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Storm response and reaction
ESCAMBIA COUNTY -- The unprecedented winter storm that brought life on the Gulf Coast to a frozen halt has come and gone, but are there any lessons we learned that could help us be better prepared if it happens again?
Indeed it was an unforgettable week in Northwest Florida, our usual warm climate turned into a frozen mess.
"Minnesota is well equipped for that weather but this area isn't" said Julie Hoffman, Snowbird from MN.
Julie Hoffman is your typical snowbird. She's used to seeing snow and lots of it. She was amazed at how different winter storm preparations are here compared to up north.
"They're out ahead of the storm preparing the roads before the ice comes. You can't help the weather so you just deal with it the best you can" said Hoffman.
The first few hours were critical, and may have saved lives. Schools, government buildings, military bases were all closed. Unlike up north, sand was the alternative to salt for the roads. Most bridges and overpasses were shut down.
"People who couldn't cross bridges, they did well handling it and that was for safety purposes so I'm impressed" said Joe Kulnen, Escambia County Resident.
"We were a little overkill maybe in the first 24 hours, but when Tuesday night came it was a major crisis" said Gene Valentino, Escambia County Commissioner.
Escambia County Commissioner Gene Valentino gives credit to the $14 million dollar Emergency Operation Center. It coordinated response efforts between various agencies and neighboring counties. Valentino says within the last seven years he's dealt with several emergencies from hurricanes, a rare tornado, the BP oil spill, major flooding and now a winter storm. With each event comes a learn opportunity.
"The lesson would be could we do something with the bridges to allow quicker access to the bridges sooner and that's being assessed for a future response" said Valentino.