TO: Hillsborough County ARES/RACES VOLUNTEERS
DATE: Tue Aug 26 7:42:19 EDT 2014
10 years ago this month, Hillsborough County ARES/RACES was activated by Emergency Management for Hurricane Charley.
We spent an anxious time, at the EOC and in the community, hunkered down, waiting for the “Perfect Storm” to hit, projected to land in north Pinellas County.
The projections put 22 feet of water in downtown Tampa, and the exodus of that water likely to form, at least temporarily, north and south Pinellas islands.
As you know, Charley did not strike where projected, but made landfall around 5 PM near Port Charlotte, and then slogged its wet and windy way over central Florida.
Around midnight, we were given the all-clear to start packing up to leave the EOC. Hillsborough County was safe, and the amateur community could stand down.
Shortly after that, though, we were asked to provide communications support in Hardee County, which had been badly hit by the storm. ARES/RACES had originally been asked gather a team to head there immediately, but after discussion, it was decided that we should arrive in Wauchula at dawn.
A number of us headed to Hardee County, hauling the MARC (Mutual Aid Radio Communications) Unit (then the MAC Unit), a 100′ tower on a trailer with a cache of radios, in order to provide assorted first responders a way to communicate. Sure, their personal radios worked, but departments could not talk to each other, and out-county responders had no way to communicate with local management.
That was to be the important communication hub for all of Hardee County. The Hardee County Sheriff’s tower had been destroyed, taking with it all intra-county communications.
Hardee County took a huge infrastructure hit due to Hurricane Charley. Power was mostly out (many of the power poles heading into Hardee County were sheared off, and many had come down in-county) phones were hardly working (aside from the many downed poles, lack of power meant that the Telco batteries could not recharge), there were no working sewers (without power, the lift stations could not work) and there was no water (no power, no pumps).
Hillsborough County ARES/RACES members staffed the MARC unit around the clock, handing out radios, and swapping batteries, so that the “boots on the ground” people could communicate.
We later retrieved the Sheriff repeater from the jail, and connected it to an antenna on the water tower (the water department communications were pre-empted – and they had no way to power anything, and no real need of it just then…). That antenna looked pretty awful, bent at about 20 degrees, but it worked – the Sheriff could communicate with his troops.
After the Fire Department communications were restored (a process complicated by some interesting contracts), we started re-deploying MARC unit radios to Public Works, and the Property Appraiser’s office, helping them communicate.
Hillsborough County hams also deployed to Punta Gorda, where Charley wreaked havoc. We helped with communications for the Red Cross, for the Salvation Army, and some of us even unloaded trucks and provided meals to the elderly. Picture being 80+ years old, in a multi-story building, with no power or plumbing and a husband who could not walk, coming down to get a tray of food. Folks had a really tough time.
Neighbor helped neighbor, counties helped each other – it was quite an opportunity to help a community that really needed it.
As we look back on Hurricane Charley, remember to stay prepared – you never know when your really remarkable skills and talents may be needed.
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- Special Weather Statement issued September 02 at 4:08PM EDT by NWS September 2, 2014...STRONG THUNDERSTORMS WILL AFFECT NORTHERN PINELLAS...NORTHWESTERN HILLSBOROUGH AND SOUTHWESTERN PASCO COUNTIES... AT 407 PM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE METEOROLOGISTS DETECTED A LINE OF STRONG THUNDERSTORMS LOCATED ALONG A LINE EXTENDING FROM TRINITY TO PALM HARBOR TO SAFETY HARBOR...OR ALONG A LINE EXTENDING FROM NEW PORT RICHEY TO PALM HARBOR TO CLEA
- Special Weather Statement issued September 02 at 4:08PM EDT by NWS September 2, 2014
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