Originally created 05/08/99

New emergency director ready when storms hit



Call it Pam Tucker's "initiation."

After spending much of Thursday helping coordinate a response to a powerful storm featuring wind, rain and hail, Friday was much quieter for the longtime Richmond County emergency services director, who took a similar post in Columbia County last month.

"It was just smooth as silk," she said. "That may be hard to believe after just three weeks, but it really was. There were just no hitches at all."

She attributes part of that to advance warnings of the storms.

"It was not a surprise hit," Mrs. Tucker said. "From early morning weather reports we knew that we had a chance for some severe weather. So, at 7:30, we started faxing out to everybody -- all the county departments and emergency services -- information on what was coming."

For all of the advanced warning Thursday afternoon, Mrs. Tucker admits the storm did take her a little by surprise. As the initial reports of twisters came in, she called to alert the National Weather Service. That's when she caught a glimpse of the sky from her office window.

"I told him, `If you hear the phone drop, I'm taking cover,"' Mrs. Tucker said. "I've never been in a location where I felt like I needed to take cover from a tornado, but it really looked extremely ominous out there. It was the blackest sky I have ever seen."

Overall, her response to the storm impressed county officials, who hired Mrs. Tucker last month after she worked in Richmond County for more than two decades.

"She did one heck of a job," said county commissioner Frank Spears, who was in Washington when the storms hit. "We were very satisfied with the way things occurred. The commission was very impressed with her handling of the matter. It was just great that she was on our team."

Jason B. Smith and Preston Sparks can be reached at (706) 868-1222 or ccchron@augustachronicle.com.