Tag Archives: #hurricane

Hello Irma part 1

I rode out my first ever Hurricane in Orlando waiting for it to pass so we could get to work. This was the first time I was going to actually be paid for helping after a disaster.

I flew into Tampa four days before the hurricane was to hit the west coast. Irma was a huge storm that was going to do damage wherever she landed. My job for 3 of those days were to stage all the rigs that were coming in from all over the country and as far as Canada. All sorts of trucks came in, from bucket trucks to pick up trucks and everything in between. All the rigs that came into Orlando were staging at Epcot. It was a huge effort getting everyone to go where they were supposed to. But the drivers and crew were all very pleasant to deal with. I met several people that day. The one that stood out the most was Donald Carter (DC). He was the lead guy for a company called Powersecure. I also met several guys and a lady from Florida Power and Light. DC and I hit it off and I was immediately pegged as a go to guy. If something needed to get done, they knew they could reach out to me and the crew and we would handle it.

So many trucks:)
Day 0, this is the day the hurricane hit and fortunately I was staying at the Hilton with hurricane proof windows. the strength of the hurricane came through the middle of the night and by morning the winds had died down to about 50mph. We made it to Epcot and the task at hand was to line up all the trucks for fueling. We arrived at 7am and started to line up over 500 diesel trucks and about the same in regular fuel trucks. It was 9am and the fuel truck was at the location but the team that did the refueling were not being released until the winds died down. The logistics of food, water and fuel that first day was a bit delayed but was cleared up fairly quickly. It was around noon that we finally got the fuel line up and running. Everyone was very understanding and eager to be fueled and heading to their rally points all through out the state. During the fueling process I was looking over the log and the remaining trucks that were to be fueled and asked the fueling team if there was enough fuel. One of them said he was pretty sure that we would be fine. My response to that was, I need a definite yes on this one! so, he said the only way to be sure was to get on top of the rig and measure. I replied, I need to be sure there is enough fuel. At that point I went through the log and looked at the last 25 trucks to be fueled and did a rough estimate as to how many gallons each truck was needing. the estimate was 26 gallons. then I reached out to my POC at FPL and asked her to come to the fueling location. This was not information you wanted to put out over the radio. If the drivers got wind that we were worried about not having enough fuel, they would be a bit angry. I also had one of my crew take the van and give me an exact count of trucks left to fuel. As I waited for the exact amount of fuel and the FPL logistic supervisor. I received my count, 132 trucks left. My fuel count came in at around 1400 gallons left. I talked with the FPL logistics gal and told her that, with my rough estimates that we would be out of fuel with about 75 trucks left on the lot. We were fueling with 2 lines and were moving quick so we needed to get the fuel here fast. The re-fueler was about 30 minutes out and the FPL supervisor made the call to bring it in. Right after that call was made we went down to one fuel line and the last tank in the tanker. this helped because it slowed everything down and gave us time to get the re-fueler in. What is amazing is that as we ran out of fuel in that last tank, the re-fueler had just finished fueling 1 of the 3 empty tanks in the tanker. As that happened I went through and counted the remaining trucks and the count was 81. Here is my take on this. Everyone has a job, mine was not given to me in a job description or was I handed an sop manual. I was told to manage the re-fueling and make sure fuel was logged. That is it, that was the extent of my directive. I new the urgency of getting all the rigs out in the field and what it meant to the power restoration process, but that was it. We were all a part of the big picture and that means you take on your part and know that you are as important as anyone in the process. Had we left 80 trucks on the lot and had to wait another hour or two then that could have meant that there would be hundreds or thousands that would have to go another day without power. So, when you are part of a team, no matter how big or how small, always give everything to that effort. The ripple effect could be more dramatic then you may think.

I was certainly praised for going the extra mile and had several FPL supervisors send my name up the logistics chain of command. Also DC had mentioned my efforts to the supervisors at Powersecure. Later that hour DC got an email stating that they wanted me and my team to head out from Orlando to West Palm Beach as soon as possible. It was 7pm and I had to get back to the hotel, gather my team, check out, eat and get on the road for a 2-3 hour drive. We arrived just after 11pm. Day 1 was to begin tomorrow.

The Harvey Wallbanger

This Harvey is not a drink that you serve in a highball glass. Although it will leave one hell of a hangover. This was Harvey who relentlessly banged on the walls of the Houston area for several days.

After seeing Harvey take form and hearing that it will stall over Houston, Corpus Christi and the areas around Houston. I struggled with the idea of going to help. After a full day of deliberation, basically with myself, I decided to make the trip. Well, actually I guess it was Elena and I discussing it Monday in the office. She knew and I knew that I need to go.

I left Tuesday mid morning to drive to Dallas and sleep a few hours at my friend Rich and Monica’s house then head out from Dallas around 1am. This would get me to Houston around 5am. Now to figure out where to go to. I am always sent in the right direction when I do something like this.  Whether you call it fate, God, Buddha, Allah or the Universe looking out for you.  I know it all works out. When I was about 2 hours out of Houston I started listening to the North Houston rescue channel on Zello. I heard that Port Author and Beaumont was getting pounded and water was rising fast. I punch Port Author in the gps and headed that way. An hour outside of Beaumont I saw 2 trucks with flat bottom boats and something told me to follow them. As I turned to follow they turned into a gas station looking for diesel. I got out and asked if they were heading to Port Author.  They were and I asked if I could follow them and help out. I introduced myself to the older man, his name was Jimmie.  Jimmie ran a pizza oven cleaning business in Houston and had a daughter who was married to the young man driving the other truck. It was 5am and we needed to get to Port Author fast. We tried two routes but had to turn around because the water was to high.  The last route we tried finally got us there. We had to get the trucks through about 2 foot of water. But we made it and were able to navigate through with help from the Zello app. Our launch point was a WalMart parking lot.

Port Author rescues

As Jimmie prepared to launch I grabbed my medical supply bag and rope. We dropped both boats in and I was in charge of listing to the call outs from dispatch. It helped to hear where the greatest needs were. I directed Jimmie to an area that had several high water emergency calls. Our first rescue was a family that was in a blow up swimming pool being pulled by two of the adult men. We loaded the family and swimming pool into the two boats and transported them to safety. Jimmie looked at me and asked “where to next”? I was listening to all the addresses and punched a few into GPS to see where to head. We drove toward one of the distress calls and as we were in route we came upon the coast guard trying to get to an area that was all senior citizens. The complex was called Legacy Senior Housing  and was about waist to chest deep. A major concern is if one of the residents had fallen or was stuck in a wheel chair. We were directed to start at one of the houses and to work our way down. Jimmie and I jumped out into the water and started to bang on the first door and try to open it. We went to several doors until we spotted one that was open but the screen door was locked. As we were banging on the door and about ready to pull it off the hinges, an older man came walking out of the bedroom area. As he came to the door Jimmie and I saw a flash from across the way. It looked like a light flickering behind the blinds. I told Jimmie that I will go check it out. I waded across the “parking lot” river and proceeded to knock on the door. I heard a faint sound coming from inside. I tried the door and thankfully it was unlocked. As I opened the door there sat an elderly woman in her battery operated wheelchair in the middle of the room. She had been there for about 13 hours and was so relieved when I opened that door. If the water had risen another foot or two she would have not survived. I yelled at Jimmie that we had a lady in a wheelchair and will be needing help. As he came over to me with the frail elderly man in the boat, I told him we are going to need several people to lift her in the boat. We looked around for the Coast Guard and yelled to one of them. In about 2 minutes we had 3 additional men to lift this large elderly woman into a 14 foot flat bottom bass boat. We carefully lifted her onto the bow (front end) of the boat. Once we got her settled in, she insisted that we bring her wheelchair. I tried to talk her out of it because another 100lbs in the boat was not a good idea. She was not going to let us leave her chair. So, we lifted it in the boat. The elderly man and I sat in the middle of the boat with Jimmie and the wheelchair behind us and the woman in front. My job was to keep an eye out front for potential hazards and on our cargo. As I was trying to look past the woman. I barely noticed a bricked in mail box that was all but fully submerged. I put out man right hand and yelled at Jimmie. But, at that instance we hit it just right of center and the boat went in the air and to the left. I jumped onto the woman and pulled her to the right and threw my legs over the right side of the boat. I remember someone yelling kill the motor and looking up and seeing a man running towards us through the water and thinking, if we go over I am going to have to try to keep this woman, who is twice my weight, from drowning. I was not letting this happen. After the motor was shut down we slowly eased off the mailbox and leveled out. I was a bit shook up by this and took a deep breath and said “well, that was close”. Looked at Jimmie and we both shrugged our shoulders as if to say we both messed that one up. We finally got everyone safe and to somewhat dry land.

We made another trip to Legacy and when we dropped off there was a sheriff and a lady needing a ride to a Cypress Glenn nursing home. They were not happy because the management was not allowing anyone to remove patients from the facility. My guess would be the liability that comes with moving ill or injured elderly people. This was a corporate ran nursing home and it was going to take the sheriff of this here town to order them to evacuate the residents. When we got there they just started to remove the residents. The sheriff was all ramped up and ready to put some handcuffs on someone if they lipped off to him. I’m sure someone made a call and warned them.  As we waded through the water, the entire place smelled of urine and feces. The facility looked to have between 50 and 100 residents. I started helping with putting everyone in wheelchairs and moving them to the front. Those that were bed ridden had to go in bigger boats or fan boats. Because we had to either keep them on their mattress or transfer them to a mattress that was on a boat. As Jimmie took the lady and the sheriff back to dry land, I kept lifting people and when a room was clear, I would put an X on the door with white medical tape and close the door. Of course we checked those rooms 15 more times. It was already into the late afternoon / evening and Jimmie and I took one more trip and then called it a day. It was dusk when we finally started to head back towards our drop point. We were both exhausted and hungry. You don’t think about eating when you are in rescue mode. We loaded up the boats and I said my goodbyes and walked over to my truck to make a peanut butter sandwich. After drying off and changing clothes it was time to find a place on higher ground.

I headed out of Port Author to find a church to drop supplies off to. I headed to Beaumont and found a church there to have dinner and drop all the supplies at. I finished up and felt like I needed to get a bit further out. Each main road I took was flooded and finally I decided to stay put and not risk going down a road that could be flooded in the middle of the night. So, I settled in at the Triumph Church parking lot in Beaumont. I just settled into the front seat and feel asleep. Waking up around 6am I noticed that the water seemed to have rose a bit. I listened to Zello and was looking at the map to find a way out. I kept hearing a few towns that were needing help. one of those were Vidor. So, off I went to Vidor TX, this is where my poor truck almost drowned. Any time I saw a gas station or dollar store open I would stop and load up on diapers, formula and dog food. With the gas and all the supplies I spent almost $2000. Good thing I have very good friends and family that helped raise $1520.00. Most of the day in Vidor was spent taking people across the rivers in the street. I stopped at the Baptist church in either Pine Forest or Vidor to drop more supplies, after running back and forth I couldn’t tell you where I was when I stopped and unloaded. I did stop for a while and let people in smaller vehicles that they would not be able to pass if they were trying to get to highway 10. My truck took on water up to the lights. So, these smaller vehicles were not going to make it through. After a bit of logistic work I settled in at an LDS church parking lot and tried to sleep. I was getting text from one of my contractors that one of my guys stole money from him and has been stealing from him for a while. this was the final straw, he has stolen from me, a tenant and now my contractor. It was 1am on Friday morning and I decided that I had to deal with this and fire him today. I knew there was more work to be done and that I would be back to the Houston area. So, I decided to head for KC. With a 12 hour drive ahead of me, I figured I would be back around 3pm with stops.

Thank you for reading and always meet new strangers, unless their name is Harvey.