Route Clearance Teams Push Through Florida

Julie H. Case

Sept. 30, 2022: Just hours after Hurricane Ian made landfall, volunteers began clearing debris from roadways and making routes for emergency responders.

Even before Hurricane Ian made landfall on September 28, Team Rubicon’s volunteers were on the ground, mapping their response plan. The veteran-led disaster relief nonprofit had staged teams in and around Florida—including a route clearance team in Orlando and in Tallahassee—so they would be ready to respond when the storm passed. For Derek Berg and a team of volunteers, or Greyshirts, in Manatee County, that meant a night waiting out 100 mph winds. By Thursday morning, he and more than two dozen other Greyshirts were in the field across Florida. 

Chainsaws whirred as Greyshirts provided route clearance for emergency responders in Hardee and Manatee Counties yesterday. Today, they begin a move toward Sarasota and Desoto counties. 

In Tampa and Sarasota as well as in Hillsborough, Hardee, Manatee, Desoto, and Charlotte counties, teams of Greyshirts have been doing reconnaissance to assess areas of unmet needs in the form of vegetative debris removal, muck-outs, expedient home repairs, and possibly even home demolitions.

As Greyshirts push through the hardest hit areas of the state and assess damage, Team Rubicon is identifying the first of the 100-some Greyshirt responders who will deploy to begin providing some of that disaster relief as early as next week. Until then, pulling compact track loaders behind their Ford Super Dutys and armed with a cache of chainsaws the Greyshirts hit the road, scouting for debris blocking the way. They stop, fire up engines and chainsaws, and clear those routes of Ian’s wrath, one toppled palm tree at a time. 

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