Friday, April 29, 2011

Dodged Another Bullet

As a nationally touring sports enterprise, the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge has made appearances in 324 locations, including 45 states and the District of Columbia over the past 20 years in a country with sometimes inhospitable weather. Starting this year in Indianapolis, we were challenged by an ice-covered tower. In Ohio a couple of weeks later, 40 mile-per-hour winds buffeted our venue.

Back in the 90’s while in Florida, we narrowly missed a couple of hurricanes. Torrential rainstorms have slowed us down, but never caused a cancellation. Even the hurricane that crossed directly over Deerfield Beach, pushing 18 inches of sand onto the parking lot didn’t completely stop us, but we did have to postpone the event.

Wind is the constant threat. With thousands of square feet of “sail,” we’re a big target for damage. In Asheville three years ago, a micro-burst of wind picked up one of our loading boxes weighing over 400 pounds and snapped a ratchet strap like it was nothing. Annually, we lose about $1000 in damages due to wind. No matter how smart we think we are, and how well secured is our stuff, Mother Nature seems to take advantage when you’re not looking.

This week in Tuscaloosa we set another record of sorts. Our four tractor-trailer units were distributed over several locations in preparation for this weekend’s event. In anticipation of a looming tornado, Chuck and Bill brought our Honda 3kW generator, a stash of energy bars and three flats of water back to the hotel. Not long thereafter, the storm hit. They were, without a doubt, the best prepared guests at the hotel and treated as heroes for thinking of a best case solution for an otherwise dreary stay.

Last year, we held an event in Albertville, Alabama about a month after a tornado hit that community. We went looking for the damage and there was a street that had been pretty torn up. That wasn’t as bad as the year we had an event in Oklahoma. I recall looking out the window of the American Airlines jet, as we flew low over the sea of blue tarps that covered thousands of roofs.

But Chuck said that this was the worst by far. Sirens were wailing until there were no more towers. The funnel skirted within a block of the hotel. Bodies were strewn across the streets and recovery continues as I write this. Our Command Trailer was parked at the Fire Academy. One of the buildings there was ripped from its foundation. Our operations center, manufactured by Hercules was spun around and pushed up against the fence without any damage.

The Tower and the Dorsey Performance car-carrier trailer were unscathed. It took several hours to access the Kentucky semi because it was staged behind a barricaded area of the city where significant damage occurred. When Chuck and Bill reached the unit they were pleased to see that a banner that was affixed to the unit with bungee cords was still in tack.

We will be back to Tuscaloosa. Given the widespread devastation, it will take the hosts, the TFD some time to sort out their immediate needs and go back to the drawing boards. We thank all of your for your expressions of sympathy for the loss of life and widespread destruction that has been meted out to the unfortunate residents of Tuscaloosa.

Monday, we head West to Lake Charles, LA. Hopefully this time, we’ll have a rather mundane weather system riding along with us. After all, we need a break!

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