By Dale Martin
October 7, 2022
One week after Hurricane Ian (a tropical storm when it reached our area), we’ve had time to personally recover, get caught up on the routine tasks that even in a storm continue unabated, complete preliminary damage assessments, and take stock of our preparatory and response actions. First and foremost, thank you to the staff that conducted operations throughout the storm and to the residents who stayed safe, whether here or elsewhere. As has been the case for the three previous significant storms that I have experienced here (Matthew, Irma, and Dorian), this community has been fortunate to dodge the devastation that has wracked other communities.
As the storm made its first landfall in southwest Florida, and, in part due to the slow movement of Ian, city staff began pre-storm preparations. Vehicles were fueled, additional fuel was stockpiled (not as much as desired due to the untimely transition of fuel tank replacement), storm drains were cleared, beaches surveyed (to document damage after the storm), city facilities examined (either firsthand or through drone photography), and a State of Emergency was invoked to be eligible for federal/state assistance, if appropriate.
Although other area governments closed their operations on Wednesday, I opted to continue city operations through Wednesday. All predictions and reports indicated that the most likely arrival of high winds was not expected until Thursday morning, thereby, in my opinion, making it possible to safely continue government operations. The closure of other governmental operations (or private entities) has no bearing on whether city staff can continue to safely perform the operations residents should expect. Closing city government has personnel and financial ramifications, so I believe that as long as operations can be conducted safely, operations should continue for as long as possible.
Thank you to city staff (notably Ms. Sabrina Robertson) for the production of the OneNassau reports, published through online platforms. OneNassau is a unified effort of local governments, led by city officials and staff, to provide timely and accurate information often lacking in other local informal social media efforts. Recognizing that many others seek information from the city, city staff re-published the OneNassau reports on the city platforms. The OneNassau platforms (web site, Facebook page, and Twitter) should be bookmarked or archived for quick access by every city resident (as well as by those who live elsewhere but want to monitor developments here).
The storm gave city staff an opportunity to integrate personnel into storm operations. Many new employees, both senior and junior staff, have joined the city since the last storm. As the storm diminished in likely impact as it moved eastward out to sea, it provided a less intense opportunity for evaluation and training.
One of the most intriguing assessments was at the Marina: how would that rebuilt facility handle its first significant storm? The docks handled the high wind and waves magnificently: we ventured out onto the heavy concrete attenuators several times during the storm, specifically at the peak of winds, waves, and tides, to experience the impact and assess the performance of the docks. The docks were exceptionally steady in the rough weather. The storm effects came from the north and the boats on the northern docks were significantly rocked, but the boats in the southern basin remained relatively calm. The short gangway to the fuel dock was dislodged, subsequently battering and destroying the pump out station and severing fuel and electrical lines to the attenuator. A section of the perimeter boardwalk on the north side of Brett’s Waterway Café was destroyed. Some minor flooding occurred in the Kevin Little Check-in facility, but the total damages and resulting repairs will not come close to meeting the city’s $660,000 deductible to file an insurance claim.
Knowing that Front Street would inevitably flood, I should have been more proactive in blocking access to Front Street before the onset of the significant storm effects. As the water rose and reached the railroad tracks, more and more people converged on the site, in many cases finding creative ways to circumvent barriers placed on the road. More numerous and substantial barricades will be emplaced during the next storm event.
Food provisions for on-duty city staff was not as effective as it had been previously. An effort to coordinate food service with Florida Public Utilities staff was not successful, primarily due to the fact that during storm operations, “regular” hours to eat are tossed aside- you simply grab something to eat when time and circumstances permit. In previous storms, each department took care of its own personnel with the use of grills or generators, and that practice will be re-implemented for the next storm. The support for personnel, during the stress and danger of a storm event, are of critical importance.
We fared well. Because of our good fortune, we will look for ways to provide assistance and support for fellow Florida communities that suffered great damage.
Thank you for your preparation and personal efforts during the storm. Stay vigilant for the rest of hurricane season (Nov 30).