SPRINGFIELD — After dodging a serious weather bullet late last year, the Effingham County Emergency Management Agency rushed to the aid of a counterpart that was not as fortunate.
Hurricane Michael swept through southwest Georgia on Oct. 9, leaving a massive trail of devastation. The storm — the first Category 5 one to hit the contiguous United States since 1992 — packed 115 mph winds when it reached Georgia from the Florida Panhandle, wrecking crops and leaving 300,000 people without electricity.
“My EEMA coordinator and I went down to Blakely, which is in Early County (north of Seminole County),” EEMA Director Clint Hodges said. “We spent a considerable amount of time there assisting them because they took a pretty substantial impact. They requested help so we went down there.
“They wound up getting through their (recovery) process sooner than a lot of other areas.”
Michael was the first Category 5 storm on record to hit the Florida Panhandle. At least 74 deaths were attributed to it. Fifty-nine were in the United States, including one in Seminole County, which borders Early County to the south.
Effingham County has been impacted, directly or indirectly, by tropical weather for three straight years.
“We’re coming up hurricane season again,” Hodges warned. “It starts June 1.”
Hodges remarked that a couple systems have already percolated in the Atlantic Ocean only to fade before fully developing.
He said, “Everybody looks at the (NOAA hurricane forecasting) model and thinks, ‘Oh, this hurricane season is not supposed to be so bad.’ People need to keep in mind that it only takes one. It could really be a slow year but all it takes is one storm.
“We try to focus on preparedness because it is a lot easier to prepare than it is to react.”
The EEMA strives to keep Effingham County residents informed about hurricanes and other dangers through its growing social media presence.
“We put a heavy focus on all types of media but social media is the one that you can get your information out immediately,” Hodges said. “The one thing we do encourage is that people make sure that they are using a reliable source (for information), especially during hurricane season because you start to see a lot of, ‘Oh, I heard so and so.’
“We put out information as fast as we know it and we try to keep it as reliable as possible, so we encourage people to ‘like’ our pages and interact with us directly if they can.”
Follow the EEMA on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Effingham-County-Emergency-Management-Agency-225265194247574/.