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Area volunteers return from aiding storm victims
by Bill O'Malley
Contributing writer

“[It] looks like Hiroshima after the bomb, I don‘t know how else to put it,” Anna Jaffe said as she groped for words in her first-hand account of the devastation along the hurricane-torn gulf coast at Parkville‘s Board of Aldermen meeting on Tuesday evening.

“Whole areas were gone and washed clean of debris where there used to be buildings,” she added.

Jaffe and Tom Hutsler presented the board with a video documentary of their trip to Ocean Springs, Mississippi where they served as ambassadors for the city.

Parkville officially adopted Ocean Springs as its sister city in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and pledged to do everything in its power to assist the city in its hour of need. Jaffe and Hutsler were among seven people who joined the convoy of three tractor trailers loaded with 75 tons of supplies and warm wishes for the hurricane-ravaged city.

The volunteers remained in the region for nine days to offer their assistance and helped distribute an additional 150,000 pounds of supplies to other distribution sites along the coast. There were tent cities strung along the entire coast, as the group ventured as far east as Coden, Alabama and as far west as Past Christian, Mississippi.

Nearly three-quarters of the 8,000 homes in the gulf coast city suffered major damage from the hurricane with approximately 1,000 expected to be a total loss.

Mayor Kathryn Dusenbery announced plans to bring another shipment of rakes, shovels, and other items to assist in the clean-up stage in the coming weeks. She urged people to donate cases of bleach among other items.

Jaffe and Mike Horine of Curious Eye Productions, which produces the city’s content for its cable access channel, accompanied the group to detail the destruction. The production company will air a video documentary of the area on Channel 2. After the presentation, the trio recounted tales from their excursion.

For those who cannot understand the mindsets of those who did not flee, they reported that residents in the path of the storm measured the danger of Hurricane Katrina by the damage suffered under Hurricane Camille in 1969. Gulf coast residents, who are no strangers to hurricanes, reasoned that they were safe to remain in areas that did not suffer major damage by the last major hurricane to strike the coastline. But, too many reasoned wrong.

The president of the local Artists’ Guild and her husband waited out the storm that battered the city for 12 hours on their rooftop after the home was overcome by the storm surge. With the water menacing at the roof’s edge, the couple clung for their lives against the force of 125 mile per hour winds in the face of pounding waves. Others were forced to brave the waters and swim for the safety of neighboring homes while dodging debris when their homes were overcome.

Jaffe was quick to clarify that the storm surge, which reached 30 feet, was not like a tsunami or a wave. She likened it to rapidly rising flood waters that crushed everything in its path and lifted homes from their foundations and shred the dwellings as they were battered with ten foot waves on top of the surge. A casino was left resting on the roof of a several story tall Holiday Inn in nearby Gulfport, Mississippi.

The storm left 900 square miles of land along three states in ruin. The demolition stretched for 300 linear miles along the coast and extended another 300 miles inland. The group reported that debris still lined the streets in Jackson, Mississippi, which is three hours north of the coast. Katrina was still a Category 2 Hurricane when it hit the capital city.

To understand the immense force of the waters, animal carcasses were found that were one-half inch thick and appeared as though they had been run over by a steam roller. The death toll continues to mount on a daily basis as recovery teams sift through the rubble. At last count, the death toll in Mississippi alone hovered around 300.

Everyone lauded the tireless efforts of State Representative Jason Brown, who accompanied the group as a representative of Platte County. “He worked to the point of exhaustion,” Jaffe reported.

D.J. Adamson, who initially spearheaded the relief effort from Parkville, was among the Parkville residents who made the trip. Sergeant Jon Jordan of the Parkville Police Department and his son, Jeremy, also assisted in the effort.

“No matter how hard all of us worked, it did not seem to make a dent,” Jaffe said.

“Everywhere you turned people were in need,” she continued.

“There was no end in sight,” Hutsler added, “It was simply overwhelming.”



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