Sep 7, 2016

After Hermine: Portraits in powerlessness

Tallahassee, FL
USA
by
Karl Etters
,
Tallahassee Democrat
John Hettinger, the owner and manager of Twin Lakes mobile home park, stands inside his home with his sons John-Michael 15, from left, Jason, 22, Shawn 19 who all have a form of autism. The power remains out at Twin Lakes where there are 48 tenants and, according the Hettinger, city utility dispatchers have stated they will be some of the last to be serviced. Photo: Joe Rondone, Democrat
John Hettinger, the owner and manager of Twin Lakes mobile home park, stands inside his home with his sons John-Michael 15, from left, Jason, 22, Shawn 19 who all have a form of autism. The power remains out at Twin Lakes where there are 48 tenants and, according the Hettinger, city utility dispatchers have stated they will be some of the last to be serviced. Photo: Joe Rondone, Democrat

John Hettinger can see the street light on at the front of his mobile home park less than half a mile outside the city limits.

But he can’t see through the pre-dawn darkness inside his own home to get his three sons ready for school.

His neighborhood, off Woodville Highway, is without power for the seventh day in the aftermath of Hurricane Hermine.

Things are hot. There are people with medical conditions who have nowhere to go.

Calls from Hettinger and 47 other tenants in the Twin Lake mobile home park to city of Tallahassee have gone largely unanswered. Frustration is starting to mount.

Each time they call in the outages, they are getting little confirmation their cries for help are being recorded.

But Hettinger said what is really disheartening is what he’s being told: customers within the city limits are getting priority.

“An operator said they’ll be restoring the city customers and then ‘outside the circle’ customers would be next,” he said. “That doesn’t make sense to me because we don’t really have a choice to buy our power from the city even though we don’t vote for the mayor. We’re just outside the city limits.”

Neighbors have come together. On Friday they cleared their own trees, cutting away big limbs from potentially live wires to get out of the neighborhood and make way for crews to repair the lines.

People passed generators around. Hettinger stood in line for four hours at Harbor Freight to get one. Hungry Howies pizza has become a staple.

At least nine of Hettinger’s tenants have come to him trying to figure out how pay rent this month.

Hettinger, who endured Super Storm Sandy, moved from Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and bought the mobile home park in 2014. He manages the 48 properties and lives there with his three autistic sons, Jason, Shawn and John-Michael.

He’s a single dad. The past week has been trying