Federal agencies stepped up relief efforts today in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, mobilizing to evacuate flood refugees from the Superdome in New Orleans, dispatching Navy ships and declaring a public health emergency for the entire Gulf Coast. The mayor of New Orleans said the death toll was at least in the hundreds and possibly in the thousands.I'm sure the DHS plans include the Coast Guard.
With floodwater levels in New Orleans apparently stabilizing, federal department heads led by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced a series of measures to ramp up the relief effort. The steps included the dispatch of 50 helicopters, a U.S. Navy hospital ship and seven other naval vessels, swift-water rescue teams, a 500-bed mobile hospital and tons of military meals and other supplies.
Here in Hampton Roads, planning for deployment keeps moving forward. New requirements just came down the chain. Earlier today we were deploying skiffs and crews; then we had to make sure weapons quals were current; then we shifted to crews for our RB-S and UTB boats. Our list of Coasties heading south keeps changing.
One Chief Petty Officer from one of our stations came by to stage out. His wife and two children came to see him off. The kids were teary eyed, I figure at the thought their father, a barrel of a man, was headed away and into the unknown. They've likely heard some of the adult talk, and they worry. Given the option of returning home, the Chief said, "No." Knowing that sooner or later he'd get selected to deploy he wants to go now rather than later.
This is usual for Coasties.
My phone has been ringing off the hook with reservists who want to volunteer. And so far, nothing. Well, nearly all the calls were volunteers. One call was from a petty officer due to get married in 25 days; he wanted to see how imminent deployment was; he'd rather get married.
I'll not write here I told him he was making the wrong choice.
But think about it; we all have lives and here are Coasties -- active duty and Reserve -- who are anxious to go and help, to go and save lives. The mayor of NOLA is quoted as saying that perhaps thousands of citizens have died; these Coasties figure if they can get down to Louisiana, they can reduce at least some of that.
So, in typical cynical fashion, Coasties are "taking bets" on when they'll deploy; as usual they hope for sooner but bet on later.
"Come on," we chant, "we're ready to go."