Law Enforcement, Panhandle Utilities Helping In Wake Of Irma

Sep 13, 2017

Credit Emerald Coast Utilities Authority

Water, water everywhere in south Florida, but not a lot of it to drink. The Emerald Coast Utilities Authority is lending a hand, part of the assistance coming from the Florida Panhandle.

ECUA Executive Director Steve Sorrell says a mutual response team has been organized, acting on a request from the Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) for lift station and maintenance crews to help with that city’s wastewater system.

“We sent ten people,” said Sorrell. “They took five large generators; a diesel bypass pump, a boom truck, and four of our big 750 super duty trucks, which carry all of the equipment.”

The crew originally was scheduled to leave Pensacola on Tuesday, but the massive traffic on I-10 of people going back to south Florida kept them off the road until early Wednesday morning.

“Everything so far has been a success; they’re out working, helping the JEA crews. We expect them to be there probably two to ten days,” Sorrell said.

Other local utilities helping with hurricane recovery include Escambia River Electric Cooperative, whose line crews will assist Tri-County Electric Cooperative in Madison County.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, but everybody’s going to come together, get the state rebuilt. [Florida] is a state of strong, resilient people,” said Gov. Rick Scott, after touring flood damage by air Wednesday in Jacksonville.

One of his goals in dealing with Washington, is making sure people get resources for both Irma and another storm from almost one year ago to the day.

“First off, it would be helpful if [residents] got the FEMA funding for Matthew,” said the Governor. “I’m going to see the FEMA administrator and I’m going to bring that up.”

Meanwhile, traffic to the east and south continues to jam Florida’s interstates. I-10 in the Pensacola area was a virtual parking lot on Tuesday. Lt. Eddie Elmore with the Florida Highway Patrol says things were a bit better on Wednesday.

“As the week progresses, our expectations are that the traffic’s going to slowly lighten up,” said Elmore.

The big challenge for FHP, says Elmore, is how to get about six million evacuees from their shelters in the Panhandle to their homes downstate safely.

“We’re trying to limit as much traffic on the interstate system as we can,” Elmore said. “If it is at all possible for individuals are traveling locally, like going to Walmart [or] just to-and-from home, if they could stay off the interstate system. That way it would give that much more room for the traffic to continue to flow.”

One break for those on the road; there are no reports of major problems in getting fuel throughout the Panhandle. Thirty-three officers from Troop-A, which serves the western Panhandle, are now down south as part of the Highway Patrol’s Quick Reactionary Force, or QRF.

As with holiday periods, FHP administrative officers have traded their desks for cruisers for the time being and are working 12-hour shifts.

A number of websites offer information vital for the trip home. Florida 511 has regular updates on road closures and actual photographs of current road conditions. And GasBuddy has the latest outage and fuel availability information, along with the prices in advance of pulling up to the pump.