Dan Harper’s first hurricane was Andrew.
“Very, very nasty,” Harper said of the 1992 monster that battered South Florida. “One of the worst.”
Jeanne in 2004.
Charley in ’04.
Rita in ’05.
Katrina in ’05.
Gustav in ’08.
Sandy in ’12.
He’s made a scrapbook to remember them with. He kept T-shirts and hats from all of them as mementos.
“I can’t recall how many,” Harper said Thursday while sitting on the back of a flatbed truck parked outside a north Atlanta hotel.
“If I went home and looked at all my shirts and all my hats, I could give you a real summary. If I could look at my closet, I could tell you all of them.”
Harper works for a Fort Wayne, Indiana, power company that is ready to spring into action for the next big one: Irma.
As South Floridians were bracing for the wrath of the Category 5 hurricane, Harper and others belonging to power crews were making their way south, getting in position to help move in after Irma leaves.
Their job: restore power.
“The best part about it is when the you throw the switch on and the power comes on, and everybody’s hooting and hollering and thanking us,” said Harper’s associate, Forrest Crite.
Harper and Crite worked Wednesday in Indiana, slept a few hours, then hopped in their truck and drove 16 hours to Atlanta. They intended to catch a few winks in Atlanta before driving to Lake City, Florida, where power crews from around the country will mobilize and wait for orders on where to go.
“We’re coming down to help with storm restoration,” Harper said. “It hasn’t hit yet, but they’re preparing us to go in there just as soon as it hits, try to get it back to normal as soon as possible.”
For Harper, it’s not about the money.
“I wouldn’t come down if I couldn’t help others,” Harper said. “It’s a devastation to people.”
Harper packed enough clothes to make it through weeks of work, if necessary. A dog lover, he also brought dog treats to give to animals abandoned in the storm.
“I always carry a box of dog treats,” Harper said. “That’s the thing that angered me most in Lake Charles, La., (Hurricane Rita) was how many people left their dogs chained up in the hurricane. Not only left them, but left them chained up.”
Harper doesn’t know what damage Irma might leave behind. But he’s ready for whatever destruction the storm leaves in its wake.
“The news says it’s going to be really bad,” Harper said. “I’d say it’s probably going to be nasty. But I’m not a weather forecaster. We’re going to help out. We’ll stand by until it hits.”