Hero Daniel Harmon: Helping Kentucky Flood Victims Whose Homes Washed Away
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Daniel Harmon understood what people in Kentucky were confronting when flooding overwhelmed parts of the state in July. The West Virginia native knows how heavy rains can wreak havoc on a region, when water with nowhere to go overflows creeks and rivers, causing mudslides and devastation. It’s happened before in his state. When he saw it happening to neighboring Kentucky, he wanted to help.
A 35-year trucking industry veteran — he works as a senior manager in Charleston, W.Va., with XPO Logistics, and serves as both treasurer and an officer at the West Virginia Trucking Association — Harmon spent his early career in southeastern Kentucky. So he sympathized deeply with the flood victims.
“I knew those little towns,” he said.
From July 25-30, thunderstorms over eastern Kentucky and central Appalachia brought as much as a foot of rain, sweeping away wide swaths of communities and entire homes. The swollen Kentucky River reached record-breaking levels, cresting to 21 feet at Whitesburg — topping a 1957 record of 14.7 feet — and reaching 43.5 feet in Jackson, just over the prior high of 43.1 feet set in 1939, according to the National Weather Service. Forty people died as a result of the storms.
An XPO truck ready to be unloaded in Neon, Ky., to provide assistance. (Jeremy Lemaster)
The flooding left 178,000 tons of debris over roads and in waterways. More than 170 public bridges were destroyed, and 28 state roads were blocked.
Harmon understood both the importance and challenge of transporting aid to the region. He reached out to WVTA chairman Bryan Christian of Pilot Tomas Logistics to discuss how the state’s truckers might help.
Trucking's Frontline Heroes is an annual award series presented by Transport Topics that recognizes the brave men and women who go above and beyond the call of duty to meet the challenges the industry faced over the past year. In 2022 we recognize:
►Look back at past years' heroes
“We came up with a plan,” Harmon said. “The first thing we needed was trucks, and a way to get them down there. And XPO graciously allowed me to use the equipment to collect [public donations].”
“These folks down in Kentucky literally lost everything they had,” Harmon said, a point he stressed to the XPO employees working to help. “Just imagine you wake up in the morning and all you have are the clothes on your back. Everything you had when you went to bed is gone,’” Harmon told them.
The resulting joint WTVA/XPO effort, named the “Helping Our Neighbors Campaign,” launched at three XPO locations between Aug. 9-11 to collect donations of bottled water, cleaning supplies, personal hygiene items and baby products. Spurred by local news and social media reports, donations totaling more than $10,000 filled three trailers. One man from a far-off community mailed Harmon a $500 check to buy supplies, which he did.
XPO drivers delivered fully loaded trailers to Whitesburg, Manchester, and Neon, KY. According to Harmon, drivers reported deep dirt sludge along streets; one driver said it was the worst natural disaster he’d ever seen.
President Joe Biden declared counties in the affected region a major disaster area. More than 6,550 individuals and households were approved for $53.6 million in housing assistance by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“Everybody converged to get up in there and get stuff,” Harmon said of those who approached the XPO trucks as they arrived. “They were orderly, separating it so people could come through and get the things they needed.”
“Everybody converged to get up in there and get stuff,” Harmon said of those who approached the XPO trucks as they arrived. (Jeremy Lemaster)
For his efforts in organizing aid for those affected by these devastating Kentucky floods, Daniel Harmon is a 2022 recipient of the Transport Topics Trucking’s Frontline Heroes Award.
“From the moment Daniel Harmon became involved with the West Virginia Trucking Association almost 15 years ago, he has been a trusted leader and advisor,” said association President Traci Nelson. She describes Harmon as,“the voice of reason in the room, [who] provides commonsense solutions that have helped guide the association through rough times.”
Nelson added, “We are no strangers to the devastation that floods can cause, having experienced several in West Virginia. These types of endeavors can be overwhelming to coordinate, but after speaking with Daniel about the logistics of collecting items and his plan for the delivery of the items, I knew that he would make sure that this campaign would not only be successful but would be carried out seamlessly.”
The effort collected enough donations of bottled water, cleaning supplies, personal hygiene items and baby products to fill three trailers. (Courtesy of Daniel Harmon)
Harmon has a deep background in trucking to guide him. He followed in the footsteps of his father, a trucking service center manager. “I grew up around trucking with my dad. I wanted nothing more than to do what he did and my wish came true,” Harmon reflected. Prior to his 1989 graduation from Marshall University with a bachelor’s of business administration, Harmon got a job at Con-way as an outbound supervisor and “never looked back.” XPO acquired Con-way in 2015. “I’ve been involved [in trucking] for 35 years,” Harmon said. “It’s the only job I’ve ever had.”
“Daniel has been managing our LTL service center in Charleston for many years, and he’s stepped up countless times for the community,” said Tim Staroba, president of XPO’s East Division for LTL. “By taking the initiative to help with flood relief efforts in Kentucky, Daniel’s doing what he does best — rising to a challenge and leading his team to solve a need. XPO is proud of Daniel and the entire Charleston team for living our values.”
Said Harmon, “I’m glad I helped. I stepped up and helped these folks out, and more than likely it’s made a difference.”
Always willing to lend a hand, Harmon said he and his wife each month volunteer at soup kitchens through their church. He encourages others to help those in need.
“What people need to know is it doesn’t take that much time to make a difference,” he said. “That’s the way it is most of the time when people help each other.”
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