Jennifer's Journal


Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Here in northern Louisiana, in the wake of Katrina, we have power, we have a/c, we have food, water and all the other necessities and luxuries of life--and we have evacuees from points south.  The woods are literally full of people, since many from South Louisiana have deer hunting or fishing camps in this area to which they fled for refuge.  The state parks are allowing people to use the rental cabins free and are providing free hook-ups for RVs.  Local Civic Centers have taken in thousands.  And of course a huge number of residents are sheltering relatives.  Then there are the critically ill patients from New Orleans medical centers that are being air-lifted to hospitals large and small all over Northern Louisiana.  Prisoners are being distributed to other facilities here, there and yonder.  Every nook and cranny is being filled. 
But all is not well.  Bottled water is scarce.  Food is in short supply at the temporary shelters or is unsuitable for those with medical problems, such as diabetics.  Many of the people who are here simply got into their cars and drove off in a panic as the mandatory evacuation order went out on Sunday.  They have little money and no way to obtain a line of credit since the banking system in the New Orleans area is nonfunctional--and using credit cards is difficult because of severe overloading on the three-state phone system.  They came without extra clothing or sleeping bags or any kind of emergency supplies.  Many people with chronic illnesses, such as asthma and diabetes, left home without their medications or with only a limited supply; very few people brought their insurance or Medicare cards.  High blood pressure from stress is epidemic.  Some families who are just now arriving have managed to ingest contaminated food or water and are extremely ill.  Stomach viruses were brought by some and are spreading through the centers.  Among the three to four hundred evacuees at the center nearest my house, two have died of complications from their illnesses, and I can't imagine the same thing isn't happening elsewhere.  Then, many of these people know full well that they have lost everything or else that it will be three to four months before they can return to what's left.  They don't know what to do or where to go, have no jobs, no purpose so sit staring vacantly.  Yet disaster counseling is not in place and may be a long time coming. 
And that's not all.  Grocery and convenience stores in this area are, many of them, supplied by distribution centers in Jackson, MS.  As of yesterday afternoon, there was still no phone service there so no automatic reordering.  The delivery person for several local convenience stores had to physically drive to Jackson to put in his orders for normal food and bottled water deliveries, but doesn't know when, or if, they can be filled given that so many commodities are being sent to the Gulf coast.  Bottled water may be a particularly crucial problem since it is so desperately needed in New Orleans and the coastal areas.
Yet people are responding.  Doctors are treating patients without charge.  Hospitals are admitting people without red tape.  Pharmaceutical companies are rushing masses of free samples of their medications to the medical community.  Off-duty nurses are volunteering at the evacuation centers, checking blood pressure and temps and acting as triage consultants to decide who can be treated in place and who needs hospital care.  Some few restaurants have donated cooked food.  Churches are gearing up to supply meals and other aid.  Still, the problems are huge and they are compounding with every hot, muggy day that passes.  More than that, they aren't going away any time soon.       


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Jennifer/Patricia,

This is Sherrill from CT;perhaps you remember me..I used to write you frequently.
The other day I logged on to your website wondering if you might have written a bit about what is going on down your way because of Katrina. Thank you for your comments;you provide insight not given on the nightly news broadcasts. We hear about the folks effected who did not manage to get to some other safe place and all that they are going through, but we do not hear about the others, such as those folks you mentioned here.
Years ago, I read "Midnight Waltz" and now whenever I hear about hurricanes down your way, I think of Isle Dernier and the tragedy there. My mind cannot even grasp the horror of going through such a thing. My goodness, I don't even like having severe thunderstorms, never mind a hurricane or tornado!!
What do you think is the best way to help?
Thanks again for the updates...
Take good care~~Sherrill

7:58 AM  

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