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Working For Free – Oyster Reef Volunteer

Having been out of work for some time now, the cabin fever was setting in pretty hard.  Between having no income yet still spending gas to get to job interviews, there was no gas to just get away for pleasure, a break from the monotony and certainly no funds for entertainment.  I needed to feel useful again, productive.  That is when I came across a request in the local paper for volunteers to help that coming weekend on a project to build an artificial reef in the area.  I’m a nature lover and have always been interested in (and often active in) conservation efforts – how cool was that?

After e-mailing the listed contact for details, I was excited to get to work – even if it was for free.  I let a friend of mine know about the project and he was on board as well.  That Saturday, he picked me up early and we went out to Harbour Pointe on the inlet where several tons of oyster shells were ready in large barrels and on sheets of plywood in huge piles.

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About 20 other volunteers showed up and we were given a brief primer on the task at hand.    We organized ourselves into each area – shoveling, bagging and tying off.  I shoveled shells into smaller buckets while my friend bagged and tied them.  They were then loaded onto a truck to be moved to their final resting place in Wildcat Cove.  

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During a break in which bottled water and other drinks were provided, the leader of the operation and a colleague commended us all on our efforts which far exceeded their expectations.  In just about 2 hours, we’d already assembled about 400 20-pound oyster bags for deployment.  My friend and I stayed for a 20-minute informational lecture about oyster reefs, their local benefits, lots of statistics and zoological info as well.  We broke for lunch then and would meet up at low tide a few miles up the coast at Wildcat Cove.

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Upon arrival at Wildcat Cove, we found the oyster bags in a neat pile in front of the canoe launch.  Another 100 bags had been assembled and brought up in two deliveries.  It took a little brainstorming as to how we were going to get the bags to the reef area, but one adventurous girl with her own kayak said she could pull floating tubs of about 30 bags per load out to the location.  There was some interesting trial-and-error in getting the system going, including one thankfully good-humored man getting impossibly stuck in the thick muck at the bottom of the river.  It took more than ten minutes to get the river to release his legs and he lost a shoe, but we got him back safely!  Note to self: Don’t go into the water without a boat here!

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Once we got the production line going, the rest was – pardon the pun – smooth sailing.  Bags were floated out to a mangrove area where a 4-foot high oyster “wall” was built staggered around the mangroves.  Once settled and cemented, these artificial reefs will provide settling places for new oyster spawns, as well as providing habitat for young fish and feeding grounds for birds such as herons, ibis, loons, cormorants, anhingas and more.

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I remain in contact with the organizer of this effort who works for the county in coastal restoration and he is helping me network with other people in the field so that I may actually find work in conservation or a related field.  Even if it is a desk job, it would be a great opportunity (and has been) to do something productive in a field I really enjoy.  Another reef build is coming up in two days.  This time my daughter will also be involved, getting her hands dirty and having a positive impact on our local, unique and delicate ecosystem.

Pardon Me While I Go Postal

Disclaimer: If you’re one of those sensitive types who get all uppity about people who bitch about their government benefits (likely because you’ve never been in the position to need them yourself) then turn back now because this is about to get ugly.

As a statistical introduction, I will say that I am a single mother with shared custody of my child.  Due to 5 years of swindling and dishonesty on the other side, I am the one who ended up having to pay child support to my ex (who enjoys a new house, two new vehicles and all the home amenities one could want).  I lost my job of almost 7 years when my boss passed away on December 28th, 2012 and the company subsequently closed as of January 1st, 2013.  Before this time, I had only required assistance for about 4 months out of my life when I first relocated to this area and was looking for work.  When I lost my job this year, I immediately applied for unemployment and food stamps and started looking for a new job.  My unemployment and food stamps were approved and even though it is hard to feed myself plus a growing pre-teen on $200 a month, I was making it work.  

Once my unemployment benefits kicked in (roughly 50% of my usual salary), Child Support decided they were going to take an additional 40% of that.  Pardon my cadence, but that is fucking criminal.  I was already struggling on a normal salary, but to cut my half salary further in almost half?  Bullshit.  My food stamps for February were late and I was out of food.  Upon calling 72 hours after they were supposed to hit, I get a message that due to “increased income,” my benefits will be cut from $200 to $16 effective March 1, 2013.  WTF? Increased income?  Try decreased!  I look on my card this morning expecting to see $200 on there and they’ve only deposited $16.   What… the fuck.  To add insult to injury today I get a letter in the mail confirming that my benefits will be cut from $200/month to $16/month – again – in writing – EFFECTIVE MARCH 1, 2013.  *looks at calendar* Gee, this is still February.  Where the %^&* are my food stamps that I need to feed a frikken pre-teen 4 days a week until I find work again??

The State of Florida is trying to fuck me sideways and I am NOT going to stand for it.  Tomorrow morning warrants a very nasty call to these “ACCESS” people to get this crap straightened out immediately.  $84 over the course of a month for food is nothing to most people but when you’re in my situation, it’s the difference between a family going hungry or not.  Try to cheat me?  You WILL get bitchslapped.  Screw Florida.  Time to take action.

 

 

Personal Local Observations – Flash Floods – TS Fay – Tornados Confirmed

Tornado watch remains in effect for Treasure Coast until 4 p.m. : Treasure Coast : TCPalm.

See the above link for official stats.

So far today, the highest reading for rainfall has been 7.8 inches in St. Lucie County, recorded around 11 a.m., according to National Weather Service. The average rainfall so far today is 6 inches. Winds have been recorded in the county at 40 mph. Sheriff Ken Mascara (St. Lucie County) is urging drivers to stay off the roads due to extensive flooding.

At 10:40 a.m. – A tornado has touched down at the Shell gas station on U.S. 1 near Monroe Street just south of Stuart. A vehicle flipped over and power lines are down. FPL workers are en route. Southbound U.S. 1 traffic is reduced to a single lane.

Locally on the southern end of Fort Pierce’s industrial area and approximately 2 miles from the coast (neighborhood area of Edwards Road, Oleander Ave., Midway Road and 7th Street), max sustained winds have peaked at 24mph with the highest gust being at 38mph. There is an indoor draft as winds shift and gust.

At 11:00 – Rain is currently very heavy and blowing in from the East as it has been all morning. Very few southern shifts have been experienced, and then only briefly. This area has received 4.96″ of rain between midnight and 11:00 a.m. and it is still coming hard. At 11:20 a.m., the wind has shifted from the SE at 26mph with the approach of another strong cell.

Air temperature has not risen above 73.3F.

No hail has been experienced, however the combination of high wind gusts and heavy rain has caused sparking and sizzling of powerlines on this street. The transformer in the rear of this location has been humming and buzzing with strong power surges. This could be due to the power lines running through the middle of large, untrimmed trees in the adjoining yards.

At 1:00 – Power lines along 7th Street continue to buzz steadily and loudly for several hours now and I expect to lose power soon. Reported to FPL who needs to assess these lines quickly, something is not right.

FPL trucks and St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office cars have been seen on the road otherwise. A flash flood warning has just been issued at 10:51 a.m. for the area. (See Below.)

Damage in this immediate area has thankfully been minimal, involving downed mail boxes, blown trash cans and slight moisture seeping in windows. It is also likely during high wind gusts for rain to blow into attic vents (under eaves and under roof peaks on the sides of houses) and dampen the sheet rock of the ceiling.

At 1:00 p.m., the center of Tropical Storm Fay was over Caloosahatchee and tracking NNE toward the Treasure Coast at 8 mph, with sustained winds of 65 mph. Rains should start to subside slightly as the winds begin to increase over the next few hours.

Late Tuesday Update: Center of TS Fay appears to be over the city of Kissimmee right now, and I am praying for the winds to finally shift West so that my front window, which already had a gaping foot-wide hole in it from where someone threw a rock through it, can have some relief. It is only patched with duct tape inside and out, and the tape has failed with the driving rain, letting water inside. Additional tape applied to the inside is also seeping through. There were no tools available to actually board up the place before the storm as I am still in the process of moving and much of my stuff is still at the old location. I am alone here, and scared to say the least.

UPDATES:

11:20 a.m. Wind SE 27 / Rain Tally 5.17″ / Lightning moving into the area

11:35 a.m. Wind ESE 19 with strong gusts / Rain Tally 5.27″ / The next cell is here

12:00 p.m. Wind E 9, gusting higher / Rain Tally 5.34″ / Slowed briefly, another wave coming in

12:15 p.m. Wind SE 9, S heavy gusts / Rain Tally 5.42″ / Storm drains now overflowing, power flux

12:30 p.m. Wind ESE 8 / Rain Tally 5.71″ / Power lines still overloaded, but power is on

1:00 p.m. Wind SE 12 / Rain Tally 6.33″ / Lines still buzzing, humming and moaning, brief letup in rain

1:15 p.m. Wind ESE 12 / Rain Tally 6.34″ / Brief sun, wind gusting again ahead of rapidly passing downpours

1:45 p.m. Wind ESE 15 / Rain Tally 6.38″ / Another wave starting to move through

2:00 p.m. Wind ESE 12 / Rain Tally 6.39″ / Center of storm skirting west side of Lake Okeechobee

2:35 p.m. Wind SE 11 / Rain Tally 6.42″ / Found damage to siding – pulled away from house

2:45 p.m. Wind ESE 18 / Rain Unchanged / In 45-60 mins, center will be 40 mi. west of Fort Pierce.

3:15 p.m. Wind ESE 15, gusty / Rain Unchanged

10:00 p.m. Wind S 13 Gusting To 43 / Rain Tally 8.91″ / Center 30 Mi West of us / Window Leaking

11:00 p.m. Wind S 16 Gusting SSW 43 / Rain Tally 9.15″ / Rain still driving in, Barometer 29.5 Rising

11:15 p.m. Wind SSE 17 / Rain Tally 9.18″ / The broken south window is a lost cause at this point

11:30 p.m. Wind still S and erratic / Rain Tally 9.29″ / Baromer 29.52 Rising / 2 streams of water entering

FLASH FLOOD WARNING UPDATED – NEW ISSUE 12:26 P.M. TUES AUG 19, 2008:

FLASH FLOOD WARNING FOR, INDIAN RIVER COUNTY IN EAST CENTRAL FLORIDA, MARTIN COUNTY IN EAST CENTRAL FLORIDA, OKEECHOBEE COUNTY IN EAST CENTRAL FLORIDA, ST. LUCIE COUNTY IN EAST CENTRAL FLORIDA, UNTIL 415 PM EDT
Issue Time: 12:26PM EDT, Tuesday Aug 19, 2008
Valid Until: 4:15PM EDT, Tuesday Aug 19, 2008
Back to summary

Bulletin – Eas Activation Requested Flash Flood Warning National Weather Service Melbourne FL 1226 PM EDT Tue Aug 19 2008

The National Weather Service In Melbourne Has Issued A

* Flash Flood Warning For… Indian River County In East Central Florida… Martin County In East Central Florida… Okeechobee County In East Central Florida… St. Lucie County In East Central Florida… * Until 415 PM EDT

* At 1219 PM EDT… National Weather Service Doppler Radar Indicated Very Heavy Rain Continuing On The East Side Of Tropical Storm Fay. Multiple Rainbands Are Producing Torrential Downpours… Which Has Caused Extensive Runoff And Closing Of Roadways. Doppler Radar Estimates That 4 To 6 Inches Of Rain Has Occurred In Martin And St Lucie Counties With Some Isolated Higher Amounts.

* Locations In The Warning Include But Are Not Limited To South Beach… Saint Lucie Village… Vero Lake Estates… Vero Beach Highlands… Saint Lucie Airport… Queens Cove And Lakewood Park

Additional Rainfall Amounts Of 2 To 4 Inches Will Occur In The Warned Area.

Flooding Is Occurring Or Is Imminent. Most Flood Related Deaths Occur In Automobiles. Do Not Attempt To Cross Water Covered Bridges… Dips… Or Low Water Crossings. Never Try To Cross A Flowing Stream… Even A Small One… On Foot.