When Hurricane Matthew was projected to roar through our area as a Category 4 storm, Wellington put its hurricane contingency plans into high gear.
But by Thursday afternoon, Oct. 6, Wellington’s Emergency Operations Center was reducing the threat level and phone calls were coming in less frequently.
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief as Hurricane Matthew brought some wind and just a few inches of rain to Wellington. A few trees fell, and some residents were left without power, but overall, the village was unscathed.
Wellington Village Manager Paul Schofield said Wellington survived “exceptionally well.”
“Our highest sustained winds were about 35 miles per hour with gusts. I don’t think we had one over 50 or 55 [mph]. We only had about an inch, inch-and-a-half, of rainfall. Our water levels had been pre-prepared for the storm,” he said.
Florida Power & Light was out restoring power to homes that had power outages as soon as the all clear was given, Schofield said.
The village returned to normal operations on Friday. Some street lights were out, specifically along South Shore Blvd.
“While we prepared for the worst, we were very happy with what we got,” Schofield said. “We came through it really, really well.”
The massive rainfall of Tropical Storm Isaac in 2012 brought almost as much damage to the area as the hurricanes of 2004, he said, and Wellington is always preparing for the next weather emergency.
“We prepare for this every day,” Schofield said. “We use the national emergency management system. It’s something that we practice every single day.”
The same basic management control approach is used during large village events, such as Fourth of July at Village Park, which brings 15,000 people. The biggest difference is that specialty equipment is pre-staged.
“We just can’t afford to be caught the way Miami-Dade County was caught with Hurricane Andrew,” Schofield said. “The State of Florida takes this very seriously. They require everybody to be prepared.”
Wellington has staff specifically trained for its EOC, to prepare and be ready in emergency situations. Command and control happens at the Wellington Municipal Complex. The building was built to hurricane standards. During an emergency, council member offices — specifically built to be used for the EOC — are repurposed.
“A significant part of what we do is geared up for this,” Schofield said.
Schofield gave kudos to those manning the call center who worked Tuesday, Oct. 4, until 11 p.m. and came in the next day at 6 a.m., continuously answering the phones, and those managing the pump stations around the clock.
By last Thursday afternoon, the village was getting back to its normal operating schedule. Many things, including trash pickup and parks, were restored to normal by Friday. Everything, he said, was expected to be back to normal by Monday.
The village continued to monitor and evaluate the possibility that Hurricane Matthew would return this week as a tropical storm, Schofield said, but that possibility had become remote by the weekend.
Though Wellington didn’t suffer much this time, Schofield warns against taking the idea of a Category 4 hurricane lightly. Wellington, he explained, got a long afternoon shower. Other areas were hit much harder. “It is not something to take lightly,” he said. “I am very grateful that that storm bypassed us.”