After Clearing Debris, Bartlesville Disaster Team Helped Hurricane Katrina Survivors Heal

Thursday, August 27th 2015, 7:29 am
By: News On 6

After Hurricane Katrina hit 10 years ago, a Southern Baptist Disaster Relief team from Bartlesville grabbed their chain saws and jumped into action to help clean up.  

A member of that team, Steve Capler spent a total of 26 days in southern Louisiana helping clear storm debris. But once the chain saws went silent, his real work began. 

In late August, 2005, Steve Capler and his chain saw team geared up in Bartlesville, for a road trip to Covington, Louisiana, home of 80 foot pine trees and 200-year-old live oaks, thousands of them toppled by the winds of Hurricane Katrina. 

"There was no communication the church we were staying at had no power, you couldn't even open the doors of the church because of the insects.  So, it was, you could literally hang ten on the floor inside of this church, it was sweating and so humid," said Steve Capler.  

Steve and his crew of fifteen men, some of them volunteering for the first time, quickly learned the job entailed more than just sawing wood and clearing trees.

"The most important thing we can do is listen to stories and everyone  wants to tell you their stories, that's part of their healing process.  It's always hard when you go on a site like that to see what someone has lost and try and comfort them.  Lots of times there's really not much more you can do," said Steve Capler.  

Hurricane Katrina created an estimated 38-million cubic yards of debris in southern Louisiana, enough to fill the New Orleans Superdome three times over.

Because of the scale of the cleanup organizations like the Southern Baptist Relief teams had to to re-evaluate and change their policies for future disasters.

"All of the relief organizations, you know, around the country were a little bit overwhelmed by what was required after an event, you know, Katrina-sized," said Steve Capler.  

It led to specific changes in how Southern Baptists prepare prior to an expected event.  Steve says those logistical changes have been really beneficial in other disasters. For example, the Joplin and Moore tornadoes.