After Hurricane Dorian demolished the Bahamas TECO converted a base camp at the Florida Strawberry Festival Grounds into staging area for an upcoming effort by the company to send aid to the affected islands.
Plant City barely received more than a light dose of rain Tuesday evening as Hurricane Dorian continued along its path up the coastline toward Georgia and the Carolinas. However, the record-breaking storm wreaked havoc across the Bahamas during its treacherously slow journey over the islands.
Initial forecasts of the then-Category 5 storm coming across the state led many Plant City residents to buckle down for a major blow. Gas stations ran out of gas, lines at Publix and Wal-Mart wrapped down the aisles and Lowes was flooded with last-minute storm-preppers.
While Tampa Bay may have been lucky this time, the City of Plant City is still asking residents to be alert and keep their eyes peeled for word of more tropical disturbances.
Residents of the Bahamas, however, were struck by a storm the likes of which hadn’t been seen in years.
The hurricane battered the islands for 48 hours, causing thousands of homes to be damaged and destroyed and leaving tens of thousands of residents without drinking water.
As of press time, seven people were confirmed dead on the Bahamas’ Abaco Island and experts expect the death toll to rise as rescue crews are able to finally get to the islands.
Though TECO initially set up a base camp at the Florida Strawberry Festival grounds in preparation for the storm heading toward Tampa Bay, they now are focusing their effort on getting teams primed and ready to head toward the coast and over on barges to the destroyed islands.
“Initially we did request help from out-of-state utilities, and earlier this week we released them to go to areas that were more in the path of the storm than we would be,” Cherie Jacobs, a spokesperson for TECO, said.
However, driving by the festival grounds now still shows quite a few trucks on site.
Jacobs said the equipment currently there are sleeping trailers being prepared for a trek to Ft. Lauderdale, where they will convene and then prepare for the trip across the ocean.
TECO will send some folks to the Bahamas to help them rebuild after this storm. Jacobs said they have a sister company there, the Grand Bahama Power Company, which is owned by the same company as TECO. The plan is to use their resources to help first get employees whose homes were destroyed a place to sleep safely and distribute supplies to begin aiding in the restoration of the community.
The timeline now is entirely dependent on the safety of travel. As soon as crews can ship the barges of materials to the damaged islands safely, they will set sail and the base camp in Plant City will be on its way.
Jacobs said while they do have a sister company in the Bahamas, providing mutual assistance is at the core of their company’s philosophy.
“Power companies help each other in times of need,” Jacobs said. “We have a lot of experience restoring power after a storm. Whether its a storm in TECO territory or a storm in another utility’s territory. One of the things we participate in is the South Eastern Electric Exchange, which is a group of utilities who pledge mutual assistance in times of severe weather or other crisis. There have been many opportunities for us to go help other utilities after bad weather has come through and there have been also a number of opportunities for those folks to return the favor to us and come help us.”
While they were able to let the help they had initially requested for Dorian head on to areas of greater need, Jacobs said TECO was joined by thousands of outside workers during Hurricane Irma in 2017 to quickly restore power to those affected.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has warned that 2019 is set to be an above-average hurricane season. With the potential of several other storms arising before the end of the season it is crucial residents keep their supplies stocked, their homes prepared and their eyes on the radar.
Dorian will still continue to cause damage to parts of Florida and, as of press time, was moving north-northwest up the coast at 9mph.