Sunday, September 11, 2005

Katrina Weekend Update, Sunday Edition

Aerial view of destruction between Gulfport and Biloxi.

New Orleans, a slowly surfacing city. Construction and cleanup crews are streaming into the city to assess the damage and clean up buildings.
In the suburb of Slidell, north of New Orleans, many residents saw their homes for the first time since the storm 13 days ago. Some were leveled to the ground; those that were not were filled with mud and mold.

Angela Barfield and her husband, son and two daughters put up a Christmas tree after a day of shoveling mud out the door of her 82-year-old mother's house. They decorated it with latex gloves, face masks and water bottles.

"We thought we'd cheer up the place," Barfield said. "If we weren't crazy, we'd all be insane."
Other families are being adopted by communities around the country until the situation improves in Slidell.

Gulfport's situation is extreme. The National Guard has set up expeditionary medical buildings, essentially quonset huts that can be quickly prepared, because the infrastructure is so badly damaged.
Hancock's hospital was hit by a tidal surge of nearly 40 feet, some here estimate. Air National Guard engineers at nearby Camp Haywood say that once water floods a hospital in that manner, the electrical infrastructure is destroyed and must be rebuilt.

"We're going to be Hancock Medical Center until they can reopen," Sessums said. "This facility will be here until the hospital reopens. "

EMEDS personnel are also working with local doctors to encourage them to use the facility in the event their clinics were damaged by Katrina.

"When we admit their patients, we're allowing them to make rounds on their patients here," flight surgeon Lt. Col. Peter Barrenechea said. "The Air Force here is providing the majority of the health care. "

The hospital is also equipped with two landing zones, or "LZs" as they are called, enabling the EMEDS to provide aeromedical evacuation capability to critically injured personnel, a concept that has improved the survivability of soldiers on the battlefield as the EMEDS are positioned closer to combat troops.

In a story about the destruction of Gulfport, the story about how AM-WWL, a sports talk radio channel, stepped into the void and became a lifeline for people trying to find friends and family. The WWL blog of the situation is particularly useful and I've linked to them in the past. One item noted that the Slidell Farmers' Market reopened yesterday.

In Pascagoula, the city is adjusting code enforcement to help the city rebuild.
Administrator Kay Kell said the city is also amending some of its code regulations, now allowing displaced residents to move mobile homes or recreational vehicles onto their property for temporary shelter.

"We've also been given the authority to adjust power bills, (in hurricane-related cases). In addition we have waived all permit fees for storm-related repairs. "You still have to have the permit to do the work, it's just issued at no charge," she said.

Residents should get permits at the 14th street headquarters.
However, the city's mayor thinks the city isn't getting enough federal assistance.
The destruction here is substantially less severe than in Biloxi, Gulfport or Waveland to the west along Mississippi's Gulf Coast. And it's far less extreme than the humanitarian crisis in New Orleans.

Still, Mayor Matthew Avara said he's worried that his city is being overlooked by FEMA.

"Right now, our biggest problem is FEMA and getting the FEMA trailers in" to house the homeless, said Avara, sworn in two months ago and now forced to run his government from a city maintenance building.

Avara said he fears that FEMA's resources were exhausted by Hurricane Ivan last year. "I know a lot of the trailers are still in use in Alabama and Florida," he said.

FEMA representatives were supposed to arrive here Tuesday to begin processing applications for housing assistance, Avara said. "We found a facility, put tables in, got electricity and got the Internet," he said. "Then we were told Monday night that a decision had been made and they would be here on Friday."

Mary Hudak, a FEMA spokeswoman, took issue with Avara.

"My guess is the mayor probably misunderstood," she said. Hudak said FEMA opened a disaster recovery center in Jackson County on Tuesday and will open another Friday. "FEMA's presence has been very strong in Jackson County. That is evident in the bags of ice, bottles of water, the plastic tarps and the meals being distributed throughout the community."

Technorati: flood aid; hurricane katrina; katrina aid; kanye west; impeach bush; slidell; biloxi; gulfport; pascagoula; nagin; blanco; barbour.

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