It has been over 17 years since this storm hit, something told me I should scan my pics and get this into a hard drive, and preserve my account of Hurricane Katrina.
Early on the morning of August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina, a monster storm was making landfall along the Mississippi and Louisiana coastline, the massive storm entered the gulf as a category 3 storm days before. The warm waters of the Gulf stalled the storm a bit, but during that time Katrina nearly doubled in size. The storm then began to intensify over the warm Gulf Loop Current and in just 9 hours the category 3 storm was now a Category 5 monster approximately 400 miles wide.
I remember checking the internet and news that morning, waiting to see if the storm had hit, how bad it was, if people were ok? Over the next few hours and following days, the brutality of the storm started to surface in all media outlets, people were not OK. Weeks after the storm made landfall there were constant requests for aid, both monetary and volunteers needed as well. I was going through a divorce at the time so money was tight and I was uptight, luckily I had an understanding boss, he was well aware of the situation in the gulf, and 7 weeks after Katrina made landfall I was headed to Gulfport Mississippi as a Red Cross Volunteer.
The Red Cross encouraged everyone to keep a diary or notebook while deployed, I don’t write much but I kept notes every day……….and carried a camera. The images are scanned from film prints, not the best quality, I was not shooting much back then, and I did have a digital DSLR but for packing/travel purposes I took a compact film camera.
The descriptions to follow (From My Notes) indicate writing from my notes/diary I kept every day while being deployed.
This is my 2005 disaster deployment, what I did, what I felt, what I saw…and folks I met along the way
(from my notes) Saturday 10/15/2005- Arrived between 5-6pm Seabees Naval Base, Gulfport Mississippi. 1,300 people under one roof, FEMA, FIRE, Red Cross. It was very Overwhelming to say the least, I was told by another volunteer that they are still finding people that have not had aid since the disaster struck. I settled in had Dinner and watched the movie Hitch, I made several phone calls and called it a night.
The Gulport Naval Seabees Base camp was basically several huge warehouses on the Naval Base, NCBC (Naval Construction Battalion Center). There was a checkpoint entering the camp, nothing fancy inside or out. Inside base was a central Information area where you received orders, etc. Pictured below base camp sinks and showers..you learn to share and be nice and patient. Showers were a pain, and ..well your rubbing elbows and waiting in line but it really does not matter cause we are helping folks. Showers were a pain, hard to find an empty one, day or night.
(from my notes) Sunday 10/16/2005- Orientation at 8am, this was at an off site Red Cross HQ. My appointment was for 8am, lots more people, most like me just starting their deployment. I was assigned to one of the many kitchens in the area as an E.R.V. driver (Emergency Response Vehicle) Orientation was quite unorganized and I did not get out of there till after 10am and caught a shuttle to our assignment.
Disaster Relief #307 Gulfport/Biloxi Miss. Red Cross Kitchen #7
Kitchen #7 had 16 Red Cross E.R.V. units from around the country, 50-60 volunteers depending on the day delivering 6,500 hot meals daily to the citizens of Saint Martin, D’Iberville, and Biloxi Mississippi, all surviving the aftermath of Katrina. Along with the Red Cross each Kitchen (and there were hundreds) there needed to be cooks, welcome the Mississippi Baptist Convention with their huge mobile kitchens and volunteers. They worked their butts off usually through the night to have early lunch and dinner ready for us to load on the E.R.V’s for delivery to the needy.
(from my notes) Sunday afternoon, I had my first ride along for dinner food distribution, Bryce was the driver of the ERV. My first day out in a ERV lasted 12 hours, as a newbie it was quite shocking. The Mississippi residents were wonderful, they blessed us, thanked us, shook hands, wanted hugs..the first images of ground zero were sobering to say the least
(from my notes)Sunday evening 10/16/2005- after each run, you have to clean out your vehicle, on this run Bryce the driver was trying to make good time driving back, he was young and had a friend to meet (Girl) he took a couple fast turns with leftover black eye peas, probably about 15-20 gallons of them. He rolled 1 Cambro (Insulated food container) It was a mess and he did not make his date. It was the messiest and funniest thing I saw after a first day like that, and it was his to clean up. I made some calls to Mom and Dad and went to bed at base camp.
(from my notes) Monday 10/17/2005- Slept great, a sunny day, I volunteered to drive volunteers to our Kitchen #7, this is a good thing, you have a vehicle and keys. After shuttle duty I was assigned to Sara and Susan’s ERV, we had about three garbage bags full of stuffed teddy bears to hand out, and we didjust that while serving dinner. I actually commanded the vehicle this afternoon, had a great dinner with friends and played UNO till bed, lights out.
(from my notes) Tuesday 10/18/2005- Slept like crap, after getting up at 2am to use the facilities (outside) it is hard to get back to sleep when your with 1,300 other people milling around. Hurricane (Tropical Storm) Wilma was approaching and people were starting to get concerned. I drove both morning and evening ERV runs with Sarah and Susan. We drove into the Biloxi coast/beach area, all of the roads leading to this area were blocked off unless you were Red Cross or other official. By the middle of the day it was clear that Hurricane Wilma was going to miss us, a relief.
The drive to the Biloxi coastline Tuesday was quite a sight, we came across one of the floating Casinos in Biloxi, the President Casino. This massive floating Casino was docked out in the ocean before Katrina. Katrina relocated the Casino.
We checked out the area around the Casino, it was very surreal, we actually found several Casino chips buried in the sand. We dug around a bit and we all came away with some unique Casino chips from the President, I also found a set of casino die, the chips and die I still have.
(from my notes) Tuesday 10/18/2005- Afternoon run, we met and woman and her son, 11 year old Chad. We fed them both and Chad went on to tell us he he was pretty sad, he had been mowing neighbors lawns to help his mother pay bills since the storm hit. He went on to explain that his mower was old and recently broke down, and now he had no way of helping with the bills. We decided we were going to find a way to help Chad. After the work is done, being a shuttle driver to the Kitchen had its perks, you had a vehicle and keys, so you could escape the confines of the base and actually go out with friends, have dinner and a beer, and be somewhat normal for a couple hours, escape the storm. Tonight was dinner with Samantha, Hue and Allen, had a blast and we took a collection for a mower.
(from my notes)Wednesday 10/19/2005- Shuttle trips to the Kitchen again but made it back for the morning meeting. I found out we had enough money collected ($120) to purchase a mower for Chad. Lynn, Sarah and I loaded up the ERV for the lunch feeding and headed straight out to Home Depot where we purchased a $89 dollar mower and spare gas can. We hid this in the back of our ERV, as this type of thing is against the rules big time, and we had been notified the previous day after delivering Teddy Bears to kids. This type of thing, weird as it was, is a no no with the Red Cross and could potentially be grounds for ending your deployment, we were a bit on edge that morning. That afternoon we made our way to Chads trailer park and delivered his mower and gas can, there was one excited kid and a bunch of tears that day. Everyone went out Wed. night and celebrated a great day. Eventually our managers found out through talk in the kitchen, they actually met with us and let us know that this kind of thing was what it is all about, they said nothing, no trouble for us, gave us a hug, I think deep down they would encourage everyone there to do that but they just cant. Mission accomplished.
(from my notes)Thursday 10/20/2005- through Saturday 10/22/2005 ERV runs twice a day, long hours, usually the same routine every day, early shuttle runs, lunch feeding, dinner feeding then head to a late dinner with friends, then lights out and start over in the morning. I took photographs daily, there was always another scene around the corner that you just could not fathom, especially 7 weeks after the storm hit the area.
(from my notes)Sunday 10/23/2005- My day off, The Red Cross will give you a day off during your deployment, you normally get a car to share with a few other people to use as you please. Bryce, myself and Harold grouped together and we decided to head to New Orleans, the Big Easy. The drive was not bad at all, about 1.5 hours. During the day we had a great time, we walked right into the Superdome most doors were open and we had a nice long look. we hit the French Quarter and had a great day of exploring.
New Orleans was a different type of damage than the Biloxi/Gulfport area, New Orleans was devastated by the flooding, not was much structural devastation like in Mississippi. Once outside of the French Quarter, that damn sobering feeling sets in again, this big happy city is not so happy anymore. The City was a mess, as a matter of fact a buddy from work was deployed to New Orleans shortly after I left Biloxi, we had a great Boss.
(from my notes)Sunday 10/23/2005- We drove back around 6pm, got into Biloxi about 8 and Bryce and I decided to drive back to the New Orleans, we wanted to check out some cemeteries and of course spend some time on bourbon street. The drive at night was spooky, there were no street lights to speak of, and even coming up to a big city Like New Orleans, it was still dark and very eery to say the least. We had a blast that night and got back into Biloxi around 2am.
(from my notes)Monday 10/24/2005- Back to work, had breakfast with the Kitchen 7 ERV manager Caroline before heading out. Todays run was with Tom, Sarah and myself, and it was going to be a Birthday on Wheels. Tom knew of a little girl on a previous route he was on that was deprived of her Birthday party, which was supposed to be 1 day before Katrina hit, she lived with her Grandmother. So between Lunch and Dinner runs we stocked up on all kinda fun things at the Dollar Store, balloons and all kinds of fun stuff. We delivered the party on wheels to her that evening, we got lots a hugs that night.
Another special food delivery for me was this man, in the worst hit part of Biloxi. This guy was a car enthusiast, he owned a 25th anniversary Corvette, a 1957 Chevy and this car pictured below. I fed this guy every day during my deployment, I never knew his name, he was a bit backwards and I never really knew if he trusted me, but I stopped and talked every day.His garage was 20 feet above sea level, but the surge was 30′ in Biloxi, he lost the Vette and the Chevy, he was working on this car every day, to keep him sane I would guess. Every day he had parts coming for the car, and he was excited to tell us about it, I never heard it run but it was close. Did he really need food delivered? probably not, did it help him be normal again, maybe saving a bit of cash….probably, I never questioned who wanted food, or why, we were there to help. He was glad I asked to photograph him.
(from my notes)Tuesday and Wednesday 10/25/2005 and 10/26/2005- Tuesday Kitchen manager Roy was almost in tears at morning meeting, I think his time was coming to an end and there was news that our Kitchen #7 was merging with another Kitchen #35, nobody knew what that meant for sure. Wednesdays run was a bit interesting, we were delivering meals in a second trainer park when a man with Parkinson’s fell walking to our truck, he cracked his head pretty bad, we went into first aid mode immediately and gave him care, we called 911 and he was taken to the hospital for further treatment. That night the entire Kitchen #7 crew including Roy and Caroline met for dinner at T.G.I Fridays, then off to Slippery Nicks to finish the night, we had a great time, pretty much like a farewell dinner of sorts.
The I90 Bridge, a main thoroughfare From Biloxi to Ocean Springs, nothing will describe the power of this storm like these images. The bridge was nicknamed the Domino Bridge after the storm.
(from my notes)Thursday 10/27/2005- This was my last day at Kitchen #7, and I was stuck with a rather prude gentleman for my morning ERV run, was not any fun. We were in a really hard hit part of Biloxi. A story from the area was the boat that saved a family, and the houses in this area were really hit hard with the storm surge. The afternoon run was a blast, my boss went with me, she had not been out to see much of the area having to stay at the kitchen most of the time, we had a blast on the run. We then squared away the ERV, picked up Bryce and we headed to New Orleans again with Caroline coming along with us. I had Caroline freaking out as I drove her car up to the second level of the Superdome. We made the rounds in town complete with some Hand Grenades in the French Quarter to finish up a fun day, arriving back at camp at 3am.
The boat that saved a family-This boat came to rest in Biloxi, this part of town had a huge storm surge that hit very quickly, stranding people on their rooftops. One woman and her kids were on a rooftop when this boat happened to float by after the 30 foot storm surge, they managed to get into the boat and road out the surge eventually to safety 2 miles away. They penned a message on the outside of the boat for the owner. I was told the family eventually met up with the boat owner to express their gratitude, the boat literally saved their lives. The actual message is in the caption below, a phone number followed the written note.
(from my notes)Friday 10/28/2005-Friday was my last full day in Mississippi, I woke up at base camp and grabbed a shuttle to H.Q. I was able to snag a car for the day, I spent time driving around, went down the coast on 90 in Biloxi to check out the Casinos again, snagged a couple more casino chips. I met Sarah and Bryce in the afternoon at Applebee’s Bryce was heading to the airport on his way home, we had celebratory good bye shot’s then I took Bryce to the airport. Sara and I spent the afternoon exploring Waveland, then ended the day at HQ processing out. One last night at base camp, I watched the movie The Longest Yard.
Waveland Mississippi- Waveland was a small Mississippi coastal community that was located almost halfway between Biloxi and New Orleans. Waveland did not make any of the newscasts as New Orleans got most of the coverage, but Waveland pretty much took the direct hit from the eye of Katrina. Waveland was so devastated that exit signs on the major highways for Waveland were removed to keep people from entering the area. Only residents and relief workers were permitted in the area. Katrina literally removed asphalt from several roads and bridges making travel in the area nearly impossible. The devastation was hard to fathom, I imagine it will never be the same. I went on Google maps street view recently and still seen abandoned remnants of property from the storm.
My deployment was coming to an end, I was happy and sad at the same time. It was a great experience that I will never forget. Met some great people that I am still in contact with today, and one thing I came away with that will stick forever, NEVER ride out a storm, evacuate when they say to evacuate, get in the basement when the storm sirens go off wherever you are, because you may not enjoy guys like Crazy George and me delivering your dinner, but we would do it.
I have a couple other really cool, and somewhat ironic things I brought home, Some Trump Ice pure spring water, Donated by Donald to the storm victims. My favorite, is Anheuser-Busch canned drinking water to help people ..who would have thunk it…