Field Report from Chaplain Lee during Hurricane Irma

Getting caught up on communication with you this morning... sending pics of yesterday's activities... brutally hot and humid.  (See Photo Gallery for pictures)

In summary, yesterday for the second day in a row I again went into what is called the "hot zone," this time all the way to Key West, assisting as needed based on my assessments as I traveled.

There are two major checkpoints into the Keys, one at the entrance to allow only residents, media and critical support in, and one at mile marker 74 on Highway 1 (main highway through the Keys), past which no residents may come, but only first responders and critical support, including me as a law enforcement chaplain with permission by emergency operations... note that some residents remained ("sheltered in place") in places like Key West, and therefore need assistance.

Even federal special agents who live in the hot zone past mm 74 are not presently allowed to return home.

As just one example of the support QRT receives, U.S. Coast Guard Islamorada Station Commander Bosun Eduardo Oropeza told me to contact him if I needed anything, and I reciprocated the offer.

I reconnected with several people I worked with the day before, including Seth Lawless, Islamorado City manager, to whom I gave a status update on issues of concern regarding San Pedro and Sea Breeze trailer parks.

As one other example of mutual support, the day before yesterday when I was at the Marathon EOC I networked with FL Reserve National Guard Chaplain Lance Sellon.

Yesterday I was assessing on site the Immanuel Lutheran Church and parsonage in Tavernier, when I was approached by church members Bill Klein and Brenda Cockrell, who advised that the church building had power and even working air conditioning, but that many in the surrounding neighborhood did not have power, including Brenda, who was suffering from the heat. We developed a plan to provide assistance, and I also gave Bill an assessment of the parsonage. I plan to return today to assist.

Yesterday for the first time I drove all the way to Key West to assist, including through the Keys where the Hurricane Irma eye wall hit... very devastated at that place.

On arrival in Key West, I focused on individual contacts at the street level with both Key West police officers and with residents (and also status checked Gordon and Darlene's favorite bar, Sloppy Joe's😊). While in front of Sloppy Joe's, I responded to a request for assistance from a Key West police officer regarding a suspicious person (please note I was not acting as an officer)... looting has been a problem in many affected areas.

I passed out bottled water to many people around Key West, and ministered as needed and able.

I also conducted a careful assessment of Grace Lutheran Church and school in Key West, which did sustain some damage.  I will be personally contacting the pastors of all three churches I have assessed, and provide them a report with pics.

As just one example of the street ministry I conducted, I gave a case of water to Bill and Mary Ann, and when I prayed with them Bill choked up with appreciative tears.

This morning, I spoke with John Elliott, Disaster Coordinator for LCMS, and provided him an assessment of the three LCMS churches in the Florida Keys.  Per his request, I will provide support for their efforts.

I also spoke with Pastor Stier of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Tavernier, Florida, and am bringing water to his church today.