Local authorities prep for devastated Gulf Coast | AspenTimes.com

Local authorities prep for devastated Gulf Coast

Chad Abraham

Firefighters from the valley could head to the South as soon as today to offer assistance in what federal authorities are calling the nation’s “most catastrophic natural disaster in modern times.”That description of Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath is from a Federal Emergency Management Agency memo that Aspen Fire Chief Darryl Grob received Thursday.Grob is part of a six-member incident management team led by Carbondale Fire Chief Ron Leach. Leach was one of several fire officials from the valley who last year traveled to Florida and assisted in recovery efforts after hurricanes wracked that state. Basalt Fire Chief Scott Thompson and Carbondale firefighter Vern Holmes are also part of the management team. The other two team members are from Boulder.”We expect within the next 12 hours to receive an order [to deploy],” Grob said. “There’s a process in place where somebody will need incident management support.”That will include helping plan search-and-rescue efforts, logistical operations and other facets that go into the nearly immeasurable task of assisting the devastated region.”When the order comes in, they’ll contact the team leader, he’ll contact us, and we’ll be off,” Grob said.Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis said he is coordinating with the local Public Safety Council and the National Sheriffs’ Association to identify the resources that are most needed.”I’ve never really participated in something of this scale. I don’t think anyone has,” he said.He also has to make sure his own department isn’t depleted if it sends deputies to the Gulf Coast.”We have a very good emergency management program for a rural county,” he said. “But how many people can we spare without bringing down our own resources?”Additionally, Braudis said he needs to know who will receive the personnel the sheriff’s office sends and how they will be managed.”Running into the vortex right now is the stupidest thing we can do,” he said of the chaos gripping New Orleans and elsewhere.Items that are most needed include water, nonperishable food, batteries, radios, cell phones, baby formula and diapers. For ways to contribute, call (800) HELP-NOW or go to http://www.redcross.org.Grob is also accepting donations for relief efforts. Call 925-5532.”There’s an awful lot of stuff this nation can send that way,” Braudis said.If deputies are sent, they will need to be self-sufficient for a minimum of three days and provide their own vehicle, water, food, equipment and shelter – “whatever we can spare,” Braudis said. Many of the deputies and firefighters in the valley are also trained as emergency medical technicians and have expertise in incident management.”If they need certain qualifications in certain areas, I think Pitkin County will eventually mobilize some people and send them down there,” he predicted. “It’s going to be a long-term operation. I want to see some organization at the federal level and at the state level that will guarantee that anyone we send will be assigned to a task and used. Right now it’s total chaos, and that’s usually the way a disaster is.”Braudis has visited New Orleans and said it is, or was, a great town. But he said he was surprised it had not suffered a catastrophic flood before.Aspen Police Chief Loren Ryerson said he has yet to receive a request for manpower in the stricken areas.”It really mucks things up if you send stuff to nowhere,” he said. “If we get a request, we’ll respond in some way or form. We’ll try to respond whatever way we have the capabilities of doing.”If local authorities do make it to the Gulf Coast, what awaits them is anyone’s guess.The Associated Press reported Thursday that the region is approaching anarchy.”We are out here like pure animals. We don’t have help,” the Rev. Issac Clark, 68, said outside the New Orleans Convention Center, where corpses lay in the open and he and other evacuees complained that they were dropped off and given nothing – no food, no water, no medicine.Across the city, the rescuers themselves came under attack from storm victims hungry, desperate and tired of waiting, according to The Associated Press.”Hospitals are trying to evacuate,” said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Cheri Ben-Iesan, a representative at the city emergency operations center. “At every one of them, there are reports that as the helicopters come in people are shooting at them. There are people just taking potshots at police and at helicopters, telling them, ‘You better come get my family.'”Outside the Convention Center, the sidewalks were packed with people without food, water or medical care, and with no sign of law enforcement. Thousands of storm refugees had been assembling outside for days, waiting for buses that arrived hours late.An old man in a chaise lounge lay dead in a grassy median as hungry babies wailed around him. Around the corner, an elderly woman lay dead in her wheelchair, covered with a blanket, and another body lay beside her wrapped in a sheet.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is chad@aspentimes.comSkico joins relief effortThe Aspen Skiing Co. and its employees are helping with relief efforts by committing to donate $125,000 worth of lift tickets at a Dave Matthews Band Hurricane Relief Concert at Red Rocks Sept. 12.The tickets will be part of a limited number of packages offered to concert attendees and are good for skiing or riding on any of the Skico’s four mountains next season.Skico is researching additional avenues for providing support for the relief effort and will be organizing a coordinated contribution effort in the next few days, according to a statement by the company.

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