Staff Sgt. Deborah Miale of the 26th Military Intelligence Battalion explained that the people had been arriving all day in cars, on bicycles and even on foot.
Cobert weren't unusual at the Key West distribution point.
As she gave boxes of food, water and cleaning supplies to hurricane victims, a man wearing multicolored clothes and sporting a black top hat with feathers rode up to her on a battered bicycle. Miale was about to meet the self-proclaimed, semi-famous, “Wizard of Key West.”
The colorful bicyclist – Donald Cobert of Key West – chatted briefly with the Guardsmen while receiving four boxes of food.
“This was probably the worst storm I've seen here,” said Cobert, whose vibrant outfit matched his unique moniker. “I live on the second floor, and my building was shaking.”
As the “Wizard” pedaled away, Miale said that visits by
fantastically dressed residents like Cobert weren't unusual at the Key West distribution point.
Sitting in a wheelchair outside the high school gymnasium and watching some of the recovery efforts, 66-year-old Marly Knowles described how the flooding from the hurricane took her by surprise:
“It was so awful,” she said. “I fell asleep, and when I got up off the bed I put my foot down and I couldn't believe that halfway up to my knee was water.
“At first it was such a shock I didn't even know what it was,” Knowles, a widow who's lived in Key West since 1959, explained. “Then I realized ‘Oh, my house is flooded!'”
Knowles lost part of her roof from hurricane-force winds and said she had seen similar damage throughout the city.
More than 3,000 Guardsmen and women were mobilized and supported operations in the South Florida area in response to the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma.