Hurricane Isaac: A Local Volunteers Experience

Hurricane Isaac: Helping Boat People with Food and Medical Attention

Written by: Kevin Titus, Disaster Public Affairs Volunteer

Wow. Yesterday was long, emotional, draining and heartwarming. I went to a rural Mississippi area to see an extended family that lives on four houseboats. Isaac flooded the roadway to their homes and after more than a week, there is still more than four feet of water covering what is normally dry land; stranding them. It’s ironic that people living on a houseboat are stranded by water. I watched as a little girl had to put on her life jacket to travel down her driveway. A five year old girl should not need to put a life jacket on to go down her driveway but little Emma Brown’s driveway is still covered by water that is above her head.

Photo Credit: American Red Cross/Kevin Titus

During the storm, most of the family evacuated to Mobile. When they returned, they found that the family members who stayed behind were stranded. Those that remained had to swim out in order to reach a road. The water had come up significantly higher than it had ever been, including after hurricane Katrina.Their vehicles were flooded and had debris and animals in them. While it was easy to get the turtle out of their van, the small shrimp managed to get into the nooks and crannies and when you open the van doors now, the intense odor of shrimp rotting in the hot Mississippi sun for more than a week is overpowering. I hope I never smell anything like that ever again. Their van is likely going to retain that smell forever.

Being secluded on houseboats with a nearly quarter mile-long driveway and surrounded by protected sanctuary lands, enables the family to enjoy a solitude not normally found in other areas. Their 15 acres are very peaceful. But then when the grandfather told me that the nearby gator farm had also flooded, releasing the alligators into the flood waters, my mind immediately went to that cute little girl Emma playing in the water.

Two other Red Cross workers arrived with hot food, snacks, water and more food. They happened to also be from Ohio, (Cleveland) and I helped load the food and water into the families’ boats to get it to their houseboats. While they normally are able to simply drive up close to their houseboat moorings, that’s still impossible.

Photo Credit: American Red Cross/Kevin Titus

I made sure that our disaster health nurses made a visit to that family because a few of them, including the 5 year old, had wasp stings, numerous bug bites and small open scratches on their arms and legs. Being around and in the flood waters with those open areas concerned me and I wanted to make sure they got appropriate attention from our nurses.

The family was extremely grateful for the assistance provided by the Red Cross. Emma and her family gave us all very heartfelt hugs and thanks for bringing them food and water.

As the other two volunteers were leaving, they were comforting each other as one said with lots of tears in her eyes: “I didn’t think it would be this hard. That little girl’s hug melted my heart.”

She definitely melted mine too.

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