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    Sunday, October 23, 2005

    EXCLUSIVE: LTC Perry Interview from Lake Charles, LA
    Q Chevy: Having been to Lake Charles' casinos on several Sunday trips, I'm wondering how
    they've fared? Are they open for business?
    A: Casinos were among the first businesses to re-open ($).

    Q Chevy: And what's the situation with clean water, sewage treatment, and electricity in the area?
    A:Lake Charles itself is almost at 100% pre-storm utilities. At the Southern most area I am working (Cameron), 0% of the utilities are restored.

    Q Chevy: Is Interstate 10 and the big bridge passable?
    A: I-10 and the "Big Bridge" were not damaged, but for about the first 5 days after the storm all exits were closed to non-emergency response vehicles.

    Q Chevy: What exactly is the military doing in Lake Charles?
    A: The military (mostly National Guard) were here in force during the initial phase of the response and have mostly re-deployed at this point. They performed missions such as clearing roads and bringing in food and water. I am with the U.S. Army corps of Engineers. We are doing such things as providing generator power to critical facilities, critical infrastructure engineering services, debris removal and temporary roof repair (Blue Roof program).

    Q Chevy: How about the schools in the area, open or closed?
    A: Most of the schools in the Lake Charles area are open. The schools in Southern Cameron Parish (coastal) are gone.

    Q Cathy: Is the true magnitude of the devastation being reported in the media or are they concentrating on stupid race issues instead of what really matters?
    A: I think the media on the ground are doing their best to accurately report the magnitude of the devastation and the issues that really matter because I believe that when a person sees this up close all politics and other agendas are replaced by compassion for those whose lives have been turned upside down. I don't understand the race thing as what I am seeing is victims of all race, color and creed and responders of all race, color and creed.

    Q Greta: Is FEMA broken?
    A: No comment except to repeat what was described to me as FEMAs motto: "It is not officially a disaster until we arrive."

    Q Greta: Neal Boortz and Clark Howard were going back and forth(at the show last night) if it is the government's responsibility to rebuild New Orleans (for example). Neal said that if you build a house below sea level - near water - tough luck. Clark felt that if you had homeowner's insurance in good faith and were told you didn't live in a flood zone that the fed govt. should help out. Neal felt free trade was very important and that we should just give the people the money and let them do what they want with it not have the feds pick a home and place for them and say - live here. What is your take on this?
    A: The government can't rebuild New Orleans. If the businesses that left, or others to replace them, do not return, then New Orleans will never be what if was before the storm. In that sense I believe Neal Bortz is correct. On the other hand, I think it would be irresponsible for the federal government to give the U.S. taxpayers money to the people for them to do what they will, and then walk away. There has to be be some kind of control to ensure the $ is used as intended and to prevent fraud, waste and abuse. The easiest way to do this, although not necessarily the most efficient, is for the U.S. government to do the work through federal agencies .

    Q Jo: I would love to find out how the military folks are fairing with dealing with all this?
    In these disaster response situations the military involvement consists of almost entirely National Guard who act under authority of the governor. They are generally well trained and experienced in these types of operations and are typically among the first responders to arrive. Historically with this system, the guard handled these types of emergencies on the home front while the active duty types focused overseas, worked pretty well. In today's environment we are all pretty busy in the Middle East in fact, many of the Louisiana Guard out here just returned from Afghanistan this summer. However, I believe most of them will tell you they feel good about the assistance they are able to provide their fellow Louisianians and prefer spending 30 to 60 days in Southern Louisiana to spending a year in Iraq or Afghanistan

    Q Jo: How is the return process going.
    A: In general people return pretty quick when power is restored and they have a home to return to. Some areas, such as the town of Cameron (and some other coastal towns) still have a mandatory evacuation in place. This is a very emotional issue to many of the people and you can probably understand why if you place yourself in their shoes.

    Q Jo: Do you feel that putting the military in charge of disaster situations like this would be the best option, or just a back up?
    A: Many factors play into this one. First of all, I believe the federal response plan which brings to bear the resources of many federal agencies under the management of FEMA to respond to these situations is conceptually sound and works pretty well in practice. No doubt improvements can be made and I am certain they will based on lessons learned from Katrina and Rita. Katrina was somewhat of an anomaly considering the devastation which ensued when the levees failed. Also, I believe FEMA was treatly unfairly by the media. Keep in mind FEMA is not the end all solution to disaster response, there are also State and local government roles. All three have to work in a synchronized manner in order to provide an effective response. To answer your question, I guess the bottom line is no, I don't believe putting the military in charge is the best option. I believe the Country is best served by keeping the military's focus overseas and fighting our Nations' wars. Federal response to these natural disasters is best handled by making the current system work.

    Other general information. For RITA, the people of SW Louisiana DID evacuate unlike what we saw for KATRINA and probably as a result of what we saw with KATRINA. When I arrived here in Lake Charles, there was no power and the streets of this city of 90,000 were deserted. The damage in this immediate area is mostly wind damage. What happens is the strong winds blow the trees down, which take all the power lines down and occasionally land on houses, automobiles, etc. Also the sustained winds will sometimes catch a lip of a roof and blow it partially or completely off. It is also common to see roofs with many of the tiles/shingles missing. When this happens the house or building interior is open to the rain which causes a whole bunch of damage (walls, carpets, furniture, etc). Another common debris issue is dealing with refrigerators and freezers which have been without power for a week or more in 90 degree weather. Most people choose to throw them out as opposed to trying to clean/disinfect them. In the Southern Parishes, bordering the Gulf of Mexico, the main issue was storm surge which was estimated at 20 feet in some areas. These are the areas reflected in the pictures below in a previous post that were completely devastated.

    Shared by Greta (Hooah Wife) @ 8:47 PM

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