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Restoring Power and Hope in the Wake of Hurricane Florence

As the eye of Hurricane Florence passed through Wilmington, North Carolina, forceful winds brought down a massive tree in the backyard of local resident Mike Hardy. The tree knocked down a utility pole and crashed onto Mike’s power line, cutting electricity from his home. As Mike surveyed the damage, he realized the tree was mere inches away from collapsing onto his family in their living room, and felt intense gratitude that his family was not injured or killed.

When he reached out to the utility company, Mike was notified that power could not be restored until he removed the tree from his roof and the power line. Mike solicited cost estimates for professional removal, which averaged around $10,000. Mike’s employment ended right before the hurricane, leaving him with limited financial resources, and no choice but to live without power.

The TR sawyer team that cleared downed trees and debris from a Wilmington resident’s home, allowing his power to be turned back on.

For three weeks, Mike, his family, and his beloved bulldogs, lived without the most basic of human comforts as they endured the stress, discomfort, and chaos of living in a home with no electricity. Their food was spoiled, their showers were cold, and their evenings were spent in darkness. As each day passed, Mike felt more and more defeated, and grew increasingly concerned about the impact of such living conditions on his family.

While making a quick trip to the gas station one evening, Mike noticed two individuals in the distance wearing shirts with the words “disaster response.” He approached Team Rubicon’s National Planning Manager, TJ Porter, and Mobilization Manager, Brent Slough, who both deployed to Wilmington for Operation Silver Sun, and described his situation.

Early the following morning, TJ and Brent, both moved by Mike’s situation, raised the bat signal to Strike Team Charlie, a group of mission-focused, hard-charging veterans and first responders from across the country, including California, Texas, and Colorado.

Less than twelve hours after Mike’s chance encounter with Team Rubicon at a gas station—Strike Team Charlie deployed to Mike’s home to assess the damage and develop a plan to conduct a controlled cut and descent of the tree to avoid further damage to Mike’s home or neighboring properties.

As the volunteers worked to carefully cut the tree and clear the heavy pieces of wood from the area, utility trucks began to line up across the street, waiting in the wings to restore power once the Greyshirts’ mission was complete. In less than four hours, the teams cut and cleared the downed tree from Mike’s roof and yard. As the Greyshirts packed up their tools, the utility trucks entered Mike’s driveway, and Mike stood silently in awe as his power and hope were restored.

Nicole serves as Team Rubicon's District Coordinator in Washington, D.C. She first deployed with TR to Baton Rouge, LA in the wake of severe flooding and then to Goldsboro, NC in response to Hurricane Matthew.