In the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, some local efforts are underway to help the storm’s victims.
Hurricane Michael was monstrous, clocking winds at 155 mph and becoming the first Category 4 storm to slam into Florida’s Panhandle.
Its fierce winds and storm surge have reduced coastal communities to rubble, and after wreaking its havoc on the Panhandle, the destructive storm made its way through Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.
At least 18 deaths had been reported as of Monday, with eight in Florida, three in North Carolina, one in Georgia and six in Virginia, according to the website, Weather.com.
Authorities predict it will take some time, even years in some cases, for areas hit by Hurricane Michael’s fury to recover.
While being spared the storm’s wrath, the Tampa Bay region is responding with ways to help.
A local donation drive is being coordinated by the Rotary Club of Wesley Chapel Noon, the North Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce and Wesley Chapel Nissan.
Donations can be dropped off through Oct. 19 at Wesley Chapel Nissan, 28519 State Road 54, in Wesley Chapel. The dealership’s hours are 9 a.m. until 9 p.m.
These are the items that are needed:
- Portable generators
- Insect repellent
- Bottled water
- Disinfectant wipes
- Latex gloves
- Large garbage bags
- Laundry detergent
- Hand sanitizer
- Feminine products
- Baby wipes
- First aid kits/supplies
“We’re going to pack trucks on Saturday, and if we can get in, we’ll leave on Sunday,” said Chris Casella, president-elect of the Rotary Club of Wesley Chapel Noon.
“We’re going to be delivering it to St. James Episcopal Church,” he said.
Thomas Dwyer, the pastor of the church, also serves as the president of the Rotary Club of Port St. Joe.
The Wesley Chapel club wanted to be sure it had a focused effort, with a local contact to make sure the supplies could be distributed there.
“Rotary District 6950 — which is Citrus County, Pinellas County, Hernando and Pasco — they sent out 1,900 emails to our members,” Casella said. “A lot of people are sending us checks, and we’re just going to go shop on Saturday.”
The effort is focused on providing practical items that people need that the Federal Emergency Management Agency doesn’t provide, such as cleaning supplies and personal hygiene items.
“Insect repellent is going to be huge. These people are going to be outside all day long,” Casella said. Plus, there’s no electric, so the windows are open.
“The focus on television has been Mexico Beach and Panama City. You don’t hear about Port St. Joe, at all,” Casella said. “A small town like Port St. Joe will get neglected.”
Two of the Rotary Club’s Interact Clubs are also doing supply collection drives, Casella said. One of those clubs is at Wesley Chapel High School and the other one is at Cypress Creek Middle High School.
“The chamber (North Tampa Bay Chamber) has been incredible with this. They’re mobilizing local businesses,” Casella said.
Other Rotary Clubs are pitching in.
And, Wesley Chapel Nissan’s ownership and management has played a vital role by allowing the dealership’s staff to help and making room for the supplies in the dealership’s showroom, Casella said.
In addition to those efforts, Pasco County government is lending its assistance to hurricane victims, as well.
Troy Stevenson, of Wesley Chapel Nissan, said “we’re convoying up Sunday. We’ve got Wesley Chapel Nissan employees, Wesley Chapel Rotary and North Tampa Bay Chamber.”
“By the end of the week, we’ll probably be sending up two truckloads.”
One team from Pasco Emergency Services (911) was deployed to Bay County. The six dispatchers on the team are relieving and supporting the 911 center there, according to Brendan Fitterer, public information officer for Pasco County.
Pasco Emergency Management also has deployed the State of Florida Region 4/6 All-Hazards Incident Management Team (AHIMT) to Gulf County.
This group is made up of personnel from Pasco County Fire Rescue and Emergency Management, as well as personnel from Hernando, Sumter, Hillsborough, Manatee and Sanford counties, the University of South Florida and the Lakeland Police Department.
The all-hazards team is being deployed for both Emergency Operations Center support and field operations, as needed, Fitterer said, via email.
Published October 17, 2018