Sign In | Create an Account | Welcome, . My Account | Logout | Subscribe | Submit News | Home RSS

MPIFDC well prepared for Hurricane Irma

September 20, 2017
By ED FRANKS ( , Pine Island Eagle

As Hurricane Irma approached Pine Island the Pine Island Matlacha Fire Control District made preparations.

"We had started meeting with the Lee County Emergency Operations Center the Tuesday before the storm," Fire Chief Mickuleit said. "What I think helped us more than anything was we had a plan."

The fuel and propane tanks were topped of at all three stations and the department personnel and equipment was divided into two parts.

Article Photos

Returning to the island MPIFCD found a lighting pole blocking the bridge.

Photo provided by MPIFCD

"About four or five hours before the storm struck the island on Sunday we placed half our trucks at Station 3 (Bokeelia) and the other half, along with staff, left the island before the winds reached a constant 45 miles per hour," Fire Chief Mickuleit said.

There are two bridges between the mainland and Pine Island and winds reaching more than 45 miles per hour can flip a truck on its side. "Above all we need our equipment and can't risk losing any men or any trucks," Mickuleit said.

In the final days leading up to the storm, and once the flood warnings became effective, MPIFCD sent trucks with speakers broadcasting the evacuation notice.

"We are under a mandatory evacuation. For your safety please leave the area to one of the nearest shelters. Please go to the Pine Island Fire Station at the center for a list of shelters."

"In the Spanish areas the Beacon of HOPE went door to door to let people know," Mickuleit said. "We did this for two days straight."

All local news outlets advised residents of Pine Island and surrounding areas that emergency personnel would not be responding to emergency calls once the storm winds reached a dangerous level. "We let everybody know that the Fire Department would be evacuating the island," Mickuleit said. "What good are we if we lose a truck or some men? Then we can't help anybody."

At about 6 p.m. on Sunday the department equipment and staff left the island for Jet Blue Park.

"About 4 or 5 hours later, once the worst of the storm passed the island, me and another engineer were back on the island," Mickuleit said. "I wanted to get back in case we needed local, state and federal assistance. I wanted to start making requests as soon as possible so we get the assistance as soon as possible."

Once back on the island Mickuleit's first order of business was a quick damage assessment and to make sure the main arteries were clear. Clearing Pine Island Road and Stringfellow Road from end to end was one of the first priorities.

On their return to the island Mickuleit found a light pole blocking the small bridge on Pine Island Road.

"Fortunately it was an aluminum pole so two men could handle it," Mickuleit said. "We just moved it out of the road."

The island streets were another matter. Debris from trees and shrubs filled the streets. About midnight Mickuleit ordered two engines and manpower back to the island.

"On Monday morning we started checking the streets for major flooding and clearing the roads one by one so we could get a truck through in the event of an emergency call," Mickuleit said. "We have a map book and it took the men at least 24 hours to go down every street clearing the way enough to get a truck through. Everybody's exhausted."

Despite flood surge warnings as high as 9 feet the island, except for Matlacha, sustained only minor flooding.

"We don't have any reports of homes being flooded and there are lots of power lines down," Mickuleit said. "We couldn't get north of Barrancas for a while because power lines were down across the road but LCEC arrived to clear the way."

According to Deputy Fire Chief Brandt the power companies, LCEC and FPL, had the largest number of men and equipment ready for this storm.

"They even had poles and transformers out here before the storm," Brandt said. "Power came back on for Station 1 on Tuesday and Stations 2 and 3 had power on Wednesday."

"We were very fortunate not to have a direct hit with one of the largest storms ever to hit the mainland," Mickuleit said. "Some people may be upset because the county told us to leave the island and it turned out not to be as bad as predicted. If and when this happens again I don't want citizens to be complacent. If we did have a Category 4 or 5 storm, and it takes a slight shift and hit Pine Island, we would be just like the islands in the Caribbean. I hope this near-miss doesn't make people complacent."



I am looking for:
News, Blogs & Events Web