Dear Suwannee County Residents,

As the end of 2017 draws near, its important that we recognize how blessed our community has been to avoid the tragedies that other communities across the country have experienced. Coverage of floods, fires, tornadoes, and other catastrophic events has captivated most news networks throughout the year.

Despite our ability to avoid the national spotlight, this year’s Hurricane Season introduced us to Irma, which brought us out of our comfort zone and closer to the realities of potential catastrophe.

The days leading up to the event were exhausting for those who attempted to monitor the ever changing path predictions. Equally perplexing were forecasts on local impacts. Was it going to result in heavy rains and flooding, hurricane force winds, or both? While the experts in hurricane predictions wrestled with those questions, inventories of non-perishable foods, batteries, and fuel quickly evaporated as residents and non-residents made final preparations. Local storm shelters were eventually opened, roadways were gridlocked, and our community briefly resembled that of a disturbed ant bed with frenzied activity in all directions.

Finally, under the cover of darkness on Sunday night and early Monday (September 10th and 11th), Hurricane Irma passed through Suwannee County. As the sun came up on Monday and the winds began to subside, a quick evaluation made it clear that lots of work would be required to address the cleanup. Irma left us with massive amounts of tree debris, property damage, and widespread power outages. Thankfully, wind speeds had been reduced before arriving in Suwannee County. I’m certain there are others who share my sentiment — “that if what we experienced was a category 1 storm, I don’t want to experience a category 2.” I don’t believe that the reduction in wind speed and the corresponding reduction in damage was a coincidence. Like so many others in our county, I wasn’t praying for a coincidence. I was praying that God would show up and calm the storm that was headed our way. Giving credit where credit is due, I am thankful that he heard our prayers.

Prior to the storm a message from Governor Scott was repeatedly broadcast, “the foremost responsibility for storm preparation and protection of life is individuals, not government.” Similarly, responsibility for a great deal of the cleanup fell to individuals, particularly on private property. But there were also plenty of occasions throughout the county where our citizens took on the task of helping to clear public roadways without any encouragement to do so. These are the same people who went on to assist their neighbors and people they had never met without expecting anything in return. As is typical in our community, citizens laid aside all differences and came together to accomplish a common goal of getting our county back in order. This reaction to disaster is something to which we are accustomed. While the major news networks are heralding the human resolve associated with recovery efforts in other parts of the country, there is no finer example than right here at home. The County Commissioners and I are grateful for the contributions of these unnamed heroes who selflessly made an enormous difference in our community’s time of need.

Although it is impossible to personally express our appreciation to the multitudes of individual utility workers both local and from out of state who traveled great distances to help restore electricity, a huge thank you to each of them is also very much deserved.

As county departments worked to clear roadways it was obvious that we needed citizens to be patient, once again our community delivered. Most of the calls we received were from people who understood the difficulty of a countywide cleanup.

Much of what makes Suwannee County special is our community’s quick response to help those in need and the repeated acts of kindness which are demonstrated when events like Hurricane Irma strike. We may not be able to predict when the next storm event will impact our county, but we can be assured that the neighborly response is going to make a potentially bad situation much better. Thank you again, to everyone who participated in the recovery efforts this year.

Randy Harris

Suwannee County Administrator

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