said.

Henderson said his officers continued to do their jobs, thoughthey have made allowances for some things that cannot behelped.

“We’re doing our normal job, but just backing off on ticketing alot of traffic violations because this is more important rightnow,” he said. “We just want to continue checking on the safety ofour businesses and streets and citizens.”

Rushing said overall, the damage could have been much worse, andlaw enforcement has not had to respond to more human drama thanusual in the way of crime or disturbance.

“So far we’ve been real fortunate on that,” he said. “All we’vereally had is blocked roads and power outages, and just give thepower companies time and they’ll have that taken care of.”

King’s Daughters Medical Center Emergency Services DirectorTerry Singleton said things have gone especially smoothly for EMSas well. Crews brought in from Texas and Florida have been able towork smoothly with local responders, and the general public seemsto be more prepared for Gustav’s blows than they were for Katrina,he said.

“This time they had things planned, and we didn’t have nearly asmany calls about running out of medicines and things,” he said.”People have done a lot better this time around than they did inKatrina.”

Galey said at this point there’s no way to tell how long thecleanup could take.

“No, because we have no good estimate on how widespread andsevere the damage is at this point, and a lot of that depends onthe power companies,” he said.