CRYSTAL RIVER, Fla. (WFLA) - Hurricane Michael's destruction cut off communication throughout the Panhandle, paralyzing emergency efforts and panicking families.
Without electricity or cell service, some of the hardest hit areas can only be reached by radio. Amateur radio operators are stepping in to use their hobby for humanitarian aid.
It's something Lee Paulet of Crystal River has been doing for more than 30 years and he calls Hurricane Michael "by far" the worst situation he's seen. He's helping Michael's victims via the airwaves in the disaster zones only accessible by air.
"Some of the roads are impassable," stated a radio transmission while News Channel 8 interviewed Paulet on Thursday.
"They have no TV, they have no fire, no police, no EMS," Paulet explained. "They're just done."
Paulet is part of a network of ham radio operators providing logistical support for emergency crews without means of communicating.
"We had requests for several pallets of fuel and water," he said, adding that at least one emergency operations center reported having less than a day's worth of generator fuel remaining.
Paulet is also using his skills to connect families without cell service who are separated by the storm.
Ham radio operators have established frequencies for conducting health and welfare checks.
He noted the welfare checks are limited to very brief communication, because "you cannot go into details, because details take time, and time cost lives."
He's devoted countless hours of service already, knowing that it could have been him in the storm's path instead.
"All that storm had to do was twitch, and all that devastation is from here to Tampa Bay," he said.
Paulet and other ham operators plan to continue their work around the clock until lines of communication in the Panhandle are re-established.
"We will standby in case something comes up," stated one radio transmission. "You need it, we'll help you."
If you are disconnected from loved ones potentially in danger due to the hurricane, you can file a Life Safety report through the state's Emergency Operations Center here.
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