FNG, Lake O region helpers assisting in Panhandle

Relief efforts are continuing by many state, regional and local agencies and, of course, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as residents of Florida’s Panhandle try to recover from the blow that Hurricane Michael dealt to the largely rural area. Quite a bit of assistance and many urgently needed items have been collected and sent upstate in the two weeks since the storm by various groups in the Lake Okeechobee region.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/Courtesy of Glades County Public Safety
From left, Glades County Public Safety Department workers Clay Sapp, Director Bob Jones, David Springman, Emergency Management Director Angie Snow-Colegrove, Extension 4-H Agent Tycee Prevatt and Bobby Sarazen.

Collections have been under way in each of the counties surrounding the lake. And the Florida National Guard (FNG) is on the ground in force in the Panhandle, with thousands of soldiers and airmen involved in a variety of missions such as search and rescue (which efforts are still continuing), road clearance, shelter assistance, food and water distribution and aviation missions.

According to the guard’s Public Affairs Office, as of just over a week after the storm hit, there had been 37 aerial missions flown, totaling almost 200 flight hours, with 306 missions assigned. The FNG additionally was manning seven shelters in Bay, Calhoun and Gulf counties; was operating 25 points of distribution in those three plus Gadsden, Jackson, Wakulla and Washington counties; was staffing the State Logistics Response Center in Orlando as well as Logistics Staging Areas in Tallahassee and Marianna; had liaison officers providing support in nine counties; was providing communication support packages in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gulf, Jackson and Washington counties; and was performing nine security missions in the two hardest-hit counties, Bay and Calhoun.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/Courtesy of Glades County Public Safety
Efrain Herra, Clay Sapp and Bobby Sarazen help pack up boxes to send to the Panhandle.

Glades County agencies combine efforts

It’s been over a year since Hurricane Irma hit Southwest Florida, including rural Glades and Hendry counties, but local officials south of Lake O remember the assistance rendered by employees of other rural counties and agencies based far away from the area after that severe storm.

Reported Glades Emergency Management Director Angie Colegrove: “Hurricane Michael has hit our rural North Florida communities very hard, and this time it is our fellow colleagues in the rural, North Florida agriculture-dependent areas that need help. South Florida UF/IFAS Extension county offices were asked to help in the effort. Glades County Extension 4-H Agent Tycee Prevatt contacted me and Bob Jones, Glades County public safety director, to see what we could do for our North Florida friends.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/Courtesy of Glades County Public Safety
James Williams helps load the truck heading to the Panhandle.

“We worked together on the supply list that could be shipped; Bob worked with Chief Deputy Duanne Pottorff and Detective Mike Pepitone for transportation of the supplies and an officer for transporting the goods; and Tycee worked on the logistics for the shipment of the supplies. Detective David Springman transported the tarps, hand sanitizer and bug spray to a neighboring UF/IFAS Extension office that will be taking the supplies for the last leg of their journey, to be distributed to our fellow Floridians in North Florida who are working day in and day out to help others in their rural communities.”
Also, Ms. Colegrove said, “During a Florida School Superintendents Association conference call, Glades County Schools

Superintendent Scott Bass was advised of the vital need for tarps in the North Florida counties. Mr. Bass immediately called me to see if the Public Safety Department could help with their needs, and the ball began rolling.”

She said that she and Mr. Bass coordinated with Glades County Sheriff David Hardin for a trailer, and Jimmy Summeralls from the county Road Department loaded the tarpaulins on the trailer. At the same time, county Fire Department and Emergency Medical Service employees loaded up hand sanitizer and bug spray from the Emergency Operations Center.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
Hobart Lee (left) accepts a donation of hurricane supplies from Anetta Smith. Mr. Lee’s trailer was at the Trading Post flea market in Okeechobee last weekend collecting supplies for the storm victims.

Late Monday night, Oct. 15, Superintendent Bass and school Maintenance Foreman Al Brown headed up north, visiting Gulf, Jackson, Washington and Calhoun counties, then returned the next day.

Director Colegrove summed up: “Rural counties always pull together to help each other and others in need. Teamwork is their number one goal all year long, and everyone is always willing to do their part.”

In Okeechobee County. a community drive collected supplies at Trading Post flea market. Local residents Hobart and Patti Lee volunteered to use their stock trailer to collect donations, and Mr. Lee left Monday to take supplies to hard-hit Calhoun County.

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