Katrina Experiences, Part I

 
Hurricane_Katrina_August_28_2005_NASA

Hurricane Katrina August 28 2005 NASA” by Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the devastating hurricane Katrina that Bush/Cheney unleashed on the Mississippi and Louisiana coast — sorry, couldn’t resist! — and I’ve been thinking about the time I spent down there helping with the cleanup and, really, the basic survival of some of the victims that lost nearly everything.

After the hurricane had swept through and news reports began trickling out, I was hit by a huge desire to go down and do something to help. My wife worked with the Red Cross here in Tennessee and, through her, I learned that people down there needed things I could do. I just wasn’t sure how to put that into motion. Everyone recommended I stay away from New Orleans, and I was working on some other ideas when my brother told me that a group called ACTS World Relief needed volunteers in Mississippi. I was relieved to have a direction to my madness and began getting things together. Information about the situation on the ground there was spotty, so I decided to prepare for anything. I packed some clothes, loaded my truck and a 30+ ft gooseneck trailer with plenty of fuel, water, chainsaws, and some donated items, including a skid steer from Caterpillar (orange, of course and with a couple different attachments), and hit the road to Lumberton, Mississippi.

Approaching Hattiesburg on I-59, I could see the damage more than 100 miles from the coast. Trees were down all along the interstate. It looked like a mile-wide tornado had plowed through. Lumberton is just a little south of Hattiesburg and home to Bass Academy boarding school, where ACTS was setting up a relief station to distribute meals, tarps, and other emergency supplies. Even an hour from the coast, they sustained enormous wind damage. Here’s the school gymnasium:

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I had zero idea where I was going stay or what I would eat, but I figured it would all work out. Thankfully, the dorms were sound enough to house us volunteers and they fixed meals in a big circus tent/cafeteria. So now, what to do?

As you can imagine, organizing relief volunteers is difficult (at best), so I offered to help take groups out to work. After talking with some of the ACTS organizers, we put a system in place to help the community deal with the downed trees that were everywhere. As people came to the relief station, they were given short forms to complete that asked their needs regarding meals, tarps, water, medicine, or the removal of trees that had fallen on structures or across roadways. I partnered up with two guys with saws from Texas and we added a couple of more guys from the Keys to our merry band.

Out we would go with a lead from the forms, roll in with our gear, and ask people if they needed a hand. The family in the picture below was just standing there with an electric chainsaw, looking bewildered, when I walked up and asked if they could use some help. When I explained it was free of charge the wife just started crying. We got that a lot.

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The skid steer with a grapple bucket allowed us to remove the trees without additional damage to the home

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Besides my new friends I was working with, another blessing was taking out groups of volunteers from high schools to work with us. Both there and on the coast, those kids’ helpful spirits and hard work in hot conditions was something to behold. God was definitely working through those young people down there and I am grateful to have witnessed it.

Soon, we had helped set-up a smoothly running base in Lumberton for ACTS, and were chomping at the bit to get down to the coast. Here’s part of my team on the last day of tree removal before heading down to the coast.

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To be continued…

There are 28 comments.

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  1. Merina Smith Inactive
    Merina Smith
    @MerinaSmith

    America at its best!  Generous and Can Do.

    • #1
  2. kelsurprise Member
    kelsurprise
    @kelsurprise

    To be continued???

    Yes, please.

    • #2
  3. Jim Chase Member
    Jim Chase
    @JimChase

    Good stuff.  Reminds me of some of the relief work I got to be a part of post-Hurricane Andrew in Dulac, LA.  Folks remember Andrew hitting Florida, but not as many remember that lower Louisiana also took a hit.

    Looking forward to the next installment.

    • #3
  4. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Concrete,

    Boy those little bobcats are handy critters aren’t they. You can get right in close to a house, get hold of stuff or scoop up a load, turn on a dime, carry it over to the dumpster, and dump it in. Really gets the job done.

    Tell us more.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #4
  5. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    James Gawron:Concrete,

    Boy those little bobcats are handy critters aren’t they. You can get right in close to a house, get hold of stuff or scoop up a load, turn on a dime, carry it over to the dumpster, and dump it in. Really gets the job done.

    Tell us more.

    Regards,

    Jim

    Yeah Jim, I was very thankful to have it.  Without the machine it would have been very likely for the trunk section to tear off an eve or get into the side of the house on the way down.

    • #5
  6. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    Merina Smith:America at its best! Generous and Can Do.

    This little lady was so sweet!  The wall you see was her “guest house” in her back yard.  The guy with her is Andre, a South African who was working as a pastor in the Keys.  (he is now in Jacksonville).  We called him our PR guy.  :)???????????????????????????????

    • #6
  7. Daphnesdad Member
    Daphnesdad
    @Daphnesdad

    Thank you so much for this, I really needed to read it today.  More, please.

    Cheers,

    T.D.

    • #7
  8. Penfold Member
    Penfold
    @Penfold

    Weren’t there some forms you needed to fill out and get approved before actually doing anything?  I mean, c’mon.

    • #8
  9. kelsurprise Member
    kelsurprise
    @kelsurprise

    You were exempt from that if you brought a bobcat.

    The right kind, I mean . . . no pets.

    • #9
  10. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    Penfold:Weren’t there some forms you needed to fill out and get approved before actually doing anything? I mean, c’mon.

    I kind of just barged in and started doing stuff at first.  The organization I was with had to deal with the Feds and the State etc.. of course.

    • #10
  11. Jojo Inactive
    Jojo
    @TheDowagerJojo

    This is a cheerful story and good for you.

    Bobcats are awesome and so are….men.  I can’t even look at the picture of the guy apparently, you know, sawing off the limb he’s sitting on.

    • #11
  12. Dorothea Inactive
    Dorothea
    @Dorothea

    Great story and pictures. More please!

    • #12
  13. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    Dorothea:Great story and pictures. More please!

    Ok may have gone with too many pictures in part 2.  lol

    • #13
  14. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Nice post, Concretevol.

    • #14
  15. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    Yes, please tell us the rest of the story.

    • #15
  16. Benjamin Glaser Inactive
    Benjamin Glaser
    @BenjaminGlaser

    I live in Ellisville, Mississippi (right off I-59 just north of Hattiesburg) and here is a picture of one of the several trees that fell near our church. In God’s providence not a single one hit the building, all landing at different angles. (That is not me in the pic).

    11903780_10152893260275876_905977712470243611_n

    • #16
  17. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    Benjamin Glaser:I live in Ellisville, Mississippi (right off I-59 just north of Hattiesburg) and here is a picture of one of the several trees that fell near our church. In God’s providence not a single one hit the building, all landing at different angles. (That is not me in the pic).

    11903780_10152893260275876_905977712470243611_n

    Amazing…..I have never seen so many trees down, at least in person.

    • #17
  18. Benjamin Glaser Inactive
    Benjamin Glaser
    @BenjaminGlaser

    We were told by Forestry folks that 50% of all trees in south Mississippi were destroyed by Katrina. If you go out in the DeSoto National Forest near me you will still see dozens of trees that were knocked down by the storm.

    • #18
  19. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    To give some perspective on the size of these trees, here is yours truly standing next to some that had fallen on a house.

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    • #19
  20. Benjamin Glaser Inactive
    Benjamin Glaser
    @BenjaminGlaser

    Yes, that is one of the things that was so amazing about Katrina. You had trees that survived Camille that were just tossed out of the ground like rag dolls.

    • #20
  21. CuriousKevmo Member
    CuriousKevmo
    @CuriousKevmo

    Wow.

    • #21
  22. Trink Coolidge
    Trink
    @Trink

    Interesting isn’t it?  That I look at that last picture and think “heroes”.

    And I’ll be that –  to-a-man –  they’d resist that designation.

    But you and they are.  Heroes.  Tears are shed when the hero appears on our doorstep.

    Tears don’t lie.

    • #22
  23. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    Trink:Interesting isn’t it? That I look at that last picture and think “heroes”.

    And I’ll be that – to-a-man – they’d resist that designation.

    But you and they are. Heroes. Tears are shed when the hero appears on our doorstep.

    Tears don’t lie.

    Thanks Trink…heros we were not.  We got far more out of the whole experience then the people we were helping. :)

    • #23
  24. GLDIII Reagan
    GLDIII
    @GLDIII

    Concon

    Not to steal any of your thunder on this post but I am intensely proud of this image they pull for you:

    Hurricane_Katrina_August_28_2005_NASA-e1441110157875

    Hurricane Katrina August 28 2005 NASA” by Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC

    I spent several “intense years” (too long a story for here) of my career developing the MODIS instrument. It helped with the fine tuning of predicting the track of that monster.

    There are two copies of MODIS in orbit, both over 10 years old. Still doing their thing for both weather and climate research.

    • #24
  25. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    That is awesome GLD! Would love to hear about it in a post sometime and I’m glad you brought it up. Predicting those things saves a bunch of lives as well as helps people protect their property. Well done

    • #25
  26. Dorothea Inactive
    Dorothea
    @Dorothea

    New Orleans is already in deep trouble, if there is a direct hit, even one state away. We learned from Katrina that people should flee, right away, when there is a danger of extreme flooding. The people need to leave, but should be assured that the levees are designed so that most of the property will still be there, if and when they ever go back.

    So, if ever there is a warning of a direct hit on NOLA, folks need to get out, as soon as possible. I might be wrong, but I do not believe the city has taken a direct hit of a big storm.

    • #26
  27. Little My Member
    Little My
    @LittleMy

    God bless you for the great work.

    I had a friend, a retired nurse, who went with a Christian group to help out in New Orleans after Katrina. Many months later, I had one final letter from her. Apparently she had encountered something toxic there with severe neurological repercussions. I could hardly read her (before this, very neat) handwriting. I miss her a lot. Her life was dedicated to helping others.

    • #27
  28. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    Little My:God bless you for the great work.

    I had a friend, a retired nurse, who went with a Christian group to help out in New Orleans after Katrina. Many months later, I had one final letter from her. Apparently she had encountered something toxic there with severe neurological repercussions. I could hardly read her (before this, very neat) handwriting. I miss her a lot. Her life was dedicated to helping others.

    Oh my gosh that is terrible!  I’m sure her final reward will not be of this earth if she lived a life like that.

    • #28
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