Hurricane Michael: Xenia firefighter lands in Florida to help parents, others

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UPDATE @ 8:45 p.m. (Oct. 21):

Firefighter A.J. Smith left Friday morning and arrived in Florida early Saturday morning to help distribute donated items to Hurricane Michael victims. Those items were gone within 24 hours.

Smith talked to News Center 7's James Buechele Sunday about how things were coming along down in Florida.

“It’s slow going. Everybody’s out working. The fire department has a list on the board, people come in and have roofs that need tarped and windows that need boarded up and covered,” he said.

This is the second time Smith has been down to help his parents and others who are recovering after Hurricane Michael.

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“There’s mountains of debris everywhere. You know, people are dragging stuff to the curb for the county to come pick up,” he said.

Some areas are getting their water turned back on, but it could be another month before their electricity is back up and running.

“They’re extremely grateful. Everyone’s extremely polite and thanking everyone that’s there working to hand out the supplies,” said Smith.

Smith plans to head back to Xenia Tuesday morning and will be collecting items at the Xenia Fire station on Main Street.

FIRST REPORT:

Xenia firefighter A.J. Smith, who found his parents safe and uninjured in Florida in the days after Hurricane Michael, is headed back to the Sunshine State with supplies and positive karma to help his mom, dad and anyone else in their hometown of St. Joe Beach rebuild.

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He said he's shuttling non-perishables, tarps, plastic sheeting, hammers, nails, food and other things to the Panhandle until FEMA can get in and get the survivors going.

The devastation "is hard to describe without you being there to see it," Smith told WHIO-TV's James Buechele on Thursday night. "People are helpless. They don't know what they're going to do for jobs."

PHOTO: James Buechele/Staff
Caption
PHOTO: James Buechele/Staff

Smith said his parents are in good health, but they are overwhelmed and afraid about the future and the future of their community, just west of Port St. Joe, a city in Gulf County, Fla. His parents are just trying to help their neighbors rebuild and get the community moving forward.

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"This may be one small truck full, and one person to help, but hopefully there's more coming," Smith said, "more people willing to come and step up."

His haul includes 2,000 pounds of dog and cat food, which will go to the Port St. Joe animal shelter. Building supplies and food he'll have on board are going to the Port St. Joe Beach Volunteer Fire Department. Supplies will be kept there and distributed according to need.

Smith said he'll stay with his parents to help them and others as long as he can before he has to travel the approximately 900 miles back to Xenia to his family and job.

PHOTO: Courtesy of A.J. Smith
Caption
PHOTO: Courtesy of A.J. Smith

He said he's motivated, in particular, by his father, who survived the deadly 1974 Xenia tornado. Smith said his father has related to him how grateful he was for the many people who showed up to help with whatever they could.

"I have the ability to do it, so I thought I should pay it forward," Smith said.

He plans to leave Xenia on Friday morning and expects to meet up with his parents by Friday night.

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