Mark Hull gives county a bird’s eye view of flooding, damage

Exeter local Mark Hull uses drone to document damage throughout the county, delivers package to family stuck on wrong side of washed out bridge

TULARE COUNTY – A local Exeter man has taken to the skies with his drone to document history in the making and evaluate areas with significant damage.

Mark Hull, owner of Exeter Raceway and Hobbies and All Drone Solutions, answered the call when Tulare County district one Supervisor Larry Micari asked if Hull could get a bird’s eye view of the damage successive storms caused in the county. As an encore he decided to help a family in Three Rivers get their medicine when their roads out of town were wiped out, leaving them basically stranded

“[The county] now has good video of what was happening both for current reasons…and I think most importantly, we’re documenting this historic event so that the footage could be used later on,” Hull said.

Micari said he called Hull out when Lewis Creek began overflowing on Wednesday March 15. The county needed an assessment of the damages and other areas that needed help that were not visible from the road. In addition to the Lewis Creek are Hull also few around the Tonyville area as water continued rushing into any available space. Hull said he originally went up to discover areas where debris could have been clogging waterways, or where water had breached levees and other areas.

“He flew a lot of areas of Lewis Creek and helped us identify a lot of problem areas,” Micari said. “That was the first aerial assessment we had and Mark did a phenomenal job of helping us identify issues that we can start working on.”

Micari said the county’s chief administrative officer Jason Britt has since hired Hull to help in the assessment of the tremendous amount of damage. After flying the small southeastern portion of the county, Hull said he flew the entire length of the St. Johns. He flew from Terminus Dam through Yokal Valley and over to Highway 99.

All of Hull’s flying was last week, before the most recent storm. Hull said he foresees being called back out for further assessment of damaged properties and land. And as more damages continue to be discovered, Hull said he might open up his business to personal uses for individuals who may not be able to see the entirety of their property. He said it could even be helpful for insurance purposes.

Hull said with his All Drone Solutions business he works mostly in the agricultural field with farmers. Typically mapping out several areas within the field. His help has been a welcomed change for himself.

“I’m happy with what I’m doing and it makes me feel good that I provide useful information with what I know,” Hull said. “And these are people that I work with on a daily basis so to be able to kind of change pace and help them at these times is pretty cool.”

In the midst of flying for the county, Hull said a facebook post was sent his way about a family in need in Three Rivers. Hull said he had never done a drop with his drone before, but he decided it would be a fun way to help out the community. Together with Three Rivers local Christopher Webb they were able to successfully drop the box carrying a prescription across the washed out bridge.

“This community just kind of gets in and gets done what needs to be done. And I realize we do a lot of stuff without even thinking about it,” Christopher’s mother, Jennifer Webb said.

Jennifer said they live on the South Fork and as a community, everyone is helping anyone in need. She saw the facebook post and because their son worked with Mark, asked if he would be willing to help. They then checked to be sure the drone drop would be acceptable with the Sheriff’s department, and they were granted permission.

“[After receiving permission] we made arrangements, we picked up the prescription for them and then Christopher and Mark went over and delivered it,” Jennifer said.

Hull said when he arrived, the washed out bridge had been repaired roughly enough to get over with a four wheeler. That made him feel better knowing if need be, the residents could receive what they needed without the drone.

“The people [who were stuck] were beginning to worry, because from what I was told, they weren’t given a great deal of information on how long they could be stuck,” Hull said.

While making the drop, there was a construction crew working on the bridge. Hull said after the drop was made, his drone gave him an alert he had never seen before. He then had to have one of the construction workers turn his drone off and back on again, which allowed it to work again properly.

“So as cool as it sounds, we still need humans involved in these things because drones and technology aren’t perfect, you know?” Hull said. “I learned a lot, it was fun and the people got what they needed.”

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