Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Making a Bad Situation Worse

Posted by bsflag2007 on Friday, February 2, 2007

This has been a very frustrating week at our house – capped off by a phone call this morning from my elderly father (don’t tell him I called him that) from the adult disney land called The Villages — in Lady Lake Florida.  He wanted to let us know they were “ok” — and though they had some damage (lost their roof, part of the garage collapsed on one of their cars) they were better off than many of their neighbors whose houses had been flattened or were more severely damaged than his house. (nothing but 2x4s standing)

We offered to fly right down to help them get things cleaned up and repairs made – but they thought they had things under control.   They had gotten the neighbors together and rounded up a rooofing contractor from Ocala (1/2 hour away and unharmed) who would stock up on supplies and be there by noon.  Someone else had a nephew who was on his way, too.

It sounded like they had things under control – but when I checked back to see if things were still going smoothly and if they needed anything – it was a different story.  The contractor had come – but the police would not allow him into the neighborhood.  Even though he had been hired by a resident who was waiting for him at the entrance – the fully stocked, ready, willing and able (licensed and everything)  contractor was not allowed in.

In addition to that – my Dad had left the neighborhood to borrow some tarps from a friend three streets over who did not have any damage.  Even though he had just driven past the same policeman 20 minutes earlier – and had id proving he was a resident of the street – the police refused to let him back onto his street — even though they meant leaving his elderly wife alone inside.

He ended up using his four wheel drive to sneak back in through a back area  (the ninth hole will never be the same is my guess)— but is now in a more frightening and frustrating situation than is necessary.  It is supposed to rain again later.
We should all be worried.  These people, working together, made arrangements to take care of themselves.  They are not sitting around whining, waiting for the goverment or anyone else to come in a take care of them — so what DOES the government do?  It literally puts up road blocks to keep out help.

The news reports that “only immediate family” is being allowed in —- but that is not the case in The Villages.  The nephew wasn’t allowed in either — and could not drive his contractor truck through the same route my dad did.

There is not a single man under the age of 70 on my dad’s street — and I can tell you that the last thing anyone needs is for him (or any of these other guys) to try to climb a ladder and repair a roof himself.  I wonder if the ambulance that would be needed then would be allowed in?

This is frustrating for me – even though I can get on a plane in an hour, be in Florida in two hours, and be at his front foor two hours after that —- but would the police let me in?  Or would I have to bushwhack through the back 9?

With all the supposed emphasis and resources spent on emergency preparedness—- this is a frightening state of affairs.

We can’t (and shouldn’t) expect the government to take care of us in an emergency — and we won’t be allowed to take care of ourselves or our loved ones.   This little community had everything under control — now they are stranded, frustrated, scared – and my fear is – “hypertensive”.

CNN just had an 80 or 90 year old guy looking around at his yard with such a sad look — pointing to a life time worth of tools strewn around.  My husband said – “I want to go down there and pick up his tools for him”.  It is so sad.  But then, his son is probably outside the gate trying to get in and help.   But the police won’t let him.

Would this happen here?

Cindy Vaillancourt

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2 Responses to “Making a Bad Situation Worse”

  1. Cindy,

    I am very sorry to learn of your father’s and mother’s loss. I am equally thankful that they are safe.

    David

  2. cindy vaillancourt said

    Thank you for your good thoughts, David.

    By way of an update- They were able to get the temporary repairs made by nightfall – including boarding up the windows and doors that had been blown in, the holes in the roof – and were harboring several now homeless neighbors for the evening.

    “The Villages” management apparently arranged for enormous bands of the developers’ construction crews – using lists coordinated through the Fire/Building Inspector’s office – to attend to the homes that were occupied and not condemned — and by all accounts were able to get to all of those the first day.

    The worst of the storm was through by 3:20 am. The fire department was on my Dad’s street by 5am turning off natural gas and power to damaged homes – condemning unsafe homes – providing transportation if necessary to those who were being ordered out of unsafe dwellings (to the local hilton) – and apparently compiling a prioritized list for the construction/repair crews.

    Insurance adjusters will not be allowed into the neighborhood until Monday.

    At last check – as long as they use their golf carts and not regular cars they are able to leave and return to their own homes.

    All in all – a pretty impressive, coordinated effort by the private company.

    The only weak link was the policeman at the entrance. He was “out of the loop”.

    If he had explained to the traumatized residents that there was management company help on the way – it could have alleviated a lot of stress and fear.

    It would also have been better if the hired help for individual homeowners could have been allowed in – as the vision of these octogenarians helping each other try to salvage their plasma and room sized projection televisions (super bowl sunday is here, after all). That is a “tweak” that may be addressed for future potential emergency situations.

    I wonder if there are some lessons that can be learned here. The private (quasi governmental) entity was thorough, efficient, and effective. The “government” entity was a “road block”.

    But all in all – in the end – “alls well that ends well” – for my folks at least.

    Cindy V.

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