By Ms. Elyssa Vondra (Fort Jackson)September 20, 2018
All hands were on deck Sept. 13-14 preparing for the dreaded Hurricane Florence. Though the storm didn't have much effect on the Columbia region, preparations tested the Army's readiness. Not everyone got away with such little destruction.
A rainy weekend defined Columbia's experience with the infamous Hurricane Florence. The storm was downgraded from a Category 4 to a Category 1 hurricane in the days before touchdown.
In the lead-up, the installation prepared for worse than a windy rainstorm, with the devastating flooding of 2015 in mind.
"It was a great exercise in preparedness," said Ann Garner, director of the Directorate Public Works.
This preparation made returning to normalcy an easy transition.
"Our workforce; both military and civilian, did an outstanding job to keep Fort Jackson operating at a high level," said Brig. Gen. Milford "Beags" Beagle Jr., Fort Jackson commander. This helps the post "to resume training and normal operations relatively quickly."
While sailors from Joint Base Charleston roamed the installation, seeking refuge from the storm, Fort Jackson departments prepared for the impact the hurricane would have.
"In preparation for Hurricane Florence coming to our neighborhood, we ask that you secure objects that could become flying projectiles with high winds," Garner said, on Thursday. "We also ask that you stay inside until emergency crews have restored essential services that may have been lost during the high winds and heavy rains."
In the end, the impact of the wind was a few downed tree limbs, Garner said Tuesday.
On Sept. 13, Garner provided the community with a number to call in the case of power outages.
Power loss at Fort Jackson didn't end up being much of an issue.
"We didn't have any power outages to speak of," Garner said. There was only a small, isolated incident in the Weston Lake region.
The Fire Department, too, geared up for the storm in the days before.
"We're preparing for Hurricane Florence by ensuring our readiness in our equipment and in our training to respond to any kind of emergency after the hurricane," said Juan Salazar, an engineer at Fort Jackson's Fire Department.
Emergency Medical Services had been readying itself for action as well.
"We have been preparing over the past week or so for Hurricane Florence that's heading toward the Columbia, Fort Jackson Area," said Staff Sgt. Benjamin Cunniff of EMS.
"Our primary mission here is to provide emergency services to the community at Fort Jackson," added EMS chief Theodore Byrd.
Flooding wasn't problematic either. No flooding in Fort Jackson housing was reported, Garner said.
Still, the idea was clear last week: "Stay inside, turn around, don't drown, and stay safe," as Garner put it.
Fort Jackson in the end didn't need the advice, but others weren't so lucky.
Fort Bragg's 1st Lt. Heather Magill of Herndon, Virginia was part of a hurricane relief task force that moved in to Fort Jackson on Sunday. She described the greater devastation in North Carolina.
"North Carolina was hit very hard," Magill said. There were massive power outages and devastating flooding. "Some houses, (flood water) was all the way up to the roof."
Her team left Fort Bragg at around 9 p.m. Saturday. They arrived at Fort Jackson 2:30 a.m. Sunday.
A trip that can normally be completed in just a few hours took nearly six.
Her team had to take an alternate route with a combination of back roads and city roads to arrive safely to the installation since many streets were washed out.
(Editor's note: Wallace McBride contributed to this article)