- Posted September 6, 2011 by
Fort Meade, Maryland
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Planning had Fort Meade ready for Irene
By Lisa Rhodes
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. - By the time Hurricane Irene reached Fort Meade, it was a Category 1 phenomenon that blew down trees and damaged electrical power lines in many neighborhoods around the installation.
But electric and ground crews working for the Directorate of Public Works were out during the driving rain and strong winds to remove trees and restore power to the housing areas. By Sunday morning, electricity in all of Fort Meade's neighborhoods was up and running.
No injuries or deaths were reported as a result of the hurricane.
"I'm happy that we planned ahead and were ready," said Randy Williams, chief of the Engineering Division at the DPW. "We got lucky. The weather wasn't as bad as it could have been."
Initially predicted to be a Category 3 hurricane, Irene swirled from the Caribbean with winds higher than 110 mph as it headed toward the United States early last week. But as Irene barreled its way up the Eastern Seaboard, the hurricane lost some of its power and had become a tropical storm with 65-mph winds by the time it reached New York on Sunday.
Charles Blocker, manager of Fort Meade's Emergency Operations Center, said the Fort Meade community fared "rather well" during the hurricane.
"We're lucky it wasn't a Category 2 or 3," Blocker said. "Hopefully, most of the people on post got the idea, especially going into winter, that they need to have emergency supplies at home -- bottled water, sleeping blankets -- because you never know if you're going to be the one in the dark and the cold."
The EOC collects and disseminates information for the garrison commander in the event of a disaster, such as a hurricane, earthquake, major fire, pandemic illness, terrorist attack or adverse weather.
Fortunately, many residents said they were prepared for the worst, but the hurricane and its aftermath were not as dire as expected.
"I thought it was going to be more, but I'm so glad it wasn't," said Wendy Neuroth, wife of Air Force Master Sgt. Erich Neuroth of the 34th Intelligence Squadron.
Neuroth said her family, who live in Meuse Forest, stocked up on bottled water, canned tuna and canned cooked spaghetti to prepare for a power outage. But the forceful winds only snapped the limbs of trees in the woods behind her home.
"I expected more -- more trees to be down, and we didn't get any flooding," Neuroth said.
However, not to be caught off guard, the EOC, DPW and Directorate of Emergency Services began preparing for the worst on Aug. 24 -- three days before the hurricane hit Maryland -- by determining and coordinating their staffs.
Military Police officers who were not already on duty for the weekend were on two-hour recall, and six additional firefighters and two assistant fire chiefs were put on duty.
Philip Jones, chief, command information, said the installation's Public Affairs Office began posting information about the hurricane on Facebook, Twitter and the Fort Meade Live blog as early as Friday morning. The information included tips from Picerne Military Housing on how residents could prepare for the hurricane and report hurricane damage.
The U.S. Army Field Band's 65th anniversary concert and MeadeFest, a community celebration at Meade High School, which were both scheduled for Saturday, were canceled Friday afternoon. All religious services on post were also canceled, while the commissary and Post Exchange remained open until 6 p.m. on Saturday. The 24-hour Shoppette remained open throughout the weekend.
By 11 a.m. Saturday, the EOC had stood up and began monitoring the hurricane.
When Irene hit Fort Meade, the Meuse Forest Neighborhood Center was converted into a staging area for firefighters and police officers to respond to any emergencies on the north side of the post, said Maj. J. Darrell Sides, operations officer at DES.
Overnight, firefighters responded to several fire alarms that were set off in tenant buildings and units due to the high winds. When the sun returned Sunday afternoon, police patrolled the installation looking for blocked roads from downed power lines and trees, damage to buildings, and residents seeking assistance.
DES reported that a small portion of the metal roof at the Army Reserve Center on Route 175 peeled back during the hurricane and a small section of siding tore off a warehouse on Rock Avenue. A tree was reported down in front of the new Pershing Hill Elementary School and a power outage occurred at the Courses Clubhouse, but ground and electrical crews repaired the damage.
Water leaking through the roofs of Child Development Center II, the School Age Services building and the Youth Services Center also were reported, but DPW began repairs for the facilities to open Monday.
Because hurricane season runs until mid-November, Blocker advises residents to remain vigilant about stocking emergency supplies and preparing their homes for future climatic weather conditions.
"Overall, we were fairly well prepared," he said, adding that the community always comes together in a crisis. "Our population has a tendency to try to take care of each other. ... We do well."