Local public safety officials breathed a collective sigh of relief as Hurricane Nate briefly flexed its muscles but displayed its strength only nominally in Atmore and Escambia County as it made a northerly turn and headed through Alabama in Sunday’s predawn hours.
Most locals slept through the storm, which had been projected to bring winds of up to 70 mph and drop several inches of rain on the community.
“We’re fortunate that the hurricane took a turn as it moved inland,” Atmore Police Chief Chuck Brooks said Monday. “A lot of areas were affected devastatingly, but we are so fortunate that the devastating wind and rain missed our area.”
Fire Chief Ron Peebles, who had called in extra manpower in anticipation of a major weather event, agreed.
“We only had one or two trees down, and as far as I know nobody lost power or suffered any real damage,” Peebles said. “It stayed far enough to the west that we didn’t get the effects we thought we would. All in all we came out pretty good.”
Local officials were well-prepared for Hurricane Nate, which initially had been projected to pass right over the city, but the preparations were never needed.
“I think we were really prepared for it, as prepared as we could be,” said Peebles. “We thought we were going to get more than we did. We had our incident plan of action in place and were ready to roll.”
Brooks echoed those sentiments, saying that “all resources were in place should the devastation have fallen upon us.”
The storm’s eastern edge did bring winds that reportedly topped 45 mph, but only a fraction of the expected rainfall fell on the city and county.
Escambia County Emergency Management Agency Director David Adams, who praised Atmore’s preparedness plan during several meetings held Saturday, pointed out that summer thunderstorms usually feature stronger winds than were generated here by Nate.
Only four people took advantage of a shelter that was set up at Rachel Patterson Elementary School, pointed out the police chief, who added that local businesses also did their part in getting ready for a storm that never really materialized.
“Area business cooperated by closing early in order to allow their employees to seek safety,” Brooks said.
Several citizens furnished food for the first responders, so much in fact that officials had to politely decline several offers.
“I want to thank the public for bringing all the food,” Peebles said. “They brought so much that we finally had to ask them to quit bringing it. It could have been bad, but Atmore and the surrounding area really dodged a bullet.”