Our friend and CBS2 reporter Brian Brawdy is now on the ground in the hurricane-ravaged regions of Mississippi and Louisiana and feeding news-updates by satellite phone to SNEWSÂ® so that we can help our industry understand the scope of immense need, and the gratitude that is being conveyed for all that our industry has already done, and will certainly continue to do.
Last night we slept in the chapel of the Pass Road Baptist Church in Gulfport, Miss. This is one of our staging areas, and the church provides about 8,000 meals a day to people in the area, many of whom still do not have power or water.
Also, something we really want to emphasize is that we need tents sent to Buffalo Peak. We need them for about 200 police officers from Florida who have set up a base camp in an abandoned Wal-Mart in Waveland, Miss. We have taken a load of gear to them, but these officersâ€”and paramedics and firefightersâ€”are sleeping on the ground or in patrol cars. In addition to those 200 officers, there are local police officers who lost their homes.
We have taken a load of gear donated by companies to the Assembly of God Church in Gulfport. They had a big rally yesterday for Feed the Children, and we brought in clothing for younger folks, sunglasses, some sun block and other gear.
The devastation of this hurricane is hard to describe. But when we were in Bay St. Louis you could see what a 30-foot wall of water pushed by 150 mph winds can do. The bridge connecting the two sides of the bay had slabs easily weighing a ton or more a pieceâ€” and the slabs are all gone. Boats are stacked three deep on top of each other because of the storm surge.
One of the things I've been learning from the locals is that, because so much of the storm surge was saltwater, it has already started to kill the trees. The leaves are a dark, dark brown. I was speaking to a local fire official who said now that the trees are starting to die this way, believe it or not, it will be a massive fire hazard.
In these areas that have been devastated, the saltwater and sewage blend together, and the odor is unimaginable. And the scene is hard to describe. You'll hear different news agencies say, "It looks like a child just threw his toys." But that's really a lame analogy, because it doesn't describe the destruction. It seems much more vicious. I saw a paddleboat 10 feet off the ground, wedged in the V notch of a tree. There's nothing childlike or play-like about it.
In some places, when you look out over the land, it's like a giant chessboardâ€”just empty slabs of concrete. When the storm surge came through, it didn't just crush the houses, it moved all of the debris with it. So you find yourself saying, "Where did it all end up?"