We watched one disaster after another this year, some close to home, others on the national news, with sadness and despair.
Ken Wolfe, who is a Subject Matter Expert for Comcast, left his home in Gridley September 5, to work for a month in Houston, Texas to replace underground equipment and restore cable power after the flooding.
Wolfe had of course seen the television news coverage of the devastation but said he couldn't imagine it until he saw it up close and personal. Driving through the neighborhoods, seeing people's entire lives piled up in their front lawns really made it real for Wolfe.
Some families were starting to find new homes, some were still sifting through the destruction finding family heirlooms and pictures completely ruined.
Though there was still water standing, people were still cleaning out their houses, getting on with their lives.
Those who were lucky enough to have two story homes were living upstairs while they gutted the first floor, very happy to see the repairmen in the neighborhood, giving them a glimmer of hope.
"We gave them some sort of normal," Wolfe explained. Working out of the huge Houston area, Wolfe worked in Senko, Cady, Bear and Humble areas.
The members of his crew that flew there brought special tool chests with them and bought what they needed when they arrived there. They had 11 from California, along with employees from Oregon and Washington and other areas.
Because Houston's airport was down, the crew flew into Austin and drove the rest of the way. They started their work at 1 a.m., the minute their boots hit the ground, getting rental trucks to use. Their special tool boxes were shipped on the airplane but shipped home when the work was done.
Wolfe said as far as disasters, he had only worked in the local fires, nothing to this extent with whole communities impacted.
Driving in neighborhoods with piles of trash on the lawns and abandoned cars, Wolfe said it was a real mess.
Wolfe saw evacuation centers set up with the military helping at churches and schools that sat on higher ground.
He saw a brand new shopping center being gutted because it had been flooded with Rite-Aid making repairs to reopen.
Though he was happy to be able to help, Wolfe was ready to come home after 30 days. The Saturday before they left to come home, they helped a Comcast employee who had a flooded home, gutting it completely, tearing everything out.
The 90 percent humidity was rough for the west coast workers to work in, especially because their clothes were soaked from the flood waters each day, all day.
Wolfe said the people of Houston were very nice and excited to see people working, improving their area, getting some time of normalcy back.
"Everyone treated us excellent," he said.
It took over two weeks to get the cable up in Bear Creek and when they left they had the Cady area at almost 100 percent completed.
Once home, the Comcast crew worked on the Bangor and LaPorte fires here, another type of disaster.
Wolfe and his wife Kim have lived in Gridley nine years with their two sons and a daughter. In his normal routine, Wolfe works in fibre network in this area, at Beale Air Force Base, Nevada City, Yuba City but mainly out of Chico. He travels north as far as Corning, to Willows to the west and as far east as Paradise and Magalia area. He is grateful to be back working where he can be home every night with his family. The images of the families who lost everything not far from his mind.