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Officials bracing for flooding of rain-swollen waterways

ALBANY — Tropical Storm Sally’s immediate impact was relatively light, but water dumped by the storm could bring flooding in coming days to local waterways.

Rainfall at Lee County’s Public Works Department was measured at 8.5 inches between 10 a.m. Wednesday and 3 a.m. Thursday and could have been heavier in parts of the county, County Co-Manager Mike Sistrunk said. No roads in the county were closed, and buses were able to pick up and drop off children to and from school.

However, the Muckalee and Kinchafoonee Creeks are rising and could inundate some homes and wash out roads when they crest in the county.

Dougherty County also could be impacted by flooding as creeks and the Flint River crest over the weekend.

The two creeks were expected to reach moderate flood stages over the weekend, Cole Williams, director of the Lee County Emergency Management Agency, said. The National Weather Service predicted that the Kinchafoonee Creek would crest at about 18.4 feet at around 7 a.m. Sunday, and that the Muckalee Creek would crest at about 15.8 feet at midnight Saturday.

“That should start to push it in peoples’ homes and cover some of the roadways,” Williams said of the Kinchafoonee. “There is a possibility some people could be (forced) out of their homes. We’re going around and advising residents the potential is there.”

The predictions could change on the exact crest levels and times, he said.

On Thursday, the county’s Public Works Department was preparing sandbags that were going faster than workers could fill them, and bags and sand were available for residents who wanted to make their own, Sistrunk said.

Deputies and fire personnel monitored roadways into the night, he said, but there were no serious issues.

“We’re out there today checking on roads, checking for damage,” he said. “They took a beating and they kept on ticking. If we can get a little dry weather, we can have our crews back out.”

In Albany, about 6.5 inches of rain fell during a 24-hour period, and wind gusts downed limbs and trees, causing some power outages.

About 4,100 Albany Utilities customers were affected by two separate power outages, the city reported. Both outages lasted about 2 1/2 hours. There also was localized flooding in Albany in areas including Vintage Drive, Crescent Drive and Tompkins Avenue, with water receding on Thursday after the rainfall ceased.

The Flint River is expected to crest at 33.9 feet on Sunday morning as water from heavy rainfall north of the city moves down the waterway.


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Phoebe 'goes orange' for World Patient Safety Day

ALBANY – Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital is joining health care organizations across the globe Thursday in celebrating World Patient Safety Day, a commemoration designated by the World Health Organization.

“Safety is fundamental. That is our No. 1 value,” Phoebe Putney Health System President and Chief Executive Officer Scott Steiner said. “It’s listed first because every member of the Phoebe Family must put safety first every day – the safety of our patients, our visitors, ourselves and our co-workers. We are excited to celebrate World Patient Safety Day to highlight that fundamental commitment to safety.”

As part of that commitment, Phoebe recently made some organizational changes to bring certain aspects of safety into greater focus. The health system created a systemwide organizational safety department and appointed new directors of patient safety and organizational safety.

“Patient safety has always been paramount at Phoebe,” hospital Patient Safety Director Traci Akins, a registered nurse, said. “We are simply renewing our pledge to put it front and center and ensure it is the foundation of the Phoebe culture. Our recent ‘A’ Hospital Safety Grade from the Leapfrog Group is validation of that pledge and the Phoebe Family’s dedication to continuous improvement when it comes to quality and safety.”

The theme for this year’s World Patient Safety Day is health worker safety.

“Health worker safety is more relevant than ever as we continue to battle COVID-19,” Phoebe Chief Medical Officer Dr. Steven Kitchen said. “We know keeping the Phoebe Family safe is crucial to ensuring our ability to keep our patients safe.”

Phoebe also recently formed an Employee Safety Committee focused on protecting team members from COVID-19 and all other aspects of employee safety.

Another way Phoebe is working to ensure the well-being of all team members is through Care for the Caregiver, a peer-to-peer support program.

“Health care workers have difficult, stressful jobs,” Phoebe Employee Assistance Program Therapist Sara Cornwell said. “They are subject to burnout, and they may suffer negative physical and emotional consequences following the loss of a patient or an unexpected outcome. Through our Care for the Caregiver Program, employees volunteer to go through special training so they can be a listening ear and provide emotional support to their peers. Our Employee Assistance Program also offers free counseling sessions with licensed therapists to all members of the Phoebe Family for support with any emotional needs.”

Phoebe planned to “go orange” on Thursday. Orange is the signature color of the World Patient Safety Day campaign, representing gratitude and respect for health workers. Phoebe will externally light all its hospitals in orange and is encouraging Phoebe Family members to wear orange to show their solidarity and commitment to patient safety.

“We want all members of the Phoebe Family to know how much we value them, and how much we appreciate their commitment to patient safety, today and every other day throughout the year,” Steiner said.


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Dougherty Emergency Management officials advise residents to use weather alert systems

ALBANY — Severe weather, from a sudden tornado to tropical systems bringing strong winds and heavy rains, is no stranger to Albany residents.

When the danger from a tornado or other potential high-wind event is imminent, the loud cry of sirens in the city often is the only warning some residents will receive of the threat.

“Outdoor warning sirens remain one of the best ways to alert a large number of people in a short time,” Albany Fire Department Chief Cedric Scott, who also serves as Dougherty County’s emergency management director, said.

When the center receives information of a tornado warning, thunderstorm or wind event bringing winds of 80 miles per hour or greater from the National Weather Service, the sirens sound to warn residents.

Residents also are alerted when trained weather spotters in the area report high winds from thunderstorms.

“For many years, voice instructions could be heard, along with the activation of the siren,” Scott said. “However, it is important to note that voice instructions will no longer be emitted. Therefore, if the sirens are activated, seek shelter immediately.”

Scott also recommends that residents enroll in the rapid phone notification CodeRED system. It allows emergency management to alert all targeted areas in the case of an emergency requiring immediate action.

As well as weather warnings, CodeRed can give evacuation notices and alerts to missing persons and other information.

Residents can sign up for the service on their cell phones at www.albanyga.gov/about-us/city-departments/albany-fire-department.

When signing up, residents should check the weather warning to receive automated alerts for tornadoes, flash floods and other severe weather warnings.

Those who do not have internet access can call the Albany Fire Department at (229) 431-3262 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays to give information over the phone.

Emergency management officials also recommend that residents buy a weather radio that gives alerts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and an emergency supply kit. The radios give continuous weather information from the NWS and can be programmed to give alerts when severe weather is imminent in the user’s area.