TUNKHANNOCK TOWNSHIP -- Months after starting their own business, the owners of Tree M.D. out of Tunkhannock Township in Wyoming County found themselves in Florida assisting with the cleanup efforts after Hurricane Irma.
Now, Mark Shupp and Dillin Thomas are preparing for a longer trip and a bigger project. They are leaving Wednesday for Puerto Rico and expect to be there for a whole year.
"They say a year, pretty much until the job is done. Once all the debris is cleaned up on the island, all the broken branches are taken care of so the community is safe," Shupp said.
Together, Shupp and Thomas have more than a decade worth of experience clearing away trees from power lines. They opened Tree M.D. in June.
Shupp, Thomas, and another employee were in Florida for two months working for a contractor after Hurricane Irma. They left Tunkhannock on September 10, driving through the hurricane in Georgia.
"The community has been very receptive, supporting us. We're a young company, just starting out. We have a lot of people around here, and we really appreciate their support," Thomas said.
Two weeks after Hurricane Irma, came Hurricane Maria. Nearly half of Puerto Rico still remains without power today.
"Christmas and they're still in the dark. It's going to be a joint effort. They're going to be doing their thing and we're going to be doing ours," Shupp said.
Once they get down to Puerto Rico their main focus will strictly be on cutting down branches. When they were in Florida back in September, they realized just how dangerous those hanging branches can be.
"Roads, parks, sidewalks, just so no one is getting hurt. Sometimes people just forget about those broken branches up there. Broken and you're walking under them every day. You may not even realize it. We go there to make the community safe," Shupp said.
Shupp, Thomas, and a couple of their friends will drive down to Florida Wednesday, put their equipment on a barge leaving from Fort Lauderdale, and fly to the island to start working for a contractor there.
"I'm excited and sad at the same time. I have two small children I'm leaving at home. Hopefully, with my wife, everything goes well and I have no emergencies I have to try to get back for," Thomas said.
Shupp and Thomas say they hope to fly back to visit their families as much as possible throughout the next year. They will return to Tunkhannock Township for good when the work is complete.