Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Ice, bread ease some suffering in Bogalusa

The below was taken from the Bucks County Courier Times at

Ice, bread ease some suffering in Bogalusa

September 10, 2005 10:08 AM
Bucks County Courier Times

Three days ago, the first "luxury" items in nearly two weeks arrived in hurricane-ravaged Bogalusa, La. - ice and sandwich bread."

They gobbled it up," said Richboro retiree Keller Taylor, a Red Cross volunteer.

Taylor is helping feed thousands of people in this eastern Louisiana suburb, which took a direct hit from Hurricane Katrina. About a third of homes have been leveled.

The volunteer is one of two Bucks men who arrived last week into the chaos of Louisiana to help with the historic Red Cross disaster relief effort. Bristol Township retiree Ed Sherman is assigned to an emergency shelter in Lake Charles. Three other local Red Cross volunteers arrived in Louisiana this week, and a fourth is in Massachusetts helping coordinate volunteers.

On Thursday, the first shipment of bread that Bogalusa residents had seen since the Aug. 28 storm arrived. The day before, Taylor drank his first iced beverage since arriving there a week ago Friday.

Bogalusa remains mostly cut off from the rest of the world, Taylor said. Aside from the Red Cross, the only other relief agency there is the Southern Baptist Disaster Group, which has chainsaw crews removing fallen trees on people's homes and on the roads. Utility crews are bulldozing debris to clear roads.

Most residents are living without power or running water, which aren't expected to return for weeks. Inactive, downed power lines remain scattered all over the roads. Some much-needed trash collection has started. There is little communication with the outside world. Local officials are putting out fliers with general relief information updates.

Taylor said he was told food stamps soon would be available. "But frankly it won't help until supermarkets are repaired."

Martial law is in effect, with the National Guard enforcing a dusk-to-dawn curfew. There's a ban on alcohol sales throughout Washington Parish, where Bogalusa is located.

Twice a day - at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. - the Red Cross trucks, with police escorts, pull into the parking lot of a destroyed gas station off Highway 21."

When we come in, there are people waiting in their cars for us," Taylor said.

Instantly, lines 40-people deep form. Taylor serves about 500 to 600 meals in an hour - an average of about 1,150 meals daily. But it's never enough, he said. Some people leave hungry.

Over the last few days, supply lines have improved significantly. Several truckloads of food arrived, along with propane, which is used in portable kitchens to cook hot meals, Taylor said.

"We're just going right through it," he said about the latest supplies.

Bogalusa is a town where people lay down roots that only burrow deeper with each generation. Families with severely damaged or destroyed homes have moved in with relatives - living 17 to 20 people in a house - rather than go to an emergency shelter, Taylor said.

Taylor says it's hard to say if there are any emerging signs of a return to normalcy.

"Folks are coping. At this point, we're coming up on the two-week mark. They know what has happened. They know what their situation is. They know what their circumstances are. It's tough."

After two weeks in the chaos, Taylor is scheduled to return Monday to Bucks County. He's undecided about whether he'll return. "I need time to think about it," he said.


Carol B. said...

Is there a Wal-Mart nearby where you can buy things, or are they not stocked, either?

What is YOUR situation like? Do you have food? Water?

Is anyone able to go back to work, or is there not enough consistent electricity for that to happen?

Worried about you...

Charlotte Dillon said...

Sorry this is kind of late, Carol. Guess I got around to answering all of your questions in my blog as I wrote each part. I had so little on line time when I finally got to a computer two weeks after Katrina, that many comments and messages were left unanswered until now. I hope I didn't make anyone worry more because I couldn't reply when I should have.