As I sit here on what has become an unusually busy Sunday afternoon for many of us I find myself reflecting on the past week and weekend. While I had originally decided to focus my monthly article of the efforts we are undertaking in economic development in an effort to show you that are moving in some very positive directions when it comes to growing our economy and our community, I keep reflecting back to the near disaster we have all just emerged from and on you, our citizens, who rose above the flood waters to prove that Clinton is truly a great city. Do me a favor, and reach around and give yourself a big pat on the back. You deserve it. You did one heck of a job this weekend. As the rains fell, and the waters rose, and the trees toppled, and the powerlines snapped; you did exactly what you needed to do and your proved once again that the people of our city are what makes it great.
First, you heeded the warnings from the city, the county, the state, and your favorite meteorologists by preparing for the possibility of, as one weatherman stated, “a once in a lifetime rain event.” You went to the store and got groceries and then you went home and hunkered down. As the rains began to fall, you called your neighbors and the elderly to check on them.
While you were preparing, your city employees were too. Every single piece of emergency equipment, from chainsaws to generators to fire trucks and utility trucks, was checked, tested, and checked again to make sure it would perform perfectly when we needed it the most. A team of employees headed out to tackle cleaning off storm drains before the rains feel in effort to make the system function at the best possible level.
Then the rains began to overwhelm the city’s storm drains and waters began to rise. Creeks in some parts of city erupted from their banks and spread out over the road. You didn’t speed through the floodwaters or drive around barricades. You found different routes to church and you waited patiently as officers directed traffic around the worst hit areas. By doing that, you kept the number of traffic accidents to a minimum which allowed your police and fire employees to focus on keeping you safe and helping those in need instead of dealing with accident investigations. Some of you even gave our storm drain cleaning crews, who were dashing from trouble spot to trouble spot cleaning out plugged storm drains, a friendly thumbs up as you drove (slowly) by.
Trees fell all over town. Their old roots couldn’t hold them in the soggy ground any more. Buice Street, Jones Street, Stonewall Street, Calvert Avenue, Neighborhood Drive. Trees down on cars. Trees down on apartments. Trees down on power lines. Trees down on houses. You checked on each other. You took it all in stride. You were patient as our crews worked their way across town from tree to tree.
Many of those trees had power lines in them and you stayed away from them. You kept your family away from them. When our electric crews made it to your house some of you came out and said thanks. For two of you, when we got our equipment stuck in your yard, you were gracious and understanding. We will be back when it dries to put everything back together.
Thanks to you, power was restored to the majority of our customers in short order, with nearly everyone restored within a few hours. Thanks to you, not one life was lost in the storm. Thanks to your patience and understanding, the city was able to get streets open and services restored.
There are things that you will never see during a storm from the comfort of your home. You didn’t see our team of personnel who worked inside the Enoree River Raw Water pumping station as the water rose and ultimately flooded it to remove over one hundred thousand dollars worth of motors and equipment and get it to higher ground so that we wouldn’t waste your tax and utility dollars replacing it after the flood. You didn’t see the police officers and firefighters wading through water in the dark to go door to door to check on citizens in some of our hardest hit neighborhoods. You didn’t see the ballet of scheduling and moving resources that ran seamlessly in our dispatch offices and conference rooms.
Many of you took to social media to monitor the situation, just as we asked you to, and many of you shared comments praising our employees and their efforts. You have no idea how much it means to a utility worker changing into their sixth pair of socks and trying to keep their feet dry in the storm or to a police officer who has waded from door to door to read a note from you, their boss, praising them for their efforts. It means a great deal. Thank you.
While we as a city have many challenges to face and many problems to address, you have proven once again that we as a city can survive anything because of who we are, our values, and our caring attitude towards each other. It is that attitude and not one of threats and anger, that allows us to have al ong history of rising above the challenges we face. The flood of ’15 is one for the history books, and one day the other challenges we face this year will be too. What will remain si a great city, of great people, with a tradition of working as a community to make it through the dark and stormy times so that we can all enjoy sunnier (and drier) days ahead.