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Nebraska Task Force 1 (NETF1)

Hurricane Francis

 

Rick Warford (CATF1), Alim Shariff (COTF1), and John Huff (NETF1) were requested to deploy immediately to Orlando as representatives of ESF 4 (fire) & ESF 9 (US&R) for the RNA (rapid needs assessment team) to be in place prior to the hurricane making landfall. The intent of the RNA was to be ready to immediately respond after the hurricane, to conduct damage and needs assessment of the stricken areaís to determine further federal assistance including, US&R task force involvement.

The action plan includes each of the US&R specialists joining other agencies representatives from the various ESFís to rapidly travel across affected areas and make recommendations to local, state, and federal officials from each representatives area of expertise.

John Huff arrived in Orlando at approximately 1800 on Wednesday September 1, secured a ground vehicle and traveled to the FEMA Disaster Field Office (DFO) that was still in operation from Hurricane Charlie, which at its peak included over 1600 workers. Upon arrival John met with other members of the RNA (see org chart enclosed) to become familiar with the mission plan, and other members of the RNA. We secured lodging at an area hotel, and ended the dayís activities at approximately 2200 hrs.

On Thursday September 2, the day began with travel back to the DFO to meet with the RNA at 0700. The RNA was split into 3 teams, with representatives from each of the federal emergency support functions. Each team was provided with local and state maps to review with potential targets. I focused on targets for US&R type search and rescue needs. During the day, the DFO for Charlie was being evacuated to Georgia to a safe location. The RNA continued to review information available, monitor the storm track, and conduct on ground recon of the area. Some simple supplies were secured thru the FEMA logistics team, or local vendors. Several briefings and meetings occurred with state, & federal officials. During outings in the area, the weather was sunny and very warm with temperatures in the mid to upper 90ís. Many area residents were taking pre storm precautions, while mandatory evacuation of 2.5 million people was being preformed. Traffic was very congested on most major highways and roads. Plans were being made to relocate the RNA to an area in close proximately to the storms estimated point of contact with land.

On Friday September 3, the RNA leader in consultation with the ERTA leader determined that the team was to relocate the team to Miami, since we were still pending hurricane land fall as the storm had slowed down and the NOAA hurricane center predicted that landfall would be in the mid state when it occurred. This move would put the team behind the storm to move into the affected area quickly. The weather was becoming overcast with occasional rain and wind and very warm with temperatures in the mid to upper 90ís

On Saturday Sept 4, the RNA leader Mark Dickeson in consultation with the ERTA leader Nick Russo determined that the team was to hold its position in Miami, since the hurricane landfall had begun, and the RNA would begin damage assessment once it was deemed to be safe. After consultation with local emergency services, it was determined that wind speeds must be less than 45 MPH before RNA efforts could begin. The weather was very windy and raining with temperatures in the mid to upper 80ís. The team met with members of the South US&R JMT and liaisons from FLTF1 & FLTF2 to discuss strategies for operations. During the preceding days, air craft were promised from the US Coast guard, the immigration service and the Florida air National Guard, including both fixed wing and rotor craft. Due to the slow moving large scale of the storm, these air assets could not be detailed to the RNA until after wind speeds of the hurricane became less than 45 KPH.

On Sunday Sept 5, the RNA team leader the air boss and the Charlie Team leader traveled to the NOAA hurricane center in Miami to participate in a briefing with Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Under Secretary of FEMA Michael Brown The weather was windy and raining with temperatures in the mid to upper 80ís

On Monday Sept 6, the RNA relocated from Miami to Patrick Air Force Base near Melbourne Florida near the area hardest hit by the Hurricane. Each of the three RNA teams was assigned counties to conduct ground evaluation for damage and to contact county officials and local target hazards to conduct needs assessments. The RNA Charlie Team under the leadership of John Huff traveled to the St. Lucie and Brevard county EOCs to meet with the county EMA managers and team members counter parts. The results of these meeting indicated that no federal assistance was needed for critical in fracture. The weather was sunny and very warm with temperatures in the mid to upper 80ís. Significant damage was observed in Fort Pierce area to utilities, trees and structures. Many residents were beginning to return to the area, with traffic congestion at most major intersections. No traffic control devices were in operation, compounding the problem at the intersections. During the meeting with the City Manager and department heads (of Fort Pierce), the manager stated that most damage was cosmetic, with power expected to be out for 5-10 days.

On Tuesday Sept 7, assessments continued by all 3 RNA teams. The RNA Charlie Team under the leadership of John Huff traveled to the Osceola county EOC to meet with the county EMA manager, and team members counter parts. The results of these meeting indicated that no federal assistance was needed for critical in fracture. The weather was sunny and very warm with temperatures in the mid to upper 80ís Occasional thunderstorms and rainfall occurred. Tornado warnings were made to Patrick AFB and surrounding counties. As we surveyed inland counties, it appeared that damage was less than coastal areas, but power outages continued to hamper traffic flow. The county commissioners for Osceola requested assistance from the Army Corp of Engineers representative assigned to Charlie team, to lower the water level in area lakes and rivers under the Corpís control to avoid flooding from rainfall.

On Wednesday Sept 8, the RNA leader conducted an after action debriefing with the members of the team. Each team was required to identify critical issues from the response, which were recorded by the MERS members assigned to the RNA. During the RNA team assignment, I traveled a total of 809 miles as indicated on the rental vehicle which I secured upon arrival. The weather was sunny and very warm with temperatures in the mid to upper 90ís. I traveled back to Orlando airport via ground to return to Lincoln, departing at 1530 EST arriving at 2200 CST.


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