Our first ZOOM meetings' focus was to evaluate what had been accomplished and what could be improved. But the sessions also highlighted the possible limitations of the District's Disaster Relief efforts. Discussions quickly turned from long-term planning to real-time relief as a series of hurricanes hit the gulf coast beginning in late August and stretching through Oct.
The DDRC considered a possible response to Hurricane Laura, a category 4 storm that made landfall in Louisiana. Though the impact would have been even more devastating had it made landfall in a more densely populated area, saying so diminishes the effects to those in its path. The Fairhope Rotary responded by making their Disaster Relief Trailer available to American Legion Post 199 to deliver donations they collected to the Baton Rouge American Legion Post.
No sooner had the DDRC finished discussing how to respond to Laura, the Committee's attention turned to Hurricane Sally. A tropical Depression on September 11th, it strengthened to a Category 2 storm and made landfall at Gulf Shores, Alabama on September 16th. Though maximum sustained winds were approximately 100 mph, much lower than Laura, they were high enough to down trees and cause power outages.
The immediate concern was providing meals to first responders and those affected. On September 15th, the Point Clear and Fairhope Rotary Clubs were on standby. Both Clubs have trailers—Fairhope's dedicated to cleanup and Point Clear's to foodservice. After the storm had passed, they began operations. The Clubs would continue addressing the damage caused by Sally well into November.
Though Hurricane Sally required a sustained effort of the DDRC for several months, Hurricanes Delta and Zeta, Category 2 storms when they made landfall in the same area as Laura, added to the Gulf States' misery. Though the hurricane season's impact was worse along the coast, cleanup efforts were felt throughout District 6880.
The lessons learned were beyond probably beyond what was anticipated. It was most heartening to see Rotary members contribute their time and money to help those overwhelmed by the destruction. The flip side was the recognition that only so much can be done. While the cleanup efforts of mid-October were significant, the donation of heavy-duty equipment to move debris made an immense difference. How that can be obtained and integrated into future cleanup efforts may be one of the more challenging problems.
The DDRC mission statement may require some refinement, but its objective to supplement, not replace, first responders' work is a worthy one.
To bookend the 2020 year, a total of 21 households were assisted by our DDRC with over 456 man hours served and 13 yards cleared of debris. The Point Clear club has estimates that they were able to serve over 6000 meals to victims of various storms in 2020. Their work hours were not included in the estimate above.
Service Above Self!