Emergency declaration aimed at aiding Columbia's storm recovery

Wednesday, July 9, 2014 | 10:13 p.m. CDT; updated 6:39 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 10, 2014

COLUMBIA — City utility employees now may work twice as many hours thanks to an emergency declaration from City Manager Mike Matthes in wake of a Monday night storm that tore through Columbia.

At the height of the storm, about 14,000 Columbia Water and Light customers were without power, according to Columbia Water and Light. As of Wednesday evening, about 1,300 customers still had no power.

Declaring an emergency allows city utility employees to work 16 hours per day compared with regular eight-hour days, according to Columbia's code of ordinances. The declaration also permits Columbia to request aid from surrounding cities.

Matthes declared the emergency Tuesday, said Heather Cole, assistant to the city manager, and it will extend until Thursday. However, that could change depending on the number of outages remaining, she said.

Columbia Water and Light spokeswoman Connie Kacprowicz said it's rare that the city manager authorizes this ordinance, a move he makes only in extreme circumstances.

She said that one crew had been working more than 18 hours near West Boulevard South and Rollins Road. It had trouble accessing the damaged area because of tree debris and broken line pole equipment.

Insurance claims

State Farm Insurance and Shelter Insurance have fielded many calls from clients affected by the storms since damage began accumulating Monday night.

State Farm agent Greg Hill said he was surprised by the damage created by the strong winds.

"I've been working for 38 years as a State Farm agent, and this is the worst damage caused by strong winds to trees in Columbia that I can remember," Hill said.

Kathleen Thomas, office manager for State Farm agent DJ Hinds, said that 10 claims had been filed with Hinds since Monday night — a relatively high amount. She said the the company issued a catastrophe statement because of the volume of claims filed in the past few days.

Joe Moseley, Shelter Insurance vice president of public affairs, said that as of 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, 162 claims had been filed. Besides 17 automobile claims, the other claims were for damaged houses. Most of the damage was from trees falling on houses, buildings and cars, but there were also claims involving roof damage.

State Farm and Shelter did not yet know the total cost of damage resulting from the storm.

Michael Alvey, Rachel Jelinek and Joyce Peng contributed to this article.

Supervising editor is Mary Ryan.

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