The A-Blast

Helping Florida recover after Irma

Operating Engineer John Arnold travels down to Florida to help recover.

John Arnold’s  panoramic of the houses that have once been intact, now left in ruins. The volunteers who were with him are just left in shock from the chaos of Irma.

John Arnold’s panoramic of the houses that have once been intact, now left in ruins. The volunteers who were with him are just left in shock from the chaos of Irma.

John Arnold’s panoramic of the houses that have once been intact, now left in ruins. The volunteers who were with him are just left in shock from the chaos of Irma.

Henry Hoang, People Editor

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The once standing homes in the Florida Keys have been turned into debris. The impacts of Hurricane Irma can be seen throughout the state. AHS’ very own Operating Engineer John Arnold decided to volunteer and help rebuild the town. Arnold arrived in Islamorada Sunday morning and was put straight to work that day.

“Mostly, I performed storm clean up in Islamorada,” Arnold said. “Though I did service a submersible pump and freshwater pond on the site.”
After two days of tough back to back landscaping work in Islamorada, Arnold drove down with a few other volunteers to BSA’s Florida Sea Base in Summerland Key. At BSA’s Florida Sea Base, Arnold installed a water heater for the staff living area where they had been without hot showers for two months.

“I inspected and repaired other water heaters, a solar-assisted water heater, and hot water recirculating systems,” Arnold said. “I also performed all of the rough plumbing for six washer and dryers that were destroyed by Hurricane Irma, cleared drain lines and also repaired the three damaged sinks.”

At Brinton Environmental Center which is apart of the sea base south of Summerland Key experienced 11 feet of storm surge. “The other kind of work was really reinstalling things that have been swept away by the storm,” Arnold said.

All of this work has made Arnold very tired and busy. With the little free time he had, Arnold performed other cleaning and maintenance duties.
His drive of making the trip down to Florida has kept him going throughout these tough times. Job after job, Arnold does not stop and won’t stop until he can get the job done.

“My wife and two oldest sons went down to Florida Sea base this summer and they loved their trip. Florida Sea Base, a boy scout high adventure base in the Florida Keys put out a call for volunteers,” Arnold said. “My wife mentioned that she would be supportive of me going and they were very excited to have a tradesman volunteer with a master license in plumbing. Those skills have helped me throughout the trip.”

Munson is a 100-acre island off Big Pine Key, Florida. The short supply of facilities on the island was already destroyed. “There were at least 3-4 feet of sand that were brought up on the beach,” Arnold said. “It pushed several hundred feet into the island interior forcing everything within that several hundred feet into a chaos of broken trees, debris, and ocean floor.”

With all of the help that Arnold was doing on the island, he was able to remove nearly half a ton of trash from the eastern beach of the island. There was a nearby Girl Scout Camp and Arnold’s team walked over there. The amount of destruction that was left of them was substantial.

“Of about 15 structures at their camp, only 4 were left standing after the storm and two of them were condemned,” Arnold said. “I helped salvage a refrigerator from one of the condemned buildings and located a leak on one of their service lines and repaired it.

The group of volunteers and Sea Base staff that Arnold was with worked on and off to diminish the almost-tremendous amount of waste that still chokes the southern Keys. Many people have already abandoned their homes that have been turned into ruins or were forced to leave.

“There were a lot of houses reduced to concrete covered with sand,” Arnold said. “Anybody who lived in a trailer down there and certainly anybody who wasn’t wealthy is probably the way that they are living now, they either left before Hurricane Irma hit or they have nothing now.”

When working at a place that has been struck by such a tragedy and disaster, the feelings and emotions that come out after are tough.
“I worked as hard as I could up until about 10 o’clock at night until I drove home at 5 o’clock in the morning,” Arnold said. “A lot of the feelings about it I sort of processed just in the past week. I wished I could’ve stayed longer and do more because there was a lot of need there.”

“It’s going to be a hard and long time for many of these people trying to move forward and my heart goes out them,” Arnold said. “I encourage you if you have not to contribute to the American Red Cross or any other relief organization.”


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Helping Florida recover after Irma