Police departments don’t need military vehicles or equipment. (Sarcasm)
Via Action News Jax:
Debbie Jennings leaned hard against her front door Sunday afternoon, as wind pounded outside and water poured from the ceiling inside.
As a powerful storm cell from Hurricane Irma’s outer bands rolled past Delray Beach, Florida, prompting a tornado warning, the roof of Jennings’ home on Northeast Fourth Street flew off with a “slam,” Jennings said Monday.
Water came trickling through the ceiling and down the staircase of the two-story dwelling. And Jennings began to panic.
“I was scared the ceiling was going to collapse,” she said.
She tried to call 911, but couldn’t get through to dispatch because the power and the backup generator at the city’s Emergency Operation Center had gone out.
As water filled the floor of Jennings’ home, where she’s lived for a little over a year, she turned to Facebook to ask for help. Her post was shared privately with friends, but eventually was spotted by a family member of a Highland Beach police officer, Delray Beach police said.
“We couldn’t receive any calls (at the time),” said Officer Gerry Riccio, of the Delray Beach Police Department. “Our only means of communicating was by radio.”
Highland Beach police radioed Delray police to pass the message along. But conditions were too rough for police to drive their vehicles.
Winds were whipping at more than 50 mph, with gusts up to 75 mph. And rain was coming down hard.
“If a tree hits one of these,” said Sgt. Paul Weber, of the Delray Beach Police Department pointing to a Delray Beach police car, “we’re done.”
He turned to look at a massive tank, the type used by the U.S. Army, which was painted with a blue stripe and “Delray Beach Police” on the side and parked at the police complex on Atlantic Avenue on Monday.
“But if a tree hits this,” he said, “we’d survive it.”
That’s the tank Riccio and Weber were driving during the height of the storm to clear large trees from major roadways. They got the radio call about Jennings, and headed her way.
“A normal police car wouldn’t have made it,” Riccio said.
Trees, limbs and other material littered the roads, blocking most of them. Power lines were down, which forced the officers to turn the tank around several times.
It took about 45 minutes, but they eventually rescued Jennings, who was alone in her house at the time and unharmed. They took her to a friend’s house to ride out the storm.
“If it wasn’t for Facebook … ,” Jennings paused, unable to finish the sentence. “I’m still in shock.”
The officers credit the rescue vehicle, which was purchased through a federal grant in December. Sunday was the first time they’d used the tank in a rescue.