Florida residents experienced the catastrophic effects when the Panhandle was struck by Hurricane Michael in October 2018. Observing the preparation and devastation from that devastating storm was an eye-opening experience for many District staff members.
It’s a lesson they’ll take into this hurricane season, which started June 1 and runs through November.
Hurricane Michael is the most powerful storm to ever impact the Panhandle Region, making landfall as a Category 5 Hurricane, according the State Emergency Response Team (SERT). It developed quickly, giving SERT little time to prepare. Michael became only the fourth Category 5 Hurricane on record to make U.S. landfall and the first since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Although the District was not directly affected, the storm helped teach staff members the importance of preparation.
“We’re really lucky we didn’t get hit,” said Jerry Mallams, Operations and Land Management bureau chief. “But this hurricane did help show us what could happen and make us recognize what more we could do to prepare for this kind of situation.”
According to Mallams, the District’s main responsibility is to manage water control structures. Therefore, to prepare for hurricane season, staff inspect all water control structures the District maintains to make sure they are ready for operation.
Staff also participate in a state hurricane exercise to see what possible issues could arise and how to resolve them before a real emergency. In addition, staff update key documents that assist in emergency response.
During the Hurricane season, every department in the District plays a role in preparing for an upcoming storm.
“If we don’t take the time to prepare, our communities and our infrastructure could be severely impacted,” Mallams said.