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Overtime hours pile up as recovery continues

No part of county untouched by storm, says Sheriff

Personnel with the Crisp County Sheriff’s Office have tallied over 5,300 hours of overtime since Hurricane Michael swept through Cordele, according to Sheriff Billy Hancock.

And it’s not just his deputies who have worked past the point of exhaustion, said Hancock. Every single employee of every single public safety agency has likewise worked at a breathless pace.

“This storm taxed our public safety to the point that we’ve never been taxed before,” said Hancock, who serves as the county’s emergency management director as well as sheriff. “Never in the history of Crisp County has there been a hurricane, and this essentially turned out to be a storm that had the windspeeds of an EF-2 tornado that lasted for more than an hour an a half.”

More than 90 percent of Crisp County was totally dark just after the storm. One place that kept the lights on was Crisp Regional Hospital.

“We’re a part of the community that’s always expected to function no matter what may be going on,” said Crisp Regional CEO Steven Gautney. “We practice for this thing all the time.”

Gautney said the hospital has roughly 50 patients admitted to its rooms on any given day. There are around 130 patients in its nursing care facilities.

“It’s a pretty big undertaking to make sure we have supplies and food in these types of situations,” Gautney said. “We were pleased with the efforts everybody put forth so that we were here when people needed us.”

As it turned out, there were no casualties during the storm, but the hospital was ready if things went bad.

Three physicians were on staff in the emergency room, compared to the normal one, and a surgeon and anesthesiologist stayed on site. Nursing staff levels were increased, and Gautney even arranged to keep a full maintenance staff and I.T. personnel on the property.

“Some of the staff were in here and their families were calling them throughout the night saying, ‘well, a tree fell on the carport,’ yet they stayed on the job,” Gautney said, adding that the response to the storm from everyone in the county was commendable.

“Everybody in this community does a good job of collaborating and working together,” he said.

Hancock is quick to point out that it will be months before everyone in the county has completely recovered.

In many ways the job is just beginning.