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Experts planning recovery

Researchers are coming together to lend their expertise in the wake of the storm.

BY HEATHER MOYER | BATON ROUGE, La. | August 31, 2005


"There's a long road ahead of us."

—Kristina Peterson


Researchers are coming together to lend their expertise in the wake of the storm.

One of those experts, Kristina Peterson, helped families recover after Hurricane Andrew, the great floods in North Dakota flood and the Midwest floods in the mid-1990s.

Now a member of the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance response team in Louisiana, Peterson is ready to help take on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Involved the recovery pre-planning, she said, are a wealth of experts with similar experience, including one expert who did major research after Hurricane Andrew about housing and displacement. Another expert is a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) official who ran the shelters after Hurricane Andrew.

"He's helping me compile all (that information) so we can be best informed and not make the same mistakes," said Peterson.

But one major setback with the recovery startup right now is that most of the disaster-related experts who were headquartered at major universities in and around New Orleans are all trying to figure out just where they will be located now that the city is underwater.

"Many responders will be dealing with their own devastation," said Peterson. "It's really hard to access that kind of technical and sociological knowledge when the folks themselves are in horrible transition."

The same goes for many faith-based responders, many of whom had their denomination's judicatory offices in New Orleans as well. Peterson is in the same situation, having just moved to New Orleans several weeks ago to begin work at the University of New Orleans - which she said is now submerged.

Having temporarily evacuated to College Station, Texas, during Katrina, Peterson said she will head back to Baton Rouge Wednesday to office space offered by Lousiana Interchurch Conference (LIC). She will be staying with a colleague in Baton Rouge for the time being.

But the process is moving on. Thursday morning, the LIC is holding a meeting for all the judicatories to begin looking at the recovery.

"We'll start looking at triage of both short-term and long-term issues," she explained. "One thing we do know for sure is the incredibly large displacement of people that are going to be refugees.

"There's a long road ahead of us."

But Peterson remains optimistic about the connections already made, noting that she also is in contact with the Louisiana Governor's office, as well as other federal and state officials. "I'm getting good information right now, it's just a matter of gathering up the troops and making plans."


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