Hernando County has been fortunate again this season with minimal impact from tropical storm systems. Cecelia Patella, Emergency Management Director, shared a presentation of the actions taken by the Hernando County EOC during the time Hurricane Matthew threatened Florida, from 09/26/16 when it was an intensifying low pressure system to the tropical storm warnings issued through 10/07/16.
Storm elements of concern during any tropical system include rainfall, storm surge, and high winds. Patella stated that the airport recorded sustained winds of 25 mph and gusts to 39 mph. Gusts during Hurricane Hermine reached 53 mph. The anticipated storm surge at Hernando Beach of 1-2 feet did not result in any impact. Rainfall amounts were between .33 inches and 1.88 inches.
A shelter was opened for the first time since the 2004 hurricane season, Patella said. It was for those residents who were in fear of losing power and relied upon oxygen, as well as those living in unsecured mobile homes. “Winds don’t respect county lines,” Patella said, as winds in neighboring counties were expected to be up to 70 mph, but even lower wind speeds could impact residents in mobile homes.
Information was shared with the county’s 174,000 residents via various methods, including social media, government websites, TV and radio outlets including Spanish speaking stations, and CodeRed calls. Patella stated that The Weather Channel broadcast the EOC information on the crawl.
At the request of Chairman Jim Adkins, Patella explained that the CodeRed program is not exclusively used by the sheriff’s office, but can be used by the EOC and other departments for emergency notifications. The system will make calls to every phone number (landline) in a specific geographic location. Hernando County residents who use cell phones are encouraged to register their mobile numbers with the CodeRed program by going to www.hernandosheriff.org/em.
Every emergency event is a learning experience. Patella stated that the next steps are to evaluate what was done right, continue gathering data, and to have an “after action” meeting and create a final report.