County has flood of concerns

Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Bob Hopkins, director of the Marshall County Emergency Management Agency, displays the appropriate kind of face mask to use to protect against the flu. They're available at pharmacies and discount stores, among other outlets such as medical supply stores.

Emergency preparedness was emphasized Wednesday by Marshall County leaders in the wake of reports on the flu in surrounding counties and a forecast for more rain.

"Nothing has happened here yet," County Emergency Preparedness Director Bob Hopkins said, "but we want to be prepared with this pre-warning on things that will protect you."

County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett acknowledged a few school closures north of here because of the H1N1 virus and avian flu in a few birds in Maury and Lincoln counties but, he said, hand washing and "cough etiquette" can ward off infection.

Meanwhile, a Lewisburg grocery is closed this week because of water damage, and water was standing at the ambulance station under construction in Chapel Hill.

Unofficial measurements of rainfall in the county have ranged from 7-1/2- to 9-1/2 inches, according to Hopkins who said seven roads were still closed because of high water, although they included dead end roads, and most weren't thoroughfares.

Nevertheless, weather proved to be more than an idle threat at Perryman's Home Town Grocery on South Ellington Parkway.

Its roof started leaking Friday, and the grocery was closed Saturday.

The store's flat roof was damaged by hail during the Good Friday storms, grocers Ryan and Brad Perryman said. Friday's heavy rain was too much for their roof, as water leaked through in several places.

Inside the store on Monday morning, shelves and products were entirely covered with plastic sheeting, and dehumidifiers were working. The Perrymans said that once they have a three to four day period with no rain in the forecast, the old roof will be removed and a new one put on. They are going to take the opportunity to completely renovate the interior of the store. That includes installation of a new freezer.

The Perrymans plan to hold a big salvage sale of items from the store. Meanwhile, they are selling their potted plants at a discount.

The Home Town Grocery will re-open as soon as possible.

"We plan to keep down time to a minimum," said Ryan, but realistically the store will be closed for at least "a week or so."

As for the Marshall County Emergency Medical Service ambulance station being built near Chapel Hill Elementary School, county commissioners were looking at a cell phone photo of water standing at the construction site during their meeting in Lewisburg.

The ambulance service building under construction now has been notable because of the public-private cooperation between Chapel Hill's financial support, Realtor/developer Howard Wall's donation of 6.76 acres, and price negotiations by the county after bids were opened.

The building's cost was stated at $278,000 by Freda Terry, director of accounts and budgets, during the EMS Committee meeting Tuesday night when EMS Director James Whorley said drainage ditches had been planned for the site and Commissioner Richard Medley said County Highway Superintendent Jerry Williams knows what to do there.

Commissioner Wilford "Spider" Wentzel complained other commissioners had denied what was needed at the building site, but others at the EMS meeting spoke of planning and economizing.

So, as commissioners debated construction, the county mayor and the emergency preparedness director convened a briefing for 15 other local leaders called to the Emergency Management office in the Hardison Annex on Tuesday morning.

During an 11 a.m. press conference Tuesday, Liggett reviewed the message to those leaders from the municipalities, county offices and the state health department.

Clearly aware that cases of the H1N1 virus (perhaps better known as what's been called the swine flu) has prompted the closure of a Williamson County elementary school and two private schools in Nashville, Liggett reported there is no reason for alarm here.

"We are monitoring this the best we can, but the best thing Marshall County residents can do it to wash hands," the county mayor said.

Liggett and Hopkins displayed paper facemasks with an "N95" marking that indicates the appropriate weave of fabric that prevents infection, but allows passage of air.

Asked what might lead to a closure of a school here, Liggett said it would need "an understanding that we have the problem in the county and only after we meet with school officials."

Nevertheless, because the last day of school is May 22, an abbreviated day that ends at 9:30 a.m., and because there are only a dozen school days left, Liggett said there's hope that students will be able to finish the school year unaffected by illness, or precautionary measures.

When asked about the avian flu in Giles and Lincoln counties, the mayor noted that's confined to birds, although there's no explanation on how it got from one county to another, if there's a connection.

Shifting from announcements of the county's preparedness and officials remaining on alert for any effect here, the mayor and emergency management director returned to their concern for rain, high water and the public's safety.

As Hopkins noted rain in the forecast late this week, Liggett warned a hard rain could create dangerous circumstances within a minute, so residents should use common sense.