‘WE’VE HAD A HISTORIC FLOOD:’ Storm repairs could take months, county engineer warns

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, April 5, 2023

The Chambers County Commission declared a state of emergency in regard to the March 26 storms that at one point resulted in an impassable travel advisory for every road in the county. 

In a unanimous vote, the commission agreed and the state of emergency was declared. Doing so allows for a quick response to the county’s needs and opens up funding opportunities required to repair damages caused by natural disasters.

Commissioner James Williams and Sam Bradford took a moment to publicly thank county engineer Josh Harvill and his staff at the highway department for their work during and after the storms.

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“I want to say thank you to Josh,” Williams said. “ I want to say thank you to your team. They went beyond  … I know a number of them had to work over for several evenings last week.”

Williams acknowledged the work of the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office as well.

“Sheriff, hats off to your guys,” he said. “I saw our guys out more last week helping with blocking off roads and all because we didn’t have the barricades.”

Sheriff Jeff Nelson acknowledged the combined efforts of all and said it was a miracle there were no serious injuries or loss of life.

“It’s a miracle we didn’t have somebody killed in this county just from the clutter,” Nelson said. “We were already blessed we got missed by the tornado, but we still suffered some serious damage.”

Harvill also made an impassioned plea to the county’s citizens not to ignore the barricades at roads and bridges compromised by the storm.

“Listen to me,” Harvill pleaded. “When you see barricades, don’t cross it, period. End of story. People are going to get hurt. When we go through what we’ve gone through in the last week, when we issue things like an impassable travel advisory, guys we’ve had a historic flood, when we put out a barricade, don’t think you know more than us, please.”

At the height of the flooding, Harvill said there were 13 roads closed, and as of Monday’s meeting, the county was down to nine. Harvill also said the highway department ran out of barricades and had to borrow some to get through the flooding.

“We borrowed 35 sets of barricades from Lee County, two sets from ALDOT and borrowed barricades from the sheriff’s department,” Harvill said. “There’s absolutely no way we get through last week without our friends and partners.”

Harvill urged the citizens of the county to remain patient as repairs to these roads and bridges will take months to complete. Still, he assured the commission his department is working diligently to get things done as quickly as possible.