Saturday, July 29, 2006

Hackberry




Hackberry has made much progress; much more than what we saw farther south. Like Cameron though, in some places after nearly a year most of the progress was in debris removal and demolition rather than in reconstruction. This church, featured last year, is an example.

Hollybeach Progress




Hollybeach was not much different from when we last went there with a few exceptions. Some of the cars had been pulled from the canals and a few trailers were there. Ironically just a week before someone told me that they saw that a vehicle on this blog was still there, but when we arrived it was gone. Just as on the way to Cameron, we saw debris of all sorts and sizes, from cars and trailers to sea buoys and boats, all along the roadside and in the marshes along the way.

Leaving Cameron





A few final pictures. I saw the house from Kevin Savoy's blog and it seemed frozen in time. The rest of these are taken from the main street as you drive through town. It's wrong for anyone to forget about Cameron, or to cut back on aid to the parish. Cameron residents are proud and resilient, they don't wait for help; they don't demand and expect someone else to solve their problems. It's a shame that they are being penalized for it. Recently a Congressional delegation came down here and said that they were shocked at what they found. I guess we'll see if it makes any difference.

Assorted Pictures from the Ride to Cameron





Lining the highways on the roads into Cameron Parish are signs that the people there still need plenty of help. It's obvious that the priorities are on rebuilding homes and businesses, but progress is very slow. We saw two places in or near town where we could stop and buy a cold drink or a sandwich. People were still in the process of cleaning up, but I wonder how some of these things will ever be removed. How do you move a ship that landed inland? Or a home out in the middle of a marsh?

More Cameron Pictures




When I see how far Lake Charles has come, its amazing to see how much that Cameron still has left to do. New construction is hampered by fights with the feds over new building requirements. As you drive into town you see that fields are still littered with cars and slabs where homes used to be; some with makeshift signs that identify the address and some cases the owners. The Rita dumpsite is still very active.

More pictures from downtown Cameron





Here are a few pictures of the Catholic church on main street coming into town. According to news reports bodies remain missing from the cemetaries in Cameron Parish. The cars pictured here are a few blocks from the courthouse.

Cameron-Nearly a year later




Pictured here is the bank and a new park. Next is the Cameron Parish library. Maybe the decision makers decided that this is all that Cameron needed. For purposes of comparison, also here is a picture of the bank a few days after the storm. Its on the same tract of land.

Cameron Where?




Nearly a year later this blog is not quite as upbeat. A few weeks ago I was out near the airpark and saw a FEMA trailerpark that had not yet open. Hundreds of trailers, crammed together, with no one living in them yet. Could it be that nearly a year later people are still waiting for a place to live?Not long after that the news reported that while federal aid was being extended for many affected areas, it would not be extended for Cameron. How could that be? Could it be that everything is all better there? Could it be that they've had enough time?I decided to post some pictures of Cameron so that people could judge for themselves whether Cameron still needs any help. Here are some pictures from days after the storm compared with the same area today.These pictures are of main street Cameron before and after the storm. About all that's changed is that debris has been cleared and some buildings have been demolished.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Holly Beach Before and After


I found these images on the web of Holly Beach before and after the storm. They put the pictures we took earlier into perspective.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A Good Blog of Creole and Oak Grove

Kevin Savoie, a neighbor of mine just posted a blog with pictures he took in the Creole/Oak Grove area. For those not from this area, that area is south of Lake Charles, closer to the coast. His pictures are really good and look like they were taken fairly close in time to the storm. I've tried to post a link to his site here.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Hurricane Preparedness


Here are some things I'd recommend to anyone facing a storm this hurricane season.

Get plywood early. As the storm nears, plywood is in short supply. Board up windows using screws not nails. I don't know where the idea of taping up windows came from, but its a myth and does nothing. Don't waste your time.
If you have a fence, get some 2 x 4's and prop up your fence on both sides. Fences took a very hard hit here, they act like huge parachutes or wind catchers. The few I saw standing had been buttrossed before the storm. The quote to fix my fence was $3800; more than I spent to build it.
Get plenty of bottled water to drink and fill everything you can with water for washing, bathing, and cleaning. Water goes fast and I regretted not filling tubs before the storm hit. Luckily water trickled on after 2-3 days here, but those days were unpleasant and it could have taken longer.
Dan Eason bought blocks of ice and put them in his freezers. That move saved a lot of his food. When Peter and I were throwing away food from other people's freezers 2 and even 3 days after the storm, Dan still had stuff in his that was frozen solid.
Get a good battery powered radio, lots of flashlights, maybe a battery powered lantern, and plenty of batteries. A good Q beam is a nice thing to have, particulary one that recharges in your car. I cannot even begin to describe how dark it is at night when there isn't a light for miles.
If you can afford it, get a good generator and get it early. FEMA supposedly reimbursed people for 5500kw models which are more than enough to power freezers and a few lights. Whatever generator you buy, stock up on gasoline and lots of it. Our 5500kw unit burned about 16 gallons every 24 hours. This doesn't even include the fuel you use for your car or truck. Fill up all your vehicles and get a good siphon. If gas is in really short supply you can siphon fuel from a vehicle.
Natural gas operated generators were a huge hit here. The one that Fred and Dave gave us was a 12,000 kw Generac. You need someone to hook it up to your gas lines, but it never needs refueling. It was also enough to run virtually everything in the house.
If you want to have a shot at air conditioning, get someone to connect "hot boxes" at your air conditioning units. These relatively cheap units, about $30 each, build up the power to fire your compressors. Compressors don't require much power to run, but they require a significant surge to start them. These "hot boxes" take the surge and let you run your central air on generators that otherwise could not start them. While on the subject, if you have a generator, learn how to connect it, and where to put it. A couple of power company people were nearly killed when improperly connected generators fed power up the lines beyond the house being connected. Some people in Texas were killed by Carbon Monoxide from generators placed too closely to their homes.
If you have people with you, get some walkie talkies. Peter and I got a pair for around $60 that had a stated range of 10 miles. While they didn't even come close to that distance they did have enough range to suit our needs. Since we were both on Sprint, we had no cell phones the first couple of days. I reiterate, Cingular never stopped working.
While certainly not a necessity, my wireless card was helpful. Until the system went down, I was able to connect to the internet through the Sprint system. Information is critical and its god to have as many sources of information as possible.
As the storm gets closer, especially if you plan to stick it out or stay nearby, get tarp, duct tape, and things you'll need to patch up your house.
Chainsaws are helpful, whether you stay or return. Most of the roadways were blocked when we returned. Also, if a tree is on your house and you can handle it, getting it off quickly minimizes your water damage.
Stock up on food, particularly canned goods. If you have ice chests with ice, you may want fresh fruit and a few other fresh items. Make sure you have a can opener. Propane burners, like those you use for camping are nice, especially if you don't have a gas range, or if you are one of the unlucky ones who lose gas too. Get matches (waterproof) and/or lighters.
Make sure you have enough prescription medicine to last. If you evacuate take your medicine with you and have enough information so that you can refill your medication if necessary. While the pharmacies opened quickly and were helpful (Target was a good example), they can't hand out medications based on your word.
Put your pictures, papers, and things that can't be replaced in a safe place. Our safe place was my parents' house in another town. Ask people in Cameron, generally no place in a Hurricane area is a safe place.
Bring I.D., Social Security cards, and credit cars. I.D. is necessary if you will be out of town and seek aid or relief.
Get plenty of cash and get it early. ATM's did not work for days and the banks were down initially. When stores opened, or when we went out of town to get fuel, many places couldn't take credit cards. To fill up the SUV and the gas cans for the generator, we would spend at least $200 per trip.
I know a few people who turned off their power mains when they left and were glad for it. One man I spoke to today said that power surges blew out most of his applicances. He also said that his insurance policy had limits of only $1,000 for power surges.
Review your insurance coverages FAST. Some companies allow you to bind coverage or to change coverage until a storm enters the Gulf. This one isn't there yet, so some may still have time.
Check out your trees. Most of the homes that were damaged in this town were damaged or destroyed by trees. I know that many of us are cutting down trees that could damage our homes the next time. At a minimum, you may want to remove limbs that could cause damage.
Eliminate missles. Take down hanging plants, move lawn furniture (or basketball goals), secure anything that could go flying into your home or someone else's home.
Tools are helpful if not critical to have on hand, before, during, and after the storm. Raincoats help too.
If you stay or return soon, I recommend stocking up on a Fix a Flat. I have it in all four of my tires now. Regardless of how careful you may be, you will end up with nails, or other debris in your tires.
I may add more later, but thought that this was a good starting point. You can also find some pretty helpful sites on the internet, like www.ready.gov, www.nhc.noaa.gov, and www.redcross.org. The Red Cross site has good information on securing your home and surroundings. There is a particularly good link there discussing how to secure your roof and garage door.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

And the office . . .





Despite these posts, things have been pretty hectic trying to relocate our office. I had no idea how fast mold could grow and spread. Here are a few pictures of the office in the days right after the storm.
Between the winds and work, we haven't yet been able to make it to the Gulf. As soon as we get a chance we'll post some of those pictures.

More Pictures





Here are a few more pictures, in no particular order, taken over the last few weeks. Kplctv.com has hundreds of pictures as well, some of which look like they were taken either during the storm, or before the winds had fully subsided.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Update

Progress here is remarkable. Most in Lake Charles now have power and cable is coming up fast. We've had home garbage pickup for a while now which we now appreciate more than ever. I'll never forget the smell of the Barbe parking lot when we brought garbage to the temporary dropoff stations. More and more businesses are opening and they are staying open longer.

Traffic is bad, probably the worse I've ever seen. Long lines are now a fact of life. My wife, who is 8 months pregnant waited in line for an hour to have our Sprint cell phone repaired, only to be turned away at the door because they close "sharply" at 3:30. While on this topic, someone pointed out an error on an earlier post. While almost everyone lost cell phone service the night of the storm, those with Cingular did not. The guys who had Cingular phones were very popular in Oberlin.

Those of us who were here still marvel at how far we've come. Our city, parish, state, and federal officials did a remarkable job and set the standard by which others should be judged. We were lucky to have all those who came here to help; the National Guard, the power companies, fireman and police, relief organizations, and everyday volunteers.

A friend showed us how to put a counter on here that shows us how many "hits" this site has had and where visitors are from. In the last week people have viewed this site from nearly every state and from Japan, Canada and Puerto Rico. Many who have emailed have asked for more pictures. Now that cable is back we'll post more in the next few days.

If the weather permits, sometime this weekend we'll try to get out into the Gulf of Mexico for pictures of the coast and of some of the offshore platforms. I heard that over 100 platforms were damaged or destroyed and that domestic production is the lowest since World War II.

Monday, October 10, 2005

More Power



The number of electrical workers throughout the area is staggering. The pastor at church said that he said a mass for over 500 workers at Chennault on Sunday morning. More workers were staged at the Burton Coliseum and at other areas throughout the parish as well. They have most of Lake Charles online now, and seem to be focusing on hard hit areas that need more work. They have to completely rebuild Cameron Parish, one report said that not a single house could accept power after the storm. It's hard to figure out where all of these people come from since so many other areas, from Mississippi, New Orleans, and Texas all have similar demands. One guy that Peter met the other day said he had been away from home for 21 days so far, trying to get power restored to the Gulf Coast.

Installing telephone poles




Cameron Parish/Hollybeach-Best of America





We thought that we were prepared for anything after having seen the things that we had for the past two weeks; we were wrong. Peter, Evan, and I drove down Highway 27 towards Hollybeach on "Look and Leave" Sunday. The roadblock was the most stringent we'd seen. Despite having press passes, we were referred to the OEP headquarters for clearance. There we saw a small, overworked, exhausted, but dedicated group. While speaking to the coordinators, an older man walked in carrying a box of nails which he gave to one of the men we were talking to. When the man left we were told that he was typical of the residents there, he had lost everything, yet was bringing needed building supplies to help others.
There was no anger or resentment here, only a strong determination to rebuild. Even though 7% of the nation's natural gas comes from there, little serious attention has been given to this area. People need housing, there is nothing left. Building supplies are in short supply. The task here dwarfs what we saw anywhere else, these people have to rebuild not only their homes, but their entire infrastructure.
Driving down 27, into Hollybeach and throughout the area, we saw total and complete ruin. More often that not we found only slabs where homes used to be. Boats are on high, dry ground. Sea buoys are strewn along the beach and into the marshes.
Yet, despite everything we saw, the spirit here was remarkable. No complaints, no cries for help. American flags were everywhere. Signs were posted promising that the community would be rebuilt. Even when you could not even tell where a home or camp used to be, signs were posted identifying municipal addressed.
I could fill pages with pictures, but soon they all begin to look the same, slabs, posts, debris, and demolished vehicles and boats. And flags, plenty of flags.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Hollybeach and Area