BOSTON (CBS) – As meteorologists track Tropical Storm Isaac as it heads towards the Gulf Coast, we can’t help but remember the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the huge storm that slammed into the same area seven years ago this week. When that happened, New Englanders answered the call. A team from FEMA Region One here in Boston mobilized at that time, and are ready to do it again if Isaac becomes a hurricane.
“It’s a life changing experience. They had such incredible needs and they were in a lot of hurt,” says Nan Johnson who spent seven months in several areas of Louisiana after Katrina, and was part of a FEMA team who worked in the area in 2005. Their jobs ranged from setting up supply lines, to building communications systems to long term recovery projects.
“It was unreal, and I’ve seen a lot in my day. I’ve been through typhoons in the Pacific, I’ve been through a lot of things, but to see a vast layout of community under that much water was just….it really takes your breath away,” says Nathan Greene, a FEMA communications expert. “When we got there we did the best we could to assist and help these folks and in doing that we literally put our lives out there,” says Tim Barnett who arrived 2 days before Katrina made landfall and worked on emergency response.
The team worked around the clock, sleeping on floors and in cars. “We spent five nights there at the Superdome, sleeping in the parking lot and off-loading food and water all day long to people in the dome,” remembers Jack Sullivan.
Seven years after Katrina they’re ready again. “Hopefully it won’t be as bad as it was 7 years ago. Hopefully we helped them enough so that they can prepare,” says Robert Swartz, who spent several weeks working in Baton Rouge. If necessary they’ll go again. This group is always ready, knowing they can be called at a moment’s notice.