With An Eye On Last Year's Storm, Local Officials Prepare For Irma

Sep 5, 2017

Mayor Andrew Gillum flanked by city and county officials, including John Dailey (left) speaking about Hurricane Irma prep.
Credit Nick Evans

Just over a year ago, Tallahassee was clearing up the damage after Hurricane Hermine.  That was a Category 1 storm, and now local officials are prepping for a massive, Category 5 hurricane bearing down on the state.

When Hermine blew through Tallahassee its 75 to 80 mile per hour winds felled trees and knocked out power for days.  At last check, Hurricane Irma’s top winds are clocking in about 100 miles per hour faster.  Here’s Mayor Andrew Gillum.

“As many of you all know,” Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum says, “earlier today Hurricane Irma was upgraded to Category 5 storm with sustained winds of 180 miles per hour, which makes Irma one of the most powerful storms in recorded history.”

Florida Governor Rick Scott has already declared a state of emergency in all 67 counties, and he’s urging the president to take similar preemptive steps. 

John Dailey, Chair of the Leon County Commission declared a local state of emergency Tuesday afternoon, as well.

“That allows that our governments locally can be more nimble in preparation for the storm to come,” Dailey explains.  “We still have more information that we need to know about the path of the storm but it’s important for us to plan accordingly and to be prepared.”

Officials say they’ve learned from Hermine, and they have new plans in place to improve response—as well as communication about that response.  Power outages were the probably the biggest complaint last year.  City manager Rick Fernandez says the utility will employ what he calls a circuit-based approach to get power back online if the lights go off.

“What it does give us the ability to do is have multiple crews working on the same line,” Fernandez says, “so you will have more assets dedicated to it so everybody will come on a lot earlier than before.

Also, a highly specific electrical outage map has been scrapped for a more general model.  During Hermine, many criticized the previous map for inaccuracies and its inability to keep up with traffic.  The city is also rolling out a map showing which circuits utility crews are restoring. 

Sandbag locations should open Tuesday.  If necessary, the city plans to use its fire stations for emergency water and ice distribution.