Speaker Designate Marco Rubio hands out ice with
Sgt. Alex Annunziato to needy Wilma victims.
Hurricane Wilma was an especially destructive storm, sending violent winds across South Florida and causing mass electrical outages throughout the region. Efforts to assist residents and distribute supplies were exacerbated by the complete lack of electrical power in large areas. The lack of electricity lead to gas shortages as service stations could not open, which, in turn, created a dilemma for those attempting to get to distribution centers to receive necessary supplies. Many families feared running critically low on fuel or even worse, running out. With gas lines wrapping around city blocks at the few stations with power, travel was an arduous process. Especially hard hit were the elderly and infirm left with no means of transportation. Getting the food and water to these people became an instant priority.
The day after Hurricane Wilma tore across the state of Florida, Speaker Designate Marco Rubio requested help from the Florida Highway Patrol to distribute food, water and ice to residents in the hurricane-stricken areas of Miami-Dade County. Speaker Rubio was joined by Representatives Rene Garcia and Julio Robaina who assisted in the effort. Several County Commissioners and local City Councilmen lent their support as well. Troopers, working 17 hour days, made up the majority of the effort providing relief supplies to those who were unable to drive to distribution centers. By using specialized vehicles, such as the LAV (light armored vehicle) and the TRT (tactical response team) van, troopers were able to transport a large amount of supplies at one time into the affected areas. Over the course of 12 days, troopers, putting the repair of their own homes on hold, distributed an average of 4,500 meals per day as well as enough water and ice for every family. Troopers and elected officials alike worked long, exhausting hours delivering supplies to those who needed it most throughout the area.
This was truly a group effort. Representative Rene Garcia requisitioned supply trucks from FEMA in Homestead and coordinated with local resources to identify the neediest of recipients. Troopers escorted the supply trucks from the Homestead Air Force Base to Hialeah, coordinated the use of specialized vehicles from Troop E, and unloaded nine tractor trailer loads of supplies. The entire effort was overseen by Speaker Designate Rubio who made sure that whoever asked for assistance received it. Later, troopers escorted Representative Rubio to Miami International Airport where he met with President Bush to discuss the crisis of Hurricane Wilma and further coordinate relief efforts in the area. Representative Rubio’s response to this crisis has set a new standard in how communities should respond to those less fortunate.
The Florida Highway Patrol once again showed its commitment to helping those in need. It was a special honor to have our assistance requested by the Speaker Designate. It was gratifying to know that our troopers proved especially valuable to the relief effort. Citizens made it very clear with their cheers, tears, and hugs that our efforts were greatly appreciated. Every trooper involved in this important humanitarian effort was committed to seeing the job done right!
Special thanks to the Hurricane Wilma Detail Team:
Sergeants Tim Brown, Alex Annunziato, Carlos Gascon; Corporal Henry Rodriguez, and Troopers Joe Hernandez, Ralph Lola, Frank Sangineto, and Joseph Mosca. Other elected officials assisting were: Dade County Commissioners Rebecca Sosa and Natacha Seijas, Representative Yolly Roberson, and City of Hialeah Councilman Steven Bovo.