After walloping the southern tip of Florida last week, Hurricane Katrina rolled around the Gulf of Mexico, picking up power and punch as she headed toward Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama Monday.
To the relief of many residents, the massive storm weakened by late morning from a Category 4 to a Category 3 and moved slightly east of New Orleans, sparing the city its full wrath.
But, according to Fox News, the city did not escape without damage. Levees broke inside New Orleans, waves crashed through city streets, and houses were flooded up to the ceiling. Tornado warnings were issued in various parts of the region.
The governors of Mississippi and Alabama declared states of emergency, and curfews were imposed in many towns for much of Monday. Coastal-area residents were urged to evacuate.
"Katrina recorded a surge of more than 20 feet in Mississippi," Fox reports, "where windows of a major hospital were blown out and billboards were ripped to shreds. In some areas, authorities pulled stranded homeowners from roofs or rescued them from attics. In Alabama, exploding transformers lit up the early morning sky and muddy, 6-foot waves engulfed stately, million-dollar homes along Mobile Bay's normally tranquil waterfront."
Preparing in advance for Katrina, the Salvation Army's Emergency Disaster Services teams in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi have already placed 38 Mobile Feeding Units and two fully-equipped mobile kitchens on alert to deliver crucial support to hurricane victims, emergency aid workers, and volunteers in affected areas for as long as they are on the scene.
Mobile Feeding Units, serving 5,000 meals per day, and mobile kitchens, serving 20,000 meals per day, are the Federal Emergency Management Agency's preferred food provider during hurricane response efforts. The Salvation Army will dispatch the vehicles to areas identified by state and local disaster management officials, including clean-up sites, emergency shelters and flooded regions.
The Salvation Army also distributes clean-up kits, containing brooms, mops, buckets and cleaning supplies. Other resources provided include drinking water, shower units, and first aid supplies. Food and supplies were placed in areas on Sunday afternoon, where they were kept at a safe distance from coastal and inland storm-surge regions yet close enough to be moved immediately after the storm to meet the needs of victims and first-responders.
Operation Blessing (OBI), an international relief and development organization based in Virginia Beach, Va., is prepared to respond as disaster-related needs emerge. Six of OBI's tractor trailer trucks are already dispatched and picking up food, cleaning kits and relief supplies.
OBI is gearing up to provide up to 310,000 meals a day by the end of the week in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama with partners at the Salvation Army and the Southern Baptist relief team.
Meanwhile, the Southern Baptist disaster unit also is preparing for a 300,000-meal response; 29 units have been activated at the request of the American Red Cross. Baptist churches and association buildings across the region were being opened as shelters for those fleeing the storm, reports Baptist Press.
Dennis Jacobs, the Minister of Students and Activities at the First Baptist Church in New Orleans for 11 years, helped open a Red Cross shelter at the church for Hurricane Ivan last September. According to a Red Cross news release, Jacobs relied on lessons learned from that experience as he worked to get the shelter ready for its 1 p.m. opening Sunday.
"About 25 percent of the people in the shelter speak Spanish," explains Jacobs. "We do all the signs in the shelter in English and Spanish to take care of the Hispanic population. I just went to the computer and printed all the signs we had saved from opening the shelter during Hurricane Ivan."
Baptist Press reports that 25 Southern Baptist feeding units have been requested by the Red Cross and four by the Salvation Army. Preliminary site locations have been identified in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, and each feeding unit has been asked to bring clean-up/recovery, shower and communication units with them.
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief-related units from Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas Baptist Men, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, Missouri, Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, New Mexico, Iowa, Michigan and Virginia Baptist Mission Board all have been activated.
In addition, Southern Baptist teams are being activated to serve on the two big kitchens owned by the American Red Cross, the Spirit of America and Henry's Kitchen. California Baptist Disaster Relief will staff the Spirit and Northwest Baptist Disaster Relief will staff Henry's Kitchen.
The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) also is launching a $2 million fundraising effort to address the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. The funds will provide Rapid Response Team deployment and early assessments; initial flood and damage cleanup and repairs and development of community-based recovery organizations.
CRWRC will assess community needs, recruit long-term reconstruction volunteers and provide building reconstruction materials and transportation.
How You Can Help
For information on ways to assist The Salvation Army in meeting the needs of the victims of Katrina, persons may call 1-800-SALARMY or visit www.salvationarmyusa.org.
You can take part in Operation Blessing's ongoing hurricane response efforts by making an online donation today to support OBI relief services in the field: www.ob.org.
Financial support for CRWRC's response to Hurricane Katrina and elsewhere can be given by calling 1-800-55-CRWRC, or online at www.crwrc.org. Checks should be made out to "CRWRC," earmarked "Hurricanes 2005," and sent to 2850 Kalamazoo Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI, 49560.
Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org.