North Texans headed to Florida to help with hurricane relief

- Many workers and volunteers from North Texas are headed out to Florida in the wake of Hurricane Michael.

The Category 4 storm killed at least two people before weakening and moving inland. It’s now headed up the East Coast and dumping a lot of rain on Georgia as a tropical storm.

When a disaster of the magnitude of Michael strikes, one of the top priorities is to get the power back on as soon as possible. That electricity will enable all kinds of recovery efforts to get underway.

That’s why Oncor sent about 100 employees and contractors, along with trucks and other equipment from the company’s Mesquite service center to Florida.

According to the latest reports, close to 800,000 customers are without power because of the storm. Thousands of Florida utility workers are already on the job.

Oncor’s personnel will be focused on replacing broken power poles, restringing downed power lines and clearing out downed trees and other vegetation which can present a serious obstacle to crews and other first responders.

“If you’ve ever been to an area that’s been impacted by a storm, the trees are on the roads, the trees are on the lines, the trees are on the homes. So all these things have to be cleared out before we can restring the lines and of course so that we can keep our crews safe. We want to make sure they have a clear path to restore all of that power,” said Jen Myers, a meteorologist for Oncor.

At this point, there’s no telling how long the Oncor crews will be out of town. After Hurricane Florence hit the Carolinas, they were there for six days.

Terry Henderson and the Texas Baptist Men are waiting for the go-ahead to drive to Florida and provide desperately needed relief where many are cut off by debris.

“Some of the troopers and law enforcement are helping move trees so they can get through the highways,” Henderson said.

This time, they’re headed to a more rural area about an hour outside Panama City in Henderson's hometown where his contacts are coming in handy. His mother and brother road out the storm.

“They've been through a lot of hurricanes. but my brother actually stated that this is the first time he was scared in his house,” Henderson said. “They're saying. ‘Okay, Terry. Here's your job. Here's your opportunity to come help us.”

Fortunately, a lot of our emergency vehicles were already in the area because we had already sent them into the Carolinas to help with the Hurricane Florence efforts,” said Krystal Smith with the American Red Cross of North Texas.

The American Red Cross of North Texas has about 10 volunteers flying out to assist at shelters. Others were positioned before Michael hit.

“With Michael, this has just started,” Smith said. “So we are providing those immediate relief items of having people in shelters, providing them comfort kits, providing them safety”

The Texas Baptist Men plan to set up food trucks capable of preparing thousands of meals a day.

Henderson wants them to know help is on the way.

“We can't go because we can't get into there,” he said. “But we will be coming.”

Christian Charity World Vision of Grand Prairie is another group heading to the hurricane zone. The nonprofit organization is prepared to serve 3,000 storm victims and deliver containers of food, water, personal hygiene supplies and baby items such as diapers.

A World Vision truck is scheduled to arrive Friday in Panama City. Another should get to Pensacola on Saturday. Once they reach their destinations, the volunteers will work with other charities to make sure the supplies get to those who need them.

About 70 first responders with Texas Task Force 1 have already left for Florida. The urban search and rescue team brought four trained search dogs with them.

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