ST. LOUIS — Several more St. Louisans have joined the Hurricane Ian relief efforts in Florida.
The volunteers said the devastation and need continue to grow every day, so much so that many of the people that were on standby have already arrived or have been asked to deploy to Fort Meyers and other parts of southwest Florida.
“The coastlines, the storm surge was 18 feet high. And it came so fast that they had 5 feet of water in their house just like that, like they literally had to swim for their lives,” St. Louis American Red Cross Volunteer Sue Krueger said.
St. Louis Red Cross volunteers said over the last two and a half days, they finished their initial damage assessments in southwest Florida. Individual home assessments start Wednesday.
“What we're seeing is a lot of trees down and shingles off the roofs and things like that, but without electricity and the gas lines are very long, so we have a shortage of gas. There's no ice to be found,” Krueger said.
Red Cross emergency response vehicles continue to go out to areas still without power to provide food and cleaning supplies.
The Fraternal Order Of Police is helping too. Three members from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department are helping feed 1,500 first responders at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
“It's really great when you see the looks on the first responders' faces, we give them a hot meal, a place to relax. We've got a big TV out here, they can watch ballgames and it's just really rewarding to see the impact that it's made on them,” FOP member and St. Louis Police Officer Kevin Ahlbrand said.
Ahlbrand said many of the first responders can’t even stay in their own homes.
“We were in a subdivision yesterday and there were two 100-foot boats in the middle of the subdivision. So it's just astounding what damage was caused,” Ahlbrand said.
So while local police officers are out helping residents, FOP members are helping them put the pieces back together.
“We have crews that do roofs. We have crews that are armed with chainsaws. We do a lot of tree cutting and we're helping with the flood damage in homes. We're helping people cut out drywall,” Ahlbrand said.