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Katrina’s Bittersweet Reminder

Friday, June 03, 2011

Residents, family members and friends of the Gulf coast, particularly Louisiana and Mississippi, know the devastation Katrina left in her wake. They can vividly remember the pictures of stranded New Orleaneans on rooftops, floating on scrap metal and wood, houses completely submerged or demolished and looting occurring merely as a means for survival.

What people may not know is that if it weren’t for the highly qualified rescue teams that rushed in to save stranded people, the loss of life would have been substantially worse.


In his recently published book, “Lost in Katrina,” author Mikel Shafer tells us that the first bona fide rescue team to arrive in St. Bernard Parish (one of the hardest hit areas) was a Canadian Task Force from Vancouver, British Columbia. Tim Armstrong, Task Force Leader for Vancouver Urban Search and Rescue (as well as a long time Roco Chief Instructor and head of Roco Rescue of Canada, Inc.) received a call from the head of B.C.’s emergency preparedness office about trying to help Louisiana hurricane victims.

Many of the Canadian task force members were Roco-trained and some were even familiar with South Louisiana since Roco’s corporateoffice is located in Baton Rouge (just 50 miles west of the disaster zone). So the folks in Baton Rouge immediately got in touch with Governor Kathleen Blanco’s office to work out logistics for the USAR team.

The trek from the great white north to the swampy bayous of St. Bernard started Tuesday, but the rescue efforts lasted weeks. Tim Armstrong said that he and the others from BC became known as the “Mounties” in the post-Katrina rescue community. Nicknames like this provided a bit of comic relief, well-earned in the chaos of a wind and water ravaged city. With all that had happened, having the “Mounties” in town fit right in. To this day, the residents of St. Bernard Parish remain very grateful to the Canadian USAR team, who aided them in their darkest hour.

As hurricane season 2011 begins this month, we look back with a sense of gratitude to all first responders and rescue pros who never hesitated to respond. Of course, we hope we never need them, but if we do, we know they’ll be there to pull us out of crisis and into recovery. Even if it means traveling nearly 3,000 miles.

2011 hurricane season is expected to be well above average.

NOAA is predicting 12-18 tropical cyclones, 6-10 hurricanes, and 3-6 major hurricanes of Category-3 strength or higher (111 mph or higher). They are also predicting the overall season to be 105-200% of average according to the Accumulated Cyclone Energy index (a method used to account for the intensity and duration of named storms and hurricanes).

Three important ingredients have combined to produce this year’s active hurricane  forecast.

Water temperatures in the Atlantic are above normal. Warm water is the fuel for tropical cyclones.Reduced wind shear over the Atlantic Ocean is expected to persist through much of the hurricane season. Less wind shear aids tropical cyclone development by ensuring the storms are not torn apart by winds aloft, and is critical to a storm’s long-term survival. We are currently in a multi-decade cycle of above average activity that began in 1995.

The good news? NOAA forecast does not consider landfall. We could have an extremely active hurricane season where most of the activity stays over water and has little impact on land. However, it only takes one land-falling hurricane to cause a disaster. Our best advice?

BE PREPARED!




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