Is Clark County Ready For A Disaster?

By Kevin Fox

The major storm which hit Quincy, Illinois, and left thousands without power for several days has Clark County residents asking if the county has plans in place if such a storm were to hit Clark County or Kahoka.

On Thursday, July 16, Clark County Emergency Management Director Jim Sherwood was asked that very question.
Sherwood responded, “Of course there will be several services disrupted by a storm of that magnitude. Like Quincy, we also have the designation of Tree City USA, which also means that there will be a lot of trees and limbs down which will have an impact on the electrical system. There is a great deal of concern of how a loss of electrical service will also impact our residents and their lives. This certainly includes food items in their freezers. Just for the residents’ information-if a freezer is full, food items in it will stay frozen at least a couple days and a day or so if it’s half full. Of course, you do not want to keep checking on it by raising the lid and see how things are going and let cold air escape.

As far as restoring electricity in Kahoka, all the city workers would be called in from all the departments. The first thing we would address is ensuring the safety of the residents. This would include assessing what damages there were and where there were lines down or compromised. These areas would be taped off from the public so no one would be in danger of getting into the wires. An electrical line is a lot like a firearm in that you should always assume that the power is on. Never ever treat it as though the power is off and there is no danger. The power line may go down and the source of direction in the line may be disrupted. However someone may have a little generator in their home and plug in their system. If they do not disconnect their household panel from the electrical system then it feeds right back to their neighbors. It will be back feeding the wires, so now you have a wire that is hot even though you may think that the line is dead because you have been told that the electricity has been knocked out. A lot of people cannot tell the difference between an electrical wire and a phone wire or even a cable wire so the best thing to do is simply avoid any down wires.

Once this evaluation is complete and limbs and or trees removed so service can be restored, crews will begin doing that. We have electrical generation capabilities, so if it is our incoming transmission service that has been disrupted, we can begin restoring power. Or if we have a line out that we would serve with our electrical service, we would fix that service and begin restoring power to those places. It is possible that we could have certain pockets of the city that have damage so that it’s power cannot be restored until repairs are made. Circuit-wise, we have six circuits in the city and another circuit that serves KPF and Gregory’s. These circuits are interconnected so that we can pick up other sections of a certain circuit if the entire circuit could not be restored. Depending upon what section may be without power, we then access priorities as to where power may be restored first. If at all possible, the Clark County Nursing Home is always our highest priority, as it’s vital to keep them in operation. Beyond that power is restored as where it will impact the largest number of people. We would go from the substation out so if we can pick up 25 homes in the center of town over just picking up 2 homes at the edge of town, you go with the greatest number impacted by the restoration of power.

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As far as preparing for a approaching storm we do have a Storm Shelter Map which identifies six churches or locations in town where those who may not have a safe place to go can go. The Kahoka Police Department has the keys to open up those locations for the public. This map was prepared by the Clark County Health Department and other organizations, including directions from the American Red Cross for those who may not have shelter in their homes. I believe those locations are Methodist Church, Catholic Church, Baptist Church, St. Paul, Freedom in Christ, and the C.A.R.E. Building. All these locations have basements. A lot of it is based on how much warning we have prior to a storm as to whether the buildings get opened, and people being aware of the shelter, as there is no formal notification system. These locations are for pre-storm safety measures, but I have no doubt if needed they could also be used for short-term shelter post storm damage for those who cannot immediately return to their homes. We have done this during the flooding of 2008 for those living on the bottoms and St. Francisville. During that time the Red Cross operated out of the Middle School for about a week. There were also a couple National Guard Units that were also housed there as well. But a call to the Clark County Sheriff’s Office could confirm the status of the shelter as to whether in fact it has been open yet. There are also shelters in at least two other communities that I am aware of. They are Wayland and Wyaconda.”

Sherwood closed by saying that, “We also have a Local Emergency Planning Committee in Clark County that could supply emergency lighting and generator as well as other services. We are also very fortunate in that because we are a farming community there is no doubt countless farmers who would respond with equipment if needed in response to the needs of fellow citizens!”