Florida hockey arena now home to out-of-towners ready to clean up Irma’s mess

Steve Trouslot’s crew left Grand Rapids, Michigan, early Wednesday morning.

They didn’t know where they were going and only knew they were headed south to whatever locale Hurricane Irma led them.

On Saturday afternoon, Trouslot and dozens of trucks from Newkirk Electric joined a growing staging area in the massive parking lots at BB&T Center in Sunrise, home of the Florida Panthers.

“We’re going to hunker down for the storm, and when it clears, we will go where FP&L tells us,” said Trouslot, who said he has been going to areas hit by storms for 20 years.

“There’s always a million questions when you get called,” he said. “Where are we going, where are we going to eat, where do we sleep? Sometimes it’s the Marriott; sometimes it’s the Marri-not.”

Large trucks began filing into the hockey arena on the edge of the Everglades on Friday, followed by many more on Saturday.

Hundreds more are on the way.

The Panthers have 2,500 cots set up throughout their concourses and concession areas for the workers, with Florida Power & Light providing food.

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A large crane sits out in front of the Florida Panthers arena in Sunrise in anticipation for the large clean up effort from Hurricane Irma on Sept. 9, 2017. The BB&T Center video board, at left, reads ‘Florida Stay Safe.’

George Richards/Miami Herald staff grichards@miamiherald.com

The emergency crews have come from all over the United States to help Floridians once Irma blows through.

Trucks spotted in the parking lot were from as far away as Michigan and Indiana.

Other trucks were from Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina.

“It was a long drive, but we’re here now and we’re just waiting,” said Jeff Sanderson, who drove in with a crew from Mississippi.

“We do not know where we’re going from here. It’s always a waiting game — and we’re just waiting.”

FROM ATLANTA: Power crews gather, ready to roll south for Hurricane Irma

Matthew Caldwell, the CEO and president of the Panthers, is staying at the arena with some of his staff and has been spending time walking around greeting tired workers who know the hard work is still to come.

Caldwell said the arena, owned by Broward County but run by the NHL team, would do whatever it can to help in the relief efforts once the storm goes through.

While the ice is down on the arena floor — the Panthers are expected to begin training camp here next week — the concourses are open to all the workers waiting for their assignment.

Caldwell said the Panthers want them to be as comfortable as possible and thanked them for coming so far from home to help out.

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Trucks from all over the United States converge on Sunrise’s BB&T Center on Sept. 9, 2017, to help aid in the Hurricane Irma clean up.

George Richards/Miami Herald staff grichards@miamiherald.com

He also got a kick out of seeing the relief workers all going under the thick curtains leading to the seating area to grab a selfie or two with the ice in the background.

“We’re getting ready for disaster relief and whatever we can do for our community, for Florida, we will stand by them,” Caldwell said from the roof of the arena, the Everglades on one side and dozens of clean up trucks on the other.

“We’re excited to be here able to help out.”