Before this brief update, let me address a few issues:
This is the 2nd worst property disaster I have ever personally seen (the Oklahoma City tornado is the worst because of the immediate deaths and complete destruction). Damage assessments continue, but it will be a toss-up as to whether Hurricane Rita or Katrina did more irreparable damage. It's a staggering one-two punch this month for residents in this part of the country.
If anyone is considering returning to Southeast Texas, don't do it yet. This isn't camping. It's survival 101 and not an elective. Businesses are largely closed, so there are no jobs. Food and fuel is beginning to make it into town, but a flood of returnees would tax the fragile survival system and everyone would suffer.
If folks would like to donate to charitable causes, I'd personally suggest The Salvation Army. They are feeding emergency workers and other hungry people. I have only seen one Red Cross team in the hundreds of miles I've traveled this week and they were sending people away. Shame on that organization. Each time I passed the local office, it was padlocked.
It's time for another organization to take over the immediate responder duties as the duty and honor it is.
To all the folks who suffered through the long lines to evacuate this area, thank you. I appreciate the lives and grief spared. This could have easily turned into a much worse situation.
We got power this evening at home!
Most of the city is still without power. Most deep underpasses are still flooded. Powerlines remain tangled in trees and blocking roadways. Water runs, but it isn't drinkable. Everything outside smells dead and rotten now. But, we survived and are beginning to find happiness again.
Fayrouz has to be one of the toughest flowers in the world. She survived all this with her head held high and laughter in her voice. She acted as if this nightmare was fun. She called upon her war-time skills to make it through the first week.
If she hadn't been helping us out at the newspaper, we wouldn't have seen much of each other. I'm glad to have had her help and her love throughout this ordeal.
The elected city government officials of Beaumont have many answers to provide. They appear to still deny any folks rode it out, remained here and need help.
The actual city employees are heroes. The police, firefighters, and particularly the streets and sanitation departments immediately stepped up and prevented further disasters. Kudos go to them, their families and their valiant efforts.
Luckily businesses such as Kroger and Home Depot stepped up when the government failed and provided water, ice, food, fuel and equipment for those who could afford it. Kroger has even provided free water and free ice to its shoppers.
When Kroger opened, I got all misty when I was able to go into a store and purchase a jar of instant coffee. I could have even gotten two or more if I wanted. What a freaking great country this is.
SBC, Entergy and their affiliated contractors were immediately at work and have accomplished monumental tasks in an extremely short time. They are worth every penny we pay each month.
For folks with access to the AP, they put 19 of my images onto the wire yesterday alone. The Houston Chronicle has been running lots of our images and has lots of help for evacuees (most remaining residents can't access the Web yet). AP has spotlighted many of our images. I'm happy about our work and the tenacity and endurance of the photo staff at The Beaumont Enterprise. Our Web site is somewhat clunky, but they have been posting staff-produced slideshows most days lately.
I need to crash so I can start this craziness again after sunrise. They are wanting us to take rotating breaks from this grind. I'm last on the list by choice. But, I'm starting to shoot like a zombie. I'll need a break from these long, hot days in a week or two.
I plan to start posting images in the next few days if the power remains. Talk to y'all soon (with more detailed info). Thanks again for all your support and concern.
Enough for now,