Mary Duryea surveys tree damage after a hurricane.

Hurricanes and Humble Heroes

As I write this, residents all across the state of Florida are desperately preparing for the havoc that Hurricane Irma will hit us with. And across UF/IFAS Extension, many of the faculty and staff in our county offices and research and education centers live and work directly in the path of this disastrous storm.

There is a well-known phrase, that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. And our faculty and staff got going right away! But not out of harm’s way. Many of our county Extension directors and faculty have dual roles with county government and, as such, are called on to staff emergency operations centers, work in shelters, answer phones, provide assistance as needed, and stay put to be ready to assess the damage immediately after the storm passes. Not only do they have their own families, homes and properties to attend to, but they are responsible for county offices, agricultural fields, livestock and active research projects that also need attention.

UF/IFAS Extension St. Johns County agent Joanne Cooper demonstrates the benefits of protective shutters during a hurricane to Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind students with help from interpreter Andrea Williamson.

UF/IFAS Extension St. Johns County agent Joanne Cooper (second from right) demonstrates the benefits of protective shutters during a hurricane to Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind students with help from interpreter Andrea Williamson.

Over the last few days I have heard all the reports as to how we have secured property and how personnel are all accounted for. I have read blog posts, social media posts, facts sheets and articles written and distributed by our faculty providing the vital information on how to not only best prepare for the storm but also be ready to recover from it.

They are your neighbors, like Angel Granger with UF/IFAS Extension in Jackson County, who spent part of the week fielding phone calls and giving out information regarding sheltering horses at the Jackson County Ag Center in Marianna. Sharon Arnold Treen, County Extension Director (CED) in Flagler and Putnam Counties, will be working 12-hour shifts at the Flagler County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) through the duration of the storm. She will be there 48 hours from Sunday morning through Monday night during the anticipated worst part of the storm. As part of the food unit she will be feeding about 175 people (county employees, first responders, etc.) that will be working throughout the storm event. Likewise, Barbara Hughes, Seminole CED, along with faculty Julie England and Hannah Wooten will be pulling 12-hour shifts at their local EOCs. Numerous other Extension faculty will be Palm trees blowing in a stormdoing similar work and pulling long shifts to provide strong customer service for people facing issues and problems from storms.

Dr. Angie Lindsey is the UF/IFAS Extension point of contact to the Extension Disaster Emergency Network. She is coordinating the gathering and sharing of vital information useful to Florida residents. Working together with the national Cooperative Extension network, we are benefiting from the lessons learned and proven strategies of our colleagues across the nation. Angie is working tirelessly to support our statewide faculty even while her own family and home are in the center of Irma’s wrath.

These are just a handful of the hundreds of UF/IFAS Extension faculty and staff who are putting service above self this week. Just like they do every day.

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