Katrina Aftermath from the Front Lines – How To Help

NOAA Satellite Image of Hurricane Katrina making landfall on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
NOAA Image of Hurricane Katrina

I have online access again today, so I can catch up on real news and do some posts! Many people have asked how to help (in comments to my previous posts) I have spent some of my time these past few days researching relief efforts here.

I think what I am seeing here in the way of needed supplies will also apply to the soon-to-be victims of Hurricane Rita.

First, here in Gautier and Pascagoula, Mississippi, ALL significant current relief efforts are being coordinated by church groups. If you want to donate food, supplies, or money, my recommendation is to contact your local church and find out what they are doing for relief efforts here. The National Guard and Army Reserve pulled out of distribution efforts two weeks ago and have mostly disappeared. The Red Cross is AWOL (more further down this post).My impression is that the United Methodist Churches and various Baptist Groups have the most prominent relief efforts here. But they are also the most numerous denominations in my area and I think overall their church properties fared best. I can say that 10 of 21 Catholic churches were badly damaged and I have not seen much of a relief presence by them. So if you have a United Methodist Church or Baptist church in your area, you may want to contact them first.

One volunteer organization, “Convoy for Hope,” is providing transportation for supplies. From what I have been told by local volunteers, they will get a truck to pickup donated materials from a church somewhere in the US and bring them on down to the coast to a church here.

We have distribution centers scatted around Jackson County, and ALL of them are organized by the churches here. Some only operate on Saturday/Sundays, others are weekday operations. There are also church groups coming door-to-door in our neighborhoods asking people what they need and delivering on the spot. Seriously, one group visited my neighborhood yesterday; the people in the truck had come down from South Carolina to help.

These relief centers are operating from under fragile cloth canopies in parking lots and on church properties. I’ve been told that many groups want to get all their supplies distributed and gone by today in case hurricane Rita causes massive rain storms here. So after Rita comes through, not only will massive supplies be needed by those new victims, we’ll need to be restocked here in Mississippi.

Here is my list of supplies I think are needed most.

Food: Prepared meals that only require heating (stove top heating preferably) are best. Even among families with a standing house, almost no one in this area has a working refrigerator. Many people are cooking on a camping stove and have limited storage space in their tent/camper/RV. Also needed are prepared baby foods and pet foods of any type. For pet foods, dried dog and cat food are in big demand.

Water: Safe drinking water is becoming more plentiful in Jackson County and I think the “boil water” restriction has been lifted county-wide. But further west in Biloxi, Gulfport and beyond there are still many areas without operational water supplies. So bottled water is still needed. Also appreciated would be GatorAid – again we are working in extreme hot weather and many people have no access to any air conditioning

Clothing: Whatever you can send that is suitable for hard work in hot weather. The heat index has hit record highs these past weeks, adding to the general misery of folks living in tents. Work boots with steel shanks would be greatly appreciated for people working around piles of wrecked lumber – to keep nails from going into their feet. Also children’s clothing, schools open in Jackson County Oct 3 and many children will need school clothing.

Ice: Ice is in big demand and nearly impossible to obtain here on a consistent basis (Last night I think I bought the last bag of ice available in Gautier). I don’t know how ice can be transported long distances without a refrigerated truck but if you can get it down here, your group will be big heroes. I think the need for coolers is pretty stable now; people pretty much have all the coolers they need or have room to store.

Other items: Tampons and diapers of course are always needed. Other items that are nearly impossible to obtain right now would include:

  • Leather Work Gloves
  • Dust masks and chemical protection masks
  • Box Cutter Knives and replacement blades
  • Cardboard packing boxes (needed for packing up what possessions can be salvaged)
  • Packing tape
  • Heavy marking pens
  • Trash bags. “Contractor Grade” is best, but any would help
  • Cleaning supplies, particularly bleach which is needed to kill mold in standing homes. Also personal toiletries would be appreciated.
  • Cleanup tools including square blade shovels, rakes, and push brooms
  • School supplies, as many families lost their entire home, and schools will start to reopen here Oct 3.

I don’t think there is much need for sheet plastic or blue roof tarps anymore. FEMA has actually appeared to have done a good job getting roof tarps distributed to those who need them.

Tent cities, as well as camper and RV cities, are popping up on church grounds around the area. There are also camper cities showing up in the parking lots of major shopping centers (including Sam’s Club and Walmart), and I suspect some of these camper cities are out-of-area contractors who have nowhere else to live. I am seeing tents being sold in supermarkets right now, but I think the demand for them are stable here. Anyone who is living in a tent and who can afford to is moving up to campers, others are moving in with family or FEMA-provided mobile homes.

The WORST thing you could do to help us down here is donate money to the Red Cross. The lack of a presence here by the Red Cross is glaring. Congressman Conyers, Sen Boxer, anyone in office; if you are reading this please look into why the Red Cross has gone into hiding. Even local officials have publicity complained about the lack of Red Cross support (as per a Mississippi Press article I read yesterday).

Seeing their lack of relief efforts here (on top of what I saw last year when I evacuated to a Red Cross operated shelter during hurricane Irvine), I know I will never again donate a flipping penny to the American Red Cross.

More later as I can post. In my next post I will try to write my impressions and small items I have picked up that give a sense of what living in a post hurricane disaster area is like.

My thoughts and prayer are with the soon-to-be victims of Hurricane Rita, and may these people have the good sense to get the hell out the way!

Editor’s Note: This diary was first published on Daily Kos as Katrina Aftermath from the Front Lines – How To Help on Thursday, Sep 22, 2005, in response to the many Dkossians asking how they could help and what was needed down here. I am republishing it here as I think it gives some great insight as to the conditions here at that point in time.

Related Posts

Katrina Report – Democrats Screw Up Again : My commentary on Democrats running fund raisers among hurricane Katrina survivors.
Katrina Aftermath – The Mississippi Numbers : Running the numbers on impact of hurricane Katrina.
Katrina Aftermath Report – Commentary on Disaster Relief : My commentary on disaster relief post hurricane Katrina.

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