Click on pictures to enlarge

When Hurricane Katrina came ashore at the end of August, 2005, it devastated much of the Mississippi-Louisiana coast. Southern Baptist Disaster teams from 36 state conventions were activated. I was asked to go to Long Beach, Mississippi, to assist in providing communications for kitchens from Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee/Iowa. Kentucky's SouthBears communication trailer was stationed at Clinton, MS, the headquarters for the 15 or more groups spread across southern MS. Ohio's communication trailer, although not ready for operation, had already been sent to Long Beach. But it had no generator, and they could not get on the air. It was a surprise to Bruce, W8DDG, the Chief Operator of KD8BWN, when I arrived. With no communications himself, he was not expecting me. My little 900-watt generator got us on the air; and when Ohio heard about their dire needs, they immediately sent down a 6000-watt generator, followed a few days later by a new, modern high-frequency transceiver. Two antennas for HF work and 3 antennas for VHF operation were installed, plus a satellite radio owned by the KY Baptist Convention, for logistic communications.

Unfortunately, not enough operators were available until near the end of the primary operation. There was no one to "shadow" or "tag" along with the "White Hat" (head Southern Baptist leader) or head Salvation Army representative. Thus, much communication on the large encampment was by runner, if the proper person could be located. Not having the "tag operators" available meant that the C3 (command, control, and communication) was not as good as it should have been. Some of the leaders had no idea who we were or what we could do for them. But considering the unprecedented size of this operation, many things went surprisingly well.

Bob Russell, pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, wrote, "Are you willing to do something so big that if God isn't in it, it will fail?" This effort by the Southern Baptist Disaster Teams, the Salvation Army, and American Red Cross was so huge that nothing on this scope had ever been done before. By all rights, humanly speaking, it should have degenerated into petty turf wars, lack of cooperation, and other problems. But it did not! In spite of all the problems, this was the friendliest, warmest, most loving group I've ever worked with (except perhaps for my Children's Worship workers). This was bigger than all of us combined! The credit does not go to any of us! (Prov. 16:3).

Bruce, W8DDG, chief operator at KD8BWN

More equipment, including PK-232 for Pactor 1 E-mail.


Rovermobile with fuel and generator (and lots more!)

K3GAU and KC8TVL outside Ohio's Comm. trailer

Sunrise over 50' high 80-M dipole and lower G5RV.

From Jackson, MS south, the power and telephones (and thus cellular phones) were out, and for two weeks gasoline was often not available. Lines at gasoline stations were regularly 1/8th to 1/4th mile (thus two hours) long. Wind damage to buildings became evident as we approached the coast, but it was usually in the F0-F2 category. But on the coast, both wind and water caused unbelievable destruction. Thanks to friends from CBN, the KY Disaster Team, and a local fellow who had lost his house, a 30-minute tour of the beach area of Long Beach, MS, was arranged. The houses were gone. Sometimes it was difficult to be sure where the house had stood!

Cleared road, south of RR tracks, Long Beach
Tommy Story

Tommy Story

Houses that weren't swept away.
Tommy Story

Lady at her house and part of truck.

More of truck.

Visits across the tracks are discouraged!!

In Biloxi, MS, houses generally were not swept away. More often, they were either smashed or were picked up, moved to the other side of the road, and set down. A walk-in freezer rested on one roof. A brief tour with the Southern Baptist Disaster Team "White Hat", Mike Stricklin, was too short to see much. But what was seen was bad!

Red line shows water level.

Boat storage building across from one of Biloxi kitchens.

What was it?

Cleared road.

Boat in street.

Mike at kitchen in Biloxi.

Many people had lost everything. Others had major damage to their houses. Most across the whole region were without power, telephone, water and sewer for many days. Many will never be able to rebuild. 260 Southern Baptist Disaster Teams from 36 state conventions, from California to Pennsylvania/S. Jersey, sent mobile kitchens, cooking crews, chain saw teams, shower units, child-care units, medical units, and clean-up crews to the region to try to do their little part. In the Long Beach/Biloxi region, 9 states and about 500 people were assisting. As of September 24 4,592,059 meals had been provided across the area hit by the hurricane. On a typical day at Long Beach, the Kentucky kitchen would provide 3000 meals at noon and another 3000 in the evening, while the other two kitchens each cooked about the same number. Feeding was done in cooperation with the American Red Cross at most locations, and with the Salvation Army at Long Beach and several other places.

Stiring corn.

Chicken for dinner!

How to cook for 3000 at a time.

One of the many generators required for the kitchen area.

Steam cleaning.

If you think cooking is easy, think again!

Cooking for up to 12,000 people per day, coordinating between three kitchens, with Salvation Army doing the ordering of supplies (all of which had to be trucked in from far away- including all of the water) was a logistic nightmare. Yet the food was always there! And it was delicious. Some suggested that it was just because we were hungry (Proverbs 27:7), but I found it very tasty. And I lost only a couple of pounds....

East end of kitchen/supply area.

Looking south. Kitchen tents in foreground, Canteens lined up.

Looking southwest.

Local feed line at TN kitchen.
Tommy Story

Kitchen (KY or OH).

The trailers always arrived just in time.

The sleeping arrangements were - whatever you could find! Some slept under the porch roof of a damaged warehouse that had the debris cleaned up and was used for storage of the incoming supplies. The cooks had to pitch cots around the kitchen tents. More and more 2- to 8-person tents showed up as new arrivals had learned of the situation. Many had no tents and pitched air mattresses in the open. Near the end of our stay, a number of ladies from a KY church placed their air mattresses in the parking lot right outside the door of our communications trailer (the men apparently had the tents in the background). Six people were sleeping in the cargo holds of a bus. One fellow was seen sleeping on the top carrier of his car. My little Half-Dome tent and self-inflating air/foam mat pitched on the parking lot divider were quite comfortable.

Weather - The first evening I was there, a cumulonimbus was noted to the north, so I put the rain fly on the tent. Around midnight, it poured, but I stayed dry. The only other rain was a brief sprinkle one afternoon. Daytime high temperature was in the low 90s, with a nice sea breeze. We were too far from the Gulf to get the return land breeze in the evening. Even those used to hot weather had to drink large amounts of water, and there were several cases of heat exhaustion. Because our 80-M antenna was the highest structure in the area, and because of the many tents (and lack of tents), Lora, WD8LPN, Val, WD8KVD, and Brent, W5FRG, sent us regular E-mail weather updates via Winlink 2000. (The local NOAA Weather Radio stations were off the air).

The medical needs were not as severe as had been expected, but people who had lost everything had also lost their medications. Many pharmacies were damaged. A clinic, headed by Dr. Richard Paat of Toledo, Ohio, was set up, and other clinics were at First Baptist Church, Biloxi, and other places. Obtaining medications was a problem, with diabetic supplies and tetanus vaccines being in very short supply. We enlisted the help of those on the outside, from Clinton, MS, to Elizabethtown, KY, to places that we don't even know about, trying to get more medications. Some simply were not available because of the size of the disaster. Others were flown in on a chartered flight, making the medics happy. We'd like to thank those who helped with this, but we don't even know who they were. If you were involved in getting the supplies and happen to read this, THANKS!

My home in Winn-Dixie parking lot.

A small part of Tent City.

The ladies' sleeping area from a KY church. (The men had the tents).

The bedroom of one of the ladies, right outside the door of the communications trailer.

Long Beach medical clinic. SW corner of kitchen area.

Dr. Richard Paat helps a local resident.

Part of one of Tenn's shower trailers.

Sky was filled with choppers at first.

Friends stop by for dinner.

Over Long Beach.

Trees killed by salt water.

"Don't sleep under the trailers! The asphalt is weak!"

Various notes -
How were facilities and conditions? For the first five days, the "facilities" at Long Beach were five-gallon buckets lined with garbage bags. After repeated requests to everyone who would listen, four or five portable latrines were brought in. People were very happy! In the next few days, many more appeared, and they were serviced every day. They were clean and most appeared to be new.
The weather (low 90s) took its toll. Several people who were not acclimated suffered heat exhaustion. All were promptly cared for. Except for a very few motor homes, everyone slept wherever possible. Yet most seemed fairly comfortable, considering the conditions. In some ways, we had it soft compared with other groups.
There were 25 or more generators on the three parking lots. Most were capable of 4000 watts or more - some much more. Most ran from early morning until evening, while a few personal generators ran all night. Commercial AC power was soon available in the area, but none of the groups were able to tap into it. How we wished for a portable substation and a couple of distribution poles! Gasoline and diesel fuel were more valuable than money and were always in very short supply. Yet trucks pulling small trailers with dual tanks regularly appeared and gave away fuel. It was reported that some came from several states away and were simply individuals who wanted to donate fuel to us! Again, we do not know where some of these things came from or how they happened to come to our encampment.
Our 80-meter dipole was strung between the tops of two 50-foot light poles. I could not find my slingshot and monofilament line, so several young chain-saw operators from Iowa had a contest to see who could throw a string-attached wrench over the lights. They quickly succeeded! Great sport for them, a great help for us! Winlink 2000 (HF only) was used heavily, but my TNC can do only Pactor I. Conditions to K4SET's PBMO were excellent - except for the two afternoons when solar flares blocked all HF communication! - and regular E-mail reports and updates were sent back to my home church and others. Even tho Pactor I is very slow, it worked beautifully and was fast enough! Having E-mail via HF radio, even when the landline and most cellular service was out, was great.
The hurricane blew away all the insects. A few flies came back first. Then the ever-present love bugs. By the time I left, mosquitoes and others had hatched out and bites were common. Birds were few, but some mockingbirds screamed at us. No songs were heard, tho.
A dear lady who lived near our encampment visited us one day. She said that she had electricity and water, and wanted to do something for us. When we said that we really didn't need anything, she practically begged to help us. So she did several loads of our very sweaty, smelly laundry, then bought newspapers so that we could learn what was happening on the outside. This is how the people responded to our efforts. Thanks, Suzie!

At last! Adequate "facilities".

Our generator.

Several groups brought extra equipment.

Help came from all quarters.
Tommy Story

Much distress.
Long Beach.

"We'll be back!"

Now how do I get juice out of this thing?

Working on power lines.

Few traffic lights were in operation anywhere.

We finally found a cot for the medical tent.

"There is no limit to what can be done...

...if you don't care who gets the credit."

Get the most recent update on Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts in Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Note to Long Beach workers - If you need a CD-R with my (low resolution) pictures, it can be supplied if you will send me your mailing address.
Also, I have prepared a PowerPoint presentation. It is made for myself, but anyone familiar with PPT can easily modify it (add and remove pictures) to suit your needs. Tho frankly, you'd probably be better off using the notes from this Web site, getting the CD-R, and making your own presentation from scratch.

A summary of Katrina can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Katrina, as well as other places.

SVBC Living Christmas Tree page

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Click on funnel for 1997 KY Ohio River flood
and Magnolia KY tornado touchdown.

Shelby Ennis, W8WN - E-mail,

Last addition - 2005 October 24

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