Tree Talk: South wind disaster

By Robert Fogg

Licensed Arborist

It wasn’t a forecast I wanted to hear. The weatherman said, “Strong south and southeast wind Sunday night into Monday.” And, here I was, preparing for a one-week Disney vacation with my wife, youngest daughter and two grandkids. Plans had been made months in advance and could not be cancelled. We were to fly out on Sunday morning.

I thought to myself, “Whatever Mother Nature throws at us, my team can handle it without me.”

Strong winds from the south and southeast are rare in these parts. Over the years, trees adapt to their environment. They grow a strong root system on the north and west sides as they are constantly being tested by winds from that direction. Trees that are weakly rooted on that side are weeded out on a routine basis, but trees and forests are rarely tested from the south and southeast.

As I woke up at Disney, on Monday morning, I wondered, “Was there any damage from last night’s wind back home?” I was soon to find out. It turned out my office had lost power, phones and Internet (including e-mail). Even our crew cell phones were unable to make or receive calls. For some reason, we were able to send and receive intermittent text messages, but very unreliably. Soon, it was discovered that one of our team had a cell phone on a different carrier, one that was actually working. We set up a system, where I would access our voicemails via the Internet, from my hotel room, and text them to the one cell phone that was working. Jan, in our office, would call each customer from the same phone. It was a painfully slow and frustrating process.

That morning, while my family went off to enjoy Disney, I took and forwarded 48 emergency messages. Messages were coming in via voicemails, e-mails, Facebook and the contact form on our website. At this point, I said to myself, “We just got 48 messages from an area that has little working communication. What’s going to happen when people really get their phones back?”

Little by little, our communications capability started to improve. Thankfully, we have a backup generator for power. We found a second cell phone that would work, and were able to dedicate one to receiving the information while the other was dedicated to making calls. Later in the day, our Internet (and e-mail) came back online, and eventually so did our phone system. Fortunately, we have two-way radios for communications between the team, which was a big help. Eventually, we were back up to speed and operating normally. As normally as possible under the circumstances.

At that point, I signed off and started to enjoy our Disney vacation. I heard very little from my team the rest of the week. I have a seasoned team that is very good at what they do and are good about not bothering me when I’m away on vacation. As I write this column on the (Sunday) morning of my first day back from vacation, I can only imagine the work they went through, throughout the week, in an effort to service all our customers.

I would like to acknowledge the hard work that was put in by, not only my team, but all the workers at the utility companies, fire departments, road crews and anyone else that chipped in to help bring life back to normal after the storm. Your hard work is appreciated!

Robert Fogg is general manager of Q-Team Tree Service in Naples and is also a licensed arborist. He can be reached at RobertFogg@Q-Team.com or 693-3831.

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