Oklahomans prepared to respond to Hurricane Katrina

Sunday, August 28th 2005, 4:34 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- As Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, Oklahomans were preparing to render aide to those in harm's way.

Oklahoma Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Michelann Ooten said Monday that once the storm moves through and a preliminary damage estimate is done, government agencies dealing with the effects of the hurricane will make requests for assistance and Oklahoma will respond.

"I would anticipate late today and tomorrow and the next day we will begin to entertain those requests," she said. "It could be people and equipment. It could be staff and supplies."

"With as many disasters as we've been through, we understand the need for additional resources but also we understand communities' needs to be in position to manage volunteer resources."

Gov. Brad Henry, attending the Southern Governors' Association meeting in Georgia, said he has instructed state officials to be prepared to deliver whatever assistance is needed in the wake of the potentially devastating storm.

"We are closely monitoring the situation and waiting to act on any requests for help," Henry said. "As Oklahomans, we know all too well the devastation that Mother Nature can inflict on lives and property. In our times of difficulty in Oklahoma, we have benefited from the assistance of friends and neighbors throughout the United States and the world, and we stand ready to assist them in their time of need.

Groups from Oklahoma were already trekking toward the New Orleans area, even before the hurricane made landfall.

The Red Cross of Central Oklahoma sent two teams Saturday to "staging areas" in and near Louisiana, to assist local and state authorities with emergency preparations for Hurricane Katrina.

Ryan Teubner, spokesman for the Red Cross of Central Oklahoma, said both teams will help provide food, water and shelter.

He said an emergency response team of three people left Saturday for Orange, Texas, where they will be ready to respond if needed in Louisiana. The second team, a four-person "strike team," was driving a rental van to Alexandria, La., to respond in the Baton Rouge, La. area if needed.

The Oklahoma Baptist General Convention also is sending a crew of 30 relief workers to Louisiana, spokesman Ray Sanders said.

Sam Porter, the leader of the Oklahoma relief team, said they are planning on being there at least a month. He said FEMA and Homeland Security officials have estimated his group may be asked to stay for up to 6 months.

Porter said 20 of the people leaving are part of a "feeding team" that can provide up to 30,000 meals a day for 30 days. This team will take a mobile kitchen with them that, on its own, can deliver 20,000 meals a day.

The second team consists of 10 members whose specific purpose is to aid clean up and recovery efforts. They are trained to use chain saws to help remove debris and trees that are blocking roads or are on houses.

All are volunteers.

Several Oklahoma energy companies were shutting down their operations in the Gulf of Mexico Sunday as the storm approached.

Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy Corp. evacuated 60 workers from four drilling platforms off the southeast coast of Louisiana, while Kerr-McGee evacuated about 50 workers from the Neptune production spar about 90 miles south of Mobile, Ala.

Tulsa-based Williams Companies evacuated eight workers and shut down its Canyon Station pipeline south of Mobile Bay. The pipeline transports about 500 million cubic feet of natural gas a day.

If you'd like to help, you can call the Tulsa chapter of the Red Cross during normal business hours at 831-1225 or visit their web site.