‘Hurricane Suzi’ helps emergency workers prepare for real storm

  • Friday, July 5, 2013

Scott Harper/Times
As part of the training a team of damage assessors walked through parts of the city surveying the damage. The team consisted of, from left, Marion County Emergency Management Director Brandon Ellis, Joanne Ochal of the county Zoning Office, Robert Cox and Steven Elliott of the county Building Department, City Code Enforcer Janet Grant and Susan Edwards of the county Assessor’s Office.

The first month of the 2013 hurricane season has been relatively quiet with the exception of Tropical Storm Andrea that brought rain and some wind from the Gulf of Mexico in early June.
And there was last week’s Category 3 Hurricane Suzi that made landfall in the Winyah Bay.
Fortunately, Suzi was not a real storm but the name given to a fictitious hurricane during a major training exercise that took place at the Georgetown County Emergency Operations Center.
About 100 people gathered at the EOC to participate in the drill. Since they are the same people who will be called into action during an actual emergency, their task was to make sure they are prepared in case the EOC is actually activated.
Those who took part were from a wide range of agencies and organizations. From law enforcement, fire officials, EMS, city and county government, state government, non-profit organizations and more.
The training began with the different groups receiving phone calls informing them of situations to which they needed to respond.
For example, Georgetown Police Chief Paul Gardner and Midway Fire Rescue Chief Doug Eggiman were dispatched at a nine car pileup on the Waccamaw River bridge that occurred as the storm with 123 mph winds was approaching.
The teams worked together to get the county ready for the storm.
Once the storm passed — and after a lunch break — the job was to help with the recovery efforts.
County Emergency Operations Manager Sam Hodge said that, according to the scenario, Suzi destroyed 132 buildings in the county and moderately damaged 2,685. Total property loss was $176 million dollars.
Michael Carpolo, a National Weather Service meteorologist, was also at the drill.
“During real events we would be providing weather support and briefings. Things like how long the impacts will last and will things will subside,” Carpolo said.
He said every county needs to hold such training sessions “to see what works well and what needs to be improved.”
Hodge said at the end of the session the group discussed their strengths and weaknesses.

By Scott Harper
sharper@gtowntimes.com

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