Those are the only two words a local Red Cross volunteer is able to find to describe what he’s seen in the aftermath of flooding in Kentucky.
Couches, fridge doors and vending machines from a gas station lie scattered across the ground.
People across the region have lost their homes to the flooding, leaving many without food and critical supplies.
Some have lost everything they owned.
Byron Ek, one of the volunteers hailing from Lee County, packed up more than a week ago and left for Kentucky as a volunteer for the American Red Cross, not knowing what to expect.
Related:SWFL volunteers among those on the ground helping in Kentucky flooding
Family rescue:Smoke alarms help two Cape Coral residents escape fire with dog
He was one of 17 volunteers from the Red Cross South Florida Region as of Tuesday. That includes four members from the Gulf Coast to Heartland Red Cross Chapter.
Those numbers increased from eight South Florida volunteers less than two weeks ago, one of them from the Florida Gulf Coast to Heartland Chapter.
The local chapter covers Collier, Lee, Hendry, Glades and Highlands counties.
What were the hardest hit areas of eastern Kentucky?
The hardest hit areas of eastern Kentucky received almost a foot of rain at its peak.
Between July 25 and July 30, the area accrued 10 inches of rain combined, said Kyle Wilkins, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Louisville.
The North Fork of the Kentucky River reached 20.9 feet in Whitesburg, more than 6 feet over the previous record, and crested at a record 43.5 feet in Jackson. A dozen shelters opened for flood victims across the state.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear declared the area a disaster more than a week ago and began receiving funding for 13 of his state’s counties immediately.
Help began pouring in from around the country as well.
Volunteers are providing affected Eastern Kentucky residents with a safe place to stay, food, critical relief supplies and emotional support.
“This is my first deployment other than back home local house fires, you know, late at night,” Ek said.
How this volunteer from the Red Cross South Florida Region helps
Ek has spent these past few days patrolling the devastated area in his truck providing aid. His days start at 6 a.m. and end at 10 p.m., he said.
“It’s really humbling and really shocking,” Ek said. “Saying the word I’m sorry to somebody just isn’t even anywhere near enough … It’s just overwhelming devastation, is the only two words that I know how to describe it.”
On a typical day, Ek gets up at 6 a.m. and starts rolling at 8 a.m., he said. Then, after a briefing, they roll to a mobile kitchen site, which is run by Operation BBQ, out of Missouri.
“They load up these trucks full of hot food, barbequed pork, barbequed chicken, you know, all kinds of different meals and they put them in these containers for us,” Ek said.
They then load up each emergency response vehicle and go in different directions. Each crew covers the same route every day, Ek said.
Once in a while, they’ll take on something that got added or another shelter that’s another two hours away from where they’re at, he added.
“We have a route and we’ll drop off 200 meals, or 100 meals here and 200 there,” Ek said. “You go out to the community and we have a special place we go to every day since we’ve been here.”
Ek’s assigned area is Blackey, an unincorporated community within Letcher County, in Kentucky, an area known for its post office built in the 1930s.
“That’s the name of a small town way, way, way up in the hills in Kentucky. Blackey, Kentucky at the Blackey post office,” Ek said. “And there’s a lady there that had a store that got wiped out. Her name is Veronica. And it all started with her setting a few canned goods from a store that didn’t get destroyed out front on a table.”
Over 200 people a day that live in that community way up in the hills come out of the hills in their four wheelers and get meals, Ek said.
He added that other communities will drive there for the weekend with a trailer full of donated supplies. They include diapers and disinfectant, among other items, he said.
Ek arrived Aug. 4 and began working the following day.
He was deployed through the local chapter until Aug. 19, but on his fourth day of work he called headquarters and requested to extend his stay, which they approved, he said.
“So that’s how important and humbling and touching this work … How it affects you and the people that you meet and the stories that you hear and the help that you get to see personally that it’s helping people,” Ek said. “That just told me right there, and I’m gonna be on every national deployment from here on out. And I was sold on that and the first couple days.”
He emphasizes the experience has opened his eyes.
“It is amazing. It’s hard to describe what it does to somebody who’s never seen anything like that devastation,” Ek said as he audibly held back on his emotions.
He says he can see his effort reflected in the community’s eyes.
“And then the people that are really … You can just see in their eyes and their facial expressions that they truly appreciate what you’re doing and what the Red Cross is doing,” he said.
With his extension approved through Aug. 26, Ek says he hopes to help many more in the local community, but also stresses how taxing the job is.
“By the time we get home all the hot water is gone where we’re staying and we’re just lucky to take a shower and lay down,” he said.
He said it’s hard for him to stay in touch with his loved ones as there’s no internet in the area.
It will take at least, another six months until the local community gets running water again, he added.
“And that’s from the county’s road maintenance and that water department maintenance is what they’re telling us and the people of that community,” Ek said.
Volunteer from Lee County has a message of hope
He has a message of hope — a plea for help from communities across the country, including Southwest Florida.
“Anybody who’s going to donate money to the American Red Cross, they have no idea until they see this where their money’s going,” Ek said.
His voice stumbled as he tried to find the words to describe how the local community here could help.
“Without the donations we wouldn’t be here doing what we do, feeding these people who don’t have access to food or water or electricity,” Ek said.
He emphasizes donations don’t go to waste.
“It’s feeding hungry little kids that are scared to death and their house is gone,” Ek said. “Everything they owned is gone. And they’re sleeping on the property that didn’t get washed away from the river, from the flash floods.”
Community members sleep wherever they find a place, which include tents, cabins or trucks while their belongings sit up on a tree 30 feet in the air 7 miles down the river, Ek said.
“There’s just story after story after story of survival … People jumping out their third-story window onto the roof and not even making it,” Ek said.
He added those are just some of the first-hand recollections he’s heard.
“People waking up and the only reason they woke up is because the water level was the level of their bed,” Ek said. “And by the time they got on their feet and figured things out, it was up to their neck. Those kinds of stories.”
How can you help?
Visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 in order to make a $10 donation.
Tomas Rodriguez is a Breaking/Live News Reporter for the Naples Daily News and The News-Press. You can reach Tomas at [email protected] or 772-333-5501. Follow him on Twitter @TomasFRoBeltran.