Monday, October 03, 2005

Hurricane Rita's aftermath - one day's work

I normally post an image or a photo story per day. I'm sure most of y'all have figured out these images are typically shot during my work week and other assignments make up the rest of the week. In other words, I don't shoot a picture per day even though they are posted as such.
Since Hurricane Rita hit, I've been running and gunning everywhere and couldn't post. Communication problems the first few days made us create a drop-and-run system for PJs. Then we could cover the entire region while Dave Ryan and Fayrouz handled the images - big kudos to them for all their help. For several of those days, I still haven't had time to see what I shot - edited or otherwise.
Today, instead of simply posting a single image or photo story, I thought I'd let y'all see how my day has looked lately. These shots are only from Oct. 3, 2005. There are still some shots missing from other places. I'll add them when I have "down time" at some later date. Either way, you'll get the scope of a hurricane-zone day by the end of this post.

Tree story
Beaumont is the edge of East Texas timber country. After Hurricane Rita hit last Saturday, the entire city was covered in broken trees, telephone poles and electrical wires.
City crews have cleared traffic routes through the main roads. However, fallen trees remain impaled into homes, tangled in electrical wires and everywhere else imaginable.
Before electricity can be restored. Tree cutting crews must clear the line to allow electric companies access to fix the delivery lines. They work from before sunrise to after sunset and crash hard in tents wherever they can. One of Davey's crews from Florida is familiar with clearing lines after hurricanes. They are currently living in tents on any soft patches of grass around Parkdale Mall.
Power would not be returning as quickly as it has if it were not for the excellent work of crews such as this one. I'm sure they would appreciate a case of cold beer in the evening if someone wants to thank them for their hard work.

Workers rise before the sun and prepare for a long day of work for Davey, a tree maintenance company, at Parkdale Mall in Beaumont, Texas. The Florida unit staying in tents at the mall has plenty of post-hurricane experience as they clear access for Georgia Electric to work.

All photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise on Monday, Oct. 3, 2005.

The sun rises before for a long day of work for Davey, a tree maintenance company, at Parkdale Mall in Beaumont.

(above) Travis Cook of Plant City, Fla. (left) and Andy Munroe of Tampa (right) talk with co-workers before for a long day of work with Davey.
(below) Dewey Shores of Plant City, Fla. has a laugh with co-workers before for a long day of work with Davey.

Felix Villavisencio of Tampa, Fla. prepares for a long day of work with Davey. Many crew members sleep in their trucks or on cots beside the trucks.

Committed to the community
LaBelle and Fannett are two small agricultural communities near Beaumont. As such, they have a combined volunteer fire department to cover a large area of land and the houses and businesses of the folks who call the towns home. In addition to their normal duties, they had to check damaged homes for hurricane survivors, clear roads and provide food, water and other essential needs for area residents.
With some help from the Salvation Army, they're doing the best they can with what they have.

Volunteers prepare a feeding station for breakfast at the LaBelle-Fannett Volunteer Fire Department in Fannett. With help stretched thin across the Gulf Coast and attention focused on New Orleans, Southeast Texans must take care of themselves and their neighbors following Hurricane Rita.

(right) Fannett resident Ronnie Badgett helps the volunteer fire department remove trash from a feeding site in Fannett.

(left) Fannett resident Ricky Breaux looks up from crushing boxes as he helps the volunteer fire department at a fire department and Salvation Army feeding site in Fannett.

Husband and wife Michael (left) and Carrie Dixon (right), both Salvation Army staffers from Kansas City, prepare to distribute cereal at a feeding station in Fannett.

Port Acres

(Above) Pike Electric Inc works to restore power in Port Acres, Texas. Hurricane Rita tore through Southeast Texas on Saturday, September 24, 2005.
(Below) An abandoned grocery store near Port Acres, Texas remains destroyed.

Pleasure Island - two fates
A storm surge and winds exceeding 120 MPH ripped across Pleasure Island, a man-made barrier island off the coast of Texas. The north end of the island is known for its golf course, yacht club and extravagant canal houses. The southern end was recently opened for sale to the public. The homes along the southern end of the island are piered and elevated to withstand heavy storms.
Hurricane Rita was more than a heavy storm. It demolished houses, and threw ships like toys. While the southern end of the island was devastated, now infested with mosquitoes and largely uninhabitable the northern end had little damage in comparison.

(Above) A largely destroyed beach house on the south end of Pleasure Island in Port Arthur, Texas displays a warning to looters.
(Below) The Port of Port Arthur remains damaged in Port Arthur, Texas. The port and nearby bridge are roughly considered the dividing line between the northern and southern end of Pleasure Island.

(Above) Moderate damage remains at the Port Arthur Yacht Club on the northern end of Pleasure Island in Port Arthur.
(Left) Most of the homes in the exclusive Mariner's Cove on the northern end of Pleasure Island in Port Arthur appear to have escaped serious hurricane and storm surge damage.

Port Arthur - a ghost town
Port Arthur's infrastructure was not regularly upgraded. When Hurricane Rita attacked, the infrastructure crumbled. The city has no sewage, no potable water, few open stores, no electricity and little hope for those who stayed behind. Work continues, but the city remains closed to all but critically skilled workers. Without a support system, most hurricane survivors have left the city. Only dedicated workers remain in the heat, humidity and clouds of mosquitoes.

(Above) Texas Department of Transportation sign technicians Robert Webb (left) and Victor Johnson (right) repair a stop sign off Highway 69 in Port Arthur near an overturned delivery truck.
(Below) A home on 9th Street in Port Arthur, Texas displays a message for friends and family. Many residents who survived Hurricane Rita have left the city after securing their property. Once gone, they can expect to pay food, housing and other expenses without their normal income. When residents return soon, they'll be in dire need of help.

What happens to the trees?
Beaumont is basically a forested city. Trees thrive and abound throughout the city. The water table is high enough to allow trees to grow with shallow roots. This also makes the trees fall in strong winds.
Consequently, as city workers and residents began to cut their way through the fallen timber, they created more debris. All the organic material needed to be removed before it became a fire hazard in addition to the hazards it currently presents.
City workers, tree cutting crews and private tree companies bring the debris to the Beaumont Municipal Airport. While a burning ban exists, the tree remains are stacked, packed and crushed into piles.

(Above) Crews stack and pack tree debris on a pile at the Beaumont Municipal Airport in Beaumont.
(Below) A mechanical claw appears to reach for the sun as it actually reaches for another load of organic debris at the Beaumont Municipal Airport in Beaumont.

Award winner: 3rd Place, Feature Photo, Press Club of Southeast Texas, Excellence in Media Awards

This post should let some regular readers understand why I haven't been posting as often as normal since the hurricane. I hope all gets back to better-than-normal soon.
It's difficult to cover the aftermath of a hurricane. It's exponentially more difficult to cover it from the inside. I believe the work our staff has done has been world-class and kept our readers informed throughout this crisis.
Nobody on the photo staff had backed down in the last two weeks (before or after Rita hit). I couldn't be more proud of fellow PJs Scott Eslinger and Jennifer Reynolds. Although there are only three of us covering the nine affected counties in Texas and the affected parishes in Louisiana, we are giving our all.

Enough for now,


Marie said...

I knew you would have some great images to share. Personally I've been keeping track of ya'll through the Enterprise website and one of your editor's blogs. I even left him a comment suggesting that I would be interested in reading a story of what it is like for a news room and photogs to cover a storm of this magnitude. For folks to succeed in putting out product while working in a flooded news room feels like a national story to me.
And then, to cover the aftermath....I'm sure that you and your gang must be physically and mentally drained by now. KUDOS for a job well done!

Keith said...

Man! I love this blog!