Fearing the unknown
My late father’s home in Lehigh Acres, Florida sustained a direct hit by hurricane Irma last month.Even though, I was in continuous contact with neighbors before during and hours after the eye passed through the little town, my family was worried about possible destruction. This winter house was my Dad’s dream, 15 minutes from Jet Blue Stadium where the Red Sox spend their annual spring training with it’s back yard is adjacent to the 10th fairway of Mirror Lakes Golf Course. When the track of the storm was predicted to travel along the west coast of Florida, his best friend living next door, pulled his BBQ grill inside and closed all the hurricane shutters on his house. Everything was secured. All we could do is wait being 1700 miles away.
Four days of calling the local sheriff’s department in Lehigh Acres, the Red Cross and other emergency help lines to contact the neighbors was a frustrating process after Irma. But, this is step one for people to get information. Here is the phone number for FEMA ,(Federal Emergency Management Agency), Helpline in Puerto Rico, 1-800-621-FEMA or https://www.fema.gov. Police of Puerto Rico, Headquarters: # 787-343-2020. It was not until the area in Florida where my Dad’s house is had power and water returned could people even think of going down to help. There was a shortage of fuel, no hotel rooms or rental cars available. Basically 10 days went by before I could fly down to help out the neighborhood. It is even worse in Puerto Rico. Check all resources before attempting to travel there.
Send government help! I know the after three hurricanes, Harvey that hit Houston, Irma that hit Us. Virgin Islands and Florida and now Maria that devastated Puerto Rico the United States military is spread thin. But, I also know more help is on the way! A friend and recent graduate of Maine Maritime Academy, Beth Doyen from Surry was just deployed as part of the US Navy’s Comfort ship. She is guiding a ship load of medical personnel to Puerto Rico this very moment. Hopefully, the USNS Comfort is there already! The USNS Comfort is a floating hospital and here is the ship’s website and you tube link www.med.navy.mil/sites/usncomfort/pages/ You Tube, Navy Medicine-USNS Comfort.
If you are lucky enough like the Mainers illustrated in the Bangor Daily News articles and Beth Doyen to travel to the affected hurricane areas, then all you can do is roll up your sleeves and get to work the minute you arrive! When I landed in Florida a week ago, I hit the ground running. It was humid and steamy hot. Evenings and mornings were the best time to work outside. However, there was so much clean up to do, I just had to keep a water bottle with me at all times, wear a hat and long sleeves and take breaks in the shade or duck inside where the AC was working. I cannot imagine those poor people suffering on Puerto Rico or Virgin Islands who have no shelters or water! Scary! In Lehigh Acres we raked and shoveled the sticks, branches and leaves. (This is the only time that I wished I had a snow shovel to use in Florida!) The street drains had clogged from so much rain and debris causing water back-ups and flooding. Water had seeped into most people’s garages. Luckily, the water only came within 5 feet of my Dad’s house. Still, whatever got wet, was now rubbish and ruined. Pieces of screening and other debris were found in weird places, like wrapped around fruit trees like fur stoles. Flowers, bushes and plants were like porcupine quills, naked and bare. Palm trees and southern oak trees were flatted as if giant bowling balls had struck them. Street lights and signs were bent, flattened or smashed. Thankfully, most houses were unscathed, except for missing roof shingles or twisted lanais.
Help animals, birds and strays. In this Florida neighborhood alone, there were five homeless pets and two stray cats crying for food outside doorways. Of course, the neighbors fed them. Animal control came and took three and a person called the “Cat Lady” retrieved the rest. Birds were displaced too such as, waterfowl lost and appearing in the weirdest places, ducks in the parking lot of Publix grocery store and stunned birds acting dazed and confused. In Puerto Rico, the Humane Society number is #787-720-9398.
Gather neighbors and support each other by holding an open house or meet at a place of worship. In Lehigh Acres, I went to one local church and met with the pastor and he offered information of services, and names of needy people who had lost everything. Then, in my Dad’s neighborhood people met one evening and had a pot-luck supper. It was a time for everyone to talk about what they had gone through and regroup as a community. It was especially tough, because a beloved member of the association had just passed away. We called it a neighborhood celebration of life. I was grateful for all their help watching over the family property and they were happy for a place to come together. Truly, a much needed event. People in Maine could send cards to those folks you know there in Florida, Texas, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico to offer emotional support.
Raise money for hurricane assistance! This is where the Bangor Art Society comes into the picture. During October, the Bangor Art Society holds our annual Paint Bangor Event. Instead of just plein-air painting one day, we are inviting all area artists to participate by creating art from October 1st thru the 17th! Then, the evening of October 17th, at 193 Exchange Street, in the restored Bangor Arts Exchange Ballroom, we will have a Live Wet-paint Art Auction at 7:00 PM. All the works produced this October will be auctioned! Part of the proceeds will go towards the hurricane relief efforts! The auction paddles are $5.00 and refreshments will be served. If you see artists around the city know that they are creating art for others! Please see thebangorartsociety.com to register as an artist! Art patrons please join the party and help artists and hurricane victims at the same time! Thank you for reading my blog and please share to help others!