A Woolwich paramedic headed home Sunday after spending a week near Houston as part of the nationwide relief effort in response to Hurricane Harvey.
Adam Cafro, 29, said in an email that he may not be in Maine long.
“We are being sent home today in preparation for Hurricane Irma,” he said. “There is a very good chance I may get deployed for that storm as well.”
As of Sunday morning, the center of Irma, a Category 3 hurricane, was about 900 miles east of the Leeward Islands, 2,150 miles east-southeast of Miami, and 2,150 miles southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, according to the Washington Post.
Some models used by the National Hurricane Center predict Irma would curve toward open water before reaching the continental U.S., but a significant percentage of models show Irma striking the East Coast as early as Saturday or next Sunday. States from Florida to New England could be affected if Irma does not head out to sea.
Cafro was one of five Maine residents deployed to Rosenberg, Texas, located 30 miles southwest of downtown Houston, as part of the National Disaster Medical System. His team, which included doctors, nurses and emergency medical technicians, created a temporary emergency room at a community center on the Fort Bend County Fairgrounds because the hospitals in the county were either at capacity or had been evacuated.
The county of 700,000 in essence became an island after the heavy rain unleashed by Hurricane Harvey followed by the release of water from bulging reservoirs forced roads to the north, south, east and west to close, he said Friday in a telephone interview. The fairgrounds was located on higher ground than much of the rest of the county, so it was a good spot for the team to set up, he said.
“By creating the facility at the community center, the team allowed local responders to refocus on 911 calls [and] provided the local responders the opportunity to cut back to more normal staffing levels,” Cafro said. “That allowed them to get some much needed rest and recovery time after the initial days of the disaster.”
This was not the first time Cafro has volunteered in a hurricane relief effort. He worked in Bronx, New York, after Hurricane Sandy hit the Mid-Atlantic states in October 2012.
While in Texas, Cafro said his team dealt with everything from cuts, bruises and sprained ankles to a woman who was in full cardiac arrest but was revived and taken to a hospital by helicopter. In all, the temporary ER treated about 75 patients.
The National Disaster Medical System is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Cafro said. There are about 5,000 personnel on teams organized geographically around the country. The National Disaster Medical System helps communities respond to and recover from public health emergencies and natural disasters.
Cafro said he volunteered to help out in natural disasters for the same reason he became an paramedic.
“I just want to help people,” he said.
The other Mainers on his team are from Searsport, Topsham, Portland and Scarborough.