Go or Stay?

hurricane Ivan slams pier, Navarre Beach
Waves hit Navarre Pier hard during Hurricane Ivan’s approach – Navarre Beach, Florida.  Hurricane Ivan was the strongest hurricane of the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season. It made landfall on the U.S. mainland in Gulf Shores, Alabama on September 16th, as a Category 3.  (Photo credit: Florida archives by Chris Duval)

Go or stay, when in harms way?  To me, that’s a no-brainer.  If my life and family is at risk for loss of life, do you think I would stay in a threat environment without making a change?  For sure – NO.

However, many people choose to remain in the main threat area during catastrophic weather – such as Hurricane Michael churning in the Gulf of Mexico toward the Florida Panhandle. (Update: Now that Michael has made landfall the decision was made and people have to live with that decision; however, those still in the path of Michael into Georgia and northward can still make an informed decision.)

I’m watching Michael and it brings back memories of Ivan.

I recall working in Florida’s State Emergency Management Center in 2004 when Hurricane Ivan attacked the Florida Panhandle area that borders Alabama.

 

Hurricane Ivan image
National Weather Service image of Hurricane Ivan.

The Category 3 storm struck with a fury, pushing the ocean on shore and blowing structures apart.

Hurricane Ivan damage, Navarre Beach
Just imagine someone staying in these structures and enduring the deafening sounds of wind and debris.  (Photo courtesy: Florida archives by Chris Duval)

The general public probably doesn’t understand the concept of all the work going on behind-the-scenes in so many emergency planning teams and centers when a disaster strikes.  I know!  I’ve been there and observed firsthand.  It is AMAZING all the dedication and countless hours performed by government employees and volunteers.

Preparations for Hurricane Michael remain similar to those crises of years past as thousands prepare, respond and recover.

People can help.  Local emergency management teams know the areas best and they have studied their areas in detail.  If they say to evaluate or take certain precautions, please do so.  Once the main threat of a hurricane is underway, emergency response teams can’t respond.

I recall a phone call I received during Hurricane Ivan.

A dad called from California stating he was talking on the phone with his daughter who was in a condominium on the beach near Pensacola, Florida.  She was in her room a few stories above ground level.

The dad said his daughter mentioned the winds were picking up and she could see the ocean pouring in at the bottom floor.  He pleaded for her to take cover and protect herself.

Then … all of a sudden… he heard glass breaking and whirling wind.  He had no sound nor response from his daughter.  He provided the address to me and asked for an emergency responder to check on her.  I advised they will not be able to check until conditions subside.  He seemed desperate.

I told the dad I would pass his information to our law enforcement emergency support team and they may be able to relay information to the search-and-rescue teams when they begin their mission as soon as conditions permit.

– Ron Tittle

So…if you have loved ones around the potential impact areas, please encourage them to listen to local authorities and heed their advice.

Also, continue to monitor local and national news.The Weather Channel is excellent at  keeping the public updated.  https://weather.com/

FLNG Soldier providing security
Enter a caption

Everyone should also understand how so many agencies are poised and respond immediately when safe to do so.  Currently more than 1,500 Florida National Guard troops are placed in active service by Florida’s governor with thousands on stand-by.

The Guard typically performs planning and staging missions beforehand to ensure their resources are properly placed and ready to move in immediately to the impacted areas.

Hurricane Ivan house destroyed - SFGate - photo by AP, Phil Coale
The owner of this house on Cape San Blas kneels to pray in front of the rubble.  The home was destroyed by the winds and waves of Hurricane Ivan.  (Photo by AP/Phil Coale, posted at https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Ivan-is-worst-U-S-hurricane-since-99-Death-2724367.php

Many military missions will include helping with search-and-rescue, security, aviation support, moving supplies and equipment, and so many other responsibilities as determined by the State Emergency Operations Center.  Usually hundreds or thousands of Guard troops come from other states, along with active duty federal military, Coast Guard and other agencies.

 

Hurricane Ivan surges onto Ft. Walton Beach, 2004
Police car and storm surge during Hurricane Ivan’s landfall – Fort Walton Beach, Florida. (Photo courtesy: Florida archives by Chris Duval)

State agencies conduct similar planning and response.  Fish and Wildlife Commission teams do quite well in search-and-rescue along with various law enforcement agencies and fire/rescue teams.

 

 

 

Hurricane Ivan roadway destruction - Pinterest.com
Photo courtesy: Pinterest.com

The Florida Department of Transportation has emergency operations centers working in conjunction with the states’s emergency management center.  They have professional engineers who have already been studying the potential impact of the storm and anticipate how they will respond quickly to assist in recovery.   Once conditions permit, teams will provide a damage assessment to ensure bridges and roadways are safe for the public to use.  The traveling public must be patient.  It takes time to provide sufficient assessments.  All of the response efforts are coordinated with the State Emergency Management Center to ensure the most effective and safe response to, within and from the impact areas, and so the proper resourcing can be provided.  They also coordinate with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

 

Hurricane Ivan and I-10 bridge section collapse
Interstate 10 span disappears from the force of Hurricane Ivan in 2004, taking a truck cab and driver with it.  (Photo courtesy:  AP)

Similar to Hurricane Ivan, I suspect many roads will have some of their structure base washed out or damaged in some way to prevent vehicles from crossing.  The repairs could take some time.

So!  Do you risk it with your life or family?  After all, our protection and safety is the primary responsibility of government.  Yet we have to take responsibility as well.

Be prepared! Be safe! Be patient!

Blessings!

Ron

 

 

 

23 thoughts on “Go or Stay?

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