Monday, November 9, 2015

Part 2: Business Casual Typhoon Friday

By Washington Conservation Corps member Adeline Wisernig

Our Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) recently sent a team of eight WCC AmeriCorps members and two crew supervisors to the Pacific island of Saipan for a 30-day disaster response assignment. The team is assisting the community after Typhoon Soudelor hit the island in early August. Second-year AmeriCorps member Adeline Wisernig shares a description of the team's travel and mission below. Half of the team returned on Oct. 29. Four WCC AmeriCorps members and a crew supervisor will remain in Saipan through November 25.

See Part 1 of this story: Sunrise in Seattle, Sunset in Saipan

View of Typhoon Champi from the hotel room.

Serving in Saipan: Part 2 

The winds are just beginning to die down after
 another typhoon, Typhoon Champi, hit Saipan with tropical storm force winds and rain over the weekend. But more on that later. Now we can return to work at full speed.

Coordinating volunteer efforts

Our week here turned out to be very productive despite the severe weather. Our database trainings are coming full circle with organizations beginning to log their volunteer hours and our volunteer database growing every day. Before arriving, we were warned about “island time” - the notion that time moves slower our here - yet somehow two weeks have flown by. With our departure now less than two weeks away, we set up training for those interested in becoming volunteer leads from now until we leave.

One great success this week is the arrival of the Red Cross case managers. With them marks the beginning of the long-term recovery effort. We will help them to be able to begin individual, case-by-case assessments by training them how to use the databases and needs assessments we've compiled since Typhoon Soudelor.

Inspiring local youth to serve with AmeriCorps

We had the great opportunity to visit the local Kagman High School and talk to their junior and senior class about what we do in AmeriCorps, WCC and the National Civilian Community Corps. The students were downright boisterous, interested and excited. We showed them the beautiful places we get to serve and crew supervisor Ernie got to showcase some of his videos from last year's fire response, of which the students were in awe. AmeriCorps might prove for many of the students, like many of us, a great opportunity to save some money for college, meet awesome people and have some great adventures.

Typhoon Champi a one-two punch after Soudelor

WCC AmeriCorps members and United 4 Saipan set up a
CERT tent after Typhoon Champi passed through.
Friday rolled around and so did Typhoon Champi. We spent the better part of 36 hours bunkered in the hotel while winds exceeding 81 mph threw rain around in buckets. Our hotel featured its very own “Titanic Staircase” where the winds and rain swirled, recalling the movie scene in which Rose heads into the belly of the flooded Titanic to free Jack from his imprisonment. I think I can speak for everyone on the crew when I say “None of us had seen a storm like this.” Our one excursion outside amidst the winds forced us to crouch down while grains of sand became permanently embedded into our skin. Worth it!

The “Shelter in Place” warning was finally lifted mid-morning Saturday and we were able to go out with the Red Cross to deliver clean-up kits and tarps to residents whose houses were completely flooded. The island was clearly changed in just 36 hours. More downed trees, more tin roofs now twisted around those trees, and neighborhoods flooded.

Grasping the strength of these storms

What I can't wrap my head around is that Typhoon Champi was barely one-fourth the strength of Typhoon Soudelor. Soudelor knocked out 200 power lines while our Typhoon Champi only knocked down nine. The wind measurement instruments broke after recording 93mph winds during Soudelor. Champi recorded gusts of 81mph at the highest. If nothing else, this storm allowed us to gain a bit more perspective on the magnitude of Typhoon Soudelor and why it's taken so long for this small island to recover.

Champi passed, back to work

But Champi did not slow down our weekend! On Sunday we were back at it, joining a local volunteer organization United 4 Saipan to set up shelter tents for residents still without a reliable roof after Soudelor and now Champi.

After this, we got to take some advantage of the sunny weather and head to what many of the locals consider the best place to snorkel: The Grotto. We frolicked in the post-storm waves and ate pie.

Today, it's back in the office to kick off the last half of our efforts here in Saipan.

WCC’s disaster response program

Four of our WCC crews are designated disaster response crews, though any crew has the potential to deploy. Deployments range from national to local disasters, supporting flood response and prevention, wildfire operations, hurricane assistance and more.

Join WCC!

Do you want to help the environment, meet great people and make a real difference? The 2015-2016 crew year just kicked off, but check back in January to apply for six-month positions with WCC! Ecology's Washington Conservation Corps, an AmeriCorps Program, consists of three subprograms: the original WCC, Veteran Conservation Corps and Puget SoundCorps.

See photos of the types of projects WCC members support during their service in our WCC Projects Flickr set.

Learn more about WCC at:

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