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Pinellas County workers help restore cell service in southwest Florida

Pinellas County emergency management workers have been deployed in teams to help southwest Florida get back on its feet.

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — As those in southwest Florida are still recovering from Hurricane Ian, workers in Pinellas County emergency management are helping.

One worker went down to southwest Florida the day after Hurricane Ian hit.

"I got a call Thursday evening that they were in desperate need of communications support," one incident management worker, Clayton Parrott, said.

Parrott gratefully answered packing up supplies and equipment. He hit the road down to southwest Florida to assist in recovery efforts.

"Their 911 systems...their internet capabilities...were all affected," Parrott said.

As a part of the Pinellas County Emergency Operations Center, Parrott was able to restore those capabilities.

"Got their cell service back up and running and restored their local emergency operations centers with internet," Parrott said.

Parrott's journey started in Hardee County and he made his way down to Fort Myers.

"When I got down to Fort Myers and Pine Island, which is basically ground zero, it was just devastation everywhere," he said.

Credit: Pinellas County Emergency Operations Center

Flooding was so bad in some areas, it took him hours to travel just 20 miles.

"You would be driving down the road and all of a sudden just see telephone lines just leaned over," Parrott stated.

RELATED: FEMA administrator visits North Port, highlights disaster recovery center for help after Ian

Credit: Pinellas County Emergency Operations Center

In the devastated areas, Parrott brought portable cell service towers.

"I could get them a good three or four bars of service, which then allowed them to make calls to their families to let them know they’re OK," Parrott explained. 

One thought that constantly runs through his mind: what if the storm never turned south?

"The thing that keeps going through my mind is, what would’ve happened if it hit where it was going to hit, which is was aimed for Pinellas here."

RELATED: Lessons from Hurricane Michael being applied to Ian recovery

Credit: Pinellas County Emergency Operations Center

From all the destruction he saw, he brought some knowledge back for those living in Tampa Bay.

"Be prepared and listen to emergency management," he urged.

Pinellas county still has workers in southwest Florida helping out as relief efforts are still underway. 

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