A Red Cross worker from Iowa rode out Hurricane Wilma at “ground zero” in Florida, hunkered down at a hotel in Naples. David Rudduck, of Des Moines, says his job is both thrilling and terrifying. For starters, he says palm trees were being thrown around by the 150-mile an hour winds as if they were soda straws.
He says most of the trees in Florida have very shallow roots, one or two feet down, so when the soil gets wet and the winds pick up, “they just come right out of the ground. Some, if they’re smaller can become airborne and cause really serious injury to people.”
Rudduck was assigned to Florida prior to Hurricane Wilma’s arrival. It’s the fourth hurricane he’s covered for the Red Cross this year, after Dennis, Katrina and Rita. He says “It’s scary, it’s exciting at the same time. But the end result is, you know you’re going to have a lot of work to do. That’s what the Red Cross is here for. We try to get in place in areas we know are going to be hit so we can be the eyes and ears of the organization so that once we ramp up our response, we know what areas to go to.”
Rudduck says the powerful storm cut a wide path of destruction through south Florida, where the power is out to some six-million residents. He rode out the storm, not in a shelter, but a Holiday Inn. He says a huge 300-year-old tree had been tipped over, windshields were blown out, the hotel was “beaten up” and the roofs were ripped off. “You know the difference between a category-three and a category-four storm is probably the difference between getting hit by a semi-truck and a freight train. There’s not a lotta’ difference in wind speed. The destruction is the same.”
Iowans who would like to help the Red Cross to provide relief to Florida’s storm victims can call 800 HELP-NOW.