In the riverside city of New Bern, North Carolina, power outages and wastewater spills accompanied the flooding from Hurricane Florence. In online videos of the city, tall trees hang diagonally over still-flooded streets, and boats lie in front lawns.
Four Spokane area residents flew there on Thursday to help.
They’re part of a nonprofit called Community Veterans Response, a program that trains veterans to earn chain saw certifications and other skills. They’ll be sawing trees that have fallen on houses and roadways, or those that still stand but are in danger of falling.
“These vets are clamoring to do something meaningful and productive, to use their skills,” said Andy Hail, treasurer of Community Veterans Response.
“Down there, we’re going to people’s properties that have been devastated. Roots are blown up and trees are in homes blocking access,” Hail said. “We’ll go in and be introduced to homeowners. Sometimes they’re working side by side clearing debris and removing roots.”
The team is composed of Matt Litten and Darrell Loeffler, both combat veterans who served in the Middle East recently; Hail, a retired firefighter from Spokane Valley; and Suzie Spencer.
“I’m anticipating it will be nonstop chain saw work for months,” Hail said.
For this trip, they’re partnering with All Hands and Hearts, a nonprofit that helps with disaster relief.
“They reached out and asked if we were interested in being some of the first boots on the ground to begin recovery efforts post-hurricane,” Hail said.
They’ll be in New Bern or Lumberton, North Carolina, he said.
Hail said helping people is worth the effort.
“It’s very hard to describe the emotions that you deal with, helping people who have lost virtually all of their worldly possessions, and in some cases, they’ve lost loved ones,” Hail said.
“The people are so incredibly grateful for any assistance they get,” he said. “I get choked up still because the connections that you make with them are lifelong.”
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.