CHICAGO — As Floridians begin to deal with the destruction Hurricane Ian left in its wake, teams in Chicago have been working around the clock to help.
Team Rubicon, based out of an old firehouse in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood, has 40 people on two teams that are coordinating relief efforts in Florida and communicating with crews also on the ground in Puerto Rico.
“Right now, we have two of our route clearance teams in North Florida and five Recon teams in Central Florida where the hurricane landed, so basically Manatee County, Desto County, Hillsboro County,” said Sean Walker, the director of operations for Team Rubicon.
“For the last several days and week, we were preparing and positioning supplies and people all over Florida,” added American Red Cross of Illinois CEO Celena Roland.
“With Hurricane Fiona, it did cause destruction. A lot of flooding, a lot of homes being damaged, so they’re also doing the co-ops route clearance, debris removal and also inside the home cleanups.”
The Red Cross in Chicago is sending truck loads of blankets, comfort kits, food and water and other disaster relief supplies, reporting that there are currently $13,000.
“We know this is going to be months of a response for the Red Cross and people are going to need our help throughout the holidays, so we expect hundreds of volunteers from the Illinois region to head to the east coast,” Roland said.
Also pitching in is the Anti-Cruelty Society, which is preparing for the arrival of 35 shelter animals.
“Especially because this storm had such a wide berth over the state of Florida, there will be a lot of movement of these animals out of Florida so that the Florida shelters can focus on the post-disaster cleanup and support and response,” said Darlene Duggan, chief operating officer for the Anti-Cruelty Society.
With storm surges exceeding 12 feet and many coastal areas most heavily hit still underwater, volunteers may need some time to get to residents who rode out the storm.
“Naples is flooded. You have water coming up to 4 feet high, so we can’t maneuver through that,” Walker said. “We’re impatient because we want to get in there and help, but we have to make sure all that stuff is removed, then we go in and do our work.”