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Volunteers Helping Pensacola Tornado Victims

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Michael Spooneybarger/ CREO
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Two days after a tornado blasted through areas of Pensacola, the cleanup and rebuilding are shifting into high gear.

Escambia County’s Mobile Command Post remains operational in a shopping center parking lot at 9th Avenue and Olive Road:a short distance from The Moorings Apartments, where 30 units were destroyed.

“The biggest thing [Thursday] is going to be debris management and debris pickup. We’re trying to get information out to the public about separating their trash into four separate piles,” said county spokeswoman Amanda Taft.

“Construction trash, then vegetative debris – trees, branches, anything that’s fallen over,” said Taft. “Then you’ve got your white goods – refrigerators, washers and dryers – and the fourth one is electronics, so if you have TVs that were damaged, VCRs.”

Along with separating the different types of debris, the county is asking that they be placed in the right-of-way for pickup, workers are not allowed to step onto private property. A good rule of thumb is placing the materials between a power pole and the street.

Tuesday night’s twister knocked out electricity to about 15,000 Gulf Power customers. As of Thursday morning, the power was back on most everywhere, but crews are still working on issues in some of the harder-hit areas, such as The Moorings.

“There are some buildings and structures that are so damaged that it’s impossible to reconnect, and they’ll have to undergo some construction before they can be,” said Jeff Rogers at Gulf Power. “We’re still working that area around The Moorings apartments to get all that – a lot of snapped poles, and a lot of that rebuilt.”

Crews from other Southern Company utilities, Alabama Power and Mississippi Power, have come in like the cavalry, says Rogers. One focus now is on restoring power to the GE plant.

Sitting next to the command center is a trailer from the Salvation Army. Volunteer Mike Craig says they provided meals for more than 350 residents and workers on Wednesday, with a like number expected Thursday. Craig says that’s the essence of their mission: go where they’re needed.

“We just got here [Wednesday], and we were in Century last week,” said Craig. “The response of volunteers to the community – there was [sic] people coming from all over the state of Florida want to volunteer. They were cutting trees, removing trees, tarping. It was just heartwarming.”

And when everything’s back to as normal as possible, Escambia County’s Amanda Taft says they’ll meet and conduct an “After Action Review.”

“Talk about what we did right, what we could have done better,” said Taft. “And every time it’s just a matter of trying to figure out what are we doing to help the citizens and what’s the fastest way that we can get that help to them.”

Any changes in procedure, etc. stemming from the tornado findings likely will be geared towards the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season, which kicks off June 1.

Want to help?

United Way is collecting funds to help with recovery and the Pensacola News Journal provided a round up of other ways to help.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.