DUNCAN, Okla. – State Rural Water Associations in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina are assisting water and wastewater systems damaged by high winds and floods created by Hurricane Matthew.
Matthew passed along Florida’s Atlantic coast starting on Oct. 7 and moved north before turning further out to sea. High winds and flooding resulted in a reported 33 deaths and left over 2 million people without power. Early estimates place economic losses from the storm at $4-6 billion.
Rural Water Associations began contacting systems after the storm to offer assistance and perform damage assessments. The most common problem reported is power loss. Flood waters are also complicating relief efforts. Systems that had prepositioned, off-site generators have reported difficulty in reaching those sites to start the generators. Others utilities have operating generators but are struggling to keep the generators fueled.
As flood waters recede, associations are expecting to gain access to more utilities and receive more requests for assistance. Based on past storms and early damage assessments, the rural water staff are planning to receive requests for assistance to repair damaged pipes and distribution systems, replace shorted-out electronics and disinfect contaminated wells.
Rural Water has become a leader in providing emergency assistance to small water systems. Rural Water Associations offer a range of emergency response services that include emergency training, loaning generators and equipment, on-site technical assistance and incident reporting. Utilities can also apply for short-term, low-interest loans from the National Rural Water Association’s Rural Water Loan Fund.
Rural Water Associations have also been coordinating their efforts with other state and national agencies to provide prompt assistance to all affected communities. Georgia Rural Water Association Executive Director Jimmy Matthews praised the cooperative efforts of all the agencies affiliated with the Georgia Emergency Management & Homeland Security Agency in being prepared for the hurricane.
“GEMHSA’s Atlanta Command Center has been coordinating the rapid response and recovery to the power outages and flooding,” he said.