By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News The Sorrells family had two unwelcome guests in the past month – the first named Harvey, followed by Irma. “Stay away from us, we seem to be jinxed,” Larry Sorrells said on Saturday. Larry and Janet Sorrells, longtime Bowling Green residents, moved to Punta Gorda, Florida, in April. Their daughter Jennifer and her family live in Houston, Texas. As Hurricane Harvey approached, Jennifer, her spouse and their daughter, went to Austin for safety. “They were very lucky,” and their home suffered no damage, Larry Sorrells said. But as Larry and Janet Sorrells were worrying about Harvey’s wrath in Texas, Irma showed up on the radar. “We saw this thing for a long time,” but forecasters were uncertain where Irma was headed exactly. “We were glued to the TV” waiting for updates, Sorrells said. “We were watching the storm, and it’s a monster,” leveling some Caribbean islands on its way to Florida. Sorrells is accustomed to preparing for emergencies and public health crises. As the former health commissioner for Wood County, he spent years making sure the public was safe. But this was different. “This is our first hurricane, and maybe our last. I wouldn’t mind that,” he said. “I have a lot of training in emergency preparedness,” Sorrells said. So he and Janet planned ahead and made hotel reservations in Atlanta, Georgia, and they prepared their home with storm shutters and other precautionary steps to be battered by Irma. “There’s a lot of stuff to get ready for these things so you don’t come home to an even bigger mess,” he said. When the evacuation order was issued, they were ready. “We knew not to stay in a mobile home during a hurricane,” he said. “Homes can be replaced, human lives can’t.” But their plans changed as it became almost impossible to get gas, and as the highways became blocked with traffic headed the one direction for safety – north. The Sorrells were also wanting to help out other neighbors in their retirement community in Punta Gorda. So they scrapped the Atlanta plans and instead sought shelter in Red Cross sites set up in Sarasota County. The first shelter they went to was not open. The second one was already full. The third one – an elementary school designed to withstand hurricanes – was just right. “We were assigned to Mrs. Weaver’s kindergarten classroom,” along with about 22 other people, he said. The entire school took in about 1,000 people seeking shelter. “We felt safe there the whole time.” Safe, but not exactly comfortable. The Sorrells learned a valuable lesson that many Floridians who have experienced hurricanes already know – bring bedding or sleep on the floor. “The people who knew what they were doing brought cots or air mattresses,” he said….
In the wake of Hurricane Irma, electricians from Bowling Green and from Pemberville traveled down to help Floridians whose power was knocked out. The three linemen from Bowling Green were Trent Tyson, Randy McBride and Tim Brubaker. The two electricians from Pemberville were John Lockhart and Dean Ridner. This morning, the village of Pemberville received an email from a family displaced by the hurricane, who expressed their thanks for the electricians who traveled so far to help. Molly Brown approved her letter being shared….. Village of Pemberville, We are in Tallahassee, FL. Last night, by the grace of God, a potentially catastrophic and life changing Hurricane Irma was diverted slightly inland, saving all of the homes here and significant changes in everyone’s lives. We fled here from Jacksonville, which initially was supposed to be harder hit. Then the storm track changed. It was coming here, and I was stuck with my three small boys in a hotel while my husband, who is a police officer in Jacksonville, had to stay behind. It was a lot of stress, watching the storm come and not being able to get out of its way. We lost power at 3 am, myself and my three little boys. Today, we just got back on power. Not a long time, but having it back after all the build up of stress was AWESOME! And then, driving through the parking lot of the hotel, I saw the electric truck with the people who fixed the power. The truck has your village logo, Pemberville, Ohio. THANK YOU. Thank you for sending people to help us. Thank you for letting go of your resources. I’m sure some people will say, well sure, those guys are getting paid. Of course they are, and they should be. Handsomely. None of us can get the power back on. Those electricians (of course I’m sure it’s another title) drove that big truck halfway across the country to help people they don’t even know when we need their help. You are appreciated. I myself am a public servant, and I’m going to guess they don’t hear it enough, so please tell them: THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. For a mom with three little boys, worried about her own house back in Jacksonville and not knowing the status of said house, the power is a great thing. I wish I could have made it downstairs to say thank you. I saw the hotel manager talking to them, hopefully saying thank you. The left right away, I’m sure helping to make some more people smile. Your guys are wonderful. From the city of Tallahassee, Florida, y’all are much appreciated! Please thank the electricians who came down here. Please consider something to recognize that their help is appreciated and your village was seen doing…
By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News With Hurricane Irma leaving most of Florida in the dark, cities across the nation are sending down electric workers to lend a hand. The city of Bowling Green sent three linemen – Trent Tyson, Randy McBride and Tim Brubaker – to the Tallahassee, Florida, area to help get power back to the region. The three men are planning to work in Florida for a week to 10 days. “We’ll see how that goes,” said Brian O’Connell, director of Bowling Green’s public utilities. “If they need more help, we may send another crew down to help.” Though the three linemen are acquainted with the work, they are expecting this to be unlike any disasters they have encountered up here. “There are just piles of debris everywhere,” O’Connell said – including power poles that are scattered around like pick-up sticks. “This is a much larger scale, and they’re not familiar with the system.” After cleaning up the torn down lines and poles, then new ones must be installed. “It’s just a major endeavor,” O’Connell said. Three years ago, Bowling Green needed help from other communities when a strong line of winds knocked down power poles along Dunbridge Road on the east side of the city. Like Bowling Green, Tallahassee is a member of the American Public Power Association. When one member is in trouble, others respond, O’Connell explained. “It’s a fairly common practice in the industry,” he said. “We just needed to keep enough people back to make sure we’re covered.” The linemen will help with reconstruction, by first taking care of down trees and power lines, and repairing broken transformers. It is specialized work that requires electrical expertise. “They need bodies who know how to put stuff back together,” O’Connell said. Bowling Green’s employees and the two city trucks are waiting in Alabama until the storm finishes its path through Tallahassee. They traveled in a convoy of regional community linemen who met up in the Wapakoneta area. The host community will reimburse Bowling Green for its time and expenses. The linemen, who will be paid for their time, have to volunteer for the job. “We’re fortunate we have guys like this,” O’Connell said of the linemen.