Carbondale man riding out hurricane to provide aid | AspenTimes.com

Carbondale man riding out hurricane to provide aid

CARBONDALE – A Carbondale resident who helped organize an effort to get a Mississippi town back on its feet after Hurricane Katrina leveled it seven years ago is back on the Gulf Coast waiting to offer aid in case Hurricane Isaac inflicts damage.

Tom Dalessandri is riding out Isaac in Pearlington, Miss., in a home that he helped refurbish after Katrina. Dalessandri said this is the third time since Katrina that he has stayed in Pearlington to render aid.

“We were here for Gustav, Ike and now this one,” he said.

Dalessandri was a founding member of Mountains to Mississippi Pearlington Project in 2005. The Carbondale Fire Department informally adopted Pearlington and channeled food, clothing, equipment and volunteer labor directly to the residents of the hard-hit community rather than through a larger relief organization. Town governments and residents from throughout the Roaring Fork Valley joined the effort.

Dalessandri personally oversaw the acquisition of materials and coordination of volunteer labor to remodel numerous damaged houses or build new ones. He was staying Tuesday at the home of Ben Taylor, which was remodeled through the Roaring Fork Valley effort. Dalessandri has equipment such as an emergency medical facility, chain saws and a Bobcat loader at his disposal though he hopes none of it is necessary.

Water was rising in Pearlington on Tuesday even though it was low tide, he reported at about 3:15 p.m. The brunt of the storm was due to hit around midnight or 1 a.m. Wednesday.

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Dalessandri said it appears that about half of the residents of the unincorporated community are riding out the storm in their houses, while the other half fled.

“I think people aren’t willing to take the risks they did seven years ago,” he said.

Those who stayed felt that they could handle Isaac, which was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane from a tropical storm. Dalessandri said he helped community residents board up windows Tuesday in preparation.

The town is a much different place then when Katrina struck. Many residents didn’t return to destroyed or heavily damaged homes. Houses that were rebuilt are now elevated 14 feet in the air on 6-inch-by-6-inch pilings. The storm surge, or rising waters, appeared to loom as a bigger threat from Isaac than wind damage, he said.

He characterized the mood of the residents who stayed as “nervously optimistic.”

scondon@aspentimes.com