Hurricane Michael, Power and Telecommunications Slowly Restored as Florida Continues Relief Efforts

One week later after the events of Hurricane Michael, thousands are left without power and other necessities as the gulf coast begins the process of rebuilding. When Hurricane Michael first made landfall, the hurricane devastated the Gulf Coast, leaving many without power and even some relying on airdrops for their source of supplies. According to a NASA situation report, an estimated 2.5 million have been affected by power outages and loss of telecommunications. Only recently has the power and communication systems begun to progress in terms of restoration.

As restorations begin to make way “an estimated 35,000 electric power industry works from over 27 states and Canada were helping with the recovery effort. Power outages in some areas are expected to last weeks to months because some power grids need to be completely rebuilt” (NASA). As of today, around 88,000 areas in the Florida regions are still without power. In an effort to help with the disaster relief, thousands of individuals are helping the cause by means of donations of living essentials.

Doug Jackson initiated Operation Airdrop, a volunteer non-profit as a means to help deliver necessities to those in need. Doug Jackson who has been flying for more than 30 years created his organization along with over 500 plus pilots after the events of Hurricane Harvey. “All the time, fuel and resources, are donated by volunteers…most of the supplies come from partnerships with other non-profits and companies, such as World Hope International and Amazon” (Hinckley). Supplies such as food, water, clothing, and many more has been delivered to the worst stricken areas of the Florida Panhandle as power and telecommunications begin the process of rebuilding. Due to these outages, the Florida Department of Education has closed down several school districts because of a lack of power and safe amenities (Karimi). Some districts even allowing students to attend school in another district.

Initial reports stated that an estimated 15 deaths have been accounted for as a result of Hurricane Michael with the possibility of those numbers rising in the coming days. IN Mexico Beach, many residents have begun to make their way back to visit their home but are not currently allowed to stay. However, residents are being allowed to visit their neighborhoods upon showing proof of ID to National Guard (Karimi). Some residents have reported difficulties finding their homes as some areas have been so ravaged that only concrete and broken wood are the only things left to be seen.

Below are updates from Governor Rick Scott depicting how Florida is responding to disaster relief:

For updates on available shelters, road closures, evacuation orders and routes, please visit: http://www.floridadisaster.org/info
Please contact local and state emergency services for any immediate assistance. You may also contact the following numbers for additional help:
The State Assistance Information Line (SAIL) : (800) 342-3557
The State Emergency Operations Center Media Line: (850) 921-0217


See below for more information on how the State of Florida is responding to Hurricane Michael.

+ Food and Water
  • There are three points of distribution in Washington County that are either open or opening.
    • Vernor High School 3232 Moss Hill Rd., Vernonr, FL 32462
    • 3121 Possum Place Drive, Chipley, FL 32428
    • 1545 Brickyard Road, Chipley, FL 32428
+ Communications
  • Currently 79.49% of cellular serivce coverage has been resotred in Washington County, This does not include mobile cellural assets augmenting the network.
+ Power Restoration
  • 10 push crews have been deployed to assist utlities that serve Washington County. These push crews go in front of utility trucks and clear debris blocking their path.
  • Current power outage as of noon is 1,890 or 14% – an 86% improvement from the peak of the storm when all customers in Washington County had lost power.
  • 76 generators have been deployed to Jackson County.
+ Military Support
  • There are currently 88 National Guard troops deployed to Washington County. National Guard troops are assisting with conducting reconnaissance, search and rescue, and road clearance missions. Of those soldiers, 28 are staffing points of distrubution for food and water.
  • The Florida National Guard is providing communications support packages to Washington County.
+ Law Enforcement
  • Currently, 71 law enforcement officers have been deployed to Washington County.
  • FWC officers met and coordinated in Chipley for staging and moving staff.
  • The Florida Highway Patrol has deployed an unmanned aerial vehicle with livestreaming capabilties to assess road and bridge response and recovery needs, as well as search and rescue missions in Chipley.
+ Transportation & Public Works
  • All state roads in . Washington County are open.
  • FDOT has completed all state bridge inspections in Washington County.
+ Public Health & Medical
  • The Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) is in contact with healthcare facilities to ensure they have the resources they need.
  • Assisted living facility, Home Sweet Home, has been completely evacuated and remains closed.
  • Northwest Florida Community Hospital is fully operational.
  • Facilities report their evacuation status to the Agency through the Emergency Status System. An updated evacuation report can be found on the AHCA twitter page: https://twitter.com/AHCA_FL
  • 10 ambulances have been deployed to Washington County.
  • All pharmacies in Washington County are open.
+ Environmental Protection
  • An online tool for the public to report the location of storm debris in waterways has been deployed. 470 reports of debris have been recieved.
  • DEP has completed two mission requests, and has no outstanding request for assistance, submitted through Florida's Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (FlaWARN) in Washington County.
  • 235 Disaster Debrit management Sites have been pre-authorized for the counties addressed by the Governor's Executive Order, with 11 in Washington County.
  • DEp has deployed wastewater, drinkin water and solid waste technical expoerts to Washington County to ensure their needs are met.
+ Business & Industry
  • The Florida SBDC Network and the U.S. Small Business Admistration have opened Buisness Recover Centers (BRCs) to assit small businesses impacted by Hurricane Michael. Small Buisnesses can get assistance applying for state and federal business disaster loans. A Business Recover center is expected to open in Washington County on Monday October 22nd at 11:00 am at the Washington County Chamber of Commerce 672 5th St CChipley, FL 32428. It is scheduled to operate Monday-Friday from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm and Saturdays from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.
  • Members of the Florida Department of Economic Oppurtunity Leadership Team met with area businesses and CareerSource Boards in Washington County next week.
  • Governor Rick Scott announced that Florida has been awarded federal National Dislocated Worker Grants to provide temporary employment to Floridians affected by Hurricane Michael. This program is administered by Florida Department of Economic Opportunuty (DEO) and provides disaster relief employment in the form of temporary jobs that support storm response and recovery efforts. See the Governor's press relase HERE.
  • The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) has launched the Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Porgram to provide short-term, interest-free loans to affects businesses at www.floridadisasterloan.org.
  • The Florida Department of Economic Oppurtunity is working with CareerSource North Florida and CareerSource Northeast Florida to send mobile units, along with staff and resources, including water, gas, generators, flashlights and satellite phones to allow CareerSource partners in the Panhandle to begin assisting jobseekers and businesses as part of the recovery efforts.
  • Disaster cleanup and other related job openings are now available at https://disasterrecovery.employflorida.com for businesses to post job openings and for individuals to find job opportunities.
  • DEO has opened the Business Damage Assessment Survey for businesses impacted by Hurricane Michael. Businesses with damage should complete the survey at https://www.floridadisaster.biz/BusinessDamageAssessments.
  • Businesses can also vist FloridaDisaster.biz to view tips for assessing storm damage and to register to recieve updates on storm recovery.
+ Education
  • The Florida Department of Education (FDOE) is in contact with school districts, state colleges and universities for updates and to determine their needs and provide assistance.
  • The Department coordinated with the utility company that serves Washington County to ensure power was restored to Washington County schools.
  • Washington County schools will reopen for teachers Tuesday, October 23, and Wednesday, October 24, for students.
  • Chipola College, which serves Washington County, will reopen Monday, October 22 FDOE will be posting up-to-date information regarding closures and meeting cancellations at www.fldoe.org/hurricaneinfo.
+ Volunteer Efforts
  • An ESF-15 representative has deployed to the Emergency Operations Center in Washington County. The representative is mobilizing volunteers at Vernonr Elementary School, the designated volunteer reception center, and coordinating icoming donations, while also serving as a liaison between Volunteer Florida and the Washington County. In partnership with Volunteers Florida's Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), the represnetative has initiated tarping and chainsaw pperations that will take place in the coming days.
  • At Governor Scott's direction, Volunteer Florida has activated the Florida Disaster Fund, the State of Florida's official private fund established to assist Florida's communities as they respond to and recover during times of emergency or disaster. In partnership with the public sector, private sector and other non-governmental organizations, the Florida Disaster Fun supports response and recovery acitivies. To donate, vist, www.volunteerflorida.org/donatefdf/.


Sources
Hinckley, Dolores. “Operation Airdrop Brings Food, Supplies To Hurricane Michael Victims.” , WUFT News, 17 Oct. 2018, www.wuft.org/news/2018/10/17/operation-airdrop-brings-food-supplies-to-hurricane-michael-victims/.
“Hurricane Michael's Staggering Power Loss Documented by NASA.” The Weather Channel, weather.com/news/news/2018-10-17-hurricane-michael-power-outages-nasa.
Karimi, Faith. “A Week after Hurricane Michael Hit, More Misery and a Rising Death Toll.” CNN, Cable News Network, 17 Oct. 2018, www.cnn.com/2018/10/17/us/hurricane-michael-aftermath-wxc/index.html.
“Lights Out in Michael's Wake.” NASA, NASA, earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/92887/lights-out-in-michaels-wake
Report, News Herald Staff. “PCB Sets Own Curfew, Alcohol Bans after Hurricane Michael.” Panama City News Herald, Panama City News Herald, 18 Oct. 2018, www.newsherald.com/news/20181018/pcb-sets-own-curfew-alcohol-bans-after-hurricane-michael.