We are extremely proud that Jorge A. Reyes Navarrete, General Foreman, was recently recognized by the Tree Care Industry Association at its Winter Management Conference with a TCIA Safety “Good Samaritan” certificate for his extraordinary vegetation management efforts during hurricane response. And by extraordinary efforts we mean that he volunteered with Hurricane Irma Storm Restoration while vacationing in Cuba!
Jorge was visiting family in Cuba when Hurricane Irma hit. Without power and any communications (i.e., TV or radio), they sat in fear, watching the wind and rain, not knowing how bad the hurricane would get or when it would end. The next morning, the extent of the disaster was clear. Because Cuba is not as hurricane-ready as the U.S., trees were strewn across the island. People were out of power for days. Thankfully, everyone in Jorge’s family were okay. Others lost all that they had.
Cuba doesn’t have a lot of linemen. During a normal power outage, men are borrowed from other areas. With Irma, power was out across the entire country which led to a severe manpower and equipment shortage. Fortunately, Jorge’s family are all linemen so the following morning he went with his uncle to a meeting at their utility. Jorge, who has been in utility line clearance since he was 18 years old, had his certifications in his wallet and they gave him permission to help.
During Irma storm restoration, only a few people in Cuba had chain saws. Jorge spent over 5–6 days of his vacation, working from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00/3:00/4:00 a.m. removing vegetation with a machete. He says it was unlike anything he’s experienced before because here we have the tools to do the job.
During the days without power, Jorge and others had a hard time finding food. When they finally found food, the power went out again for four more days ruining all they had purchased. Each night when he arrived home, he would climb three floors carrying buckets of water to his grandparents.
When Jorge’s crew began working in the area where his grandparents live, they got power up-and-running at 11:30 p.m. on his grandfather’s birthday. They refused to wait another day.
Jorge describes the experience as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to use all of the vegetation management experience he’s gained over his career to help in an extreme time of need—while being able to support his family in the country where he’s from. “It was amazing. Wasn’t much of a vacation but I was grateful to be there.”