By Christopher GardnerOctober 23, 2018
PANAMA CITY, Fla. - Local resident Mike Protz was one of thousands in the region impacted by Hurricane Michael, with his home taking damage from the high winds and associated rain.
"We lost a lot of shingles and inside the house the ceiling fell in in two rooms," Prost said outside his home Saturday, Oct. 20, as crews from Operation Blue Roof installed reinforced plastic sheeting on his roof.
The work was completed free to Protz through the Operation Blue Roof program, which is a FEMA program being administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide temporary roof repairs to residents in Florida counties impacted by Hurricane Michael to help reduce further property damage until permanent repairs can be made.
The program has many benefits, but one of program's primary benefits is that it allows people impacted by the storm to move forward with long-term recovery without worrying about the next rain undoing their progress.
"We had an inspector that said in a hard rain water would get into the house again and we needed to stabilize the roof before doing any repairs inside because it would just get wet again," Protz said.
While Protz was still living in his home, the program also helps others who might be displaced to return to their homes to begin their recovery processes.
Protz was one of the first handful of what will likely be thousands of temporary roof repairs through Operation Blue Roof. The program is being managed by an experienced team based out of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Little Rock District in Arkansas that has deployed to Florida to manage the program in partnership with the local Jacksonville District personnel managing the Corps' overall support to the federal response to the storm.
"This mission is an important part of helping residents move forward with their lives," said Operation Blue Roof Resident Engineer Ben Bremer of Little Rock District. "Providing these temporary roof repairs not only helps allow people to return to their homes from shelters and hotels but having that temporary roof installed means people like Mr. Protz and so many others can begin repairs and rebuilding their homes."
Protz said his son told him about the program after hearing about it on the radio and he went to a Right of Entry (ROE) collection site where residents can apply for the program in person. The process involves answering a handful of questions regarding the house and signing what is called a "Right of Entry," which allows representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its contractors to enter the property to install the reinforced plastic sheeting.
(The public can find the most up to date list of ROE collection site locations at www.usace.army.mil/BlueRoof or by phone at 1-888-ROOF-BLU.)
Protz said that with the scale of the impacts from Hurricane Michael, it is much more difficult to work through home repairs than in a smaller disaster situation and that working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gives him peace of mind.
"In an event like this, there are probably 100 people or more that need repairs for every contractor," Protz said. "While the vast majority of contractors who come in from out of town are good, honest people who want to help, what happens if you get the one who isn't? You can trust the Corps."
While the mission is managed by Little Rock District personnel, it is supported by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers personnel from all across the country who have made their way to the Florida Panhandle to support Operation Blue Roof and other mission assignments from FEMA.
"I used to work in the non-profit sector and I enjoy helping people, especially most in need like the ones here," said Monica Chahary, who deployed to Florida from the Corps' New York District as part of the larger Hurricane Michael response. She is primarily working to help people sign up for Operation Blue Roof. "I enjoy working with people one on one and hearing their stories and helping them work through signing up and understanding the process."
Free temporary roof repairs are available through Operation Blue Roof in 12 Florida counties impacted by Hurricane Michael, including Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Leon, Liberty, Taylor, Wakula and Washington counties.
To get more information about Operation Blue Roof or to find a location where Right of Entry (ROE) forms are being collected, Florida residents impacted by Hurricane Michael can call 1-888-ROOF-BLU (1-888-766-3258) or visit www.usace.army.mil/BlueRoof.