Monday, January 09, 2006

My Gulf Trip, Day 1

For those of you who don't know, my work has sent me, along with its executive committee, to the Gulf states on a Hurricane Katrina fact-finding trip. Since our association represents first responders, emergency officials and clean-up crews around the country - we obviously have a great work to do in the Gulf and want to know what we can do to properly advocate for our priorities. Let me tell you a little bit about what I've seen so far.

I arrived today (Sunday) at 3:30pm in New Orleans. As the plane was landing, I was amazed to see blue tarps covering the roofs of almost every home for miles and miles. They're there because most of the houses have lost part, if not all of their roofs from the wind during Katrina. It was simply amazing to see this from the air.

After landing, the first thing I noticed was the smell. There is a hint of mildew in the air all around you - mixed with smoke from all of the fires being set to burn debris. It was surreal.
Since we are visiting the whole region, my boss and I picked up a Ford Excursion for our trip up to Mobile, AL (150 miles away). We hopped on the I-10 and headed east. Since that freeway heads right through one of the hardest hit areas, we could see everything. Entire neighborhoods were completely evacuated. Every single home we saw was without a roof, glass or doors. You could see visible flood lines on the paint as high as 12 feet on some homes. Huge trees were totally uprooted and sitting on top of homes, stores and gas stations. We saw a Dillards department store that looked like it was cracked in half. Gas stations had their entire carports knocked over, and trees littered the streets - everywhere.
I can't even begin to describe the debris. There were mountains of it. We could see trash and vegetation hanging from telephone wires - 30 feet high! Even on the freeway, there were still overturned cars with their windows blown out, covered with mud and completely stripped. Keep in mind the hurricane hit in August.
It finally got dark, and all we could see was darkness where neighborhoods should be. It was so crazy - it felt like a WWIII movie of nuclear devastation. I know you've seen it on the news - bit nothing prepares you for seeing it in person. It defies adequate description, and that's why we're here. Tomorrow we'll be headed to Bayou LaBatre, Alabama. On Tuesday, we visit Mississippi, then on to New Orleans for a meeting with FEMA on Wednesday. I'll be taking better pictures than those shown (posted are phone pictures), and will post them as soon as I can.

No comments: