It isn't easy being displaced by a hurricane, leaving with just what you can carry and not knowing for sure what may be there when you get back. In the wake of Hurricane Rita in Texas, at least, those in need of help are traveling in style.
When the call came down for all available transportation to help move people out of the danger zone, Excel Executive Coaches of Storm Lake immediately put two of its huge buses on the fast track for Texas on Friday of last week.
Drivers Myron Rusley of Storm Lake and Rodney Pooler of Fonda are at the wheel as the coaches continue to work, using an abandoned airport near Austin as a hub. About 100 volunteered coaches from all around the country are moving in and out of the facility.
The Excel coaches and drivers are logging about 300-400 miles per day picking up those who need to evacuate, moving people to help, getting people back to begin picking up the pieces of their lives.
The American Bus Association put out the call for every available set of wheels, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency is directing the effort. "FEMA tells us where to go and where not to go, and we just follow their lead. We don't know from day to day where the coaches will be needed or exactly what they will be doing," Said Tom Fitzpatrick, who along with Bob Baschke owns Excel Executive Coaches.
Here at home, it is taking some juggling to meet the local transportation commitments with the two coaches out of the rotation, but the job is getting done, and the owners don't regret taking part in the relief effort.
"It comes down to the humanitarian thing to do," Fitzpatrick said. "They can't give us a timeframe at this point, but we will be there as long as needed."