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Activities Related to the USGS National Wetlands Research Center's Hurricane Katrina Rescue Mission

September 6, 2005 September 2, 2005 September 1, 2005 August 31, 2005
interagency group of volunteers from Lafayette, La., for the Hurricane Katrina search and rescue efforts in New Orleans
The interagency group of volunteers from Lafayette, La., for the Hurricane Katrina search and rescue efforts in New Orleans East taken on Monday, September 5, 2005. The group consists of personnel from U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Ducks Unlimited, and Louisiana National Guard.

USGS Participates in Interagency New Orleans Search and Rescue Mission: A Summary of Activities

Updated September 16, 2005

The U.S. Geological Survey's National Wetlands Research Center and the USGS Louisiana Water Science Center participated in an interagency search and rescue mission from August 31 to September 6, providing volunteer personnel, boats, and vehicles.

The USGS provided more than 30 personnel, 11 boats, and 13 vehicles. The entire interagency team was responsible for the direct rescue of 594 people and indirect or assisted rescues of 1,900 more. The indirect or assisted rescues included helping people get off tug boats or helicopters as well as providing boats to other rescuers not equipped with boats.

The interagency group provided about 30 boats and consisted of about 70 volunteer personnel from USGS, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Services and Wildlife Services, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service, and Ducks Unlimited. The group received support from the Louisiana National Guard and Department of Natural Resources.

Details about daily activities during the rescue mission follow.

USGS National Wetlands Research Center Participates in an Interagency Effort to Aid in the New Orleans Search and Rescue Mission

September 6, 2005USGS Helps Rescue New Orleans Citizens

Following Hurricane Katrina, the administration at the USGS National Wetlands Research Center in Lafayette, La., has held daily meetings to inform the staff about the center’s continuing efforts to assist in the search and rescue mission. On Tuesday morning, USGS volunteers involved in the New Orleans search and rescue mission provided an overview of their activities over the Labor Day weekend (Saturday through Monday).

At about 4:00 a.m. on September 3 (Saturday), 22 USGS volunteers left from the NWRC as part of a larger crew of volunteers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, and Ducks Unlimited. The USFWS spearheaded this volunteer effort in which the USGS contributed 7 of 18 boats.

The entire New Orleans search and rescue mission was described by NWRC Director Greg Smith as a “confederation of units.” A primary avenue to success in the mission has been the efficient matching of independent resources. On Saturday, when our crew arrived at the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s command center in Metairie, La., they were matched with a crew of about 90 firefighters from Phoenix, Az. These firefighters were equipped with an operating communications infrastructure and advanced knowledge of search and rescue operations, but they didn’t have boats.

Fortunately, our crew of USGS and other volunteers were there to fill this need. Over the course of the weekend, the USGS and other volunteers worked with the firefighters from Phoenix to rescue about 250 individuals from homes inundated with flood waters. The last of the USGS volunteers arrived back at the NWRC around midnight on Tuesday, September 6.

At all times, armed escorts from a variety of agencies escorted the volunteers. The USFWS was primarily responsible for coordinating security coverage for the volunteer teams. This high level of security was provided out of an abundance of caution. The crew did not experience any security threats and reported that they felt entirely safe at all times.

As the greater search and rescue mission in the New Orleans area has begun to wind down, the USGS has reached an end of utility in terms of watercraft rescue efforts. Looking towards the future, the NWRC will look for ways to further the efforts to recover and rebuild resources in the path of Katrina’s destruction.

USGS National Wetlands Research Center and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Aid in the New Orleans Search and Rescue Mission

September 2, 2005

USGS Researchers load up supplies for the hurricane evacueesFollowing Hurricane Katrina, the administration at the USGS National Wetlands Research Center in Lafayette, La., has held meetings twice a day to inform the staff about the center’s continuing efforts to assist in the search and rescue mission. The Friday morning meeting was also attended by staff of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services.

On Thursday, volunteer scientists from the NWRC again attempted to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to aid in the ongoing New Orleans search and rescue mission in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The massive storm struck the Gulf of Mexico coast on Monday, August 29.

As on Wednesday, USGS and USFWS crews again found themselves amid a chaotic rescue front. On Thursday, when they arrived at the central command center located at the New Orleans causeway, they discovered that the U.S. Coast Guard had taken over operations there and that the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries’ center of operations had been relocated. The crews were also informed that the U.S. military had cancelled all civilian participation in the search and rescue effort.

Even though the USGS and USFWS crews were unable to launch their boats to participate in the search and rescue mission in New Orleans, they still managed to find ways to help. At the Coast Guard’s command center at the New Orleans causeway, they helped to unload evacuees from helicopters and assisted with the Coast Guard’s triage operations.

The USGS and USFWS crews were then diverted to the area of Slidell, La, where they distributed water and other supplies to elderly evacuees at a nursing home facility.

The U.S. military has reconsidered its all-out ban on civilian participation in the search and rescue mission. The request for USGS and USFWS volunteers and equipment has been renewed. The agencies are currently preparing for a 3–5 day search and rescue mission in the New Orleans area over the Labor Day weekend and possibly into next week.

The NWRC continues to look for ways to expand its role in the efforts to recover and rebuild resources in the path of Katrina’s destruction.

USGS National Wetlands Research Center and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Aid in the New Orleans Search and Rescue Mission

September 1, 2005

USGS Researchers Prepare for Hurricane Katrina EvacuationsOn Wednesday, volunteer scientists from the USGS National Wetlands Research Center in Lafayette, La., worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to aid in the ongoing New Orleans search and rescue mission in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The massive storm struck the Gulf of Mexico coast on Monday, August 29.

At 5:45 a.m., a crew of 14 NWRC scientists left for Baton Rouge, where they met with a crew of 7 more volunteers from the USGS Louisiana Water Science Center in Baton Rouge. The 2 USGS crews partnered with 7 volunteers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which also supplied three of the boats for Wednesday’s effort.

The NWRC became involved in this mission Tuesday morning after receiving independent requests for boats and personnel from the Louisiana State Police, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, and the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Emergency Preparedness. The NWRC maintains a large fleet of field vehicles, including various types of boats. When the requests for assistance were received, the administrators and scientists at NWRC provided the requested equipment and personnel in less than 24 hr.

On Wednesday, the USGS and USFWS crews found themselves amid a chaotic rescue front. The central command center located at the New Orleans causeway was overwhelmed by hundreds of volunteers who showed up with boats to assist in the rescue mission. The crews sat at the command center for approximately 3 hr before being deployed to Algiers, La., where they planned to assist in the evacuation of individuals stranded in the area of Chalmette, La. The Chalmette area is in dire need of search and rescue assistance.

Unfortunately, the crews’ plans to ferry these evacuees were interrupted because of the extreme isolation of the Chalmette area, which is inundated by flooded waters. The rescue plan was to ferry the USGS and USFWS crews, along with their boats, from Algiers to Chalmette, where they would be able to launch into the water. The crews would then aid in the rescue effort by picking up individuals and delivering them to the ferry boat docked in Chalmette, where the evacuees would then be transported on the ferry back to Algiers. From Algiers, the evacuees would be taken to the command center at the causeway.

Unfortunately, this rescue plan became impossible to complete because the rescue leaders were unable to find a ferry boat that would properly engage at the dock. An insurmountable ¬gap between the height of the ferry boat and the launch ground prevented the crews from fulfilling their goals.

The crews were, however, able to help in unexpected ways. No one anticipated the arrival of hundreds of evacuees at the ferry boat dock in Algiers, but they came anyway. When the ferry arrived to pick up the volunteer crews, it was filled with hundreds of evacuees; fortunately, the USGS and USFWS volunteers were there to help unload them and to distribute water.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries requested the assistance of the USGS and USFWS volunteers again on Thursday. When the USGS volunteers returned to the NWRC on Wednesday evening, it was decided that they would indeed continue their efforts to be of assistance today. The crews are currently in the area providing aid in whatever ways they can.

The NWRC continues to look for ways to expand its role in the efforts to recover and rebuild resources in the path of Katrina’s destruction.

National Wetlands Research Center and USFWS Assists in Hurricane Katrina's Search and Rescue

August 31, 2005

USGS Rescue MissionOn Wednesday, volunteer scientists from the USGS National Wetlands Research Center in Lafayette, La., worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to aid in the ongoing New Orleans search and rescue mission in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The massive storm struck the Gulf of Mexico coast on Monday, August 29.

At 5:45 a.m., a crew of 14 NWRC scientists left for Baton Rouge, where they met with a crew of 7 more volunteers from the USGS Louisiana Water Science Center in Baton Rouge. The 2 USGS crews partnered with 7 volunteers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which also supplied three of the boats for Wednesday’s effort.

The NWRC became involved in this mission Tuesday morning after receiving independent requests for boats and personnel from the Louisiana State Police, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, and the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Emergency Preparedness. The NWRC maintains a large fleet of field vehicles, including various types of boats. When the requests for assistance were received, the administrators and scientists at NWRC sprung to action, thus providing the necessary equipment and personnel in less than 24 hours.

The exact nature of Wednesday’s involvement by USGS and USFWS volunteers is currently unfolding in the New Orleans area. The plan is for them to assist in the rescue of evacuees by picking them up from predetermined locations within flooded areas. Potential locations include hospitals or a stretch of the Mississippi River levee in the Chalmette, La., area that is estimated to be holding as many as 3,000 evacuees. The volunteers plan to bring the evacuees to land, where they will be transported to shelters and medical facilities as necessary.

Today’s crew of NWRC scientists is expected back in Lafayette late this evening when they, along with administrators, will assess the demand for further, immediate assistance. There are plans for the crew to return to New Orleans on Friday, but preparations are also underway for them to return tomorrow if necessary.

The NWRC continues to gather and prepare personnel and equipment, such as all-terrain vehicles, in order to expand its role in the search and rescue mission, as well as in the larger task to recover and rebuild resources in the path of Katrina’s destruction.

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