Hurricane Season 2021 – High Winds and School Buses
Hurricane season begins on June 1, 2021, and ends on November 30, 2021, this year. Questions occasionally arise about using school buses during periods of gusting or sustained high winds. Data from various sources have been reviewed to determine the point at which high winds become too dangerous for the safe operation of school buses. Many factors must be considered to decide when to cease school bus operation, such as vehicle size, wind speed, wind direction, road conditions, and the wind speed at which emergency response vehicles cease operations. Based on these factors, it is recommended that school bus operations are limited to periods with sustained winds below 35 MPH.
The Transportation Director of Bay County District Schools, Michael Carter, shared their “Lessons Learned” which is valuable information from their experience with Hurricane Michael on October 10, 2018, that should be considered when preparing for a storm.
“This message may be unnecessary because I’m sure our colleagues have “Hurricane Plans” in place and are feverishly preparing for the worst. However, I had initiated our hurricane plan and felt pretty good about it until I arrived at my compound to find a level of destruction that could only be described as a war zone. Who knows, maybe my “lessons learned” may assist our friends on the east coast as they prepare for this massive storm. We here in Bay County had no concept of what level of damage a category five hurricane could cause until we went through it and are still picking up the pieces. If I could offer any advice to my colleagues facing this powerful storm, it would be the following:
Buses parked door to door in wide-open spaces fared much better than those in garages, parked against garage doors or buildings, or those spaced further apart. All buses in our garage and against our garage building were demolished when the building (steel and concrete) caved in on them.
Roof hatches are about $200 each, and there are two on each bus. Virtually every bus in our fleet lost one or both hatches during the storm costing us thousands of dollars and an unbelievable amount of labor hours to replace.
Stop arms and crossing arms, like roof hatches, are expensive to replace and even more so when replacing the entire fleet at once. If there’s a way to secure them (zip ties were an option we’ve discussed), it could save you a ton of money.
Water intrusion from open windows (and particularly drivers’ windows) and open doors damaged thousands of dollars worth of electronics on our dash panels, cameras and radios. Ensure your drivers secure all windows and doors.
Make sure your mechanics secure their tools and expensive shop items. There was looting immediately following the storm, and for several days after and we suffered heavy losses. We now secure them in our parts room which is equipped with concrete walls and an alarm system. Before the storm, we housed them in our garage (mechanics work stations), thinking the rolling metal doors and cinder block walls were secure enough. Hurricane Michael, however, blew the doors away and caved the block walls and metal roof in, and there was nothing to prevent looters from walking away with thousands of dollars of property.
It Sounds like common sense but secure buses as far away from trees and power poles as possible. We lost several buses due to flying debris, falling trees and power poles.
I’m not sure any of this will help, but I’m reasonably sure it won’t hurt to know the lessons we learned from what level of damage a storm this size can create. Michael devastated us and our operation and cost millions to repair and replace the damages. If I can be of any help, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. Michael Carter, Director of Transportation (850) 767-4485, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be prepared this hurricane season, and please let me know if we can be of any assistance.