The third tropical storm of the Atlantic hurricane season fizzled Wednesday evening, but those charged with sheltering people out of harms way are no less vigilant.
Thats why we are constantly preparing, because we dont know when it will happen, said Tracy Willis-Kite, executive director of the Central Georgia chapter of the American Red Cross.
The remnants of Tropical Storm Chantal could regenerate, and its heavy rains could still head for Middle Georgia, as a couple of the computer models have indicated.
Historically, stronger hurricanes form later into the season when disturbances develop off the coast of Africa and gather strength in warmer waters.
But as Macon learned from Tropical Storm Alberto in 1994, even a weak tropical system can produce disastrous rain.
The citys all-time, 24-hour rainfall record of 10.25 inches happened July 5, 1994, with that storm, which later brought the Ocmulgee River to a record crest of 35.4 feet. (No one knows for sure because the depth gauge was swept away.)
Lessons learned in that storm and in other disasters, such as the Mothers Day tornado of 2008, result in higher levels of preparedness.
In the underground bunker of the Macon-Bibb Emergency Management Agency, Director Don Druitt has spent months upgrading the Emergency Operations Center and bringing in the latest technology.
A video wall of monitors can keep officials up to date with forecast tracks, computerized maps of damage reports and satellite feeds from emergency preparedness colleagues across the nation.
Were more prepared today than we have been from 2008 and 1994, Druitt said. Every day gets better.
Desks of computers with independent servers, Internet phones, a satellite hookup and generator will keep officials connected even if the rest of the city goes dark.
An organizational structure groups operations, logistics, planning and administration together in clusters.
Binders of contingency plans, lists of supplies and shelter locations will be the go-to guide should catastrophe strike.
We have it down to a science right now, Druitt said.
But its not just about Macon and Bibb County. If a major storm is headed toward coastal Georgia, 29,000 evacuees could be headed to Bibb County. The Macon Coliseum and Wilson Convention Center alone could be home to 4,000 people.
Trailers loaded with shelter supplies stand ready to roll to remote locations.
Accommodations for those with special needs, such as larger cots equipped for IV bags, would help handle any contingency.
The American Red Cross is also gearing up for activation in the event of a serious storm.
We are simply trying to do an assessment of what volunteers we have available and make contact with our shelter operators, said Donna Lee, the emergency services program manager.
Many people travel during the summer months, which can make planning a challenge.
The time to prepare and start your response is to start early, ahead of the storm, Lee said. If theres ever been that heart tug for you or your church or group to help, its better to be proactive than reactive.
If you are interested in being a volunteer, contact the Central Georgia chapter of the American Red Cross at 743-8671.
Now is also the time for families to think about having emergency supplies, such as bottled water, flashlights and battery-powered radios.
The key to tell everyone is to have an emergency preparedness plan, Druitt said.
Because communications are often affected during major storms, families should have a notification chain in place so that out-of-town relatives can be informed without jamming limited phone lines, he said.
Log onto www.ready.gov for more information on being prepared.
To contact Liz Fabian, call