Thursday, February 08, 2007

Citrus Cyclone


Owing to our motto of not just vounteering but persevering, the crew left for Florida late friday night February second to aid tornado victims in Florida. Armed with the Persevere chainsaw fleet, a weather report, coffee, and a few contacts in the area, we arrived in Florida saturday afternoon and prepared our plans for the next few days. We were fortunate enough to set up camp across the street from the Sushine Community trailer park, a neighborhood that was directly in the tornado's path.
The command structure in the area had thus far failed to materialize. However, the police were very vigilant in thier security. All volunteers had thier records screened and information recorded before being allowed through the second checkpoint. When we geared up and entered the neighborhood, we saw clearly how destructive the tornado was. Entire trailers were in trees, and entire trees were in trailers. Tin and alluminum siding were wrapped around high branches, cars, homes, and lightpoles. Debris was everywhere. The downed trees, and those left dead and standing, still posed a major hazard to the people in the community. So we went to it. We cut out cars, cut down trees, moved debris, and covered a roof with a gigantic blue tarp. We were able to work steadily from sunup to sundown
In some ways, it is difficult to explain the feelings I had during this trip. It was incredibly rewarding to be able to help so many people, to learn more about first response disaster relief, and to work with such great volunteers, but it is challenging to hold that feeling of accomplishment in the face of such devastation. Thankfuly for all people involved, there are people like Kathy. Kathy was a resident in the neighborhood adjacent to the trailer park who opened up her property to volunteers. She regularly told all of us how thankful she was for our help and heaped hospitality on everyone.
As we left, FEMA had finished putting up its tent, and the RedCross had established itself in the neighborhood. The government appeared prepared for the longterm implications of the tornado. Obviously, for those who lost everything or those who lost loved ones, this tornado will be a permanent scar in thier lives, but for many others it should lose significance with time...All in all, it seemed like the tornado response will be a success for those in the affected community.
Returning back to the Pass to continue out longterm hurricane relief, I will take with me the belief that these disasters can be solved. An important belief in the face of Katrina.

Persevere Goes to Florida

Around ten o'clock last Friday, Ben and I were getting ready to go to bed when Bill Jr. called and asked if we wanted to go to Florida for a couple days to help with the recent tornados. We said we would be right over. After a bit of research and some quick packing, we were on the road.(We left around one in the morning) When we reached Florida, we started calling around to get hooked into a command center. After figuring out what the plan of action was, it was already getting pretty late. After a long day of cutting downed trees, driving all night, and networking all day, I was glad to finally get some sleep.

We ended up going to the town of Lady Lake. We were working in a trailer park that had been hit hard. It was easy to pick out the path of the actual tornado as there was just a swath of destruction cut throught the landscape. We started cutting right away and helped clear tons of debris. We difinetly made a huge impact in the community, the short time we were there.

One job sticks out the most in my mind though. There was an elderly woman with a large tree branch on top of her house that her neighbors were concerned would fall through the trailer. The police, along with her neighbors, had been trying to convince her to leave the trailer but she refused. When we showed up and told her that we were going to remove the branch and the fallen trees out back, she was more than happy to leave so that we could get the job done. After it was done, she was a completely different person. She was out and about, walking around the neighborhood and talking to her neighbors. We came back the next day and removed her collapsed carport as well. We helped out a lot of people when we were down there, but I will never forget the positive change in her demeanor after we had removed that tree.