Tulsans Travel South To Help In Wake Of Hurricane Michael

Wednesday, October 10th 2018, 5:43 pm
By: Amy Slanchik

One of the most powerful storms to ever hit the U.S. mainland is lashing the Florida panhandle.

Hurricane Michael made landfall as a category 4 storm, packing 155 mph winds.

The National Hurricane Center says the storm is expected to keep its strength as it moves toward Alabama and Georgia.

Utility companies are reporting about 200,000 people without power right now

A team from Tulsa's Army Corp of engineers is already in place to help get those lights back on.

The team is made up of 13 Tulsans who left less than 24 hours ago. 

While they're leaving, one of their co-workers just got back from South Carolina after Hurricane Florence. 

As Hurricane Michael makes its way inland, Tulsans are already there. 

The group with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.

Others are in Tallahassee and Jacksonville, Florida. 

"This isn't something that they're mandated to do. This is a completely voluntary thing that they're willing to do," said USACE Tulsa District Commander Rick Childers. 

Their mission is to provide generator power to places like 911 call centers, hospitals, and police and fire stations.

They plan to help for a whole month, maybe two. 

And for the past month, Tulsan Ed Johnson's focus was Highway 501 near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. 

"That is just a very critical supply route through that area. Not just for day-to-day traffic, but also for emergency first responders," said USACE Tulsa District Public Relations Chief Ed Johnson. 

From the air, you can see the impact Hurricane Florence had on the area. 

But if you look closely, you'll notice part of the road stayed open, thanks to the work done days earlier by soldiers and transportation crews with guidance from the Corps of Engineers. 

Crews filled wire mesh barriers with sand to protect the road, a system used in war to protect from bullets, bombs, and missiles. 

As Johnson looks back on his time there, it's the soldiers working hard to help others who stay on his mind. 

"As people that were in the area would drive by the soldiers working with the supplies we provided, they were cheering them on, offering them bottles of water, sometimes food, and it was just very rewarding to see the entire community come together," said Johnson.

If the damage isn't as bad as expected in Florida, the Tulsa team will go on to Puerto Rico, for its fourth deployment there since Hurricane Maria.