Konbit Sante staff coordinates Hurricane Irma preparations in Haiti

September 6, 2017                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

by Dennis Hoey, Portland Press Herald

One of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean is bearing down on Haiti, and a Portland man is rushing to be there in case it strikes.

The National Hurricane Center said Irma, a Category 5 hurricane, could hit the Caribbean islands with “potentially catastrophic” force.

That threat won’t deter Nate Nickerson from flying out of Portland International Jetport on Wednesday morning and landing in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, about 24 hours before Irma is expected to make landfall in the island nation’s neighbor, the Dominican Republic.

Nickerson, executive director of Konbit Sante in Falmouth, said he is heading to Haiti to help his nonprofit’s health care partners in Cap-Haitien, a city in the northern section of the country, prepare for the destruction the storm is likely to cause in the Maryland-sized nation of more than 11 million people.

“It’s a very concerning situation. The country obviously doesn’t have the infrastructure to deal with a storm this powerful and that makes its people vulnerable,” Nickerson said Tuesday night. “I’m leaving tomorrow in the event of a direct hit. I want to get there before the hurricane arrives.”

Nickerson said Konbit Sante will provide money to buy medicine and hire local nurses at four health care facilities his organization has partnered with in the Cap-Haitien area. Nickerson also will lend his leadership and organizational skills to any post-storm recovery effort.