Report submitted by Joe Hurston - Air Mobile - Gonzales, LA - Sept. 6, 2005, 5:12am -(U.S. Central time)
SO MANY GROUND ZEROS! Yesterday morning, we met first at 0800 hrs with Doug Vincent, Chief Engineer for the LA. Dept. Of Health and Hospitals. Doug, although tired and frayed, spent nearly an hour reviewing and asking questions on the Voyager TM. After some hard analysis, he told us where the hot spots were for water needs and where we could help at that moment. Of course, during a disaster, everything is a "Moving Target". In other words, things change very, very quickly. What is a crisis during this hour may not be in the next hour.
I know there has been terrible press about the delays immediately after Katrina hit and I DO NOT MINIMIZE THE SUFFERING for one second, HOWEVER, after working disasters world-wide, and here at home for the last 27 years, never have I seen a country like America during a disaster. Not only do we have amazing resources, we have the HEART to help like nobody else on the earth.
What has become incredibly apparent is the nature of response in the first critical days. Basic needs could not be mobilized because they demanded cleared roads and electric power to deliver the basics. Truly THIS is the place and time for the Voyager TM. The portability of the machime and the ability to run on minimal power and even solar power are perfect for those first critical days before the convoys of bottled water and food make it to survivors.
I would love for you to be able to join our team and just feel the vibrancy and desire to help everywhere we go. Yesterday, we passed convoy after convoy after convoy streaming into New Orleans. Mixed in the convoys were many private vehicles with supplies and volunteers. When we stopped a moment and saw TV and saw the people in Houston opening up their homes, our hearts were touched by the care and love and generosity everywhere. Well enough of my "American Disaster Commentary" for now. Let me tell you about yesterday.
After meeting with Doug Vincent, we mustered our team of 5 and headed East on I-12. We went straight to Slidell, on the north side of Lake Ponchatrain. Slidell was hit very hard. We found the City Water Engineer and did an assessment on the water situation. Slidell has wells that are 2200 feet deep. The water pressure is up, and there are "Boil Water" alerts everywhere. However, soon and very soon, those Alerts will likely be dropped. They will soon have clean drinking water at the taps.
We then met with the Fire Chief who was great. He immediately recognized the stength and capability of the Vortex Voyager TM. After briefing us on the situation, and updating us on the water condition of Slidell, he sent us to Covington, a town about 25 miles west. He phoned the Deputy Chief of Emergency Operations and paved the way for us to see him. You can well imagine how busy these folks are.
Covington is like Slidell and very close to getting clean water from the tap. The Deputy Chief gave us invaluable insight into the conditions and how the Vortex Voyager TM could best serve in them. These leaders expressed the need for the Vortex Voyager TM BEFORE the disaster hit! That is exactly why we were there speaking with them. We must get these units into the "First-Responders" hands PRO-ACTIVELY! We heard again and again, "WHERE WERE YOU TWO-THREE DAYS AGO?". We did not take that as criticism, because we can only be in one place at a time, but we took it as "MARCHING ORDERS" to do all that we can to place these units into Hotspots BEFORE the disaster. People need clean drinking water IMMEDIATELY after the disaster hits.
Throughout the day, we were on the phone with Church Leaders. Upon our arrival several days ago, I met my old friend and Pastor of many years ago, Larry Stockstill at the airport. His church is housing and caring for over 800 evacuees! Yesterday, President Bush met with Larry and saw all that the Church was doing. We were on the phone with Pastors from south Louisiana (Burris / Grand Isle), Baton Rouge, Alexandria and other regions. Air Mobile is coordinating to get Vortex Voyagers TM into their hands. Praise God for the Church rising to the occasion. This will prove to be "Our Finest Hour"! This is what Jesus would do!
After finding fuel in Covington (fuel is in very short supply throughout the region) we headed back to Baton Rouge for an early start on Tuesday morning (that's why I'm up at 4:45am writing this report). So many lessons to be learned from all of this.
On the way home, Tom Flaim spoke with one of the many Georgia Emergency Response Teams. They will be taking adding addtional Vortex Voyagers TM to their current compliment for immediate deployment. We'll link up with them first in the Gulfport/Biloxi Region, and then tonight with the group going into New Orleans tomorrow. It's heartening to have the Vortex Voyager TM technology embraced by emergency response and medical professionals. There is a strong concern that there are still pockets of people without clean water, particularly in the rural, less populated areas.
Today, we head to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. We've gotten the latest on road conditions from all of the Emergency Operation Chiefs and we've got Vortex Voyagers TM and we'll be heading out shortly. Again, God Bless You and thank you for your prayer and support.
We'll attempt to update on the road! Well, really have to get going to meet the other team members, that, by the way are the best. Our Lord knows how to deploy His troops. Christian, Tom, Dan, and Jeff are just great to work with!!
Joe and the U.S. Air Mobile Team
PS - My precious Cindy will be landing from Thailand today. In her last report she told me "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED"!