Relief caravan bound for devastated Pearlington | AspenTimes.com

Relief caravan bound for devastated Pearlington

Naomi Havlen

A piece of the Roaring Fork Valley will be set up in the small town of Pearlington, Miss., later this week as part of a valleywide effort to get relief to victims of Hurricane Katrina.The town in Hancock County has a population of about 1,600, and has been “adopted” by the communities in the Roaring Fork Valley to get supplies directly to the area. Today at daybreak, a caravan of supply trucks and an emergency communications trailer will leave the valley for Pearlington.”We are making a longer-term commitment to our adopted community by setting up a more permanent base of operations there,” said Doug Davis, spokesman for the Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District. The communications trailer is equipped to house fire department members while they are working in the area but also has a satellite telephone and television, laptop computer and an electric generator.Davis said the inability to communicate with the “outside world” was among the most critical problems officials in Pearlington cited. Phone lines are still down, and electricity and cell phone service are inconsistent, Davis said. The communications trailer should stay in the area for the next few months. When it returns from Mississippi, it will become a permanent part of the Roaring Fork Valley’s arsenal of emergency response equipment, he said.In mid-September, Carbondale officials chose Pearlington as a direct recipient of their fund-raising attempts. Aspen, Basalt, Snowmass Village and Pitkin County later agreed to join the effort, and now some local fund-raising that isn’t earmarked for the American Red Cross is funneled to relief in Pearlington.Pearlington is about halfway between two towns the hurricane wiped out – Slidell, La., and Waveland, Miss. Pearlington is a few miles from the Gulf of Mexico, and is only a short distance east of Lake Pontchartrain and New Orleans. The community has been described as a poor town of mobile homes and small houses. It was hit by a 20- to 30-foot storm surge of mud and water.Today’s trip to the South – the group expects to arrive in Pearlington by Friday – includes trucks of camping gear, cookstoves, tarps, cots and household items. A large box van ReMax donated is also going on the mission, sponsored by the Carbondale Rotary Club and loaded with survival supplies that have been collected at the Red Brick Plaza in Carbondale.Since nearly every home and building in Pearlington was destroyed, camping and outdoor survival supplies continue to be in high demand there. Contributions are being collected at the former PartyLand store in the Red Brick Plaza in Carbondale between 4 and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.Log on to http://www.carbondalegov.org for information and a list of needed supplies. Sponsors are also needed to help pay for supply trips to the area – to sponsor a trip, contact Willard Clapper at 927-3502.Any monetary donations to support the transport or purchase of supplies for Pearlington should be made out to “Carbondale Fire/Katrina Relief Fund” and can be dropped of at the Carbondale Fire House or Town Hall.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com