While the winds from Hurricane Florence weren’t catastrophic, the amount of rain that has fallen since Sept. 14 on the Carolinas is. More than 40 inches of rain has fallen in some parts of the two states, and rivers have breached the banks. It marks a year and four days since Keys residents experienced something similar and they are finding a way to give back.
“The Friday after Hurricane Irma hit, a group of Rotarians arrived in the Keys from North Carolina with a double-packed semi truck,” said Don Horton, a member of the Upper Keys Rotary Club.
So, even before the storm touched the shores of the Carolinas, he and his Keys club were collecting goods to return the favor. And not just anything, either, the right stuff.
“They didn’t bring stuffed bunnies or yard sale clothes,” Horton said. “Those guys brought everything we needed — Clorox, work gloves, flashlights, some rope and some bungee cord. It was all those things we needed to dig out.”
Horton and the Upper Keys Rotary came up with a list and are storing donations in Mike Forster’s restaurant that is under renovation in Tavernier. On Monday, Sept. 24, Horton and his girlfriend Carla are taking off, towing a 22-foot trailer.
“A couple of the rivers are due to crest today and tomorrow, and parts of I-95 are still closed,” Horton said on Sept. 19. “We’re collecting a few extra things and will pack up the trailer this weekend.”
The two Rotary clubs are communicating with one another in an effort to get the goods exactly where they are needed.
For more information, visit Don Horton’s Facebook page, or simply drop off a check made out to the Upper Keys Rotary Club at Mangrove Mike’s new building in Tavernier across from Coral Shores High School.
Marathon Councilman Steve Cook found a very personal way to give back. After Irma, a Marathon Station “Coastie” was a huge help to him and his wife, Sheila.
“Anthony ‘Izzy’ Iannizzaro basically put the exterior of my Marathon house back together after Irma,” Cook said. Cook made room for Izzy and family in his Georgia abode. And when the storm’s winds died down, he pre-cooked a bunch of chicken and ribs, vacuum sealed it, and sent them off.
“I couldn’t go with them, which just breaks my heart,” he said.
Iannizzaro and his wife both have family in Newport, North Carolina and they are moving to the area soon. Newport is a few miles inland, north of Wilmington.
“Their houses were flooded out, so we sent them with the food and some gear,” Cook said.
Big Pine Key
Lisa Miletti — the woman who cooked every single day on Big Pine Key for months after Irma, distributing the meals for free — left Sept. 18 for the Carolinas. Her advance team landed in Swansboro, North Carolina to set up shop and begin the giving. The town is located on the coast, just north of Wilmington.
“They took enough food for a couple of days and started cooking right away,” Miletti said. “Swansboro is a real blue-collar community with farms. They are taking a lot of rain.”
Miletti has already filled one gap — a child needed a specific type of formula, used in conjunction with a feeding tube.
“One of my friends in the Kindness 365 Network not only found it, but got a supply that will last for months,” Miletti said.
The national news has reported the North Carolina farming industry has lost millions of animals. It’s estimated that about 3 million chickens, and 5,500 pigs have perished in the floodwaters.
For more information, visit Lisa Miletti’s Facebook page.
Both Keys Energy Services and Florida Keys Electric Cooperative mobilized crews late last week to send to the Carolinas. KEYS sent five guys, and FKEC sent 8 linemen plus three bucket trucks, one digger truck, and accessories like trailers and pick ups.
FKEC posted a moving video of the caravan pulling out of the Upper Keys headquarters.
“I hope they get there and turn around and come back. I hope there is no work for them because hurricane damage is minimal,” said CEO Scott Newberry of FKEC.
His words were prophetic. Both crews staged in Jacksonville for a few days and have already returned.
“That’s what happens. We sent crews during Hurricane Matthew and Superstorm Sandy. They help us, and we help them,” said KEYS spokesperson Julio J. Torrado.