The Florida Rural Water Association is no stranger to Emergency Response. Over the years, we have responded to all types of natural disasters, but 2020 is one for the record books.
The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is the most active Atlantic hurricane season on record, with tropical cyclone formation occurring at a record-breaking rate. A total of 31 tropical and subtropical depressions, 30 named storms, 13 hurricanes, and 6 major hurricanes have formed throughout the season. It is the second season to use the Greek letter storm naming system, the first being 2005. Of the 30 named storms, 12 made landfall in the contiguous United States, breaking the record of nine set in 1916. The season was also the fifth consecutive season in which at least one Category 5 hurricane formed. During the season, 27 tropical storms have broken the record for the earliest formation by storm number. This season has also featured a record 10 tropical cyclones that have undergone rapid intensification, tying it with 1995. This unprecedented activity has been fueled by an ongoing La Niña. It has been the fifth consecutive above average season, from 2016 onward, and the first extremely active season since 2017.
FRWA Update 09.25.20
It seems like FRWA has been in Emergency Response all year. The Covid 19/pandemic put us into response for Florida Water Utilities and helping our friends in Georgia/GRWA with generators per request and needs. FRWA even bought KN 95 masks and sold them to Florida water utilities at cost for protection of critical and valuable water utility staffs. Then Hurricane season started early and we have been on alert/response ever sense. More on that in following paragraphs. FRWA has also been working very closely and been prime contractor to develop an emergency response reporting/tracking/needs requesting/resource providing system with the State of Florida, Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), FlaWarn (Florida Water Agency Response Network) called Water Tracker. Access or review is available to interested parties. In fact, sharing with other states has been offered and remains offered to other state partners like State Primacy Agencies and Rural Water Associations and Warns.
Florida had some Tropical Storms and our daily requests from water utilities for FRWA equipment/emergency response resources/generators/pumps that are common and we don’t even count those as emergency response anymore. But, if an issue for water utilities and request to FRWA it is an emergency to that water utility. Some states call it providing technical assistance but it is really emergency response in the judgement of the water utilities needing help/water utility emergency.
FRWA responded and pre-staged FRWA emergency response equipment at West Palm Beach for Hurricane Isaias. We had semi loads of generators and pumps ready for use. In a miracle related to normal Florida luck it veered north and delivered only a glancing blow to the Florida Atlantic coast and Florida Water Utilities. In fact the resources were not even unloaded of semi-trailers to be used and local water utilities helped each other/took care of all needs. The beauty of Water Utility helping Water Utility Networks—FlaWarn.
Then Hurricane Laura hit our friends and impacted water utilities in Texas and Louisiana. Louisiana and Louisiana Rural Water Association (LRWA) needed help and we responded with FRWA resources. We took at least 20 generators and pumps, fuel trailer, FRWA travel trailer, FRWA truck and semi/crane, semi-trailers, other miscellaneous emergency response items and FRWA staff to help.
Even while resources remained and FRWA continued to help LRWA, Hurricane Sally hit parts/western panhandle of Florida. Many resources that had cleared were recovered by FRWA semi and trailer for Sally response. Some still remain in Louisiana in use and some returned for FRWA to recover soon. The remaining FRWA equipment-25 generators and other emergency response equipment was deployed from FRWA warehouse on another semi-trailer and flat pulled to water utilities impacted by Sally. All needs have been met with water utilities in Florida and some equipment has been retuned and some remains is use or in logistics que for FRWA to get back to FRWA warehouse. Hopefully done for the year but there is a month and half of the hurricane season still to go. If we have to go out again we hope back long enough to service and address any issues from a month of use.
The Rural Water Family has really pulled together, helped each other in the SE US, showed great leadership, helped countless water utilities and more importantly their customers/public for which FRWA is extremely proud of and happy to have served a small role in this year.
Hurricane Sally takes a swing at Florida
Mark Hallett, FRWA Energy Efficiency Technician
Hurricane Sally made landfall as a Category 2 storm near the western Florida-Alabama border in the early morning of September 16, 2020. While a category 2 storm seems small, Sally presented a unique trial in emergency response with her slow moving rain bands that have poured a record amount of rain onto both states. Sally continues her slow steady march to the Atlantic Coast and is expected to continue pouring rain on Alabama, Georgia, and Florida for the next several days. Flood warnings, watches, and advisories are in effect for several areas. Flooding creates a hazard for responders as flood waters can hide dangerous debris or downed power lines. Flood waters can submerge equipment and controls causing damage and outage.
As with any storm event, safety is a top priority during the response effort. This includes when responders are on site assisting as well as when they travel. FRWA coordinates with the Florida Department of Transportation (DOT), local sheriff offices, and other authorities to ensure that roads are clear and passable for travel. This has been exceedingly important given the damage the 3 Mile Bridge in Pensacola. Other bridges may have been affected and closed for inspection prior to heavy equipment being driven over them. FRWA continues to monitor the progress of these closures to ensure that equipment travels quickly and safely to the ones who need it. While some traffic delays may slow our response FRWA will find a way to get the equipment to those in need using our semi or fleet vehicles.
As we in the water industry know, flooding can be a detriment to collection systems causing inflow through manholes and flooding of lift stations. This flooding has caused a number of systems to experience an increased need for bypass and trash pumps to bail out their lift stations. FRWA has responded with as many resources as we had on hand. Our response to Hurricane Laura which affected Louisiana earlier this year saw most of our equipment already deployed out of state. As equipment is released from its use in Louisiana, FRWA will continue to move it to staging areas in the affected area to continue serving our members. Georgia Rural Water (GRWA) has pledged 3 by pass pumps to aid in removing flood water and to pump out submerged and damaged lift stations while we wait on FRWA’s resources to become available. It’s great to know that rural water sticks together regardless of state lines.
Generators of all sizes have made their way into the affected area. From our tiniest 2 kilowatt generators up to our large 200 kilowatt generators, FRWA has responded with several generators being brought to the affected area. Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has acquired an additional 16 large state-owned generators for use in this emergency response. These generators will be loaded onto the FRWA semi and sent to the area later this week. Utilities as members of the Florida Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (FlaWARN) have also pledged generators and additional resources to help affected systems stay afloat in these times. Generators are necessary in keeping lift stations, wells, and small plants operating until line power can be restored. Smaller generators can be put on a rotation schedule to service multiple lift stations. While this practice can be time and personnel intensive, it can often allow a system to operate with fewer resources. For more information about this practice, consider reading some of FRWA’s Emergency Response guidelines and best management practices, which can be found here.
One of those additional resources, made possible through FlaWARN, is personnel. Often times during a storm event, the affected systems’ staff is unavailable as they are also dealing with the effects of the storm. This can often lead to shorthanded utilities in need of trained and experienced personnel. While FRWA circuit riders are actively responding to help, we often find our staff stretched thin. Thanks to FlaWARN members, additional personnel are made available to assist the shorthanded utilities. These additional crews and personnel respond to the disaster often providing relief to the local utility staff. This assistance is appreciated by all the customers, operators, and staff of water and wastewater systems.
Coordination efforts for response are handled by the new WATER Tracker from DEP. This system is the primary location for reporting a system’s operational status following a storm event as well as any available resources for use in the response efforts. DEP, FlaWARN, and FRWA use it to coordinate response efforts, matching available resources with reported needs. Each water and wastewater system in the state is responsible for updating their status after a storm event. If a system has not updated their status within 24 hours, FRWA or DEP may call your system to ascertain the operational status. It’s important to log in and update any emergency contact information for your system regularly to aid us in this effort. Visit FLwatertracker.com <please make this a link> to log into the tracker; training videos are available on the site to help you familiarize yourself with the new system. If you experience trouble logging in to the system, you can contact DEP by emailing WATERTracker@floridadep.gov or calling 1-800-872-8207 or you can contact Joni at Joni@FRWA.net or by calling our offices at 850-668-2746.
Rural Waters Across the Nation Respond to the Needs of Small Systems
Tropical Depression 13 formed late Wednesday night in the mid-Atlantic and will likely become Tropical Storm Laura on Thursday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The National Hurricane Center is monitoring three systems in the Atlantic that all have a chance of forming into tropical depressions or storms this week.
But so far Florida is in the path of just one of the storms - Invest 98L, also called "Disturbance 2" by meteorologists - is churning in the Atlantic. It has a 90 percent chance of becoming a tropical depression or storm in the next day or two, according to the hurricane center's Wednesday advisory.
The hurricane center's early models shows that it could potentially strike the state next week, perhaps on Aug. 26. But there's no way to tell right now what the strength of the system will be by then.
"It's still fairly disorganized for now but it's something we'll have to keep an eye on the next couple of days," said Spectrum Bay News 9 Chief Meteorologist Mike Clay. "Some of the models do not develop this, not all of them develop it, but some of them do and certainly show a threat getting into the Gulf or up to Florida."
The National Hurricane Center reports that Tropical Depression 11 strengthened into Tropical Storm Josephine today, becoming the 10th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season.
At this time, it is unclear whether Josephine could bring weather that impacts to Florida. Currently, there are no coastal watches or warning in effect as the storm is still far from landfall.
NOAA has updated its hurricane season forecast, predicting twenty five named storms. The highest number ever.
Just because Josephine may pass us by does not mean that we can let down our guard. With the growing threat of an extremely active season, now is the time to be sure that your system is ready in case of an emergency. Click here to access information on how to prepare your system.
- Tracking events
- Coordinate equipment/assistance
- Deployment of equipment
- Assets and personnel
- Response and restore services
- Tracking assets (e.g., emergency back-up generators, pumps, motors, etc.)
All looks to be pretty good from 1 pm FlaWarn call for Southeast Florida. Only one partially operational posting related to the City of West Palm Beach going on generators at Water Plants for precaution and flickering line power.
Hopefully as it moves north and weakens, we don't see any needs and response request.
As of last reports it looks as though the Hurricane impacts will be along the Atlantic coast from Palm Beach County to Duval County. The FlaWarn hope is minimal damage but guess there will be power outages and water utilities needs. Water Tracker has been activated, a Governor Executive Order is out, and an email has been sent to all water utilities in the expected impact counties to report operational status through Water Tracker after storm passage. So we need to activate our FRWA emergency response SOP and a water response center will be started by DEP tomorrow at noon. You may be asked to help with calls, response, assessment and resource delivery. A semi load of equipment-bypass pumps, generators and trash pumps was delivered-pre staged in West Palm Beach last night. We aren’t going to pre deploy more equipment at this time as not sure where most impact and need will be. We are also hoping outages won’t be whole systems but small portions that they and other local water utilities can utilize their equipment to address.
We will have smaller systems which will be affected we will need to help. We also hope power companies if not widespread outages will get power back on quickly in affected areas.
Prepping for Isaias
FRWA recommends that you be sure that your Emergency Response plan is up to date. We suggest that you meet with your employees to review their assigned duties so that your system is prepared in case of an emergency. For more information on preparing your system for an emergency, click here.