Helping with hurricane recovery

Published 10:15 pm Monday, September 29, 2008

A Jemison High School senior is returning home after helping with the recovery effort following Hurricane Ike.

Derek Abernathy, who is also a volunteer firefighter with West Chilton Fire Department, went with fellow department paramedic Chip Anderson to greater Orange County, Texas to participate in the recovery effort by ACTS World Relief Disaster Response.

Hurricane Ike made landfall near Galveston, Texas, on Sept. 13 and became the third costliest storm on record ranking behind only hurricanes Katrina and Andrew. ACTS World Relief was requested to come to the area by the Orange County (Texas) Emergency Management Agency just after Ike roared through the area.

Abernathy and Anderson went to Bridge City, Texas, last Thursday to continue the recovery efforts through the organization. The local high school has been the staging point for the feeding and point of distribution trucks. That was the area where they worked most of the time.

“We have served about 32,000 meals overall and about 45,000 MREs (meals ready to eat),” Abernathy said.

In addition to helping serve meals, there were other groups who distributed emergency supplies and helped with the clean-up efforts.

Abernathy said he got to meet several public officials of the community including the mayor, city manager and EMA director.

“The only thing I wish I could have done is to be out in the field,” he said. “I would like to have gone out and helped with the clean-up in the field.”

While he wasn’t able to work in the destroyed areas, Abernathy was able to get out and see just how destructive Ike was.

“There were some areas that were pretty bad,” he said. “One area had some pools of raw sewage. You had to get special permission just to go in that area.”

Abernathy said he enjoyed his trip. He plans to become a career firefighter by enrolling in the Alabama Fire College in Tuscaloosa next year.