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Salvation Army Provides Hurricane Relief To People In Panama City

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There are several aid organizations on the ground there in the Panhandle trying to help in this recovery effort. The Salvation Army is one of them. David Yarmuth is part of that team. He has been in Panama City since Saturday and is on the line now.

David, good morning, first of all. Thanks for making the time on a busy day, one of several for you.

DAVID YARMUTH: Absolutely. Thank you, Rachel. Great to be here.

MARTIN: Can you just give us a sense of what you have been seeing over the past few days?

YARMUTH: Absolutely. Your reporter Quil really summarized perfectly what the scene is here, just destruction all over the place. In terms of what the Salvation Army has been doing, which was within 24 hours after the storm cleared out of here on Thursday, they've been meeting the basic need by providing food and hydration to not only survivors but first responders, which is exactly what the Salvation Army does in the initial response of disaster. So to this date right now, close to 80,000 meals have been served at various locations around the Panama City area.

MARTIN: You were listening in on that conversation with our reporter there, Quil Lawrence, who said that a challenge he saw were people who chose to stay, who didn't evacuate, and now they're stuck. They're stuck in their houses. They can't get to zones where people can get relief. Is the Salvation Army addressing that, or are you seeing other organizations try to meet that need?

YARMUTH: Well, the nice thing is, when it comes to a disaster of this scale, one organization alone can't do it. And we're very thankful that there are such great other partner agencies, NGOs, local folks who are also picking up the slack, in essence, to try to bring relief and basic needs to those in those areas.

You know, I think there's always that group of folks that don't end up leaving. They don't heed the call to evacuate for whatever reason. In fact, I talked to two gentlemen yesterday who have been in this area for years surviving, you know, several other hurricanes that have come through - Category 1s, Category 2s, even a 3. And they figured - you know what? - we came through that just fine. I think what the realization was, as this thing ramped up coming in - it came in almost as a 5 - and they realized too late that they'd made a huge mistake.

MARTIN: Right.

YARMUTH: And they were lucky to escape with their lives. But you know, that's then. This is now. They've got to be able to eat. They've got to be able to get water, not just for drinking but to be able to potentially flush a toilet. In fact, we're all dealing with that, including the Salvation Army personnel that are here in Panama City. We're living it with them.

MARTIN: How does this compare, I mean, to other hurricane disasters that you've been a part of - or your team?

YARMUTH: Sure. I was here in Florida last year as part of the Hurricane Irma relief. I was in Sebring, Fla. And the issue there was more just widespread power outages - didn't see a ton of damage. So the folks - obviously, your power's out. You can't cook. You know, there's no food to buy. So that's where the Salvation Army comes in and provides that need, that food and hydration.

But here - I initially came into Tallahassee last Thursday, spent a day and a half there. And as I moved west and then further south to come here, that's when you saw the tremendous destruction. Just driving along Interstate 10 West, you know, you have those swath (inaudible) things along the highway. And you know, hundreds and hundreds of them just snapped in half. The ones that didn't break were just bent at 45 degrees. I've never seen anything quite like that. This is the worst that I have ever seen in terms of a major storm.

MARTIN: Yeah. David Yarmuth, we have to leave it there. He spoke to us on Skype.

YARMUTH: Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.