Fleets across the southeast are responding to what is being called the worst storm to slam southwestern Florida in decades. Hurricane Ian, which made landfall in Florida as a Category 4 hurricane on September 28, pummeled the state, before heading back into the ocean and making landfall a second time in the U.S. on September 30, this time as a Category 1 storm in South Carolina.
President Joe Biden said the hurricane is likely to rank among the worst in the nation’s history.
During and after natural disasters, fleet management departments are tasked with offering the support needed to government vehicles. Here's a roundup of how several agencies prepared their fleets, as well as how the fleets responded in Ian's aftermath.
Manatee County, Florida, Makes Preps Before Landfall
The Manatee County government fleet was expecting a near direct hit from Ian, so the department began its preparations almost a week beforehand.
Manatee County Fleet Division Manager Matthew Case said that fleet availability increased to 99%+.
All fuel sites were topped off daily, with constant communication with other local constitutional officers providing fuel for equipment and generators. A fleet of rental pumps and generators were also already staged to assist with any special needs or mutual support. The fleet assisted with power generation and fuel to special needs patients on power-critical life care in local facilities.
The fleet also offered equipment support to assist with the preparation and distribution of more than 250,000 sandbags serving multiple sites in the area.
The department was in constant communication with the department of public safety on fuel levels, including supply chain delays caused by port closures.
The fleet department also provided equipment preparation for mobile sites, handing out supplies to some of the hardest hit communities, along with providing equipment support for 7 strike teams to get the roads cleared and re-opened.
Case explained that the department also assisted with supplies, including the procurement and distribution of dozens of inverter-type generators to provide power to traffic signals that had no power.
The department was also responsible for communicating with county administration, state officials, the public safety department, and FEMA to coordinate supply logistics for food, propane, and water drop-off and distribution to multiple pickup sites.
Hillsborough County, Florida, Stocks Up on Supplies
Hillsborough County Director of Fleet Management Robert Stine said his area missed the major impact of Hurricane Ian by about 75 miles.
Like Manatee County, Hillsborough County also began its hurricane preps about a week in advance.
Standard preparations for the county included stocking up on supplies, topping off fuel tanks and dispersing assets. Keeping fleet vehicles and equipment in one place can lead to the risk of them being hard to access depending on where storm damage is. Fleet management also repaired priority assets to bring the fleet availability up.
The department also worked with employees to prepare their homes and families for potential hurricane impact. Some residents were under a mandatory evacuation order.
Additionally, the department staffed the emergency operations center 24/7 with fleet personnel.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office used one of its planes to bring supplies to Lee County. The local Home Depot store donated $3,000 in supplies to bring to Lee County, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office Facebook page.
Monroe County, Florida, Assists with Cleanup Efforts
Monroe County, where the Florida Keys are located, faced the impact of Hurricane Ian before the rest of the state. Communities dealt with tropical storm force winds and severe rain squalls, according to the Monroe County Emergency Management Agency.
Monroe County Fleet Management Director and Florida Association of Governmental Fleet Administrators (FLAGFA) director Daryl Greenlee told Government Fleet that his department is in cleanup mode. Heat and rotting seaweed, as well as other ocean debris, have made cleanup efforts difficult.
The county also sent a crew from its Monroe County Fire Rescue team to offer mutual aid in DeSoto County.
Volusia County, Florida, Sends High-Water Rescue Vehicles Out to Assist with Rescues
The Volusia County Sheriff's Office sent out several high-water rescue vehicle crews to assist with rescues in the county. Among those was the Bearcat vehicle seen in the video above. The vehicle carried deputies, paramedics, and Sheriff Mike Chitwood.
The vehicles assisted with people in areas that were inaccessible to standard emergency vehicles, according to the Volusia County Sheriff's Office Facebook page.
The sheriff's office posted the above video before its crews deployed as the hurricane made landfall, leading to rescue calls.
Osceola County, Florida, Aids in Rescue, Cleanup Efforts
Osceola County sheriff's deputies deployed in an air boat and small watercraft to evacuate residents as Hurricane Ian made landfall, flooding roadways and stranding people.
Clam trucks from St. Cloud's solid waste department spent the weekend cleaning up hurricane debris for residents.
Orange County Crews Brave Floodwaters to Rescue Residents
The Orange County Sheriff's Office sent high-water rescue vehicles and boats into the community to rescue stranded residents.
Deputies with the Marine Unit traveled by boat to rescue people who were in areas unreachable by vehicles.
Deputies with the Emergency Response Team rescued residents in the Orlo Vista community on their high-water rescue vehicle.
Additionally, the county is working with contractor crews to collect large storm debris this week.
Florida Public Utilities Crews Work Around the Clock
Hundreds of Florida Public Utilities crews were deployed around Florida to assist with power outages. Crews worked around the clock to restore power using bucket trucks. Florida Public Utilities services much of the state.
Georgetown County, South Carolina, Offers Aid to Critical Infrastructure
Hurricane Ian made landfall on the coast of South Carolina on Friday, September 30. Georgetown County, south of Myrtle Beach, has a third-party vendor that maintains its fleet services department. Georgetown County Emergency Services Director Brandon Ellis said his department was in close communication with the fleet services department prior to Ian's landfall.
The departments worked together to supply supplemental resources and fuel in various locations along the coast. They maintained a generator fleet at critical infrastructure sites to keep them powered. Before landfall, the departments did maintenance checks on the generators to make sure they were operational and had fuel.
The fleet services department also offered vehicle recovery to a fire truck that got stuck during an emergency call response. Ellis told Government Fleet that the front tires got stuck in soft, saturated ground. Crews were able to help the vehicle get unstuck without damage so it could be put back in service.
Crews are in recovery mode now, assisting the public works department with onsite maintenance on the coast. Several pieces of equipment are being used to remove sand from roadways and help with beach reclamation. Ellis said the county is utilizing all of its fleet now -- from heavy equipment to passsenger vehicles -- to support response and recovery operations throughout the county. Without the support from the fleet services department, the emergency services department would not have been able to respond as effectively as it has, Ellis explained.
Lee County, where Fort Myers is located, was one of the hardest hit areas. Government Fleet has reached out to the fleet department there and has not heard back. FLAGFA director Daryl Greenlee said his team has also reached out to Lee County to offer assistance and has not heard back, likely due to power outages and trouble with local infrastructure due to storm damage.