DelDOT team in Florida to help with Irma cleanup

 

A team of Department of Transportation vehicles leaves Georgetown. The convoy is helping Florida recover from Hurricane Irma. (Submitted photo/Delaware Department of Transportation)

DOVER — A team of Delaware Department of Transportation employees will be down in Florida for up to two weeks working to help clean up the devastation wrought by Hurricane Irma.

A convoy of 25 DelDOT workers traveling in about a dozen vehicles left Georgetown Monday afternoon and arrived in Florida Tuesday night. The group stopped for the night Tuesday near Jacksonville and, because there were no hotel rooms available, employees slept in their trucks and outside in sleeping bags.

Fortunately for them, it did not rain.

The team is led by Alastair Probert, a 13-year DelDOT veteran who volunteered for the trip and was asked by DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan to oversee the operation.

Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Probert, DelDOT’s southern district supervisor, spoke to a reporter by phone as the convoy made its way to southern Florida. The employees were on their way to Homestead, a city about 25 miles southwest of Miami, where they would meet with the Florida Department of Transportation and local officials to receive an assignment.

Mr. Probert anticipated being sent to the Florida Keys, although the team would likely be based out of Homestead. The Florida Department of Transportation had arranged lodging in Homestead for the members of the convoy.

About 150 miles north of Miami at the time of the phone call, Mr. Probert said he had not yet started seeing signs of major destruction along Interstate Highway 95, although some trees and billboards had been knocked down by the hurricane.

Hurricane Irma landed in Florida Sunday as a Category 4 hurricane. According to media reports, at least 31 people in the United States died due to the storm. Florida was the hardest-hit state, with the Keys being especially ravaged by the storm.

In total, more than 3 million homes were without power Thursday, and billions of dollars’ worth of damage was done in the United States.

The Caribbean was also badly impacted by the storm, with nearly all the homes on some islands being destroyed.

Although Mr. Probert has experience helping clear debris and open roadways in Delaware after major storms, he’s never responded to an event of this magnitude before.

He is eager to help and believes his background in Delaware is why he was asked to lead the expedition.

The workers brought with them loaders to move debris and chainsaws to cut up trees. Aware of the difficulty of obtaining supplies in Florida, they also brought their own food.

“Our biggest issue has been fuel management because a lot of fuel stations have nothing and we’re a pretty large convoy,” Mr. Probert said.

He recalled seeing cars with gas cans strapped to them, allowing the driver to carry extra gasoline in case they ran out of fuel far from any working gas stations.

DelDOT offered its assistance as part of a mutual-aid assistance agreement between the 50 states. The Sunshine State will reimburse Delaware for the cost of the expedition.

“Delaware was proud to be among the states offering assistance to those affected by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma,” Delaware Gov. John Carney said in a statement. “I’m grateful to the state employees and members of the National Guard who are serving our neighbors in Texas, South Carolina and Florida as they begin the recovery process.”

Several DelDOT bridge inspectors were also prepared to be sent down to Florida if need be.

 

Delaware helping hurricane victims

Over the past two weeks, a number of organizations in the First State have been working to collect donations for and assist the victims of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, primarily in Texas and Florida.

There are several ways people looking to help can do so.

• Individuals can contribute to the Salvation Army in several ways: by going to helpsalvationarmy.org, calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY, texting STORM to 51555 or sending a check to the Salvation Army, P.O. Box 1959, Atlanta, Ga., 30301 (designate “Hurricane Harvey” on all checks). Donations to the Red Cross can be made online at redcross.org or over the phone at 1-800-RED CROSS. People can send contributions to United Way by going to https://www.unitedway.org/get-involved/ways-to-give/donate.

• The Home Builders Association of Delaware and Two Men and a Truck are hoping to fill a truck to send to Texas. They will be taking donations until the end of the month and are looking for toiletries, grooming supplies, diapers, toilet paper, paper towels, hand sanitizer, razorblades, gas gift cards, first aid kits, flashlights, batteries, tape, cleaning supplies, gloves, trash bags, plastic storage containers, pet collars, leashes, crate, dog and cat food, nonperishable food items, baby formula, towels, feminine hygiene products, wipes, bedding and mosquito spray.

A list of drop-off locations is below. Call the location to schedule a donation time.

Home Builders Association of Delaware office, 1600 N. Little Creek Rd., Dover, DE 19901, 678-1520

Two Men and a Truck, 1169 S. DuPont Highway, Dover, DE 19901, 257-6633

Resort Custom Homes, 18355 Costal Highway Suite B, Lewes, DE 19958, 645-8222

Middletown Kitchen and Bath, 111 Patriot Drive Suite C, Middletown, DE 19709, 464-1236

JS Homes, 1919 Red Lion Rd., Bear, DE 19701, 838-8880

Schell Brothers Sussex County office (Sept. 23 and Sept. 24), 20184 Phillips St., Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971, 226-1994

• William Henry Middle School is holding a donation drive to help babies and pregnant mothers. The school is seeking diapers, baby wipes, formula and pacifiers. The Hurricane Harvey drive will end Sept. 28, and the winning homeroom will receive a special food reward. Contact marimba.ivery@capital.k12.de.us for details.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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