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Front Page » December 22, 2005 » Local News » Carbon County residents coordinate local relief effort, d...
Published 3,040 days ago

Carbon County residents coordinate local relief effort, deliver supplies to hurricane victims in Mississippi city


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate general manager


Price resident Luke Smith makes his way through the debris left behind after Hurricane Katrina demolished a home in Mississippi. Smith and Mike Metzger coordinated a local relief effort and delivered supplies donated by Carbon County residents to victims of the third largest storm recorded in the history of the nation.

Referring to Hurricane Katrina, United States Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the storm was "probably the worst catastrophe or set of catastrophes" in the nation's history.

Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast and is the third largest storm recorded since the U.S. began keeping records in 1851.

The numbers are unbelievable.

When the hurricane struck land on Aug. 29, the storm brought destruction to an area the size of the United Kingdom.

Ninety thousand square miles in the U.S. have been declared disaster areas, 1,383 victims are known dead and more than 4,000 people are still missing.

An estimated 1.2 million people were dislocated or made homeless by the storm.

Damage estimates range from $40 billion to $120 billion, making the hurricane the costliest natural disaster in American history.

More than five million people were without power for as long as four months.

The storm wrecked the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and south Florida.

The hurricane caused damage along the entire east coast of the United States. Tens of thousands of people have nothing to go back to - their homes, towns, jobs and the lives they knew are gone.

Mike Metzger and Luke Smith unload the supplies donated by Carbon County residents as part of a local Hurricane Katrina relief effort. The two men transported the large load of items almost 2,000 miles across the United States to Waveland, a Mississippi town approximately the size of Price located near Biloxi on the Gulf Coast. Metzger and Smith arrived at their destination on Nov. 2 and stayed at the Camp Katrina disaster relief center for 12 days. People interested in donating items or participating in future relief trips may contact the Price Chapel for information.

Many Carbon and Emery residents have wanted to help the hurricane victims.

Castle Heights Elementary in Price and Sally Mauro in Helper began collecting donations from the students to send to the disaster area.

The Carbon-Emery Board of Realtors, led by Trails End, began collecting money and agent Mike Metzger at Bridge Realty resolved to go to the disaster area to help.

Metzger was joined by Price resident Luke Smith and the two began coordinating the efforts of county residents. Metzger and Smith are members of the Christian Missionary Alliance and attend the Price Chapel. Through their church affiliation, they were able to make a plan to deliver local donations to where the supplies were needed most. Their destination was Waveland, Mississippi, a town about the size of Price, located near Biloxi on the gulf coast.

Transportation was an issue. The school children had been generous. The two men found that they had a large load of supplies to transport almost 2000 miles. They approached Tony Basso of Mad Man Basso Auto Sales and he graciously loaned a Ford F250 diesel truck to the effort. Alan Peterson of Peterson Chemical donated the use of a large, enclosed trailer. The Carbon/Emery Realty Association donated $900 toward gas money. The two men slept in a pup tent on church lawns during their trip in an effort to save funds.

Metzger and Smith arrived in Mississippi on November 2 and delivered their load of supplies to a disaster relief center known as Camp Katrina. The Christian Life Church, an affiliate of the Christian Missionary Alliance, ran the facility. Members of that church and many other churches were donating and distributing millions of dollars worth of disaster aid. The camp had about 120 people working full-time, all donating their time to be there, and they distributed emergency supplies and meals around the clock. There were volunteers from all religious denominations, from 14 states and 3 countries. The Salvation Army, Alberstons grocery stores, and a group known as "Food for the Hungry" donated tons and tons of non-perishable food items to the camp. The Price Chapel donated $5000 in cash.

Camp Katrina was a tent camp in the middle of an ocean of devastation. The pictures Metzger and Smith brought back are heartbreaking. The whole countryside, houses, trees, and entire towns, was knocked flat. The storm surge carried boats and debris almost four miles inland. In some places, floodwaters were 40 feet deep 3 miles from the coast. The destruction of the landscape, by wind and water, was complete. Cleanup efforts may take ten years or more.

Metzger and Smith stayed at Camp Katrina for twelve days. They helped to hand out supplies and assisted with cleanup efforts. Clorox bleach to use as a disinfectant, bottled water, diapers, baby food, and warm clothing were items most in demand. "Nighttime temperatures were getting down into the 60s." Metzger said. "We Utah boys thought that was pretty good, but the locals were cold," he smiled.

The shelter served meals three times each day to anyone who wanted to eat. Showers and portable toilets were available too, as well as sleeping tents for the workers. Large diesel generators powered the camp. Five forklifts worked around the clock moving pallets of supplies. Large tractor-trailer trucks unloaded continuously. It was estimated that the camp was distributing $5000 worth of supplies every hour. Long lines of needy people were coming through the camp from sunup to sunset without interruption.

The load of supplies Metzger and Smith took to Mississippi consisted of clothing, toys, and school supplies. Camp Katrina took the toys and school supplies, but there was a rule about not accepting used clothing. The camp administrators referred the men to another relief agency a few miles away that could take the used clothing.

"When we got there," Metzger said, "they said that what they needed most was cold weather items. And when they opened the bags of clothing to see what we had, it was discovered that everything we had brought from Utah was a cold weather item. I can't believe that it was a coincidence," Metzger said with a smile.

Metzger says that the focus of Camp Katrina is more recently turning toward helping with cleanup efforts. "There is a massive cleanup effort needed," he said. Those people have no landfills, the water table is too high and they must truck all of the trash and debris away to other areas. He said that the people who live there are simply overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task. They need help.

In that light, the Price Chapel is organizing other trips to the area to help with the cleanup efforts. They are inviting others to go with them and participate. The first trip is scheduled for January 16 through 22. Call the Price Chapel at 637-5244 by January 1 to sign up. Those organizing the trip are asking that volunteers pay $400 each to cover the cost of airfare to Mississippi and back, food, shelter, and transportation to and from the work sites. Workers will be helping to dismantle damaged homes, clearing downed trees, and helping with general cleanup efforts.

For those who cannot make the January trip, another trip is planned for March, and there may be others in the summer and fall of next year. Price Chapel or Mike Metzger can provide details. For those wishing to donate to victims of the storm, Price Chapel is asking for Wal-Mart gift certificates.


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