September 25, 2018
“Should we stay, or should we go?” wondered Jeremy Tyndall as Hurricane Florence churned its way across the Atlantic. The storm’s trajectory showed the more than 500 miles wide hurricane headed straight for Wilmington, North Carolina, a coastal city about 40 miles away from Tyndall’s inland home.
“We were in a unique position,” said Tyndall, a lead field engineer with UL. “There was much uncertainty with the storm, plus its size made it difficult to know which way to evacuate. Whether we went north, east or west, we’d still be in the path of the storm.”
Instead, Tyndall and his family sat tight until the last moment to prepare their home and secure livestock, which consists of a few ducks and chickens, plus a terrier.
Finally, Tyndall erred on the side of caution and evacuated as feeder bands – storm squalls that precede a hurricane – heralded Florence’s arrival. Tyndall loaded his family and various supplies, including a small generator, food and water, into his truck and headed inland towards Fayetteville, N.C., a city located about fifty miles northwest from Tyndall’s home.
“I wanted to get away from the wind,” he said.
The adventure begins
No sooner had the family left home when they came across a fellow evacuee, stranded with car trouble. Tyndall stopped to help, driving several miles to find what must have been the one auto parts store left open at the time. Having secured a serpentine belt, a rubber belt that connects the air-conditioner, power steering and alternator to part of the engine, Tyndall helped install the belt before continuing their evacuation.
As the hurricane drew closer, the family arrived at their Fayetteville hotel and prepared to watch and wait. By the next day, the hotel had lost power. No heating, no cooling. Other than water, nothing worked.
Fortunately, Tyndall had come prepared.
“I loaned the generator to provide light and basic utilities for the hotel staff who had been valiantly trying to serve the guests in the dark,” he said. Tyndall elaborated on his effort in an email to Jason Fischer, senior vice president and general manager, field services, UL:
“Intense situations bring out the best and worst of mankind. I was blessed with strength and clarity even as I worked on my small generator in the pouring rain in the parking lot of the hotel on Friday night. The wind blew away the carburetor bowl screw TWICE and I found it BOTH times!!! This thing is tiny. When I found the screw the second time, I truly believed that it was meant for me to fix and crank that generator.”
Other acts of kindness continued throughout the week-long ordeal. Tyndall helped guide emergency management services (EMS) to a neighbor in need of dialysis. Water had flooded the area and the EMS volunteers could not locate the home. Tyndall waded in waist-deep water to assist with the rescue. Onlookers took a picture of Tyndall, EMS, the patient and the boat, an action brought to Tyndall’s attention after the event.
“At the time, I was not thinking about the photo,” he said. “I was thinking about my feet hurting as I had busted my flip-flops,” Tyndall joked.
As the flood waters receded, Tyndall managed to visit three clients since the storm. He reported that several clients remained flooded with ones in Wilmington, N.C. unreachable due to continued phone and power outages.
Flooded out street near downtown Bladenboro, N.C.
After Hurricane Florence
In total, the storm broke all-time rainfall records for tropical storms in four states. 35.93 inches of rainfall fell in Elizabethtown, N.C., a 3-day record for any one city in North Carolina. Moody’s, Analytics estimated Florence’s initial damage at USD $38 billion to $50 billion, said the Wall Street Journal.
Happy that the worst of Florence’s wrath was over for Tyndall and his family, he reflected on the aftermath of the storm. The stress of the situation kept him up for hours on end as Tyndall worked to keep the generator running and monitored the water surrounding his home. Fortunately, while the water came close to the buildings on his property, it did not enter any of the buildings on his property.
Ducks, chickens, dog and family came through the hurricane without harm or injury thanks to Tyndall’s pre-storm preparations and continued vigilance.
“Keep in my mind that I only did what came naturally to me to do,” he said in an interview with Inside UL. “I only did what had to be done.”
A point Fischer disagreed with in an email.
“Jeremy is a real leader in our business,” he said. “It is a story worth celebrating.”