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Restoring power, clearing roads main focus

Two days after Hurricane Gustav made landfall and began churningnorthwest through Southwest Mississippi, Lincoln County is makingprogress in cleaning up the mess and getting things back tonormal.

Lincoln County Civil Defense Director Clifford Galey saidcounty, city, emergency and utility crews are still working torepair damaged roads, homes and power lines, but Gustav’s fury wasthankfully less than expected.

“All things considered, I think we were pretty lucky,” he said.”We have probably at least 60 percent of the power city andcounty-wide back on. For the magnitude of what we were expecting, Ithink we’ve done a pretty good job at getting the roads open andthe power back on.”

There is still work to be done, Galey said. As of 7 a.m.Wednesday, he reported 43 roads in the city and county with minordamage – mostly due to downed trees – and 30 roads that wereflooded.

Galey said he expects most of the flooded roads to be in thesouthern portion of the county near the Bogue Chitto River.

“There’s probably a lot of roads south of Highway 84 that areexperiencing major flooding,” he said. “The roads that normallyflood when we get 4, 5 and 6 inches of water – I’m sure they’reunder water now.”

As far as structural damage, Gustav destroyed three homes in thecity and county, caused major damage to six and minor damage to 12.There are also two businesses with damage. Galey said downed treeshave caused most of the destruction.

Lincoln County is still under a state of emergency, Galey said.He said he will meet with city and county elected officialsWednesday night or Thursday morning to discuss either extending orlifting the declaration.

As for county and city students, the five-day weekend officiallyends Thursday. Classes will resume at normal times Thursday morningfor the Brookhaven School District and Brookhaven Academy.Officials from both systems reported full power and no damage toany structures.

Lincoln County School District Superintendent’s Assistant ReginaEast said electricity has not yet been restored to EnterpriseAttendance Center, and the district was still undecided on resumingclasses as of press time Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the number of county and city residents still in thedark is steadily decreasing as power company crews remove fallentrees and restring snapped lines.

Magnolia Electric Power Association Member Services DirectorLucy Shell said almost 3,000 city and county residents were withoutelectricity Tuesday night, that number having been reduced from5,000 at the peak of the outage.

Shell said the western portion of the county received the mostdamage, but the company is hoping to make significant improvementsWednesday with around 250 crewmen working system-wide.

“Since we got to so many Tuesday, we are hoping to have anothersignificant amount turned on tonight,” she said Wednesday.

Entergy Account Services Manager Kenny Goza said there are still500 customers in the county without power, reduced fromapproximately 6,000 Monday night. He said Entergy crews wereanticipating restoring power to all county customers either lateWednesday or early Thursday.

“We’ve identified all the breaks, it’s just a matter of gettingthem worked,” Goza said. “We have about 115 to 120 crewman workinghere in Lincoln County.”

Goza said the worst hit areas in the county were around BogueChitto and in the Victorian district in Brookhaven.

Approximately 300 Southwest Mississippi Electric PowerAssociation customers are still without power, and Public RelationsCoordinator Azalea Knight said the speed at which electricity isrestored depends on the type of damage.

“If it’s just lines and trees down, we could have a pretty quickrecovery,” she said. “But if we have to replace poles, and if theweather kicks back up, that will hinder recovery time.”

Knight estimated it would take at least another two days for thecompany’s Lincoln County clients to get back online.

Along with power crews, cable company workers are alsopatrolling the county and city to repair damage to theirinfrastructure. Cable One Marketing Manager Jullia Ivey said cableand contract crews are working on the main lines first and movingto the drop lines to homes afterward.

“It looks like it’s going really well,” she said Wednesday. “Itwill go a lot better today than yesterday – we have crews in nowand more crews on the way.”

Ivey said 55 percent of Cable One’s customers were back upWednesday, and the total was expected to climb to 80 percentThursday.

Ivey said that if Cable One customers have electricity but nocable, they should report their outage to the Brookhaven office bycalling (601) 833-7991.

Cable crews would continue to work, she said, as long as theweather remains safe.

“When we have tornadoes and high wind, we can’t get on thepole,” Ivy said. “We have to have safety for our workers. Otherthan that, we’re on the pole and we’re working.”