The PubSafe mobile app team (formerly the Aftermath Data mobile app) deployed to Nebraska to assist where needed utilizing the SherpATV. Using the app in a real flood highlighted some of the features needed for the app to be more effective. It did reiterate the need for a global safety platform to share data and connect survivors and responders. The volunteer workforce is very large and helping them coordinate rescues and relief of all types is essential to large scale disaster relief such as the Midwest Floods in the Spring of 2019. We hope to one day get the support of the Red Cross, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, and corporate partners like The Home Depot, PetSmart, Lowes and Walmart.
As we approached the end of our 15 hour drive from Atlanta we started to post to social media that we were on our way and had a Sherp ATV to offer. We were contacted by the police and asked to checkin at the EOC. On doing so we were sent to register with other volunteers at the local school. At the school we were asked to assist moving some elderly people while the Sherp ATV remained on the trailer at the school. Word hadn’t quite gotten out that we are there to help. We were getting the usual looks as we drove by but the EOC had not figured out where the Sherp was needed.
Later that day we connected with City officials who needed a ride to inspect a levee to determine if it was breached. The route there was across a flooded field with debris and flowing water. The water had cut channels that an unsuspecting and less capable vehicle would have struggled to negotiate. The Sherp ATV never broke a sweat.
While in route to inspect the levee the fire department called and said they needed to evacuate a 92 year old man with failing health in an area cutoff by water and deep river sand. It was the perfect mission for the Sherp. We loaded up the Sherp and headed across town to meet the fire department and an engineer that needed to evaluate the roads or what used to be the roads. Navigating the area with no road signs and some roads gone was a little challenging. Having offline maps and navigation in the app is needed for the worst case scenarios.
In route we experienced some sand mixed with water that was like quicksand. What seemed like a puddle in the road turned out to be a rather large hole that could have flipped a big truck. The buoyancy of the Sherp ATV enabled the front corner to rebound and float while we maneuvered. I was shocked by the number of people that decided to stay who lived only yards from the river.
The thing that caught my eye was that many vehicles seemed normal or as if they were driven in after the flood. When I looked closer I could see river debris in the wheel wells and it was evident the cars were totaled.
We picked up the 92 year old and headed out. After crossing the river again we picked up the road engineer and went back in. This time we pressed deeper into the destruction and found people milling about.
We came to what appeared to be the end of the road where it was washed out. We drove the Sherp ATV into the water and followed it to see if we could drive around. No luck, dead end. We decided to check the other direction and found an opening in the trees where extensive debris had accumulated. After gathering a few people we made a path through. There was a mysterious large hole right next to the fence the Sherp could not get around. The ATVs got by but the Sherp had to dive in. It certainly looked worse from the front seat.
We quickly came to the end of the road where it fell into the lake. The river followed the road and turned into the lake. The road and one house were washed into the lake leaving the lake a huge mess.
We stayed on station all day helping out where we could. The water had receded quickly so the danger dissipated. We could hear lots of chatter on Zello about flooding further west but we could no get further from home. The next day we didn’t hear from anyone for a few hours so we decided to head home. The drive the first day to get to Atlanta was a measly 17 hours and 13 the following day. Everything just takes longer when you are towing a Sherp ATV. The number of fuel stops was ridiculous at 9 mpg.
One thing that stuck out was the stereotypical mid-western hospitality. Everyone was nice and appreciative of our effort to lend a hand. There were, and still are, thousands of people bringing aid to these good people. Non-government organizations (NGOs) like the 999 Rescue Team, Cajun Navy Supply and countless others.