Sunday, October 16, 2005

Report from the field

Today I went to Lake Charles (map), two hours west of here, to support the opening of a shelter there.

I admit to being caught a bit off guard by this, since we are now in the phase of the disaster where we are wrapping up and closing down shelters, not the other way around. This particular situation was necessitated by what is known in the disaster relief business as "secondary effects." The main disaster in Lake Charles, Hurricane Rita, is long gone, but the people coming in to this shelter are newly homeless: their apartment complex has been invaded by black mold, and they are being evacuated.

Making matters worse is the fact that the shelter facility itself was damaged by the storm, and has a black mold issue of its own. A good part of the building has been sectioned off with plastic sheeting and is undergoing decontamination. The damaged section had, ironically, been a refuge for Katrina evacuees before Rita hit.

As is often the way of things, we had just recently removed computer, networking, and telecommunications equipment from this facility. If only the mold had announced its intentions a little sooner...

I did get to have lunch at the shelter with the clients and other Red Cross workers. This facility also happens to be one of our contract kitchens, cranking out some 20,000 meals a day, and I have to say that no one goes hungry at a Red Cross operation. Lunch was spicy andouille sausage gumbo over white rice, with corn and biscuits on the side -- superb.

On the way back we had a chance to see some of the extensive damage to Lake Charles, including hundreds of pleasure and fishing boats piled onto the lake shore embankments, and Harrah's casino askew in the lake. Quite a contrast from when we passed through it in Odyssey exactly one month ago.

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