Hurricane Irma: A Florida LEO’s On-The-Ground Report

As a law enforcement officer and Floridian I’m currently preparing for two big events ahead of Hurricane Irma’s landfall: the storm and the deployment. At this point, both are sure things. I’ll try to provide an on the ground account of what is happening in the Sunshine State as and when I can.

As of right now . . .

While it’s been a while, this isn’t our first bad weather rodeo. Florida’s state level law enforcement agencies are ready across the board for immediate disaster relief and search and rescue efforts. The state Wildlife Commission (game wardens) and Bureau of Fire & Arson (fire marshals) are the tip of the spear when it comes to immediate search and rescue. As of this moment teams from both agencies are heading south and staging for quick deployment in what could be the hardest hit areas.

One thousand members of the Florida National Guard are on active duty and the other 6,000 members are on standby.

The Highway Patrol, Department of Law Enforcement, and Department of Investigative and Forensic Services are preparing for post-storm support for local area agencies to assist with their needs such as manpower for extra patrols to prevent looting.

Material is being staged in places like Orlando International Airport, Homestead AFB, and a variety of other locations. Assets are being moved to the Keys in case US-1 is knocked out by the storm surge.

Mandatory evacuations are already under way in the Keys and certain coastal areas. As such, gasoline is in short supply due to the panic buying along the Turnpike, I-95, and I-75 corridors. But on a general state level, fuel supplies are stable. We should have six-day supply. Governor Scott has ordered that all weight and safety restrictions are to be suspended for all truckers bringing fuel and other supplies into the state.

As of right now, under the declared state of emergency and evacuation orders, a number of Floridians can carry concealed firearms without a permit under State Law due to the passage of SB 290.

Openly carrying firearms, however, is still illegal except under very specific circumstances such as while on your personal property. Do not think that you can walk around your neighborhood with your AR slung across your back or while standing in line at the library or other relieve center for a MRE. 

Best advice: stay concealed and don’t dress in a manner to attract attention.

On the personal side, I am preparing as best as I can. The yard and outside area around the house has been cleared of anything that could become flying debris. Hurricane shutters and plywood panels are staged, ready to be put up. Sandbags have also been staged for use just in case.

As a resident of the big bend area. I’m still in the cone and could still be affected by hurricane or tropical storm force wind, so it’s a game of wait and see.

My generator and Jerry cans are topped off, as is my truck and squad car. Food, water, and medical supplies are also staged and ready.

The key to all of this, of course, is to prepare. I had these supplies in place long before the storm was even on the map. Actually I had them before the start of 2017’s hurricane season. An ounce of prevention is absolutely worth a hundred pounds of cure.

The key to getting through an emergency situation such as Hurricane Irma is having the supplies and goods on hand before the panic. Right now, less aware people are clamoring for everything; cases of water and gas cans are few and far between on store shelves even as far as Gadsden County in the panhandle.

People everywhere are stressed and trying to get gas. Costco, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Home Depot, and Lowe’s are all sold out of generators. The panic has actually hurt fellow Floridians because people who are trying to evacuate are also having to search for the same supplies and gas as the locals are buying up.

Florida has a tax free holiday every year at the start of hurricane season (this year’s was from June 2 through June 4, 2017). They do this for a reason. Survival essentials like generators, batteries, radios, and other hurricane-related items are sold tax free.

In the end I hope and pray that this storm goes further east than predicted and never makes landfall. But we can’t bank on that. The state and I need to be ready.

In short, Floridians need to stay safe, stay armed, and be ready to help yourself and your neighbors. Just as in Houston, let’s show the world what being American is all about; stepping up to the plate when it’s needed and helping each other out in a bad situation.

All Photography done by A. Valdes


  1. avatar James Earl Hoffa says:

    I’m in St Petersburg Florida I’ll give you guys an update as the storm develops as well. I’m about 35 minutes Southwest to Tampa.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      So far, you should be fine. The predicted track bumped *slightly* west in the last update, a bit more toward me in the center of the state.

      Starting tomorrow, I’m bagging valuables I don’t want wet, except for furniture. The structure here was built in 1977, and that is *way* before updated hurricane standards like steel straps to tie the roof beams to the walls. I’ll just expect the roof to come off and get soaked, and if it doesn’t, that’s a *win*.

      (I’m lucky Jeremy S didn’t move to Florida. Catastrophic weather and home damage seems to follow him from Washingtonian state to Texas… 🙂 )

      1. avatar jwm says:

        You don’t have time to sink a couple of concrete posts in the ground front and back of your house and then band down the roof?

        Quick and dirty, but it might help keep the roof in place and you can take it down after.

        Keep safe. You’re a pain in the ass, but a funny pain in the ass.

        1. avatar uncommon_sense says:


          Your idea is a nice thought but I don’t think a couple concrete posts and rope are up to the task when we are talking about 140+ m.p.h. winds. A 30 foot sail and a 20 m.p.h. breeze have no trouble moving a huge sail boat — huge as in 1700s British Navy ships.

          Now, if we are talking eight concrete posts (four in front and four in back) and 200 m.p.h. duct tape, you might be on to something!

        2. avatar jwm says:

          I’ve seen trailers strapped down in tornado country. They used metal straps. Trailer parks seem to attract that sort of stuff.

          A hurricane is one that I’ve missed.

      2. avatar Klaus Von Schmitto says:

        The models are tightening up. Looks like the further south and east of me (Wesley Chapel) the worse things will be. You guys in Polk may get knocked around a bit. I’m really hoping that the interaction with Cuba will slow it down a little bit before it makes landfall.

        I was in Oman with Dyncorp when you guys got Charley so was wondering how cell service was afterwards. I guess the coverage is so much larger now it may be relevant though.

        We’re as ready as we can be I think. Stay safe!

        1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

          Klaus Von Schmitto,

          I would not count on cellular phone service within 20 miles of the coast immediately after hurricane Irma. For one thing, if Irma hits the top of the cell towers with 150+ m.p.h. winds, I imagine a fair number of those towers will fall over.

          More importantly, widespread (if not total) electricity outages will mean those cellular sites will be running on backup electricity which is limited. If backup electricity is via batteries, they will run out within 24 hours or so. If backup electricity is generator and propane, those propane tanks will run out after a few days — assuming that the high winds, storm surge, and rain did not damage the propane generators.

          Pro-tip: text messaging has the highest probability of working when cellular network conditions are strained for any reason. Note that text messaging might actually work when voice calls are impossible.

        2. avatar Anner says:

          Not that it correlates to Irma directly, since the wind is expected to be much stronger, but Houston 96% of Houston homes retained power to include land lines, cable, and internet. I texted various friends all throughout Harvey. I only called a couple times, but they were clear. It was an unexpected nicety.

        3. avatar Klaus Von Schmitto says:

          Uncommon sense – If it maintains the current track those on the coast are going to be better off than those of us in the middle of Florida. But yes- the power supply to the towers and the ground facilities are the vulnerable points.

    2. avatar DrewR55 says:

      I escaped Largo ten years ago when I got tired of sitting in traffic on Ulmerton every morning. That said, I hope y’all stay safe down there. The idea of having to evacuate north along 19 or 75 with four million other people always gave me the heebies.

      1. avatar Mike Betts says:

        It gave you the “Heebies”? Oy, veh!

  2. avatar Ironhead says:

    My mom and dad live in springhill fl. They got out this morning.
    Our thoughts and prayers are with all of you. Stay safe.

  3. avatar Mike Betts says:

    Luis – May the good Lord take a liking to you and yours. You didn’t say exactly where you are and I hope and pray that you and your family don’t have to bear the brunt of the storm. If the call of duty puts you in the teeth of it, do your best to stay safe and remember that your life has just as much value as those who failed to heed the warnings and “get out of Dodge while the gettin’ was good”. Please keep us posted as best you can. You have at least one old retired street cop and supervisor pulling for you.

  4. avatar Hank says:

    I’m on the central ridge in Florida. I’m staying because of work. (LE). The eye might go right over me. It’s gonna be a wild ride.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      “The eye might go right over me.”

      In the middle of the peninsula? I doubt it will do much damage in the middle of the peninsula.

      1. avatar JDS says:

        Remember hurricane Charlie? Came ashore in Port Charlotte and moved north up the Peninsula. It trashed the Orlando area about 100 miles north and left an unbelievable swath of destruction.
        Wilma came ashore between Naples and Ft. Myers as a cat 1. Went across the widest part of the state and strengthened to a cat 3 as it exited in Ft. Lauderdale. It actually got stronger as it moved over land It tore stuff up from Homestead to Ft. Pierce.
        Florida is flat and doesn’t take the punch out of a hurricane like mountains do when they cross Cuba. Don’t underestimate the power of mother nature. I expect this one will still be a strong 2 to weak 3 if it comes up the state and hits St. Petersburg.

        1. avatar Mike Betts says:

          One must always be cognizant of the fact that Nature is a Mother …..

        2. avatar tmm says:

          @Mike Betts: shut your mouth!

        3. avatar uncommon_sense says:


          Interesting. When hurricanes hit Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida panhandle, Georgia, or the Carolinas, their wind speeds diminish rapidly inland. The fact that central/south Florida is a narrow peninsula (relative to the diameter of large hurricanes) must enable large hurricanes to maintain a fair amount of their strength and wind speeds even as they move over land.

          (Note: I helped rebuild near Biloxi, Mississippi after hurricane Katrina and I saw basically no wind damage once I was 10 miles inland.)

      2. avatar BLoving says:

        Well Sense, your understanding of hurricanes is only half-right:
        Yes, they do start losing power the moment the eye gets out of the water and over land – but when it’s rain and wind have been blowing over the entire width of the state for a few hours before the eye makes it there then the worst has already happened – and this storm has power to spare even after landfall.
        Yeah, this is gonna suck. Harvey was nasty here in Houston (some parts of town are STILL flooded), but this was a walk in the park compared to what Florida is facing.
        Y’all have our prayers. Stay safe if not dry.

      3. avatar Geoff PR says:

        “In the middle of the peninsula?”

        Yes. Charlie in 2004 moved over 100 miles inland by the time it hit Orlando, and it was still a cat 1.

        Charlie passed about 25 miles east from me, and I was without power 3 days.

        FWW, tell your brother to plan for 3-4 days without power to be safe…

        1. avatar Avid Reader says:

          Charlie sure made a mess in the Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte area.

  5. avatar JDS says:

    I’m also in St. Petersburg. Non evacuation zone. House built in 1920 so it survived the 20’s hurricane that took out our old million dollar pier. House is wood frame and two story. I was hoping to get away without boarding up but not with the shift in the models to the west I’m going to start in the morning. Generator runs on gasoline or natural gas so fuel isn’t an issue. 100’s of gallons of water in big rain barrels and a pool to flush toilets if need be. Hope for the best, plan for the worse.

  6. avatar Ed says:

    Hard to believe state law SB 209 didn’t have a stipulation for open carry during a situation like this. If parts of FloriDUH end up like Texas, who’s gonna want to get in their boat, no rifle or shotgun for fear of arrest and having to conceal your sidearm while trying to initiate a water rescue?
    I was never happier that when I was leaving that state, heading to true freedom in a constitutional carry state and NOT the police state of hurricane alley any longer.

  7. avatar hrfdez14185 says:

    Be safe guys.

  8. avatar Matthew the Oilman says:

    Beware of flushing toilets, if the sewer lift pumps are not operating you might get a mess. Not sure how flooding affects septic tank systems. Thanks for the update and stay well , we are praying for you.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      Septic here, and on a hill on the central ridge Hank mentioned above. It can’t flood where I’m at unless the entire state drowns.

      1. avatar Matthew the Oilman says:

        Good for you, buckle up. It will be a wild ride. The Cajun Navy is on the way.

  9. avatar Stephen M says:

    Flagler County here, hope this lil girl rides us nice and good. Been through plenty of these before, I’m sticking with my old K frame .357. The snakes without legs are a more likely problem than the snakes with two legs. Knife or ax is fine for gators.

    1. avatar Kenneth says:

      I also love the old Model 19. And my “J” frames… and the “N” frames too. Now that I think about it, the only S&W frame size I don’t have is the “X”. I never would have said this years ago, but there is such a thing as TOO big…

  10. avatar The Gray Poseur says:

    Good info. Thank you Luis.

  11. avatar DrewR55 says:

    Good luck to all the Floridians.

  12. avatar former water walker says:

    Will it hit Orlando? Got a brother nearby. Anyways Godspeed and stay safe.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      It probably will … with 40 m.p.h. winds and several inches of rain. I would not expect any significant damage.

      Pretty much all of the severe wind damage from hurricanes is within a couple miles of the beach. Flooding can extend 40+ miles inland of course.

      1. avatar Mater says:

        @ uncommon sense where do you live? A few miles from the beach I lived in Mississippi during Katrina about 60 or 70 miles from Biloxi and was without power almost 3 weeks you need to not talk about what you don’t know about…

        1. avatar uncommon_sense says:


          I helped rebuild in the Biloxi area after Katrina. I did not see any significant wind damage once I was 10 miles inland.

          As for 70 miles inland, I don’t doubt that lots of tree limbs fell on electric lines or that flooding weakened the ground and enabled 40 mph winds to blow trees over into electric lines.

          What I would not expect is 90+ m.p.h. winds once you are 70 miles inland.

          Having said all that, I just posted another comment above that hurricane wind speeds seem to diminish rapidly inland when they hit the Gulf or Atlantic coasts — and yet other posters noted that wind speeds can remain quite high as hurricanes move inland over central/south Florida. I imagine the narrowness of the Florida peninsula enables hurricanes to maintain strength and wind speeds at much farther distances inland compared to the rest of the U.S.

      2. avatar Tom in NC says:

        Most of the time winds do diminish – but there are notable exceptions in The Carolinas at least. Hugo in 1989 ravaged not only Charleston and the coast but sped inland and was still a strong hurricane when it hit Charlotte with gusts up to 100 mph. Fran in 1996 pounded Wilmington but was still a hurricane when it hit Raleigh. Both downed thousands of trees in each inland city, in excess of 100 miles from the coast.

      3. avatar Mater says:

        Oh yeah I guess I just imagined the hurricane force winds we got my bad you are right

  13. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    “Do not think that you can walk around your neighborhood with your AR slung across your back …”

    That is too bad. Nothing says, “Looting prohibited here!” like a concerned neighborhood resident strolling down the street with a rifle slung over their shoulder.

    1. avatar MiamiC70 says:

      “You loot, we shoot” is my personal mantra

    2. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

      “Do not think that you can walk around your neighborhood with your AR slung across your back …”

      It’s sad that anybody could say that as if it’s normal and OK.

  14. avatar Sean in Tampa (Riverview) says:

    Hey, I’m in Riverview. We’ll be riding out the storm too.

  15. avatar Thomas M says:

    Damn Son!
    You guys out there have your ducks in a row. Stay Safe. We in Louisiana are praying for y’all constantly. Good Luck & God Bless!

  16. avatar BradN says:

    I’m in West Palm Beach. I’m going to bug in and wait out the storm. Got plenty of food, water and ammo. I’m ready to get this over with.

    1. avatar little horn says:

      and scuba gear??

      you guys are stupid. you have all these people telling you to leave, EXPERTS in their field, but you know better huh. wow the arrogance and stubbornness, as if its a virtue.

      1. avatar MiamiC70 says:

        Lighten up Francis and grow a pair.

      2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        If Brad N. lives in a home that is 20 feet above sea level and far enough inland that ocean waves will not pound his home, he might be in good shape.

        Of course that assumes that his home will withstand whatever wind speeds hit his home and that there are no trees that can come down on his home.

        That also assumes that Brad N. has enough water and food to live without municipal water and electricity for as long as it takes — which could be anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

        Fortunately for people in central and south Florida, other states are already sending electricity restoration crews to south Florida. There will literally be a small army of electricity linesmen already in place to start repairs as soon as the storm clears.

        1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

          can’t find a link to support it, but there is an electrical restoration reciprocity deal between major municipalities. they sent us out to manhattan after sandy for three weeks (there were crews from california and else place helping) and we’ll be down south for these three storms as well.
          i hold a particular interest in burleigh house, little buenos aires as well as merritt island. they were all encouraged to enjoy valdosta and maybe some ‘gator tail.
          it’s kind of weird to get six inches of sand blown into a 17th fl. penthouse. that was before i found work to match my personality. andrew landed on monday, i landed on tuesday and rode through hell to key west. curfew, national guard roadblocks (waived right through- no concern for motorcycle looting…) and rode right over sparking high tension wires draped across the highway.
          i hope this thing diverts and everyone comes away with minimal loss.

      3. avatar Klaus Von Schmitto says:

        You don’t have a clue. I’ve been through Camille, Eloise, Frederick, Elena, TS Juan, and Ivan.

        If you are prepared and your home is up to it you’ll be OK. Was away for a couple of more but the house up there did fine.

        Camille was far worse than the record shows. They didn’t have equipment that could record the highest winds. They were blown away at 170 knots.

      4. avatar Matthew the Oilman says:

        Everything in life is a calculated risk, while I agree with you on the dangers, only he can make the decision. We should all pray, for those who choose to stay and those who must.

  17. avatar Nanashi says:

    I’m in FL-6. We’ve never had serious issues beyond losing power and some fallen trees, but with this storm and the path I have no idea. Even if the storm doesn’t do more damage than normal we’re looking at a full day of rainfall so no generator for a while.

  18. avatar Terclinger says:

    Prayers up for y’all.

  19. avatar Hialeah High Ground says:

    Well, as the name implies, I’m down south ready to get my teeth kicked in. Luckily my house was built back in ’55 when the concrete was cheap and plentiful. My gables are concrete and go all the way up to the t&g. Truck and cans are topped off. As are the 30rd mags.

    LV, you’re a gentlemen and a scholar. Keep yourselves safe first. Once the smoke clears, go do what the good lord put you here for.

    God speed to all.

  20. avatar little horn says:

    i just cant imagine what it would be like if we didn’t have the technology we do now. doplar systems, these portable generators, medical technology, etc. with out all that stuff it seems this would be a daunting task to help people. I guess for the people who dont have access to those things, its a reality for them. All this is so hard to imagine what it must feel like to have everything all at one, wiped out.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Without all of our present day technology, tens of thousands — rather than dozens — of people would die in these hurricanes.

  21. avatar jimmy james says:

    I don’t understand why S&R teams are being deployed when the governor said on TV basically KMAGYOYO. On a related note. Tried to start my generator last night and my maintenance tag said I had not maintained it since Januray 2015. I wonder why it would not start?

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