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Public works chief: Savannah passed storm test

Pump station supervisor Darryl Kershaw talks about keeping the pump stations running during Hurricane Matthew. (Eric Curl/Savannah Morning News)

There is a reason Savannah didn’t experience flooding worse than it did as Hurricane Matthew dumped 15 inches of rain on the city in less than 24 hours.

The city’s stormwater system did what it was supposed to do during such events, with the help of city employees who stuck around to ensure the pumps operated during the height of the storm, said Public Works and Water Bureau Chief John Sawyer.


“If they had not been here, the flooding would have been a whole lot worse,” Sawyer said.

Pump station supervisor Darryl Kershaw and Operations 
Administrator Ken Kelly were among the employees that voluntarily kept the city’s seven pump stations in working order.

That work involved keeping equipment maintained and switching to generators during power fluctuations inside the station, but also clearing debris outside in the wind and rain so that the pumps did not get clogged.

“It felt like someone took a handful of sand and threw it at you,” Kelly said.

During the hurricane, the pump stations pumped 3.5 billion gallons down the canals, including 1.5 billion pumped at the largest station off of DeRenne Avenue along the Truman Parkway.

“If we would have lost the station, this station would become a dam and everything north of us would flood,” Kershaw said.

The DeRenne station did end up suffering one mechanical casualty by the end of the storm after a transformer for one of the 11 pumps went down.But it is rare that all of the pumps are necessary as they were Saturday, Kershaw said.

“This station never runs that many pumps besides a catastrophe like that,” he said.