On September 28, 2022, Hurricane Ian struck the Gulf coast of Florida with a ten-to-fifteen-foot storm surge, taking 136 lives and causing over $50 billion in property damage. It was the fifth-strongest hurricane on record to make landfall on the contiguous United States. Originally projected to make landfall in Tampa, it hit the Fort Myers/Naples area with less than a day’s warning for residents to evacuate.
Dianne Tattitch was part of a team of 14 Mastercard staffers who responded to the storm. As an eight-year technology veteran of the company, she is one of more than 200 employees who have been trained by the American Red Cross over the past several years. This was her second deployment: back in April 2019 she volunteered to go to El Paso to help resettle refugees from Afghanistan. She would have been deployed in between to help out with the Kentucky floods last year, but her husband contracted Covid just prior to her assignment.
“We got there three weeks after the storm hit the coast and were part of a massive effort, eventually running a total of ten different shelters,” she said. Tattitch was based at the Hertz hockey Arena and the largest one in the area, serving 350 clients. However, there was a slight twist: the hockey ice floor remained throughout the operation, covered in plywood. This meant that the cold seeped through and that the ice slowly melted and soaked the wooden floor. “It wasn’t very comfortable, especially at night!”
Tattitch enthusiastically volunteered to pet-sit several dogs that were brought to the shelter so that their owners could take long, hot showers – possibly their first in days. She worked closely with one family of nine, including seven kids. They lost everything because their home was flooded. The mom took all of them by bus to the library and home schooled them during the day – the children couldn’t go to the regular school because those were also flooded.
She said that from her perspective, the flooding and storm damaged was far worse than many of us saw on TV. “The media really wasn’t able to capture the total destruction and devastation. There were over 30 miles of homes that were obliterated by Ian, with piles of their contents all over the place. It was mind boggling.”
“I have been doing a lot of reflecting on our trip because it was truly a joyous, rewarding and humbling experience to serve others in need, during such a vulnerable moment in their lives and trying to meet a variety of their needs, such as providing hot showers, clean clothes, or a hot meal. I am proud of Mastercard for their partnership with the Red Cross and allowing us to serve in a time of great need. Every single minute we were busy.” She recorded more than 20,000 daily steps – “We did a lot of walking!”
She remembers a single 60-year-old woman with her dog. “The woman realized that she was in the path of the storm surge and because she had so little time to evacuate, she ended up staying in her home, but used a mattress as a floatation device and rode it all the way up until it was against her ceiling. She narrowly escaped death.”