Though Hurricane Nate made landfall in Mississippi, the Category 1 storm caused its share of damage in Mobile County, especially on Dauphin Island, where several miles of sand on one of the main roadways has continued to hamper some recovery efforts.
One of the most notable impacts of Nate was storm surge, which caused localized flooding on Water Street in downtown Mobile., but aside from wharfs and seawalls, there was little in the way of structural damage when the waters receded.
First responders in Mobile evacuated four people in areas affected by minor flooding and responded to nine calls for assistance during the storm. The city will be collecting limbs and debris from the storm during regular trash schedule trash pickups throughout the next two weeks and will be waiving the normal size limit as well.
“We are thankful Mobile only experienced light damage from the storm,” Mayor Sandy Stimpson said. “Thanks to the hard work of our city employees and partnering agencies, we have cleared the streets, cleaned storm drains, fixed traffic lights and removed fallen trees.”
In all, Nate dumped five to six inches of rain across the area on Oct. 7 and brought with it sustained winds exceeding 85 mph and up to five feet of storm surge in some locations. Up to 56,000 Alabama Power customers were affected in the Mobile area at the height of the storm, though service had been restored to all but 3,900 as of 2 p.m. Monday afternoon.
Mobile County reported flood damage to Bayfront Park, the Dauphin Island Airport and at least three bridges — one on Shell Belt Road and two on Coden Belt Road that will remain closed until assessments and repairs are completed. After the storm, Commission President Merceria Ludgood praised the county’s road and bridge employees and the Mobile County Emergency Management Agency [EMA] for their preparedness.
“This is the first time we’ve actually activated when I’ve been president, and I had the privilege to be inside and really watch the level of preparation and professionalism from our EMA staff, which coordinated these functions, as well as all of the others agencies,” Ludgood said. “Even in a small event like this, we operated as if it were [a more severe] category. We were ready.”
Most damage assessments are still ongoing, so there’s not currently a reliable estimate of what repairing damages from the storm might cost. Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier told Lagniappe damage assessments would have to be turned over to EMA officials by Tuesday, Oct. 10.
While coastal Alabama didn’t take a direct hit from Nate, Collier said the western tip of Dauphin Island is “only a stone’s throw from Mississippi line,” which is one of the reasons recovery on the barrier island could take longer than in other areas.
“One the most important things we do after a storm is get ourselves reattached to mainland so people and utilities can get back and forth, which we were able to accomplish in record time,” Collier said. “Once we had that done, it allowed us to focus on the others things we have to do.”
According to Collier, the east end of Dauphin Island reported damage to a number of public and private boat ramps, docks and piers, while flooding was a problem throughout the island including reported damages to a number of homes and vehicles. However, the biggest issue officials are facing is on the west end, where three and a half miles of Bienville Boulevard is covered in up to six feet of sand in some places.
“That’s going to be a big task, but our first approach is to start trying to clear the roads so people can get to their houses,” Collier said. “More importantly, we’ve got to get utilities down there because power, water and sewer services can’t be reset until they can get down there safely.”
Island police have established a temporary checkpoint at Raphael Semmes St., and as of Monday, only property owners, contractors and utility services were being allowed westward.
The Dauphin Island Water and Sewer Authority has also issued a “boil water” notice until further notice for residents from St. Denis Court and Stephens Street westward. Additional information is available through the water authority at 251-861-2363.
Collier said that boiling requirement would likely be lifted as efforts to clear sand from the road progress westward. While the sand removed will be screened and returned to the shoreline, he said that would likely take some time to accomplish.