Disaster Team Back Home After Hurricanes

They spent 28 days helping victims of the Florida hurricanes. Now the Salvation Army Disaster team of Tyler are back home, and say it was a trip they will never forget.

"We left the day after Ivan hit, so we were actually there the day after the storm," said team leader Paul Smith.

When Hurricane Ivan struck the Gulf Coast last month, Smith and the Salvation Army Disaster Team weren't far behind.

"When we arrived in Pensacola the city was dark, the street lights were out there wasn't a light in town because the trees had knocked down all the power lines," he said.

The massive damage meant Pensacola and the surrounding area would spend that first week without power or running water. Making the team's job more important than ever.

"We felt like liberators we really did, this was a city that was devastated and everywhere we went people waved to us and said thank you for coming from Tyler."

Once settled in, the team served 600 hot meals every day. When the word got out, people soon began lining up to get a taste of East Texas.

"They actually wanted some recipes, we had a fruit salad they loved and several things they liked and several people would come up and ask us what we did with different things," said Norma Smith.

The team spent nearly a month in Florida and say every day was worth it.

"I'm proud to say this canteen, our team, we were one of the first to get there and we were the last to leave," said Paul.

This team of dedicated men and women say they're ready to go again if disaster strikes. Paul and Norma were in Pensacola for the entire 28 day stretch. Eleven other volunteers from the Salvation Army of Tyler also spent time with the group in Florida.

Chris Gibson, reporting
cgibson@kltv.com