Fermilab TodayUpdated February 23, 2006  
Fermilab Responds to Hurricane Katrina
In response to the widespread devastation from Hurricane Katrina, Fermilab Today will maintain this informational page. It will provide news from Fermilab community members who are affected by the storm or who are contributing to recovery efforts and will offer suggestions for ways to help.

Please email your notes, thoughts and suggestions.

Lt. Christopher Williams, Fermilab | Firefighter Ryan Lambert | CD Employee Helps Out | DOE supports displaced students and researchers | SIST students need books | Jim Priest aids recovery | Lee Sawyer from Louisiana Tech | Breese Quinn from Oxford, MS

Fermilab firefighters
Chris Williams (left) and Ryan Lambert each spent about two weeks on fire crews deployed to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
Letter from Lt. Christopher Williams, Fermilab Fire Department

On Tuesday, September 27, while on Duty at Fermilab Fire Department, I received a phone call from my hometown fire department, Crystal Lake. The City of New Orleans had asked for a third deployment of Illinois fire fighters to help in New Orleans. They were looking for experienced fire fighters with Technical Rescue and Hazardous Material training and experience. Details of the deployment were unknown at the time of the call. I advised Chief Steinhoff of the possibility of being deployed and he gave me his support. At approximately 1630 hrs I received a second call from the Crystal Lake Fire Department, stating the deployment would leave some time over the coming weekend, October 1st or 2nd. We had one day to travel down, 14 days of work and one day to travel back home. The first thing that came to my mind was my family since they knew I could be deployed at any time.

The Crystal Lake Fire Department had already sent two members during the first deployment, one being my friend Rob Martel. During his deployment, I talked to him daily giving him and others I knew there my moral support. Conditions were bad. I also talked with my Fermilab co-worker, Ryan Lambert, who was also in New Orleans.

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  • Letter from Fermilab Firefighter Ryan Lambert
    I received confirmation of my deployment to New Orleans on Sunday 8/18/05 at approximately 1500 hrs. I would be one of two hundred Illinois firefighters to go during this second deployment. I packed my stuff the evening of the 18th, set-up care for my 3 year old daughter and tried to prepare myself mentally for what I was about to embark on, only to find out that there really is no preparation for what I saw.

    I am currently a full-time firefighter with the Fermilab Fire Department and a part-time Lieutenant for the North Aurora Fire Department. I was asked to go to the first deployment through North Aurora, but was asked by the Assistant Chief to wait due to being on the Divisions Technical Rescue Team. The Assistant Chief felt that the Technical Rescue Team would be called to New Orleans also and wanted me to respond with that unit so he would have enough Lieutenants to command a group. So when the Technical Rescue Team was not called upon, I decided to accept the second Fire/Suppression Team deployment.

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  • Jason Allen of the Computing Division
    Jason Allen (center) of the Computing Division with NASA pilots Scott Kelly and Tracey Caldwell. The pilots flew a training fighter plane to Gulfport from Houston loaded with supplies for Katrina victims. (Click on image for larger version.)
    CD's Allen Back From 'Surreal' Katrina Relief
    Fermilab Today, September 28, 2005

    He saw the gutted houses, their battered second floors suspended on metal support-like stilts. He drove down streets resembling woodlots, strewn with tires and smashed cars. But it was something else Jason Allen saw during his nine-day relief visit to Biloxi, Miss., that made him realize the huge scope of Hurricane Katrina's damage -- the things that didn't belong: family photos scattered across lawns, clothing wound around trees and a dead alligator laying on the beach. Allen, of the Computing Division, arrived back home September 19, after a spontaneous trip to help the residents of the city he once lived in as a child. "It was surreal," he said. "It was almost like being on a movie set; it was just so hard to wrap your mind around it."

    Using his vacation days, Allen drove south on September 9, eventually signing up with the volunteer organization Hands On USA. As a volunteer airport trafficker, Allen kept track of arrival times for supply planes headed toward Gulfport Airport, just west of Biloxi. From there, he helped load waiting vehicles with much-needed water, cleaning supplies, food and other essentials. Allen also volunteered at a local animal shelter, walking the dogs made ownerless by the storm. He spent his nights in an activity center of a Methodist Church across the street from the elementary school he attended as a 10-year-old.

    "I thought I knew what to expect, but it's just so completely different seeing it for yourself," he said, adding that he wasn't prepared for the smell -- a mix of decomposing bodies, leaking sewage and the salt from the Gulf of Mexico. Allen said it wasn't until his last day, during a 20-mile ride with a police officer, that reality hit him. "It wasn't so much trying to wrap your head around a house being gone, or a street being gone," he said. "But during these 30 or 40 minutes, it was just mile after mile after mile of total devastation."

    There also were signs of hope, Allen said, from a couple able to joke about losing everything to the slew of volunteers arriving from coast to coast and other countries. "Just being a part of that was an uplifting experience," he said.
    -- Kendra Snyder

    More information on Hands on USA.

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    DOE Office of Science supports displaced students and researchers

    September 8, 2005

    Dear Colleague,

    Along with other science agencies of the Federal Government, the Department of Energy's Office of Science is saddened by the recent loss of life and destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina, and we want to contribute to the national response to this disaster.

    Attached for your information is a letter we have posted on our web site today outlining steps that the Office of Science is taking to help institutions in the science community to ensure that faculty and students displaced by the disaster may continue their research and studies at other institutions.

    We encourage you to help us inform the science community about this special program. We look forward to working with you in this vital effort.

    Raymond L. Orbach
    Director, Office of Science
    U.S. Department of Energy

    Read Full Letter
    PDF Version

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    Undergraduate interns in the SIST program, including Trivia Frazier (5th from left), Marla Singleton (6th from left) and Donovan Tooke (far right)
    Undergraduate interns in the SIST program, including Trivia Frazier (5th from left), Marla Singleton (6th from left) and Donovan Tooke (far right), whose schools have been closed due to Hurricane Katrina.
    (Click on image for larger version)
    SIST Students Need Books

    Update - September 8, 2005

    URA is accepting donations on behalf of these and other science and engineering students who need textbook relief due to Hurricane Katrina. Checks should be made payable to Universities Research Association and sent to the Accounting Department, Mail Station 112, Attn.: Cindy Conger. Please indicate on your check that it is intended for Katrina Textbook Relief.

    URA is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization. Your donation is tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. Consult IRS Publications 526, "Charitable Contributions" for help in determining your allowable tax deduction.

    September 2, 2005

    This summer my office hosted three students in the SIST Program who attend Dillard and Xavier Universities in New Orleans. Two of the students are trying to go to universities in their home states that will admit them at no cost. This is important since their tuitions for this semester had already been paid at Dillard and Xavier. These schools will not re-open this semester. What they now need are the textbooks to continue with their degree matriculation at the new schools. The new schools are using different textbooks. The third student is from New Orleans and her family has lost everything. Their home has been submerged since Monday. They are trying to relocate in western Louisiana and she is unable to think about school right now

    All of these students just left the Lab on August 12th.

    I appreciate any assistance you may be able to offer these students. Please email me (engram@fnal.gov) or Elliott McCrory (mccrory@fnal.gov).

    Dianne Engram

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    Jim Priest Pitches In

    This email came from Jim Priest, Fermilab's Fire Safety Engineer as he left to assist the Gulf Coast disaster recovery as part of an NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) team.

    September 2

    This might be the last email for a while and will try and will try and text message if there is service. I am headed to LA -Missip as part of a preliminary infrastructure and toxic chemical evaluation team. Colleen is actually part of a team in Louisville. My sister is going to stay with the girls as well as the baby sister.

    Should be back Weds will keep you informed.


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    Lee Sawyer, DZero, Louisiana Tech
    Lee Sawyer, DZero, Louisiana Tech.
    (Click on image for larger version.)
    A Note from Lee Sawyer at Louisiana Tech

    September 1, 2005

    Thanks to the Fermilab community for wanting to help.

    I have spoken to some of the local relief coordinators, and at the moment the best way to help is to give money to one of the following organizations: The American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, or Catholic Charities. Yahoo has setup a site for online donations to the Red Cross.

    While there are foodbanks setup here, and a pressing need for clothing, toiletries, and shelter for the evacuees, the charitable organizations can handle the logistics of getting these items to people better than any of us can.

    The situation in Louisiana is terrible, probably worse in fact than what you are hearing on the news. This is the worst disaster ever seen in the United States. We have thousands of people here in Ruston; they are being housed at our Civic Center, local churches, and motels. I will be helping with the 5:30 meal at our Methodist church, where about 200 families are staying. There are maybe 200 to 300 thousand evacuees throughout north Louisiana. While you have heard about the tragedy in New Orleans, there other places where the damage cannot even be estimated. Places downriver from New Orleans, like Buras or Venice, have not been heard from and may no longer exist. The north shore of Lake Ponchatrain was hit very hard, with maybe 100 thousand homeless in places like Covington, Bougalousa, Abita Springs, and Slidell. There are still many people left in New Orleans, and no way of contacting those who evacuated. I have a physics student from the Ninth Ward - one of the areas flooded by the breach in the levee - and I have no way of knowing if he has made it out. I have tried to contact the department heads at Tulane, UNO, and Xavier, and have so far only contacted one faculty member at UNO, who had evacuated to Arkansas.

    Here at Louisiana Tech, we have postoned the start of classes, and we are enrolling students who have evacuated to north Louisiana. Students are also being enrolled in K-12 schools, since there is no prospect of them returning for weeks, perhaps months. Caruthers dormitory, shut down permanently several months ago, is being assessed and will be made available very soon for housing. Additionally, the concourse of the Thomas Assembly Center is being readied for about a hundred and fifty who can be temporarily housed there. The University is cooperating with government agencies by making available over 100 acres of land currently used for agricultural projects; this land may be used for mass housing provided by the government in the near future.

    As many of you know, I am a native Louisianian. I am devasted by what has happened. Beautiful New Orleans, probably one of the most unique cities in the world, may never be the same again. I appreciate any help others may wish to send, and I ask that you keep the people of the Gulf Coast in your thoughts in the weeks to come. Vive la Louisiane.

    Lee Sawyer

    Physics Program Chair
    Louisiana Tech University
    Ruston, LA

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    Breese Quinn
    Breese Quinn.
    (Click on image for larger version.)
    A Note from Breese Quinn from Oxford, MS

    September 1, 2005

    Thanks for the concern. Here in Oxford, we endured what I would describe as a middle-of-the-road tropical storm. Sustained winds between 40-50 mph, gusts around 60, with somewhat more than 4 inches of rain. Lots of downed trees, shingles ripped off here and there and just a few injuries. Classes were canceled for one day. Other than that we're in pretty good shape.

    As far as the southern half of the state - you can put them in the "unfathomable" category. The media has largely focussed on New Orleans (for many very good reasons), however the Mississippi Gulf Coast bore the full brunt of Katrina's fury. It was still a Cat 1 close to Jackson. I have students from the coast that not only have no home left - they have no hometown left. Whole communities scraped clean off the face of the earth. A lot of guys I know in the Guard here went down south on day one and last I heard are still trying to cut through to the coast. There will end up being many more fatalities in New Orleans and evacuees there will not be able to return for months, but for a large fraction of the Mississippi Gulf coast residents there just simply will be nothing to return to. This was much worse than Camille in 69. I will echo Lee Sawyer's statement that this is definitely the worst disaster our nation has experienced. We didn't get a whole lot of evacuees in Oxford (a few dozen maybe). Most that came this far north stayed on I-55 another hour up to Memphis.

    For anyone interested in contributing to the relief, in addition to the agencies that Lee mentioned, I would suggest the Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief, who are very active in this neck of the woods (this site also has links to the Red Cross, Salvation Army, etc.).


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