Lake and Sumter Style Magazine
4:04 pm EDT
Friday, September 18, 2020

Leesburg crew, Clermont fire staff assist storm recovery

Leesburg Electric lineworkers, from left, Brandon Barrett, Darrel Rankin, Chuck Padgett, Kerry Magamoll, Tyler Hunter, Joe Denham, Trent Brown, and Zachary Prather. // Photo by city of Leesburg

Clermont Fire Department’s Lt. Jeremiah Plasters is part of a response team helping people in the Panhandle after Wednesday’s ravaging by Hurricane Michael.

Florida Task Force 4 is the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Urban Search and Rescue team in Central Florida. Plasters is one of 40 firefighters from the task force’s seven fire departments: Clermont, Mount Dora, Reedy Creek, Orlando, and Lake, Seminole, and Orange counties, according to a news release. Plasters has worked for the Clermont Fire Department since 2005.

“Our hearts go out to those affected by Hurricane Michael,” Clermont City Manager Darren Gray says in the release. “We wish Lt. Plasters a safe, productive trip as part of this important task force. Clermont is no stranger to the dangers and impacts of hurricanes, and we will band together to help in any way we can.”

Clermont Fire Marshal Jennifer Pierce also deployed recently to the state’s Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee. She will relieve agency members working in the center as part of the Type III All-Hazards Incident Management Team.

Pierce has been with the city since 2014. She joined the State Regional 5 Type III All-Hazards Incident Management Team in 2015, after years of training and certification. Her involvement with natural disasters includes two deployments after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and one to Alabama after the tornadoes of 2011, the release states.

Lt. Jeremiah Plasters, of the Clermont Fire Department. // Clermont and task force photos provided by the city

Florida Task Force 4 is under federal orders and has search-and-rescue capabilities to quickly deploy for emergencies. Task force members have additional training, must be able to deploy on short notice, and must be self-sufficient for extended periods.

Task Force 4 has assisted multiple people in need, including some injured, according to the Orange County Fire Department. The task force’s mission is to search for trapped victims in damaged buildings. The team arrived in Franklin County and made its way to Gulf County, reporting extreme damage along the way, such as blocked roads and downed trees and power lines. Task Force 4’s helicopter tour around Mexico Beach revealed widespread damage and no power or water in the area.

Clermont Fire Marshal Jennifer Pierce.

The Clermont Fire Department also is on standby to send a Technical Response Team of six people to the Panhandle. Deployments typically last up to a week and are reimbursed by FEMA. Last year, Clermont firefighter Micah Warren was deployed to Texas during Hurricane Harvey. He was part of the Swift Water Rescue Team, which helped save more than 900 flood victims and over a dozen pets, the release states.

A Leesburg electric crew also headed to the Panhandle to assist with the hurricane recovery. An eight-member team and a variety of vehicles from Leesburg’s Electric Department arrived Thursday.

The crew drove to Tallahassee with four bucket trucks, two line trucks with pole trailers, and two pickups, a news release states. The lineworkers are deployed in the Tallahassee area along with teams from other municipal utilities. They are expected to remain in North Florida for two to four weeks.

Florida Task Force 4 is responsible for searching for trapped victims in areas like this in Tallahassee following Hurricane Michael.

The hurricane’s destruction has left many Panhandle communities without power.

“Although the effects of natural disasters are devastating, at times like these, public power is at its best because our mutual aid agreements assist other communities to restore energy quickly and safely,” Leesburg City Manager Al Minner says in the release.

Last month, another eight-man Leesburg Electric Department crew was sent to North Carolina to help repair damage caused by Hurricane Florence. In past years, similar teams have participated in recovery efforts throughout the state and around the country, providing aid after natural disasters such as hurricanes Andrew, Katrina, Irene, Sandy, Hermine, and Matthew.

Damage from Hurricane Michael is estimated to cost in the billions. To help storm victims, donate to the American Red Cross at or call 1.800.HELP.NOW. The Salvation Army also accepts donations at

A Leesburg Electric crew repairs power lines Thursday in Tallahassee. // Photo by city of Leesburg

Oct. 10 A.M. report: As Hurricane Michael approached the coast of Florida, Sumter County Emergency Management Director David Casto issued this report early Wednesday for residents of the area:

Situation overview

Hurricane Michael is now a major hurricane. The forecasts have verified up to date and remain in tight agreement for a Panhandle impact. The threat for Sumter County has diminished slightly in this advisory.

Potential impacts

  • Rain bands may pass through the county tonight with brief periods of heavy rain, tropical storm force gusts, and isolated tornadoes.
  • One to two inches of rain with periods of heavier rates.
  • A rapid rise in rivers and streams may occur with heavy rains.


  • No watches/warnings are issued for Sumter County at this time.
  • Hurricane and tropical storm warnings are issued from the Tampa Bay coastal areas through the Panhandle.
  • Inland tropical storm watches are issued for the Nature Coast counties and northward.

State actions

  • The State Emergency Operations Center is fully activated and supporting counties.
  • Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for 26 counties. Sumter County is not included at this time.
  • President Trump declared Florida a disaster area.
  • Non-impacted jurisdictions are preparing for and are deploying to provide mutual aid.

County actions

  • No protective actions have been ordered at this time.
  • Emergency management staff members are participating in conference calls with the National Hurricane Center and state EOC.
  • Emergency services will continue to provide services as normal.

The Emergency Management Department urges everyone to monitor the storm closely. For more information, call 352.689.4400, email or visit