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What can Sandy learn from Hurricane Harvey?

Nov 02, 2017 04:36PM ● Published by Jana Klopsch

Aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Fort Bend County. (Jeff Mulcahy/Sandy)

By Justin Adams | j.adams@mycityjournals.com

When Hurricane Harvey struck Texas this year, people from all over the country went to help with the relief effort. One of those people was Jeff Mulcahy, Sandy City’s emergency manager, who hopes the experience he gained there will help him ensure that Sandy is properly prepared if a similar disaster were to happen here.

Mulcahy went to Texas as a Red Cross volunteer. He worked 12-hour shifts as a government liaison operator in the Emergency Operations Center for Fort Bend County, south of Houston.

When he arrived the day before the hurricane actually hit, some houses were already flooded with up to three feet of water, but that wasn’t too unusual for the area. According to Mulcahy, the county had experienced severe flooding the two previous years. Because of this, Mulcahy said, the emergency response personnel were able to remain calm despite the hectic nature of the situation.

At a recent Sandy city council meeting, Mulcahy gave a presentation about his time in Texas where he talked about some things Utahns can do to prepare for a natural disaster so they too can be ready when the time comes.

“One of the things we noticed was that people would come to the shelters and walk in with nothing more than the wet clothes that they were wearing,” said Mulcahy. “That’s one of my messages to our citizens, is to get your bag together. If you have to evacuate, have something that you can take with you because there might not be anything for you on the other side.”

Mulcahy also said that during a natural disaster is not a good time to wonder what one’s insurance will cover. “People would show up at the shelter and sit down with a caseworker but they wouldn’t know what their insurance covered. They didn’t have their paperwork. Have this conversation before a disaster. Have your important documents in a place where you can grab them and take them with you.”

Another problem Mulcahy saw in the Houston area was that all of the recovery resources were stored in Houston itself and were difficult to get out to the surrounding areas because the flooded roads made transportation so difficult. Because of this, Mulcahy said he wants to make sure the resources of Salt Lake City and Sandy City are spread out rather than stored in a central location.

Mulcahy said he was amazed by how many people volunteered their time and money to help with the relief effort. One New Jersey-based food company sent down 10,000 frozen dinners in their own trucks. A doctor came in with a supply of prescription and over-the-counter medicine. One man even drove from San Diego in a pickup truck to deliver 3,500 cases of arugula, a vegetable from the same family as broccoli or Brussel sprouts.

“There came a point where we were getting so much donated that we had to tell people we didn’t need anymore.”

The city council presented Mulcahy with a plaque that commended him for his excellent service in Texas and for the knowledge he acquired that can benefit the people of Sandy. 

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