MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — With predictions of catastrophic damage to much of Florida, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton on Saturday promised the help of National Guard troops.
Dayton signed an executive order directs the guard to assist with Hurricane Irma response and relief efforts.
“I encourage all Minnesotans who are able to contribute to qualified relief efforts. Minnesota stands ready to assist those affected by Hurricane Irma in any way we are able,” said Governor Dayton.
To see what Irma’s about to unleash on Florida, just look where it’s already been. St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands was decimated as Irma pummeled the eastern Caribbean days ago.
“It went through Hugo and Marilyn, which were both massive storms,” said Dan Herzog, speaking of the family’s island retreat.
“The worst damage it took was a tree down,” Michelle Herzog said.
Herzog and her husband Dan have a vacation retreat on St. John, built by her grandfather 40 years ago.
They’ve seen pictures posted by friends showing their home in shambles — there’s nothing left.
Irma tore through the Caribbean island, where the need for help is great. Among the homes destroyed is one belonging to Country musician, Kenny Chesney.
The Herzogs have seen him in St. John, where he relaxes and appears to be just a normal islander. They feel terrible for all of the island’s 4,800 inhabitants.
“There’s so much damage to a lot of that island, and just rebuild, hopefully they can rebuild,” Michelle Herzog said.
The path of intense destruction is why 7 million Floridians are being ordered to evacuate.
“If you have been ordered to evacuate anywhere in the state, you need to leave right now,” said Governor Rick Scott on Saturday.
Irma’s path has shifted west, so more emergency shelters are opening along Florida’s Gulf, in cities like Port Charlotte, Fort Myers, Venice and Sarasota.
Fort Myers is in the bullseye of Irma. It’s also the spring training home to the Minnesota Twins and so many wintering Minnesotans.
So on Saturday morning, Xcel Energy volunteers packed up thousands of backpacks filled with school supplies for young hurricane victims.
“I know Twin Cities Kids in Need shortly after this week will be working on hurricane relief for the victims in Florida, so it’s great to be able to give back in a way that’s going to make a big difference in kids’ lives,” Xcel spokeswoman Erin Mathe said.
It’s a storm the Herzogs warn is like none other.
“It is double the size of Andrew, if not more powerful. It’s not time to hunker down, you can always rebuild a house – you can’t rebuild a life,” said Dan Herzog.
From one pummeled paradise to another — still cringing, praying and waiting.
If you would like to help St. John hurricane relief, click here.