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Press Release

U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey
National Wetlands Research Center
700 Cajundome Blvd.
Lafayette, LA 70506

Contact: Gabrielle Boudreaux Bodin
Phone: 337-266-8655
Fax: 337-266-8541
For Release: August 31, 2005

USGS Providing Humanitarian and Scientific Aid in Hurricane Katrina Aftermath

The U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wetlands Research Center, headquartered in Lafayette, La., is responding to both humanitarian and scientific needs of people and agencies involved in the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Katrina slammed into southeastern Louisiana and coastal Mississippi and Alabama Aug. 29, causing historic flooding in the New Orleans area and wind and flood destruction along the three coastal states.

Center Director Greg Smith said, “Our first efforts at this time are to assist in any way in the saving of human lives during this unprecedented disaster.”

At the request of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, the center is supplying boats and trained personnel to assist in the rescue mission in the New Orleans area. The center is joined in this effort with volunteer crews from the USGS Water Science Center and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people are still trapped on roofs and need assistance getting to land and shelters.

Center staff members are also donating food, clothing, and money to assist with the shelter set up in the nearby Lafayette Cajundome, where several thousand evacuees from the New Orleans area are being housed. Several staff members are providing their homes indefinitely to family and friends under mandatory evacuation orders.

The Center is combining its humanitarian and scientific efforts by providing, at the request of the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Emergency Preparedness, geographers and data to help in mapping and analyzing the areas affected by the hurricane. Using a variety of satellite and aerial photography obtained by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the geographers will provide coordinates and maps to pinpoint exact areas where people need rescue. This linking of photography to ground coordinates was used in the 9-11 disaster in New York City.

Scientific research support includes pre- and post-flight reconnaissance of the barrier islands along Louisiana's coastline. The first post-hurricane flight on Aug. 30 examined the Louisiana coast eastward from Raccoon Island to Port Fourchon, an important oil port, to Grand Isle, a recreational area for sport fisheries, and then to Venice, the Chandeleur Islands, and back west to Fort Pike, Slidell, and Mandeville. The center plans to fly the coastal areas of other states this week.

An estimated 50 percent of the Chandeleur Islands was destroyed. The islands’ lighthouse is no longer visible. This chain of barrier islands is historically New Orleans’ first line of defense against tropical storms and hurricanes and is important habitat for wildlife.

Branch Chief Dr. Carroll Cordes added, “As more boats and personnel become available for scientific research, the center will begin a thorough assessment of the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the plant and animal communities.”

The center has been devoted to research on wetlands and coastal land loss for 30 years. Coastal wetlands are critical in helping to absorb storm waters.

Related Stories

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita Special Feature
Hurricane Research at NWRC
Post-hurricane flight
Search and Rescue Mission
Geospatial Technology Assists in the Hurricane Katrina Search and Recovery Efforts
Humanitarian Efforts
Demonstration of Impact on Biological Resources

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