TALLAHASSEE — Three months after Hurricane Hermine slammed the Tallahassee area, the Leon County Administrator slams the governor’s office and state government for adding to confusion and miscommunication during recovery efforts.
Hurricane Hermine was the first hurricane to hit Florida since 2005. It made landfall on the Florida Panhandle on Sept. 2 and made a beeline for Tallahassee. Damage caused by the storm left many thousands of citizens without electricity for several days.
In the “Hurricane Hermine After Action Report” that will be presented to county commissioners on Dec. 13, County Administrator Vincent S. Long highlights strengths and areas for improvement in Leon County’s emergency response efforts. Most glaring in the critique, are findings which point a finger at the state and governor for hampering operations.
It states that Governor Rick Scott’s comments that Tallahassee was turning away help, which the report denies, “added challenges to emergency communications efforts in an already challenging environment.”
The report says, “The governor made public comments during Hurricane Hermine suggesting that the city was refusing aid and intentionally prolonging recovery efforts. The governor’s actions fueled speculation and the spread of inaccurate misinformation that the city was refusing additional assistance to aid in response and recovery efforts…”
“On Sept. 4, Governor Scott issued a press release suggesting incorrectly that the county and city had declined further cut and toss assistance from FDOT (Florida Department of Transportation). Later that evening, the governor’s office retracted the governor’s statement, indicating that it was based on a misunderstanding between the county and city… at no point during the Hurricane Hermine incident did Leon County refuse assistance from the state,” according to the report.
The report also cites requests made of the state prior to the hurricane making landfall which were denied.
“The potential for flooding and extended power outages were a concern identified throughout the activation and conference calls hosted by the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Unfortunately, several of the county’s pre-landfall mission requests were denied by the state in the areas of transportation and public works,” according to the report.
“These denied requests demonstrate a lack of clear and consistent communication between the state and local governments,” it continued.
According to the After Action Report, a request for 20,000 sandbags to support sandbag distribution sites was placed for Leon County and the City of Tallahassee to the State EOC. The resource was identified as available by the FDOT office in Midway. However, FDOT staff in the State EOC denied the request.
Additionally, according to the report, a request for 30 generators to power traffic signals was placed on behalf of the City of Tallahassee. Again, the resource was identified as available by the local FDOT office in Midway. However, again, FDOT staff in the State EOC denied the request. “As a result of the initial denial, an additional request for 50 generators was approved after Hermine made landfall for traffic signals…,” the report said.
A third request was also denied. According to the report, a request for assistance with road debris clearance on Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) roads was denied by FDOT staff in the State EOC.
The report stated, “An FDOT representative at the State EOC called to advise that FDOT contractors could assist with cut and toss operations after Leon County exhausted all of its staff and contractual resources. Subsequent to the initial denial of the county’s request for road clearing cut and toss assistance, the FDOT Secretary directly contacted the City of Tallahassee the next day and advised that FDOT resources would be made available to assist with cut and toss operations on city-maintained roadways. The following day, on Sept. 3, Leon County Public Works re-requested FDOT resources to assist with cut and toss operations upon learning that FDOT resources were available. This second request was approved, 41 hours after the storm had passed through Leon County.”
The report states, “In each case, these pre-landfall mission requests were marked as ‘complete’ and followed up by a phone call denying the request.”
To develop the Hurricane Hermine After Action Report the Leon County administration and Leon County Emergency Management held five community listening sessions with 400 citizens total, held eight debriefing meetings with personnel involved in recovery efforts, conducted follow-up interviews with key staff, and met with an organized group of local residents to examine their findings.
The report had 110 findings and 80 recommendations.
The two major recommendations of the report are as follows: to engage a disaster planning professional in partnership with the City of Tallahassee to evaluate the community’s overall vulnerabilities, resiliency, and community expectations associated with a severe weather event; and, to return the emergency management program under the county commission on a year-round basis, stating, “Many of circumstances that supported the 1999 Interlocal Agreement shifting the day-to-day oversight of Leon County Emergency Management to the Sheriff, only to return under the Board in the event of a disaster, are no longer applicable today.”
Back to the same old, same old. Tallahassee thinks they run the state of Florida because they are the capital city. And once again, state politicians have to remind them who really runs things, (And hint, it’s not Tallahassee/Leon County).
So go ahead and keep digging that ditch a little bigger. I agree with Mr. Hines. Local commissioners and political figures better wake up and understand that no one in the House, Senate or Gov. offices gives a flip about what you think. They have a “state” to run and your lack of leadership is not going to cause them an emergency.
In my 68 years of calling Tallahassee my home, I have never seen the relationships between local government and the Governor, Speaker of House and Senate President in such self-inflicted tatters. This one-upmanship by local “leaders” is both embarrassing and self-defeating. Tallahassee/Leon County may be inside the blue borders of 9 Florida Counties that have spurned the will of the majority but they are not immune from the vagaries of those chosen by Floridians to administer the affairs of state. Unless we can find at least one sane local elected official that has the nerve and sinew to publicly educate his colleagues on the City and County Commissions as to the grave damage they are inflicting on their community and its citizens we are in for a very long and disappointing 8 years. Ditch the paid lobbyists, bend a knee, seek forgiveness and understanding, develop good faith, positive, professional relationships at the State Capitol or watch as your safe havens go down in flames. Regardless of your party affiliation, your political ideology or your faux sense of morality every one of you best start looking upon the world the way it is rather than the way you might like it to be. That is if you truly and sincerely have the best interests of your community and your constituents at heart. Other wise just continue to “feed at the public trough” and ignore reality and see where it gets you. The moment of truth is finally upon us folks!!!
State Government serves the entire state…not just the area that was affected by a hurricane. Such government gets ‘antsy’ when areas of the state, not affected by a hurricane, have their services interrupted, when the local governments, where the hurricane hit, have their heads up their collective _____ and have to be prodded.
More propaganda from the local government. Does any one believe these people any more?
After the hurricane I received one text message from the city saying they were working on restoring power. I received nothing from the county. All this BS about who did what or didn’t do this or that is just BS.
What we need is for a cat 1 to NOT paralyze the city for a week. Bury the power lines!
It was my understanding that COT refused offers of help from other power agencies or companies that were not affected by Hermine…with Mayor Gillum citing the reason that those offering help were not familiar with the operations and “procedures” of the COT Electricity department, and they would only slow down the process because they would have to assign a COT Electric person to be with every crew that came in from out of town. I seen no mention of this in the report. Did they look into this? I remember thinking…How many different ways are there to hook up electrical wires? Just get somebody out here!
Was this report written while Vince and Rick were sitting on bar stools over at Clyde’s and Costellos?
WOW! Vince did nothing when the CDA was mismanaged (still is) — he DID NOTHING, SAID NOTHING, STILL HAS DONE NOTHING…he did nothing when the worst sheriff in the nation was so corrupt and incompetent that we became #1 in crime in Florida, he messed up the solid waste service, but he did allow a contract for IT services to the person who purchased a former deputy manager of Leon County’s house in Wakulla county for the same amount that was overpaid for the house by the IT person — (now the previous owner is a new city executive (relative?) of the city manager. Vince tried to allow a frivolous contract to Sean Pittman on the fairgrounds contract. Vince and the city manager instead of calling each other’s corruption out they work as a tag team and allow, condone, and continue corruption. Vince, there was a massive sewage spill on your watch the other day. There were a couple of spills in the city recently, also. Hope you hear from Governor Scott on that one. It is so bad they are doing harm to the public at large by their incompetence and Long has the nerve to criticize the Governor Scott who he should be sending a thank you note to for Scott’s superb intervention? Governor Scott, please intervene in this Tallahassee – Leon County corruption. Vince says nothing about Proctor’s residency deception now going on 20 years. No wonder Proctor’s district looks like like a depressed area and is overrun by crime. Vince is the worst public manager in Florida and he has some nerve to criticize the one excellent public official who came to the citizens of Leon County’s aid when Vince did nothing? Please accept my apology Governor Scott for this misdirected inept action by Vince Long. Please help us Governor Scott!
Did Vince, Andrew or any of the other city/county commissars take the time to personally go to neighborhoods and pick up debris?
But Gov. Scott did.
Multiple days, and streets.
The fact that Scott doesn’t just write off this town, which continually thumbs its proverbial nose at him (with the urging if the local rag), shows how willing he is to turn the other cheek.
We were hit with a fast-moving sub-Cat1 windstorm. Flooding was a minor problem; the downed trees were the issue, blocking roads and knocking out power. It was A MONTH before the major city road I live off of had the piles of limbs removed from the roadside!
Thank you Gov. Scott for getting involved!
I believe the state had to move in because the city/county had not experienced an event like this in a long time. The city/county was ill prepared and not capable of handling the situation in an expeditious manner. The people of Tallahassee put a greater premium on getting their power restored in a timely manner than city and county officials did.
This is more fake news from the City and County.
What about the power? Wasn’t the COT Utility held accountable at all? That was one of the biggest problems.
You can thank Dick Kane in the FDOT PIO office for this fiasco.
Same thing I heard as well from FDOT friend
Nothing like insulting the 1 person and group who has ultimate control over the economic health of the City of Tallahassee and Leon County.
PS – that person is not Mayor Gillum or the guy with the Johnny Bravo haircut.