All Hurricanes Are Local

For those of you who have heard me speak, I often remind audiences that I have been on storm duty for every hurricane that has hit Florida since Hurricane Andrew (1992).  And this past weekend was no different but yet was different.  All those past hurricanes were not in my hometown.  This storm duty was 2 miles from my home and the surrounding Tallahassee area.  My neighbors, colleagues, friends, seniors, and others were not spared from the two EF-2 tornadoes (windspeeds over 120 mph) this past Friday that we are comparing to a Cat 4 hurricane.  And besides the wind destroying so many beautiful homes and neighborhoods, the trees crushed decades old charming cottages, crashing through them like a hot knife in a stick of butter. 

A huge oak tree is split down the middle during a tornado in Tallahassee’s Blairstone Forest neighborhood, May 10, 2024. Courtesy, Shawn Foster

In my discussions with survivors, I learned that once again, Floridians rose to honor.  Case in point: Blairstone Forest, a 40 year-old subdivision of homes owned by primarily senior citizens with redwood and cedar siding, gingerbread trim and canopied oak trees.  One of my colleagues, Shawn Foster, CEO of Sunrise Consulting, a partner lobby firm to mine, owns a home there and returned from his out-of-town trip to a law enforcement road block that he got past only with his residence credentials. 

One of many cars damaged by trees toppling during one of several tornadoes in Tallahassee, FL, May 10, 2024. Courtesy, Mike Rogers

Shawn arrived to what so many of us have seen the day after the storm: no electricity, homes and cars with trees on top of them, debris-clogged streets, distraught residents, and lack of hope.  Shawn, having worked with emergency management clients, knew instantly what to do.  He mobilized a contingent of young “soldiers” who had the strength and might to maneuver chain saws, toss the debris aside to clear the streets, and get water distributed and cheer up the seniors, many of whom have lost everything.  Shawn worked with and paid Chick-fil-A to provide meals.  Shawn recounted to me his conversation with his neighbor Karen, who pointed to a tree that split her house in two.  She said with tears in her eyes, “I planted this tree 38 years ago when I moved in and now it’s on my roof.”  Shawn replied, “The sun will shine through and new trees will grow.  We will get your house fixed!”

Shawn and his volunteers are continuing to lead the relief for that neighborhood.  If any of you are coming to my town on storm duty, please let me know!

LMA Newsletter of 5-13-24