While most of us can only contemplate the desperation of a hurricane's aftermath through our televisions, Bothell firefighter Kelly Melton has lived it.

Three times.

Melton is a veteran of rescue efforts for Hurricanes Matthew, Harvey, and just last month, Florence.

"Having been there makes it more real when you see it on TV," said Melton. "It's more personal."

For most people, the aftermath of a hurricane is the last place they'd want to be, and rightly so.

Like the Carolinas, the deadly storm that hit the Florida panhandle will leave a sweltering toxic stew of sewage, chemicals, and crocodiles. The days are grueling, dirty, and dangerous. Melton says preparing yourself mentally is difficult because you don't know what you will find.

Also see | Deadly Michael ravages Southeast with 'unimaginable destruction'

"You kind of have to compartmentalize and set the emotions aside because you are going into someone's worst case scenario,” said Melton. β€œIt's most likely the worst day of their life.”

Melton and her crew actually saved an elderly couple from drowning after they drove around a barricade in North Carolina after Hurricane Florence.

"Bystanders told us they heard them screaming and then the screaming stopped," said Melton. "We were in the right place at the right time. It's incredibly gratifying. It's definitely a team effort. It becomes very apparent in that moment how many people it takes to make something like that happen."

Once the rescues are completed, it's on to the more mundane work of repairing roofs and helping restore homes.

"These people could be living like this for months, years," said Melton. "What I'm going through is nothing. At least I get to go home."

When she sees the images of Hurricane Michael on her TV screen, Melton can't help but wish she could be there. But for now, it's back to protecting the people of Bothell until the call comes to help in the next disaster.

"You can't be at every disaster. You want to be. You don't wish for them to happen but when they do you want to be the one to help because you know that you can," she said.

Aerial video: Hurricane Michael caused 'catastrophic damage' at Tyndall Air Force Base