Members of a team from the Iowa Department of Public Health talked with reporters Tuesday ion a conference from Florida where they’re helping with hurricane relief. Cory Bonnett works for the Johnson County Ambulance Service in Iowa, and he describe sitting through the latest hurricane. He says it would be really really calm for awhile and then within seconds the wind would be blowing up to 70 miles an hour along with heavy rain. Ellen McCardle-Woods says there aren’t many areas left undamaged, and it all runs together. She says it’s hard to determine what was new damage and what was old damage from the first wave of storms to the most recent. Jeff Safely works at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines and has been helping people at a special needs center near St. Cloud, Florida. Safely says the people are hit as hard psychologically as they’ve been hit by the wind and rain. He says most of the people are very frustrated as this is the third time that had to come to a shelter. He says many had their homes destroyed in the first hurricane and they’ve been moving from shelter to shelter and trying to work through the system to get a new house. Safely was asked if the damage in Florida is comparable to anything he’s seen in Iowa. He says the way the towns look is like they got hit by a tornado. He says Pensacola that got hit by Hurricane Ivan looked like a 170-mile wide tornado. Safely says the Iowa teams of professionals have been warmly welcomed. He says some of the workers have been working for 36 hours straight without replacements, and he says then they walk through the door, they get a standing ovation. He says it’s a huge boost to their morale that people in Iowa are willing to come and help and that the people of Iowa care. McCardle-Woods has been to other disasters, including the Oklahoma City bombing. She says the bombing was a one-time thing, and this is different. She says it’s Mother Nature and the people are having a time finding anyone to be angry with. She says they just keep getting bombarded again, and again and they feel there’s no relief. McCardle-Woods says it’s also different because everyone is impacted. She says the whole state has been devastated, so there isn’t even local help to come into areas and help. She says the local officials have had their own homes destroyed and have their own worries as they try to help. McCardle-Woods says coming in from out-of-state they can help take some of the pressure off the local officials. And she says one of the most important things is to just sit and listen. More than two dozen Iowans are in Florida helping with the relief efforts.
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