Kauffman and his crew had been traveling on Alabama 144 toward Alexandria since 6 a.m., repairing downed power lines in an area ravaged by an apparent tornado the previous night.
The work was not easy.
“The damage is very widespread and considering the damage, work is going slow,” said Kauffman, who expected his crew to be out working long after the sun had set Thursday.
Kauffman and his workers made up a handful of the many crewmen trying to restore a sense of normality to the county Thursday by fixing power lines, supplying sufficient water and clearing roads.
At the start of the day, approximately 34,500 customers were without power in the Anniston, Oxford and Gadsden areas. Crews whittled that number down to about 29,500 by 5 p.m., however, most of those outages were in the Gadsden and Pell City areas, not Calhoun County, said Ike Pigott, a spokesman for Alabama Power.
“The Anniston area is relatively small,” Pigott said.
Kauffman said his crew was restoring main feeders first to restore the majority of power to the area and would return later to fix more isolated problems.
“We had most of the power restored in Ohatchee this morning,” he said. He said fallen trees caused most of the power outages throughout the county.
Downed trees were also the reason Calhoun County road crews were busy Thursday morning.
Calhoun County Commissioner Eli Henderson said county workers were out cutting and removing downed trees from roadways through most of Wednesday night and Thursday.
“I think all the county roads are accessible now,” Henderson said. “I think they’ve got it all cleared.”
Traveling through the county Thursday afternoon, a Star reporter found a few Alabama Department of Transportation crews cutting trees, but little other evidence of any debris on local roadways.
To assist with cleanup efforts, the county will allow residents to bring debris and broken tree limbs to the county landfill free of charge, Henderson said. He said the old county barn site on Alabama 144 also would be available for debris from residents.“We just ask residents to keep the debris and trees separated,” he said.
Residents who cannot bring their debris are asked to leave it in front of their homes by the side of the road.
“The county will come pick that up to help people,” Henderson said.
Due to the power outages, many residents on the county water system and Jacksonville water system had low water pressure or no water at all.
Henderson said the county’s water filtering plant was unable to function due to a lack of electricity.
“Everything goes through the filtration system so that’s why the pressure was down,” he said.
Later, Henderson said that Alabama Power Company would be working at the plant Thursday night to restore its power and operations by this morning, if at all possible.
Three county schools — in Alexandria, Ohatchee and Pleasant Valley — were without water due to the inoperative plant and were part of the reason why the entire school system was closed Thursday and would be closed again Friday.
“Hopefully, we’ll have school again like usual on Monday,” said Calhoun County Schools Superintendent Joe Dyar.
By late afternoon Thursday, however, Jacksonville’s water had been restored to full strength, according to Mayor Johnny Smith.
“Everybody should be in good shape,” he said.
Smith said that without electricity, three of Jacksonville’s pumping stations were unable to function. He said power has been restored to two of them and a temporary generator had been connected to the third one.
In addition to inconveniencing residents, the lack of water pressure worried city officials.
“We were concerned with no pressure at fire hydrants to fight fires,” Smith said.
So while water pressure was being restored, the fire department obtained a large water tank to combat a possible emergency, he said.
Star staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561.