Sunday, September 4, 2011

Irene relief update

It has been a little over a week since I last posted here, and I haven't had a spare minute in that time to do so. Today, headquarters has the morning off, and so we got a chance to sleep in (till 8 -- whoo hoo.) I'm using the remaining couple hours to blog and catch up on email, and Louise is braving the wilds of a WalMart full of after-church shoppers to buy groceries. We'll head back to the office in just a few minutes.

We are still parked at headquarters in Wilson, NC. The photo above shows how we are tucked in neatly to an alcove, shielded on three sides by stores, and partly shielded on the fourth by a pony wall. While we have to live with the trash dumpsters, two of which are off-frame to the left, and the somewhat unpleasant smell, we do have 6kW of power here, as well as water and access to a sewer manhole where we can dump our tanks in another week. I topped off the water tank this morning.

This is also where we rode out the storm, although we were facing the other way to keep the windshields to leeward, and thus taking up much more of the alcove and blocking access for the cartage trucks. I promised the facility manager we would be out of the way of the trucks, and she was amazed we were able to do so. I suppose I would not have been able to park Odyssey this way six years ago, when we had not yet figure out all the tight-quarters handling quirks.

The operation director rallies the troops, two days in

As you now know, Irene weakened and turned further west just before landfall here, and the result is that the damage in North Carolina is far less than had originally been expected. That's a good thing, because the Red Cross is already pulling volunteers out of here to staff the operations in Louisiana and Mississippi for Tropical Storm Lee. For a while it looked like Hurricane Katia might again threaten the Carolinas, but most of the models now having it turn out to sea before reaching the coast.

That said, we did have enough damage here to open a whole bunch of shelters and no fewer than five kitchens. We've been sending teams into the field nearly every day to install or support computers, printers, and radios at the kitchens, and now we are supporting the ongoing casework in the field. Most of the kitchens will be closed by the end of the holiday weekend, but we'll be here at least another week or two to support the rest of the activities.

Early on, we sent a two-person team to New Bern to install a computer in the kitchen there and drop off another computer for the Damage Assessment team. We've been sending the Prius that I mentioned in my last post on some of these field calls, as it has great mileage and a very capacious cargo area with the back seat down.

And so it was that the Prius was in New Bern, in between deliveries, when the crew slowed down for a police officer in the road with his lights flashing. The Sherwin-Williams truck behind, them, however, elected not to do the same, plowing into them and totaling the Prius. Fortunately, the headrests did their job, and other than shaken up and a bit sore, our team members were OK. The same can not be said for the laptop that was with them.

We're not certain, but we think that after the laptop was ejected from the car, it was then run over. Even so, it actually booted and everything seems to be working except for the screen, which is now a sort of Calder-esque modern art. Of course, there was no data on it anyway, since we were just delivering it. I connected it to our projector to determine that it was still working, and I was impressed.

With the operation not nearly as large as originally planned, there is now a big push to get it shut down in the next few days. The hope is that we will be mostly wrapped up by the end of the week, and if all goes well, we'd then be shipping our gear back in next Monday's FedEx. We should be back on the road early next week, to points unknown.

Postscript: While I managed to type all but the previous paragraph this morning, and get the photos uploaded, we had to run to the office before I could post. I couldn't find even five minutes to finish and post during the day, and so here I am at 9:50pm, after coming back from dinner with our management team, finishing up.


  1. Cool glad to hear that all is well ! And that the team members in the Prius weren't injured.

    Don't remember exactly who it was but one of the other busnuts posted they were in New Bern running a kitchen.

    Take care and be safe!

  2. What model is\was that Lenovo laptop? I might have a complete screen replacement!

    robert dot mchenry at comcast dot net

  3. @BK; Thanks.

    @Robert: Not a Lenovo -- these are Dell E5400's. But thanks for the offer.

    The case is pretty beat up anyway. The internals of this unit will become spares for the other E5400s in the warehouse.


Share your comments on this post! We currently allow anyone to comment without registering. If you choose to use the "anonymous" option, please add your name or nickname to the bottom of your comment, within the main comment box. Getting feedback signed simply "anonymous" is kind of like having strangers shout things at us on the street: a bit disconcerting. Thanks!