- October 21st, 2005
A massive production day. Chris, Terri, Loren, Brooke and I spent the morning making clips, clipping canopies and floors and cutting vents. The group had the idea to use side vents in the canopy instead of overhead vents, so the cap isn't needed. Hot day, even with low-ish humidity, and I was glad to head out with Brooke to do one deployment and site surveys, giving Allegra a much needed rest. Allegra is a rock star, quietly working behind the scenes to make everything comes together. She attends meetings, spends endless time on the phone and makes countless site surveys. She is amazing.
Brooke and I started at the cartography office of the ICP, looking for a map to Wiggins, one of the site surveys. A very nice man tried to help, but he was relatively new to the post and was having problems interpreting what the folks before him had done. And every step was taken in methodical detail (translate ohsoveryslow) Brooke and I being the eternally patient people we are (not) thanked him when he promised to get us a map "tomorrow" and left, having decided from our own perusal of a regular map that Wiggins was at least and hour and a half away, making it impossible to include in the day's activities.
I got a good insight into the miracles Allegra has performed in finding the locations and evaluating them for placement. Even with Brooke, who has been here a few weeks and is somewhat familiar with the areas, driving and me navigating with a map that is supposed to be accurate, navigation is somewhat by feel because most street signs are nonexistent and the landmarks given not always accurate. After circumnavigating Bayside Park, we finally found the first stop. The house and yard looked like it was in much need of repair before the hurricane. After taking care of a cat we found, we surveyed the yard and found the only possible place for deployment was the front yard (the back yard having many low trees, and the very real potential of becoming a swamp of its own in the rain). We then headed out to the next site, which seemed very easy as it was on Highway 90, the main drag through Waveland and Bay St. Louis. Wishful thinking. Highway 90 renumbers itself at least three times, and it doesn't always begin with the 100 block. Add to that the fact that most of the damaged buildings do not have street numbers, and you're doing it by guestimate at best. We thought Brooke had a brilliant thought when we pulled into a vacant Wendy's (a surreal experience driving through the drive through lane) and thought to look on the FEMA inspection notice posted on the front door. No such luck, even FEMA didn't have an address, just a designation of the corner of Highway 90 and the Medical Center. We pulled over and asked a woman if she had any idea where the address was. She said she didn't think there were any houses on Highway 90 in Waveland. Turns out, she was right, which we confirmed after driving all the way through Waveland and Bay St. Louis at least twice. In fact, there isn't even a 900 block in Waveland (or if it doesn, it's the medical center, which wasn't going to do us any good).
Giving up, we headed to the next site, past a tree trimming crew and down the street that should have been a direct shot to the house. The streets were indistinguishable from private drives and the signs were down. More circumnavigation using Brooke's memory and the map and we found the place. We had a nice chat with the father of the woman who had requested the shelter. He works for NASA on Stennis, and although his house suffered some damage, he already was repairing it and had a large pop-out trailer in the yard. His ex-wife's house was completely destroyed and his daughter would usually stay with one or the other of them. Once he heard the size of the shelter he said he didn't think she realized what she way applying for "she only needs a tent." He agreed that it would be better if we could find a family for the shelter and said goodbye, after finding out that he eats at the New Waveland Cafe every night and we'd probably see him there.
Light fading, we headed to the deployment for the day. Cathy wasn't home, but Brooke had done the site survey and knew where it needed to go. Without the cap, the process was much easier, and Brooke and I had a smooth operation going, and the shelter went up without a hitch. Cathy showed up at some point during the deployment and we had a nice talk. Her house was picked up by the wind, shifted 45 degrees and placed back down. Then flooded up through the attic. Her husband wants to try to rebuild it, but she says she's going to have someone bulldoze it and start over. Her sons put up an electical pole and the electric company promised to bring out electricity that day, but it didn't happen. They're "on the list." How far down the list would be the operative question. Just as we were beginning to stake the shelter, one of her sons came by. We showed him how the shelter works, and as he's in construction he caught on immediately. He is going to build her a floor, which makes a great difference. He told us that they evacuated to Pascagoula, thinking it would be better. Pascagoula is also right on the Gulf and they had 120 mile an hour winds. The houses on the blocks surrounding the house they were in were destroyed, but their block made it through relatively unscathed. "Still better than staying here," he said. We talked a bit about FEMA's response, and he shared that his brother, who has a wife and a newborn baby, born after the hurricane, lost everything and they still haven't seen anything from FEMA. I'd give alot to see what is factored into FEMA's priority list.
We called it a day and headed over the the Cafe. We called into camp and found out that Southern Pipe and Supply, courtesy of Howie and Raymond, had come through! The pipe had come in, and they gave it to us at 1 cent a foot over their cost, plus they delivered it to Stennis, even though they had just gotten a truck to replace the ones lost in the hurricane and weren't doing deliveries yet. They are truly operating as good samaritans in their community. Loren, Terri and Chris had completed all of the production needed for the rest of the shelters, with the exception of cutting the pipe.
In the meantime, Sam, Virginia and Adrian went out on site visits, to check out previous deployments and make sure everything was ok. They visited Doc and Lenny, who have 9 people they are taking care of. The shelter got them through until FEMA delivered a couple of trailers and it is still be very well used. They are heavily involved in helping folks around them. Doc left them with this tidbit of philosophy: "People would tell me their problems and I 'd just say 'shit, get cherself a hump and a joint and a couple of beers and it'll all look different in the morning." Not that we'd advocate all of those things, but the sentiment clearly portrays the resilient spirit of the people we have met here.
They went on to see Tom Beasely and his family. The family of 5 is very appreciative of the shelter and is using it for sleeping, home schooling and organizing salvageable items from their home. Their next stop was at the Charles B. Murphy school, the location of the Pearlington POD. They are using the shelter to house volunteers and have had as many as 16 sleeping there at a time. The POD is critical to the people in the area, and giving their volunteers a place to stay is an excellent use of the shelter. Their final stop was at Jan Rabe's property, where I had helped install the shelter on Monday. Jan was using it for sleeping and storage. She asked for vinyl, screening and velcro to add windows and vents, and talked about ways to make the floor more water tight. Jan is vigilant about snakes, and I wouldn't be surprised if she figured out a way to make the shelter snake proof, too!
They returned to camp in conjunction with the pipe delivery. An hour of pipe cutting in the dark and then dinner at the commmisary wagon for them. Brooke and I joined them and we talked about the next two days of heavy deployments before packing up the camp on Monday.
Bruce arrived exhausted later that evening and filled us in on his meetings with the governor's staff and FEMA. We're grateful that Bruce is there to run that gauntlet, so we can continue to put up the shelters.
Just 2 more days of deployments to go, then packing up camp and moving out. We're looking forward to Amani returning on Saturday night to oversee the logistics of the packing and moving. We really don't want to think about leaving at all.