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Punta Gorda

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Old 08-22-2004, 12:21 AM
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Default Punta Gorda

Maybe this is out of place, but please do not forget these folks.. This is a post I put up on the Florida Sportsman board. Some of their members have been collecting money and driving supplies to those who need it most, and there are lots of them..

Unsettling…

Only word I can come up with to describe my trip to Punta Gorda today…

Business called. A customer had a problem with one of our generators there (actually, his electrician was the issue, but that’s another story altogether..) so I had to make a run over there with another unit for him. Last night, with the help of some of the board-members @ www.donzi.net, I hit Costco for water and other supplies to take over with me.

The trip started fine, the usual (for me) fog on the alley part way across seemed like any of the hundreds of trips I have made before. Once I got to Naples, I started to see signs of a storms passing: a few knocked down signs and tree’s, a fair amount of standing water, but nothing major. I continued to Fort Myers, and got off to go to Sasses to see what the plan was to distribute the water, crocade and other supplies I had loaded the truck with. (hmm, 35 bottles of water per case, 48 to a pallet, =’s 1,690 bottles of water plus 10 cases of crocade, wonder what that weighed?)

Got to Sasses, waited a few minutes, and Mike (Baccala) pulled up. I discussed the plan of attack with him, and we agreed I would head up to PG and just run through the hardest hit areas and distribute the supplies I had rather than unload/reload them into other trucks. So, off I went. Stopped for fuel and a coffee, and that’s when the first signs of trauma became apparent. Folks in the gas station wandering around with that shell-shocked look on their faces. Curiously polite, but you could see in their eyes the same look I saw after Andrew, one that you have after experiencing the worst.

Heading out again, I joined the oh so familiar convoys of power, tree trimming and phone company trucks heading out of Fort Myers. Jumping back on 75, I too headed towards ground zero. The further North I went, the worse it became. Trees no longer blown over, but snapped off, twisted and mangled. Signs not damaged, just plain gone. The remaining trees had the “I will soon be dead” leafless look to them that only a hurricane or a tornado can impart.

Getting off at the Punta Gorda exit, I was immediately transported back in time to September 1992. As I drove further into the downtown area, an overwhelming odor of decaying vegetation and saltwater, mixed with diesel fumes from generators all combined to bring back memories I had long ago suppressed. The only thing missing was the incessant sound of helicopters overhead, apparently the roads here were cleared quickly, and traffic, while slow, was flowing.

Taking care of my business first, I then headed into the more affected areas to deliver what supplies and comfort I could. Fields of flattened trees, their stumps wrapped in aluminum siding and garage doors, telephone poles at angles that seemed to defy gravity, held upright by the remnants of the cables they once supported, blue tarps on every roof capable of holding them. Everywhere I looked, people were still, a week after the storm, sorting through their belongings, futilely trying to board a window or patch a roof leak on a destroyed house or trailer. Some still were wandering around, shell shocked and dazed, trying to figure out what their next step was.

I stopped time after time, offering water for the adults, crocade and a few small toys I had brought to the families with kids. Paper towels and box matches were received like fine jewelry, something to be treasured forever it seemed. Some people were wary of my offers, apparently they had some bad experiences already. Once they found out I was giving them the supplies, their whole attitude changed. Smiles, laughs, some tears. I remember all to well those emotions after Andrew.

The kids are the saddest part. Innocent faces, most all of them dirt stained and filthy due to the lack of running water in a lot of the trailer parks, they just have a look of total disbelief. How could this happen to us they seemed to ask. Yet, a bottle of crocade (pick a color, they all taste the same) and a toy, and all of the sudden, the smiles and laughter broke out, the world was Ok again, at least for now.

Almost every home had a sign on the front with the name of their insurance carrier on it in the hopes an adjuster would soon be by to evaluate their home, and then they could leave. Sadly, only about 30% of them already had claim numbers added to the signs, it is going to be a long wait.
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Old 08-22-2004, 12:21 AM
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Default Re: Punta Gorda

Punta Gorda is receiving massive amounts of aid. It is amazing to me to see how much has been done in such a short time, particularly comparing it to Miamuh after Andrew, when it took us days to receive even an acknowledgment that we had been hard hit. The government, insurance companies, and various relief organizations learned some valuable lessons in Andrew. I am glad we were able to contribute that to these hard hit people. However, they will need outside assistance for a long time. If you can, contribute to the relief organization of your choice. If you already have, dig deep, send a few bucks more. Remember, there but for the grace of God, goes you..
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Old 08-22-2004, 05:48 AM
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Scott, We need more people like you in this world. What you did was beyond words. FEMA is shipping ice and water from all over the country. We've had comitted to ship 80 trailer loads of ice from Long Island alone which they put a hold on as of last Thursday and dont know why after reading this. My trucks have been reporting to Lakeland airport and had 2 trucks sitting since Friday morning.
Upon your travels to PG I need to know if you saw any distribution of supplys from semi's in large parking lots ? It sounds to me these people are still in need and may not be getting what they need. Stan.
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Old 08-22-2004, 07:50 AM
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Default Re: Punta Gorda

Supplies are coming in. I am impressed with the amount of food,water and ice being distributed. However, a lot of the people I found have no way to go to the relief centers to pickup supplies either because they rely on mass transportation or their cars are damaged. I'm a bit puzzled why yhey are holding your trucks up unless they are staging them there to bring them in for the second go-around??

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Old 08-22-2004, 08:11 AM
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Default Re: Punta Gorda

Hey Scott, Great job !!!! I took a load down to the PAL of Sarasota last week and they were so thankful. I've got another load to bring down this coming week. I've got friends that have been sent down there to help out and they said it is devastating. Dave

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Old 08-22-2004, 08:40 AM
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Hi Dave!

Read your thread, you guys are awesome!! any and all help is appreciated there, and if folks helping can get out into the outlying areas it is even better..

There are several threads on the Florida Sportsman forum that might be of interest to you also. They are doing runs most every day, maybe you can coordinate with them..??

http://outdoorsbest.zeroforum.com/zeroforum?id=11
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Old 08-22-2004, 09:03 AM
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Default Re: Punta Gorda

It is so encouraging to see how people down here have responded. It seems like when a tragedy of this proportion strikes it brings out (generally speaking) the best in people. Had a little trouble with price gouging and looting but the authorities took care of that very quickly.

Deb and I got up at 4 am yesterday to help a church sponsored "yard sale". All items donated by people in our area. Between sales and donations we raised almost twelve thousand dollars that the church is taking down today. Every little bit helps these poor victims. The heat and humidity here is been just oppressive here since the storm. The power crews have been "machines" in working to get electricity restored. It's coming back much faster than originally predicted. Power got back on to 1.7 million people just this morning. They JUST said this right now on the channel 8 news.
Progress is bing made, by the superhuman efforts of SO MANY people. It restores your faith in humanity.
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Old 08-23-2004, 09:41 AM
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Just an FYI, there are 300+ trucks full of ice at Lakeland airport without a home. Think FEMA over ordered?
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Old 08-23-2004, 09:56 AM
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Default Re: Punta Gorda

It's definately difficult to see the damage. Many families with nothing left and nowhere to go.
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Old 08-23-2004, 09:57 AM
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