Sunday, August 31, 2008

Final Preparations

Well, the last 24 hours have been a blur, full of activity and decision making. Thankfully, Gustav has struggled to regain his strength after going over Cuba. Cuba truly bore the brunt of Gustav's fury. The intensity forecasts decreased, storm surge predictions were lowered for Mississippi, and it appears to be taking a turn west towards Texas as some counties in Texas were just put on Hurricane Warnings. Local media is reporting that the unofficial estimate for evacuations of New Orleans and parishes surrounding it and to the west, 95% of the population took heed. Shelters are full all over the state. You can almost sense the peace of mind it brings the mayor, news media, and National Guard members.

We just finished preparations and are hunkering down. We will pay attention to the news, weather, and radar, and have the candles nearby for when the power goes out.

Hope to upload video and still images as the storm blows by Mississippi as long as the internet is up.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Preparations by Katrina Survivors and Responders

This is a little different post than normally seen on this blog. However, Mississippi Gulf Coast is currently under a Hurricane Watch and thousands are moving north. Katrina is on our minds, but Gustav is in our sights. Living and working along the Mississippi Gulf Coast for the better part of 2 1/2 years has taught me a lot about living in an area under continual threat of tropical storms during the summer months. The past two summers have come and gone seemingly without notice except a somber reminder on August 29th about why the coast still looks barren in many areas. This summer was different. A few storms that ended up making landfall in Mexico and South Texas brought about uneasiness to many residents in this area. They had gone two summers without a significant tropical system entering the Gulf of Mexico and that utopia suddenly ended. Gustav has brought about an opportunity for state, local, and even federal emergency managers to show the public that they learned a lot from Katrina and things would never happen like that again. This is most evident in the images and stories coming out of New Orleans. Having a new administration at the state level does not hurt, but there seems to be a better awareness among citizens about the fragile state of their security while living under mean sea level 365 days a year. Evacuations are orderly, well-planned, and information about evacuation began two days ago. That is nearly 5 days before landfall! A great illustration was an interview I saw on Weather Channel just before dinner tonight. The reporter had two African American women next to her, one was probably in her late-40s, early 50s and the other in her 20s. The reporter asked what was different about this evacuation compared to Katrina. The elder of the two women replied, "It's lovely." She expanded on that comment by stating the officials who were coordinating the evacuations were treating them with respect and acknowledging them. Here were two everyday women, visible affected by Hurricane Katrina, and they were calm, clear-headed, and extremely complementary of the evacuation efforts ongoing in New Orleans. Even more impressive was that they had only decided to leave just a few hours before that interview. That interview revealed a lot about the new respect shown by New Orleanians to tropical systems moving towards Louisiana. Emergency officials and managers learned so much from Katrina and all of their hard work seems to be paying off. People are listening and responding calmly and responsibly. For that, I must say thank you to those officials and emergency managers. Your work and preparation will save hundreds of thousands of lives from Hurricane Gustav.

In Mississippi, the messages are just as clear. Mandatory evacuations for those living in FEMA trailers and the like, began this morning. Tomorrow, certain flood areas will be placed under mandatory evacuation. It is almost like this is second nature. Oddly enough, while driving to the post office in an attempt to get some packages out of the area before Gustav, I was a little surprised at how few buildings were boarded up. Being in the northeast side of the storm, the unknown in everyone's mind is how high will the water get? Everyone knows how much water came in with Katrina, how high it got in their house, their neighbor's house, and the guy that lives three blocks closer to the water. Katrina was the worst. So Gustav is forecast to be a category 5, does that mean we can expect high storm surge? I can assure you, that piece of information is invaluable in these coastal communities.

On a personal note, it is difficult to find yourself in a situation where you must make the decision about what is important to take with you if you are leaving and what you are willing to sacrifice. I have been learning and teaching this for 2 1/2 years and never imagined I would find myself actually having to practice it myself. You look around your place and go, how valuable is that to me? Is that replaceable? I'll hang my clothes on the highest bar and hope that the water really won't be that high. It truly strips you of any security you thought you had. For those facing imminent threat of tornado, I truly cannot imagine what that must be like to have no time to grab anything of value. I am grateful that I have had the entire week to plan and prepare. However, I found myself doing so with really no intention of ever having to actually put the plan into play.

I am working on learning how to post on the blog via my Blackberry. We will surely lose power which means I lose my internet. Blackberry was the only system that worked in Katrina so I will continue to submit updates as the storm makes its effects known.

Please plan to volunteer! Plan to give support to non profits that are down in the trenches mucking out the houses and providing the invaluable support of being there. Busy day tomorrow! Boarding up and moving equipment will keeping a very close eye on the forecast.


Restoration Point is making preparations for Hurricane Gustav. The forecasts are beginning to agree on a landfall in Louisiana west of New Orleans. We are tracking to storm utilizing the NHC (National Hurricane Center) at and Weather Underground ( These are sites that provide great data and tracking information. Volunteer and mandatory evacuations are happening in Louisiana and some residents of the Mississippi Gulf Coast still living in temporary housing from Katrina.

Many of you have asked what you can do.
  1. First of all, please begin prayer for those in the eye of the storm and everyone on the Gulf Coast. This storm is bringing up the fear and anxiety of those who went through Hurricane Katrina. The third anniversary was yesterday and many events were cancelled as citizens, governments, and businesses began to make preparations for Gustav.
  2. Next, you can organize a team to respond. This should be a team with chainsaws, muck-out buckets, first aid supplies, non-perishable food items, toiletries, and your own food and water. We will not know what the conditions will be upon entering a disaster area and if you are prepared to provide your own needs for at least the first few days you are responding, the less burden you place on the local services for the citizens of the community. Type of people to have on your team include emotional counselors, carpenters, heavy equipment operators, people ready and willing to do muck-outs, fix roofs, remove debris, and provide comfort to those affected by this storm. Make sure you prepare adequately with proper clothing, toiletries, shoes, hats, and water!
  3. Organize donation center in your community. Some VERY HELPFUL TIPS when coordinating donations - THE LESS "JUNK" YOU ACCEPT, THE MORE HELPFUL YOUR DONATION is to those affected by the storm. Important items to collect will include the following canned and dry foods, paper plates, plastic utensils, clean socks, diapers, toiletries and personal care items (shampoos, razors for shaving, deodorant, soap, etc), sanitizing wipes, bug spray, sunscreen, buckets, cleaning items, brooms, and certain clothes items. When it comes to clothes, please keep this in mind - if you would not wear it, do not send it. There will be a need for clothing, but please be respectful to those to whom you are sending it. Shoes, pants, shorts, shirts, and hats are all great, if they are clean or new. When collecting donations, have a plan for getting the items to the area. This process can be a major headache or can go smoothly if you take some planned actions. Call the area you want to send the items...this could be local or state government, churches, friends or family in the area, etc...and make sure they know the donations are coming. Tell them what you are collecting, how much you are planning to send, approximate date it will arrive, and who is driving the items. This will almost guarantee that your donations will reach those that truly need them! Also, make sure you plan for transportation costs (fuel, vehicle, lodging, driver's time) while collecting your donations. Finally, as you collect items, have a collection plan or the vehicle on-site to load as you collect.
  4. Finally, we need your help financially to begin to provide relief and response activities immediately after the storm. You can do this through Network for Good. Donations will come directly do us and it is a safe and easy way to quickly make sure your donations will directly impact the response effort for Hurricane Gustav.

We are busy securing our volunteer center in Pass Christian and making sure our equipment and tools are secured and in a safe area. We will do our best to respond to emails and will most likely do so through this blog. Thank you for your preparation for response!

Restoration Point Foundation