I report, You decide!

1:56 PM Aug 26, 2004by Rob Ritchie

I was asked to snap some pictures of the piles of collected debris that are being stashed at various places around Orlando as we clean up from Hurricane Charley.

As luck would have it, one such site is located near where I work. The land is a vacant lot owned by and adjacent to First Baptist Church of Orlando.

Your intrepid reporter stopped his truck and advanced through the muck to survey the site from the platform shown below. He was told that there are four or five such sites being operated by the City of Orlando.

Trucks full of branches, boles and other tree parts drive up to the platform, which is situated so that occupants can speak face-to-face with the drivers. From there, they are directed to dump their loads in one of two or three locations. A chipper is then used to grind the stuff into mulch, which is then piled in the center of the lot.

The mulch is eventually destined to be burned at some other site.

The Platform

Debris Pile


We're back!

11:23 AM Aug 23, 2004by Rob Ritchie


Thanks for your prayers and thoughts and calls during this difficult time. Our disaster recovery continues apace, and for the first time, we are getting back to normal. While we still do not have cable, and thus no internet access at the house, we have electricity for about 12 hours at a time, our phone works, water supply is good and the tree has been removed from the back yard. I’ve started to demolish the shed (actually, the storm did that for me!) and seeing to repairs to the garage and driveway.

While Orange County Schools have been closed all last week, they reopen on Tuesday; however, Donna’s office has been open all last week, so she was able to occupy her time with the normalcy of the work regimen. My office didn’t reopen fully until last Friday, and even then the air conditioning was pretty sub-standard. Today, however, things are cool and pleasant so perhaps we can return to normal here as well. And, as some of you have found, the office where my web site and email are hosted had power restored over the weekend so I can now post some pictures of the storm and aftermath. Here is the link.

I have really come to understand how important the people in my life are during this time. Donna’s family in town were an incredible help, and I don’t know what I would have done without them. My friends were all wonderful, even those who were, like us, without power and other necessities / conveniences all pitched in to help out. I came to know my neighbors much better and was able to help them out with chainsaws and errands and small tasks. And, of course, we couldn’t have done any of it without the prayers and support of you all.

The gas stations all now have gas again; the grocery stores all have ice; the power is (finally) back; the air conditioning works; the tree is cut up; and the stump grinder comes by today. I have calls in to carpenters to try to patch up the roof. I’ll worry about the fences sometime later on.

I was really impressed with the emergency response from the state and the public utilities. While I certainly did my share of complaining while sweating through 100+ degree Florida summer days and nights, I have no complaints about the utility crews, who came from as far away as Illinois and Ohio to put us to rights. When ice became unavailable at the local grocery stores, the state stepped in and distributed bags to whoever asked. Information was available on the radio. Plenty of people knock this country (*cough* Michael Moron *cough*) but if there’s one thing we do well, it is respond to emergencies. On the Thursday before the storm even made landfall, 6000 utility crews were streaming into the state, as well as tree removal teams, and the necessary catering services to feed them all. I’m sure that semi’s full of port-o-lets made the trip as well. The amount of organization needed to make this work so well, to get our city back on its feet so quickly, is amazing to me.

I finally heard on the radio today what I had suspected from my own observations driving around town: our area, Conway, was among the worst hit areas in Orlando, though there were several other neighborhoods that also suffered extensively. However, places like Punta Gorda on the coast were much more badly hit, mostly due to the, err, temporary nature of many of the structures there. Many of those people lost everything, and we are very grateful that through God’s grace we were able to come through the storm so relatively unscathed.

- rob ritchie