Independence Katrina Response 2005.

Efforts/How to Help

Delivery Journey to Baton Rouge

Lessons Learned

Photos Along the way!

Emails as a category 5 community response grows.

A perfect time to be in Independence
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Bob Scott, Tuesday Sept. 6, 2005 (Updated Sept. 10, 2005)

  • 9/9/05 Update: Breaking News on the City of Independence's Efforts
  • 9/10/05 Update: Emergency Meeting as City of Cleveland rebuilds New. Orleans technology. Lead by Senior Executive for Technology Support, City of Cleveland

    Motorhome and supplies delivered to Katrina victims

    wow.......i'll get what i can from here and neighbors.  these people need our help - fast!!  we don't know how lucky we all are.
    Email from an Independence Athletic Booster

    A 27 foot motorhome was filled to capacity with critical supplies by friends and neighbors. It was delivered on Labor day (Sept 5th) to Baton Rouge to be a temporary home for Katrina Victims.

    The trip was amazing. We encountered all manner of mechanical problems, lines for gasoline, acts of great compassion and saw just the tip of the devestation. People bent over backwards to help us successfully get us to our destination.

    The supplies you pulled together from everywhere were urgently needed. The aid went directly where it was needed most.

    Everything you've done was immensely appreciated and is being put to good use.

    Long Version of the Journey

    We really only spent a few minutes in Baton Rouge. For us, the trip was the amazing part. I will add photos from my daughter's camera sometime this weekend for anyone who wants to check back.

    On Friday an email to a few folks got forwarded everywhere. I thought people would have some ideas on how to get our old camper to the Katrina area. Anybody know any drivers ? By Friday PM my daughter called to say she wanted to be a driver, my friends suggested it was pretty obvious I ought to go with her. That was great advice. They also started sending and calling to say they had things they wanted to donate, and so did their neighbors.

    The staff at Valley Ford jumped in to begin making repairs. It was their immediate and total enthusiasm that made it clear this was actually going to happen. Now that it was real, it began developing a life of its own. People from the PTA, Boosters, Kiwanis, Indian Guides jumped on it and started making solid plans, organizing pickups and forwarding on news.

    One of the most important issues was getting good information on affected cities from hotel chains; we guessed they'd figure out a way to contact their people. Even though Embassy Suites had no direct contact they knew for a fact that the Baton Rouge hotel was intact and operating. That was enough info to start making calls to local church numbers until somebody answered.

    Somebody answered! We now had direct contact with folks in Baton Rouge at what has become one of the key distribution and staging centers. At the time, only a few hundred people were in the basement, but since then 5000 people have been placed in the convention center one block away. An update email was sent with the departure time set, leaving Sunday for sure, airline reservations done.

    Saturday, a busy day, getting ready. A few folks dropped off stuff on the way to the Independence football game. I kept getting calls from people I didn't know saying they had things they'd drop off later. I had stuff to do, so I left a little note saying I was leaving for a few minutes. When I came back, there was a line of cars, which became a line of SUVs and pickups by late afternoon, backing in the driveway to drop off bags and bags of clothes and other supplies.

    My neighbors and people pulling in helped pack the camper. The tires got rotated on the back dual axle to provide better loading and handling. It all came together. Maps, title, a CB radio and so on.

    A few minor things came up. At some point a bracket holding up the tail pipe broke. Not a big deal cause we had plenty of coat hangers and tools and time to patch this up. I mean, what else could go wrong ?

      Left Sunday 6am, picked up my daughter in Indianapolis at noon, headed southwest for Baton Rouge.

    100 miles into the trip, the camper engine blew out all the oil (a cracked motor mount created vibrations that caused the oil filter to blow off). The RV was covered everywhere with oil, which then caused a plume of smoke as it hit the hot exhaust. We didn't have to use the extinguisher, but we were certain we were done. Finished. We were making calls to friends like "know anybody in Lisbon Ill ?".

    Indiana I70, Mile Marker 30

    We didn't see the fellow until he tapped me on the shoulder. The Indiana State Police took Erin up the road to the repair facilities. There, they helped Erin arrange a truck tow from a local company and somewhere in there they agreed to a very reasonable flat charge for the tow. That got us to a truck stop that was able to get our RV repaired and back on the road in two hours. TWO hours on a Labor Day holiday. Of course the two young men at the Brazil 70 AMBest Truck Stop wouldn't take a dime for their efforts (so we asked the girls from the restaurant at the truck stop to run over with these fellow's favorite pie after we left, which they were very happy to do.)

    Brazil 70 Truck Stop, Brazil, Ill

    The electrical system shorted out as we approached Benton, Ill, home of a 24 hour Walmart. Erin and I ended up designing and splicing up an alternate lighting system for the rear lights. It ran off the cigarette lighter and extended across the length of the camper. It worked, we continued on.

    Our new racing stripes  

    Don't ever try to sneak around in a camper full of bags of cloths and bottled water stacked next to the windows. Whenever we stopped, people wanted to know what we were up to. Sometimes we told them, sometimes we just wanted to get gas and move on. But here and there, each time we stopped, one or two people would hand us little donations. $5, $7 and $20. It helped. We had cash, but hadn't counted on everyone being cash only in Mississippi and Louisiana, nobody will accept a credit card. The bigger problem with that we kept getting all choked up. We couldn't say no, they really wanted to help. Yet some of the folks donating were clearly less fortunate than we were. It really makes you think about how fortunate we all are. So, we had lot to talk about as we traveled southwest into Missouri, Tenessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi.

    Mississippi and South

    We made up for lost time by driving into the AM. Stopped for a 2 hour nap, and got moving so we could be the first in the gas lines near Jackson.

      Distance from Baton Rouge
  • 350 miles. Memphis, TN: Last "normal" gas station. Homeless in cars, vans, etc.
  • 250 miles. Greenwood, MS: Major freeway signs down, power lines. No more credit cards.
  • 200 miles. (Open country) Curfews (at sundown) no factor. Power just restored to isolated gas station. Saw our last intact car port. Most businesses closed past this point.
  • 160 miles: Jackson: Police supervised gas rationing, National Guard convoys. All rest stops closed.
  • 120 miles: Brookhaven: Trees (4"-8" diameter) here and there along berm, tops chainsawed off so all lanes open. Large/small power lines dangling from poles. Most homes/roofs looked ok.
  • 30 miles: I55/I12 intersection: No cell phones, scattered missing roofs. Few signs. Carports, fences, windows damaged or gone. Smaller debris everywhere. Abandoned cars (out of gas?).
  • Monday 3am, nap over. We got a huge break about 200-250 miles North of New Orleans/Baton Rouge when we stumbled on a gas station that had just had power restored. Because they hadn't had power they still had gas in their tanks from before the storm. From mid state down, only one station was open in each of the three larger cities we passed. Police were on hand to prevent problems and keep the lines moving, purchases were limited to $30 per customer. (fyi Gas in Miss was $2.79 per gallon, $2.71 in LA, but of course they didn't have any).

    At the station, I spoke with an old man who said that somehow, nobody knew why, he had power the whole week, though the rest of the area was dark. He'd become the refridgerator man, as all his friends and neighbors put their refridgerators and freezers in their pickups and plugged in at his house. The line was only 10 cars long, and it was cool and 6am, hardly the time for tempers, however, one fellow and his wife tried to get twice the maximum amount of gas (they had stood in two separate lines). People at the pumps, and people in line were in their face. Not sure how that shook out, we skidaddled.

    We stopped to top off again in Jackson (pop 425,000) at the only working gas station we knew about. 3 Police with a pretty obvious show of force (side arms, vests, rifles leaned up on the patrol cars) were helping to keep the line moving. Again, early in the A.M, we arrived when the station had just opened, the line was only one block long and snaked through a residential area. $40 per customer maximum. Total wait time was only 30-40 minutes, brisk really, even with doctors, badges, and a national guard vehicle allowed in at the front of the line.

    Can't stop now...even if we wanted to!

    We were almost back on schedule when we were making the turn onto the final freeway leg about 30 miles from our destination. We were hoping to get to the church by 2pm, so we would have 5 hours to get to Houston Airport for confirmed seats (all planes were booked for days). I had to stomp on the brakes when a truck in front of us slowed to avoid something. We were closer than comfort. We stopped to see our brake line had burst. We added brake fluid which poured out the bottom. This was not the place to be stuck, midway between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, about 1.2 million miles from any kind of towing or service station. Cell phones are still not operating in this area.

    Required Equipment:
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Brake Fluid
  • RV Angel

    Though we had no regular brakes, we still had the emergency brake. I was pretty sure given the vintage of the vehicle, that if we used the emergency brake it'd stop, but we'd never be able to release the break. We experimented some. First we cruised up to about 35mph and stomped on the brakes. Nothing. We easily rolled over a half mile, maybe a full mile. We tried one "click" of the emergency brake and it slowed us, but we couldn't release it. If we used any more we would have stopped permanently. We decided to drive VERY slowly, knowing that we had one shot for the brake.

    Inside Baton Rouge, we were on a freeway with 3-4 busy lanes. We had no turn signals, so changing lanes was more exhilarating then we wanted. Police had better things to do than enforce speed limits so traffic whizzed by at about 75mph in the city. There was a good break in the traffic which allowed us to cross over to the left side exit.

    We hit the exit ramp at 20 mph, made a sharp left turn and started down what turned out to be a rapid drop from the elevated freeway. The emergency break slowed us to 5-10 mph before it burned up. We were just about to go to plan B (actually plan Z at this point) which was to sacrifice the transmission by jamming it into park. Fortunately we hit a stretch of city street with no cars, people or red lights. The wheels were making an awful scheeching noise but other than that we were OK and not in any danger so we let it coast.

    An RV with 4 or 5 tons of extra momentum rolls very well down slight inclines. We literally coasted, for awhile, towards the Mississippi river, with no remaining brakes whatsoever, until we came to a little rise in the road near some parking meters. A group of Federal DEA agents were on the sidewalk putting on vests and assembling equipment. They watched us groan and creak to a stop.

    I have to admit I was actually pretty relieved to be stopped, and not really sure where we landed. I opened my door to ask the agents where we were. I looked up. We were parked directly in front of the First Presbyterian Church of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The agents had set up shop in the basement of the church. Behind them, about 100 foot away, were the volenteers we came to see.


    Heading home

    We had maybe 10 minutes to turn around and get out. It is 275 miles to Houston and we had less than 4 hours before the planes left. I handed over the title, Erin took some pictures in the basement, we grabbed our bags and got outta there. A young man from Fort Worth Texas had decided a few days earlier to help. Various groups had told him to send a check, but he had four kids and no money. Like a lot of people there, he wasn't so good at following directions from central command. So his wife packed him up a lunch and he drove 800 miles to Baton Rouge several days earlier figuring he'd find somebody who needed help. He had been working at the distribution center for 2 or 3 days and it was time to return home. He drove 80-90 miles an hour, though he did make us stop one time to show us what a "WhatABurger" was.

    Departed sometime after 3pm for 6:54pm flight. We made it to the Houston Airport with a good 10-12 minutes to spare. The security staff microwaved my shoes and found a little knife thingy in my bag. With all this extra time to kill before running to the plane, they suggested throwing it in my sleeping bag and checking that as baggage (Are you nuts??), which all got done in under a minute. I've never been anyplace where the airlines (Continental) and security worked together like that. Erin was on a separate plane to Indy, made hers too. Mine was a stretch 737, full of families, kids here and there. Didn't bother me that the plane was packed, fell asleep when I hit the seat.

    Funny thing though. I remember thinking it was odd that there was virtually nobody at the baggage claim, a couple of dozen people, maybe. But, it was late, I got my bag and caught a cab home and didn't think about it. This morning, I heard on the news, and recalled tidbits of conversations I heard at the gate, that many of the families on the plane were moving to Cleveland from Houston. That may not be a surprise, but now, the next day I realized these families must not have arrived with any bags.

    9/7/05 Update. The news reported that Cleveland, Cincinnatti, Columbus are ready to place families in apartments and schools. However, FEMA, for now, has cancelled any transfer of families from the area, deciding they would prefer to be closer to home when reconstruction occurs. Not sure if anybody asked the families if they prefer stadium seats and cots to apartments and schools, but that's the plan. Anyone moving here was doing so on their own.

    9/9/05 Update. On again! P.D. reports 500 families due to arrive Ohio this weekend...maybe. Citys are still standing by with open arms. Ready even if uncertain. Nice to see Cleveland with its own issues rallying to help.


    I've talked to several of you since we returned. All of us have learned a few things and enjoyed doing what each of us could do to help.

    Thank you for everything. There were a lot of Thank You and God Bless You's for what you've done. Volenteers were excited by the delivery and asked about the people in "Independence Ohio".

    Thank you for one of the most memorable and rewarding experiences in our lives.

    The Scott Family



      Monday, midnight : Home again.

      Tuesday 9/6 update: I never thought it would move again, except the church folks somehow are getting the camper, with all supplies still in it, to the middle of New Orleans tomorrow (wednesday).

      The items in the camper could be used most anywhere, but they've decided to drag it into New Orleans where there is the greatest need. (clothes, pampers, food, water, bleach, etc). They said they found room to add a huge amount of shoes that came from somewhere else. The camper was seriously overloaded before (springs bent the wrong way). Guess they figured something out.

      Wednesday 9/7 update: The breaks are fixed, camper under it's own power enroute to New Orleans. Will look for it on TV!
      But first, It's time to have a little fun with my car insurance agent before I cancel the policy... Oh rats, he figured it out right away! Told me I'd have to get boat insurance instead.

    Personal Lessons

  • It took me 4 days to snap out of my FEMA induced coma. I kept staring at the news, trying to reconsile the reality of 10's (100's) of thousands of people looking for food, water and a shelter, or waiting patiently on rooftops for help to arrive.

  • Every one of us has the opportunity to make a huge difference in the world. I feel horrible that I forgot this, it's as if some people had to die of dehydration just to remind me that yes, I could have helped sooner, I could have helped them.

  • Centrally managed federal and state governments will never have the resources or ability to act as quickly or decisively as people in and around a major disaster. After 911, the head of the FBI field office in the Twin Towers came to Independence and spoke about how powerless he and the whole government were in the face of that disaster. He said it was the businesses and locals who ralied to their aid and had the resources to do the job in days, 48 hours I believe.

  • The Army, FEMA and the Red Cross are doing many great things, but they can't hold a candle to the speed and efficiency of people in the field working with motivated people who have access to resources. People in our city, people who knew they were needed, and took their own supplies. The freeways were mostly full of rigs from community groups, businesses and churches.

    (The Army, after a week, was running several large convoys, hundreds of vehicles, maybe a full third of the freeway traffic in some areas. They were delivering BIG stuff like warter tankers, huge generators, and their own self-contained units. But, we also saw trucks full of Army equipment and small convoys driving OUT of the area for unknown reasons)

  • I will never again let someone suggest that we aren't all capable of helping in a significant way. And we should do so for no other reason than that we can.

    We all heard the fairytale about not "interfering"; just send a check, leave this to the professionals. Hogwash. Pure bunk. I don't know what Emergency Response, or Resource Management means, but I do remember my gramma, a teacher, saying we are all expected to "be a good neighbor", "united we stand or divided we fall". I don't think those rules have changed, why did I think they had ?

  • We saw, first hand, hundreds (and surely there were thousands) of people supported by millions more who were always prepared to move quickly to help their neighbors. Churches did a great job of moving across all kinds of political boundaries without any kind of turf war. They are spearheading the efforts to get the right help to the right place and they helped to coordinate other groups. Local police, businesses, even federal workers (the DEA was there to protect hospitals and drug supplies), and utility companies are using the churches as shelter for their people and to house the displaced. Maybe FEMA will learn how to work with the people who have always been there, and always will be, ready to help in any disaster.

  • Sidenote. Forget the race card. The story isn't about black or white in New Orleans. Nobody had enough time to look up to see if the people they are helping are black/white or even from another planet. I saw a lot of homeless, Cajans, Blacks, Whites hanging out at gas stations, malls, and in rest stops in their cars. I just couldn't tell the good homeless from the bad homeless, or the fortunate homeless from the less fortunate homeless.

  • We developed a much stronger faith and confidence that we would be able to find and help people no matter what happened. We also trusted that there were people that would help us if we needed it.

  • We knew we'd have problems but we also had confidence we'd have the tools and resources to solve those problems. We know for a fact that what we did, though a small effort by itself, wouldn't have happened unless we decided to do it. Combine our small efforts with those from other cities and groups, and we might have a solution to a great many big problems.
  • Independence Katrina Response 2005.


    Western route through Indy, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, avoided Eastern Gulf states and gave us options to divert west via Houston if road/gas or other issues.
    See ya!
    FrankenCamper with new lighting system.
    Army, Commercial, Semis, SUVs. Very few cars in So. Miss.
    The small stuff. There were also huge amphibious tankers and semi's loaded with generators, humvee's and containers.
    Convoys drove together, parked together.
    113 miles from I12 (150 from New Orleans).

    Good news/bad news...a lot of really big billboards were mostly OK.

    OK, there were a lot of signs missing, and garages, and fences. And all the orange barrels dissappeared too.
    Bad zoom, but you get the idea of the side of the road. Like snow here, trees pushed off to the side, or tops cut off to clear road.
    Erin Scott

    in her finest hour


    Do we really have to take a picture now?


    Independence, Louisiana
    which you'll be hearing more about soon.

    Independence Louisana.

    Note: It has a hospital!

    Brake Test - No problem.

    .. we missed the sign didn't we ?

    Fine, so we nudged it, just a little.

    That's not rain, it was BIG bugs everywhere. Had to clean windshield every 50 miles.
    Pfft, Ptwewy.
    A/C died. Windows open, they flew inside too.

    Linz... "Tastes like chicken"

    Just arrived, very happy to be here.
    DEA agents finding comfort away from home.

    (Packing supplies in their "time off" at the church)

    DEA's primary role is to guard drug shipments in/around/moving thru affected areas.

    We only had a few minutes and had to fly so we only have the still shots you see. We will see if we have any good clips from our movie camera of the shelter, gas lines, convoys or the folks who brought, repacked and loaded things at home.

    Leaving town to the west, near LA/Texas border.

    Different type of traffic between Louisiana and Texas. Packed with cars, one way in/out over long (20 miles?) bridge. Avg speed 85mph.


    Independence Katrina Response 2005.

    Other Ways to Help

    This will take a long time to heal. There are a million ways to help the million or so who need help. No doubt everyone and every group is working on something to help. Let me know what you are up to.

    1. The Mayor's office is pulling together a citywide effort. Contact Diana Johnson at Independence city hall (216) 524-4131.
      City of Independence News (Fri 9/9/05)
      The City of Independence will be passing flyers around town with details, perhaps as early as tonight's football game and tomorrow's grand opening. They are just finishing up details of a really well planned effort, combining resources with area business and other cities like Solon and Akron.

      Basically, there will be a drop off location for items in Independence, Ohio beginning Monday. Real drivers, with real trucks will be taking items to Independence, Louisiana See Photo Above of Exit 40. I know from the calls and emails that residents haven't stopped collecting things, so this will work out very well.

      Check with the city if you have questions.

      Note: This site won't have specific details because ...

    2. You are AMAZING and so QUICK to respond!!
         I'm afraid you'll bury the wrong building!
    3. Details may change as the situation and needs down south keep changing.
    4. The city is running this show and doing it up right.
      I am sure they've done a terrific job of preparation. They've been getting together with other cities and groups to figure out what does/doesn't work, how to make sure our efforts do the most good.

      Side Note: Please know that there may be some things that are urgently needed, and some that can't be handled, stored or distributed well. Check in on Monday with the City of Independence.

    5. Posted Sat. Sept 10, 2005 Cleveland
      Editors Notes and Further Information as it arrives.
      Contact Michael C. DeAloia City of Cleveland 216.664.3644(O), 216.857.2628 (M)
      City of Cleveland (posted Sat 9/10/05)
      From: DeAloia, Michael []
      Sent: Thursday, September 08, 2005 3:34 PM
      Subject: Tech Emergency Meeting: Conference Call Connection

      Based upon numerous conversations I have had with other tech companies in the region - I wanted to connect with everyone and ask for help in supporting the tech needs of New Orleans – its businesses, non-profits, civic organizations, etc. The City of New Orleans desperately needs to get its tech infrastructure up and running, and truly there is no better infrastructure and talent than what we have in the Cleveland region. I am asking for everyone to join me and the City of Cleveland in convening an emergency meeting next Tuesday, September 13 @ 10:00am.

      This meeting will be held in the
      Board Room at Thompson Hine –
      located at 127 Public Square, Key Tower – 39th Floor.

      Immediate needs would be the following:

    6. Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity (We need to get all businesses, schools, hospitals, civic institutions live with their data as soon as possible.)
    7. Web Site Development & Hosting (We need groups to help develop, manage and host web sites for New Orleans’ entities.)
    8. Software Support/Software Talent

      I am asking all of us to work as a team to support any and all IT needs of New Orleans, at this meeting on Tuesday we will all discuss what we are willing to provide – be it money, talent, facilities, software and other support. These are immediate needs but certainly other tech emergencies will arise and I would like for all the great tech companies in the Cleveland region to give what they can. All I ask is that we be as creative and ingenious as possible. Tenth Floor has generously agreed to build a website that will display what each and every company in the Cleveland region is willing to provide. We will use the Office of Economic Development and the Mayor’s Office to make sure the New Orleans region is aware of what is available to them.

      If you cannot attend, PLEASE SEND SOMEONE IN YOUR STEAD. I want us to rally like no other region in the U.S. and I want the Cleveland area to be the region that can support all of the IT needs of New Orleans. We have the capacity and the talent to make a difference like no other group. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at the numbers listed below or to RSVP please email me at

      I want to thank you for your time and for your support. Please forward this message to those I have missed and would like to participate in this endeavor.

      For those of you who cannot attend in person, but can dial into a conference call – I have included below the number to call. Again, any questions feel welcome to contact me @ 216.664.3644 or at

      Conference Call Information:
      Toll Free: 1-888-453-4221
      Passcode: 216-566-5544

      Michael C. DeAloia
      Senior Executive for Technology Support
      City of Cleveland
      216.664.3644 (O)
      216.857.2628 (M)

    9. Start your own project. Work with the people you know in your group, or team or whatever. Have confidence that what you are doing is very important to a whole lot of people.

    10. Good local web sites where donations are being taken, shipped and distributed directly. Working with businesses and cities.

    11. The email that got forwarded everywhere (thank you everyone) started with a list of people in the Athletic Boosters and Indian Guides. It was a magic moment, but that's done and excessive email gets old quick. So, if you are interested in getting future emails (or NOT getting future emails) send me a note at saying INCLUDE me, or DROP me, or anything else you want. I'll pass the list onto local groups if they ask for it (the city, Indian Guides, Kiwanis, PTA, Boosters, only local groups) and not anywhere else.

    12. Send me links to your web sites if you are doing relief projects. I know the City, and Independence Fire Department, and I am sure other groups are organizing different projects, fundraisers, etc. If YOU currently keep a calandar of events up to date I'll put a link to your site here or on the CityOfIndependence.Com website. We also have a great calandar/web page system, available at no charge for local groups, if you want to start a calandar for your group. But it only works if you keep it up to date.
    13. The Church we dropped things at is First Presbyterian Church of Baton Rouge.

    14. These items will go to the city project There are a few items that didn't fit in the camper. Several cases of water, which they still need (but it's heavy to carry and available far closer). Other odds and ends. These can go to anyone collecting for any group.
    Independence Katrina Response 2005.


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