Truck with supplies leaves
Locals head to Texas to keep 911 running in wake of Harvey
“Nobody cared about anything but helping people. That’s what America’s supposed to be.”
When Matt Richardson, owner of Amicalola Propane, and driver Casey Rickett, left Dawsonville on August 24, they had no idea of the dangerous driving conditions and severe weather they would face. When they get “the call” it typically comes after a natural disaster, not before.
“We drive our [Amicalola Propane] trucks to wherever the storms hit and keep 911 going,” Richardson said. “We work on cell towers and volunteer disaster relief. Without cell towers, there are no calls for help.”
Water levels in Houston.
When electricity is out, cell towers run off propane-powered generators which propane companies are paid to keep towers running, enabling emergency services to communicate. This time the call came at 3 p.m. and, after the Department of Homeland Security stepped in to override regulations prohibiting interstate hauling of propane. Within two hours, the pair was on their way driving into Hurricane Harvey.
“It’s a rough job,” Richardson added. “It’s a dangerous job.”
Sign in front of Amicalola Propane requesting donations for Beaumont, Tex.
Richardson and Rickett stayed for a week, also checking cell towers in Louisiana and Mississippi, often eating cold, canned foods. They leave together but separate once they get cell tower locations and begin the difficult task of keeping the towers running, despite rising water, flooded streets and dangerous winds, according to Rickett. In this instance, the duo reunited several days later in Crosby, just before the chemical plant explosion.
The toughest part, according to both men is missing family.
“My wife Kristin, is the true hero,” Richardson added. “She gets the kids on the bus, runs the company, gets the kids off the bus and takes one to soccer and the other to volleyball. I can hear it in her voice. It’s hard on her.”
Rickett agreed. “I left my wife Ashley and daughter, Addy,” he said.
This trip turned personal for Richardson, having friends in Beaumont that are basically homeless now. Their homes are under water and most of them are at work, helping others, according to Richardson.
“Beaumont needs help,” he said, his voice getting serious. “It’s heartbreaking. My friends are displaced. They don’t have drinking water.”
Casey Rickett shows where the water reached his truck in Houston. A tape measure showed
The frustration comes through as the tall Griffin native continued. “They have nothing,” he said.
Employees of Amicalola Propane, along with several other local businesses worked to gather donations of bottled water and additional supplies. The effort has hit social media and even has its own hashtag, #BottlesForBeaumont.
Stand and Hammer Cycling Company, a Cumming-based clothing operation, is selling “deep in the heart” t-shirts benefiting the small Texas town through its website www.standandhammer.com.
Rickett encourages people to help anyway they can. “Simply pray for them,” he said. “All this racism and stuff,” he said. “When all the water was coming, nobody cared about racism, nobody cared about anything but helping people. That’s what America’s supposed to be.”
As far as his customers, Richardson asks for patience.
“Please be patient,” he asked. “We’re working as hard as we can and as fast as we can to process orders.”
Richardson and Rickett have since gone to Florida and Coastal Georgia in anticipation of Hurricane Irma.