Tech check: Why TQL’s ‘Storm Chasers’ followed Hurricane Ian

When Hurricane Ian swept through Florida, a small band of TQL Technology experts traveled the path of destruction. Meet Joe, Jordan and David, TQL’s version of Storm Chasers. 

Instead of pursuing severe weather itself, their mission was to ensure that TQL’s offices hit by Hurricane Ian had functioning technology so that the company could keep America moving. Ian was larger than the state of Ohio and had the potential to affect eight TQL offices: Mobile, Ala.; Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Orlando, Daytona Beach and Jacksonville, Fla.; Savannah, Ga. and Charleston, S.C.

Tampa and Daytona Beach offices took the brunt of the damage. Technology leaders began assessing a response to the storm before the Storm Chasers left, said Kevin, TQL’s senior director of IT operations.

A rental truck was filled with phones, desktop computers, laptops and extra monitors and manned by three hand-picked IT volunteers — Joe, Jordan and David. Hurricane response was nothing new for Joe, a former paramedic who worked in crisis response after Hurricane Katrina, or David, who’s from Puerto Rico and knows hurricanes. It was unfamiliar territory for Jordan.

“Chasing a hurricane is not something I thought I would be doing after graduation,” said Jordan, a regional IT support specialist II in Indianapolis who earned his college degree in 2019.

Joe and Jordan started their journey from Cincinnati headquarters Sept. 28 and covered nearly 2,000 miles in four days. David, a regional IT support specialist team lead, flew from Dallas to Mobile, Ala. and rented a vehicle. He met Joe and Jordan at a temporary home base in Lakeland, Fla.

While Joe, Jordan and David were the faces of the operation (earning the “Storm Chasers” nickname by Kevin mid-trip), the operation required an army of support. High-level TQL administrators provided check-ins and updates. Corporate travel specialists hunted for operating Florida hotels, many of which were sold out, and ensured the Storm Chasers had accommodations with electricity.

“There was a lot of standing water and trees on the road in Tampa, but the office wasn’t really impacted. We dropped off some equipment because some people were not able to get to the office and needed to work from home,” Joe said.

Daytona Beach was another story. Joe and Jordan saw greater destruction when they met David there. Water had infiltrated a roof hatch that had blown open on the office building. The team replaced three computers and brought in fans to combat the heat after the air conditioning stalled.

The city itself was in rough shape, with water so high that some residents kayaked in their neighborhood streets. That was only part of the damage Ian left in its wake.

“We had a hard time finding fuel in Florida,” Joe said. “Our truck only got 12 miles a gallon, so I tried to stay at half a tank. One time we waited an hour at a gas station for fuel.”

David, in his separate truck, followed Joe and Jordan from Florida to Georgia. All three were pleasantly surprised to find Savannah, and TQL’s office, unscathed by the hurricane.

After days of getting by on junk food and bottled water, the Storm Chasers were happy to eat a steak dinner and walk around town– “a nice break from seeing everything destroyed,” David said. The next day, the group retuned home.

Kevin said the Storm Chasers rolled with each change.

“If I told them, ‘Here’s the new plan,’ they always responded with, ‘Whatever we need to do.’ Their attitudes were just phenomenal. The only complaint through the whole trip was Jordan saying Joe was a Dallas Cowboys fan,” Kevin said.

Although the Ian’s damage was minimal in the TQL offices the Storm Chasers visited, the team achieved its goal of ensuring connectivity so TQL could keep America moving.   

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