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After Ian slammed into Port Charlotte, Scooby’s food truck sprung to action

Owner Doug Alexander normally serves up hot meals in Pasco and Hernando counties.
A couple embraces while waiting in line for warm food from Scooby’s BBQ and Grub Shack on Thursday after Hurricane Ian destroyed areas of Port Charlotte and left victims without power.
A couple embraces while waiting in line for warm food from Scooby’s BBQ and Grub Shack on Thursday after Hurricane Ian destroyed areas of Port Charlotte and left victims without power. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Sep. 30|Updated Sep. 30

PORT CHARLOTTE — The line grew longer and longer in the empty lot off Tamiami Trail.

A man in a sweat-soaked bandana came out of the tiny trailer, held his hands out wide and yelled over the generator: Three racks of ribs left, four orders of brisket, but plenty of pulled pork.

“I’m doing my best, I’m only one person,” said Doug Alexander.

Scooby’s BBQ & Grub Shack owner and operator Doug Alexander takes a pizza out of the oven on Thursday. He said he drove down to the area from Hernando County after seeing devastation on the news.
Scooby’s BBQ & Grub Shack owner and operator Doug Alexander takes a pizza out of the oven on Thursday. He said he drove down to the area from Hernando County after seeing devastation on the news. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

His food truck, Scooby’s BBQ & Grub Shack, pulled into the Port Charlotte lot two hours before sundown Thursday evening. He usually roves around Brooksville, Spring Hill, New Port Richey and Port Richey in Pasco and Hernando counties, but on Thursday, he packed up his blue pickup truck and trailer with a pizza oven in tow and drove 3½ hours south.

Alexander enlisted young men in the line to hand out free bottles of water. Every break to sip some Sprite and drag on a Kool cigarette, he asked if there were any first responders. They got whatever they wanted for free: Barbeque, pizza, burgers.

“I wanted to help these people out,” Alexander said. “They don’t got s--t.”

Cars peeled into the lot. Folks who have seen better days asked around if the food truck took debit cards, or if there was any food left.

“It would just be nice to have some warm food,” said Garfield Scarlett who waited in line for over an hour to take meals home to his family of three. “There’s no convenience stores, nothing.”

Pulled Pork sandwiches went for $12, a half pound of brisket for $15.

“That’s the business to be in right now,” Scarlett said.

Susie Brenner gripped her 15-year-old deaf chihuahua, Chi Chi, stressed from the commotion the night before. The roof above her ground-floor apartment off Toledo Blade Boulevard caved in. Brenner and her wife, Linda, put potting soil outside the front door, but water still came in through the master bedroom and bathroom.

“It’s horrible,” Brenner said. “We were here for Irma and it was nothing.”

Susie Brenner holds Chichi her Chihuahua while waiting in line for warm food from Scooby’s BBQ and Grub Shack on Thursday, September 29, 2022, after Hurricane Ian destroyed areas of Port Charlotte and left many without power.
Susie Brenner holds Chichi her Chihuahua while waiting in line for warm food from Scooby’s BBQ and Grub Shack on Thursday, September 29, 2022, after Hurricane Ian destroyed areas of Port Charlotte and left many without power. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Rick Legault and Rosa-lee Mitri-Reed’s third-floor apartment’s balcony had leaks through the lights. Their balcony door leaked water. A light post fell in the parking lot and they saw a tipped over semitractor-trailer.

They ventured out with their three children, ages 12, 9 and 6, to find hot food. They ate through their pizza while playing Mouse Trap, Candy Land, Trouble and Battleship.

“They’re willing to have something they normally don’t eat just to have something warm to eat,” said Mitri-Reed.“

“Absolutely,” said 12-year-old Dominic.

Faye Vidulich swiped through the photos of damage to her home while waiting in line to pick up food for 8 people: Her two kids, their spouses, their kids and her husband and herself.

People wait in line for warm food from Scooby’s BBQ & Grub Shack on Thursday after Hurricane Ian wrecked areas of Port Charlotte and left residents without power.
People wait in line for warm food from Scooby’s BBQ & Grub Shack on Thursday after Hurricane Ian wrecked areas of Port Charlotte and left residents without power. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Vidulich’s roof’s shingles were all gone. The ceiling of the front porch came down and insulation flew everywhere. The screen of the porch blew off and was twisted. Her bench flew across the street.

“We got hit hard. It was scary, longer than Charley,” she said. “A lot of damage. A couple of trees fell on houses. A car.”

After a long wait, the half-cheese, half-pepperoni pizza for her grandson was ready.

“We’re alive,” she said. “We’re happy.”

Alexander came back out. No more barbeque. Only pizzas and a few burgers.

“I’m sleeping here in my truck and serving breakfast tomorrow,” he said. “Eggs and French toast on the griddle. 10 a.m.”

• • •

Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Ian coverage

HOW TO HELP: Where to donate or volunteer to help Hurricane Ian victims.

TAMPA BAY CLOSURES: What to know about bridges, roads in Ian’s aftermath

WHEN THE STORM HAS PASSED: Now what? Safety tips for returning home.

POST-STORM QUESTIONS: After Hurricane Ian, how to get help with fallen trees, food, damaged shelter.

WEATHER EFFECTS: Hurricane Ian was supposed to slam Tampa Bay head on. What happened?

WHAT TO DO IF HURRICANE DAMAGES YOUR HOME: Stay calm, then call your insurance company.

SCHOOLS: Will schools reopen quickly after Hurricane Ian passes? It depends.

MORE STORM COVERAGE: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.

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