Did you ever read that little story about the kid walking down the beach throwing starfish in the water, when the old man says he can’t save all of them, so why bother? Well, that a parable for Day #2 in Irma’s impact zones. That parable also explains why this follow-up is reaching y’all well after midnight on Sept. 13th.
[Hurricane relief work is a little like keeping a farmers schedule. As I understand it, the work schedule of a farmer extends the necessary shift until the job is done, which has entirely nothing to do with a clock…]
I said yesterday I thought that 50% of the residents of South Florida might be home. I was wrong. That estimation was overstated. Maybe a third of the regular residents were home on Day #1 – a few more showed up today (Day #2)…. and based on south-bound traffic observed, a whole bunch more are in in route tonight.
They ain’t going to like what awaits.
First things first. Yes, we found fuel – it took driving past 47 empty gas stations to find one open with fuel. More than 100 cars (easily) were around the block for this station at 8am. We dispatched a volunteer to wait in line, and went about doing what we could w/out fuel, SCOUT. Three hours later 40 ten gal cans caught up with us. Oh, and another station opened around noon.
Tonight the police were not only escorting gas, but local police were guarding the gas stations upon arrival (saw it first hand). Somehow fuel has reached such a valued commodity that even the rumor of a delivery sends the fuel starved swarm into a frenzy. Controlling that swarm is now added duty of police. At approximately the same time as a 3,000 gallon tanker driver removes his hose from the ground intake, the tanks he just filled run dry. You’ve just got to see fuel piranhas in action, to believe it.
Grown women driving SUV’s, whip out 2 jerry cans and are more than willing to throw down the Mad Max gauntlet if that’s what it takes to keep their babies formula cold. There ain’t no class society structure here. It’s beyond Thunderdome. Hence the police directing pump flow, and trying to stave off the tired, desperate guy with a shotgun, running on fumes, who has had enough of waiting eight hours for a possible chance at gas pump lotto.
The first birds returned today. Weird to notice a bird making a noise, then realizing you haven’t heard a bird chirp in two days. I wonder where they go?
♦ Have you ever seen a 200 person outside line -wrapping all the way around the building- for a possible seat in a Waffle House? Methinks it ain’t the pancakes. Remember, only about a third of the town-folk stayed/arrived. Now imagine that 200 person line tripled; imagine those gas lines tripled; imagine SUVMom -vs- Mad-Max-Shotgun-Guy TRIPLED.
Two thirds of local residents, who left with ZERO prep, return to discover what smells like a rotting carcass in their fridge, and no air conditioning, ….Yeah, one might imagine the next few days could be rather sketchy nerves for more than seats at the Waffle House…
♦ When we are looking for root problems, one of the boots-on-the-ground tricks is to follow the collective hum of generators. •Question: You got power? Answer: No? •Question: Do you know why you have no power? Answer: (variations of words used to describe what happens when a cow licks you square in the forehead and someone asks you why).
With most hurricane power outages you can find something, usually a tree, that has actually severed the top power line on a neighborhood grid. If the tree is massive, with or without taking down the pole, the tree has to be removed first. If the power company has to remove a tree before they can restore power to an ordinary residential neighborhood, they drop the priority to “some later time”, and move on to quicker repairs… Ergo most of those without power, end Day #3 (September 13), will not see power until their rotation on the tree removal list comes up; sometime around the end of the month (two weeks away), or later.
Insurance companies (via quick claims settled to contracted tree removal), or a bunch of fast action roughnecks with chainsaws, can both deliver the identical amount of relief and speed up the process. Bob, Jeff, Phyllis, Gus, Gustav, Erik, Jose and Baby Francesca, found out today how that works. Gustav’s tree, though he willingly disclaims ownership, took down Bob, Jeff, Phyllis and about 50 other people’s electricity service. Jose, a young chap wrecked with guilt and a 6 month old baby, happened to be custodian of another tree that took down the electrical convenience of about 150 more.
Gustav’s tree, a well saturated Australian Pine, is about the dimension of a gasoline tanker trailer in the parts that matter. Jose’s oak tree, one of the reasons Grandma told him to buy that specific house-while harboring visions of cradling her new grand-baby underneath it’s shade, is even more awe inspiring. Well, that is, if it wasn’t the cause of so much damage. FUBAR. Both jobs need cranes, slings, major league heavy equipment rental, eminent domain/easement use and two 6 men crews for two full days etc.
•Problem #1) 84-year-old Phyllis, whose kids don’t call her any more, needs her medication chilled and wears a CPAP to sleep at night. •Problem #2) Jose family w/baby Francesca needs her formula cold etc. = No power two weeks. √Solution: move Mr. and Mrs Jose, w/ baby into my house to care for Ms. Phyllis who also needs power. One generator + two family problems solved = a neighborhood.
♦ On my way North today I did see about 20 fuel tankers headed South. Unfortunately I also saw one tanker with an armed escort being followed by a blood thirsty wolf pack tracking his cargo just to be first in line for the swarm. Hopefully the fuel piranhas can be satiated in a few months or a million+ tanker trucks, whichever comes first. According to FEMA as heard on radio interview, the collective power companies need 800,000 gallons per day, just to keep their crews operating in Florida…. Do the math.
I also saw a massive convoy of power company trucks headed down I-75 from the upper East Coast (they must have crossed I-4). There’s lots of resources flowing…
Right now our priority remains just keeping people moving forward, or at least looking forward. There are tremendous challenges in front of a great deal of really good decent people. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the scope of the challenge and allow the sheer enormity of it to drown you. Don’t let it.
Every day, every hour, every minute… the goal is the same; just one step. Don’t look at what cannot be solved, look at what can.
Please check in on your neighbors. Please reach out to friends and family in Texas (Harvey), and/or Florida (Irma). Just let them know they matter, and despite the yuck of all this mess – they are cherished. The most inconsequential of life’s ordinary scheduled tasks can seem like a daunting challenge when cast against the backdrop of these crises.
You don’t have to operate a chainsaw. Help someone to see just the next step forward. Pick up a prescription for someone. Make them a sandwich. Give a can of fuel to someone who has that annoying whir of a generator running. Wash someone’s car, or offer to do their laundry. Pay attention to the conversations around you. Try to do something you find of value.