At 8:30 Tuesday morning Red Cross of Greater Idaho volunteers Diana Ochsner and Don Nesbitt began their cross-country journey east in Idaho’s new state-of-the-art emergency response vehicle. Nesbitt, of Mountain Home, and Ochsner, of Jerome, are bound for Virginia (they were later re-routed to Columbia, S.C.) to provide help and hope to those in the path of Hurricane Florence.
Nationwide, the Red Cross is mobilizing about 130 emergency response vehicles to respond to Hurricane Florence. During a disaster, these vehicles are on the frontline, delivering food and supplies, often to families cut off from other services.
Just the day before, the vehicle Ochsner and Nesbitt are driving was unveiled during a ceremony in Boise and now is bound for its first major disaster response.
It’s equipped with WiFi, enabling volunteers to complete critical casework at disaster scenes, two larger feeder windows, external lighting to light dark disaster sites and a sliding lift system for loading supplies. The vehicle was funded through a Homeland Security grant overseen by the Ada City-County Emergency Management Executive Council.
Ochsner and Nesbitt will provide reports from the road as they make their way across the country to help families impacted by the hurricane and from the field during their multi-week deployment.
Wednesday, Sept. 12, 8:35, Fort Collins, Colorado
Ochsner and Nesbitt are preparing to roll out after spending the night in Fort Collins, 640 miles from where they started the day in Jerome.
“Tired and hungry but doing good,” Ochsner reported Tuesday night. “Both of us need sleep as we have an early morning wake up!”
They had to battle “horrible winds” and saw plenty of antelope as they made their way across Wyoming yesterday.
After a quick maintenance inspection, they are ready to begin their 800-mile day as they make their way toward Nebraska.
“Time is not our friend at this point,” Ochsner wrote.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 7:15 a.m., Lincoln, Nebraska
After spending the night in Lincoln, Neb., Ochsner and Nesbitt are on the road again and have entered Iowa, the sixth state of their journey. The winds are light today, Ochsner reports, which is a relief after another a rough day of battling gusts yesterday.
“We are fighting horrible crosswinds across the Great Plains since shortly after leaving Fort Collins,” Ochsner wrote Tuesday afternoon. “We are rocking pretty good. We do have to trade off the driving duties often due to sore hands and shoulders. We are losing much time but it can’t be helped. Staying positive in spite of the delay.”
Along the way yesterday, Ochsner was interviewed by Boise television station KBOI about their journey.
“It’s awesome that they help promote our chapter at times like this,” she said.
The pair has traveled 1,000 miles since leaving Jerome on Tuesday. They still have more than 1,500 more to go …
Update: Ochsner and Nesbitt have been rerouted to Columbia, S.C.
Friday, Sept. 14, 7:20 a.m., Mount Vernon, Illinois
After spending the night in Mount Vernon, Ill., Ochsner, Nesbitt and their emergency response vehicle are back at it, now bound for Columbia, S.C.
“On the road again … decided to take the Tennessee route,” Ochsner writes. “Our last leg into South Carolina. Good thoughts are appreciated! It’s getting real and sinking in now. Our HQ staff is excited to see us.”
The pair was treated to a pleasant surprise last night during their dinner in Mount Vernon.
“Our waitress came out with big Styrofoam containers and said the boss wants us to fill them up so we have fruit, food and snacks for the road tomorrow to thank us for our service,” Ochsner wrote. “Angels are all around us.”
They expect to arrive in South Carolina this afternoon or early evening.
Friday, Sept. 14, 2:30 p.m., on the road in Tennessee
The curveballs keep coming.
“Still headed to South Carolina, but we can’t get to our headquarters,” Ochsner writes. “Our site boss told us via phone this morning to just hunker down tonight as it is not safe for us to travel into the storm. We can’t put boots on the ground tomorrow anyway so today our safety comes first!
“We made it through beautiful Kentucky and just crossed into Tennessee. We will stop in Nashville in a few minutes where we have people waiting to meet us at the chapter headquarters. So excited I’m a little teary!”
Saturday, Sept. 15, 4:49 a.m., Chattanooga, Tennessee
“As I try to wake up this morning, I am reflecting on this journey so far,” Ochsner writes. “Although the weight of our upcoming mission with Hurricane Florence is getting heavier, so many special moments are happening, letting us both know we are here for a purpose right when we are supposed to be….
“As we were approaching Nashville yesterday, a large caravan of power trucks, equipment and linemen were coming up on my left. As each truck passed, the guys in every truck waved, smiled, and gave us the thumbs up … their way of saying ‘we know where you’re going and we’re going there with ya!’ The goosebumps came out of nowhere as did the puddly eyes.”
Saturday, Sept. 15, 6:18 a.m., on the road in Georgia
Ochsner reports blue skies as the pair travels through Georgia.
“We are upbeat and positive, and anxious to arrive,” she said. “Thanks for all the good thoughts and prayers that have gotten us this far.”
Saturday, Sept. 15, 9:45 p.m., Columbia, South Carolina
After more than 2,200 miles on the road, Ochsner and Nesbitt have arrived in Columbia, S.C., their final destination.
“Today was by far the hardest … starting with traffic congestion through Atlanta. I took the wheel shortly after Atlanta, and from Augusta to South Carolina was rough! I can now say I have driven in a hurricane! But we are here safe and sound.,” Ochsner wrote.
“Very tired tonight. Gotta sleep as morning will come soon.”
Sunday, Sept. 16, 5:44 a.m., Columbia, South Carolina
“Good morning from Columbia,” Ochsner writes. “It is still pouring here, and we are hearing of water rescues taking place this morning and more major roads closing. Florence is relentless! Heading to headquarters for a briefing.”