New Support From Vermont Following Hurricane Irma

As the state of Vermont praised first responders who traveled to Texas to help with water emergencies following Hurricane Harvey, it was also laying the groundwork to assist Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

More than a dozen swift-water rescue experts returned Sunday from Orange County, Texas, where the members of the Vermont Urban Search & Rescue Task Force spent a week checking submerged cars and homes for possible victims, and delivering essentials like drinking water. The rest of their 11-day deployment was spent traveling to and from Texas.

"We just wanted to give back," said Marc Brown of Lyndonville, one of the task force members who served in Texas. "We give back to our communities, and this was a way to give beyond our communities."

"I'm actually wishing I was still there helping them out," added Dave Auriemma of Williston, who said the people affected by the floods impressed him with their optimism for the resilient recoveries they anticipate.

Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, praised the team for their hard work in Texas, saying he heard reports of their mission being carried out with professionalism and dedication.

Scott also said the state's Division of Emergency Management & Homeland Security is checking in essentially hourly on requests from Florida through the inter-state Emergency Management Assistance Compact.

Scott said Vermont is hammering out details on sending state road crews from the Agency of Transportation to help clear downed trees and debris from Irma.

"This is far from over," the governor noted. "There will surely be more calls to help from Florida, and possibly other states that have been affected."

A group of medical students from the University of Vermont's Larner College of Medicine was in West Palm Beach, Florida during Hurricane Irma and is now witnessing her aftermath.

"There's things that are kind of unexpected that happen, and you've just kind of got to roll with it, and it's a really good lesson in that," said Hyunsoo No, a third-year UVM medical student now doing a clinical clerkship in pediatrics at St. Mary's Medical.

Rose Leu and Mike Marallo, two UVM medical students doing clerkships in obstetrics and gynecology in Florida, were at work as several babies were born during the storm's fury.

They said the hospital's power flickered as generators kicked on, but that the unit was able to successfully handle the challenges of treating patients during the emergency.

"There were so many high-risk pregnancies that were brought in, I think everyone was kind of hyper-focused on doing their jobs and making sure there were no complications that couldn't be handled," Marallo said, noting that nurses and other hospital personnel were experienced and calm in operating during severe weather.

"It was just finding ways to be helpful around the hospital — helping around the labor and delivery floor as much as possible," Leu told necn, describing what she and Marallo did while on duty.

Green Mountain Power is also readying for a mission south, the utility announced Tuesday. It is sending 14 line crews and other personnel — more than 30 workers total — to Georgia, to help in power restoration there.

GMP said as of Tuesday afternoon, 1.5 million people in Georgia were without power. The Vermont line workers will help Georgia Power restore service, set new poles, and make repairs to downed lines and broken poles.

"It's definitely something these guys are brought up to do," Eric Lemery said of the deploying GMP employees. "We get a lot of help the rest of the year, so it’s nice to be able to give back a little bit."

Vermont's response to the hurricanes in the Gulf region and the South is a reminder that disasters know no borders.

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