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LA agencies respond to tornado

Some agencies in the New Orleans area rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina are now also providing immediate response to the families affected by the Feb. 13 tornado.

BY HEATHER MOYER | WESTWEGO, La. | February 16, 2007

Some agencies in the New Orleans area rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina are now also providing immediate response to the families affected by the Feb. 13 tornado.

Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) has several Hurricane Katrina rebuild projects set up in Lousiana, Mississippi and Alabama, and since Tuesday teams have been helping families clean up debris and put tarps on their roofs in order to "dry-in" the homes.

Emergency management officials report that Tuesday's early morning tornado destroyed or severely damaged at least 130 homes across Jefferson, Orleans and St. Martin parishes. One woman was killed and more than 20 others were injured as the F2 tornado skipped across the parishes and into the city of New Orleans.

"We've got one crew out today doing blue roofs," said Elaine Enns, office manager for the MDS New Orleans site. "I think we have 21 jobs done so far, but we've got many more to do."

Enns said once their crews got into the affected areas Tuesday and word got out that MDS was helping, the New Orleans' office phone rang non-stop Wednesday and Thursday as more affected families requested blue tarps and assistance. "We started off by just walking down the affected streets on Tuesday and seeing how we could, and from there the word got out."

MDS teams from the Diamond, La., Pass Christian, Miss., and Bayou La Batre and Mobile, Ala., sites came in to help this week as well. The crews are made up of volunteers in town to help out with the long-term Katrina recovery, but Enns said all were happy to assist in this immediate response.

"None of them expected to do this sort of work, but this really showed them that when you're in this sort of situation, you're prepared for anything that comes along."

Enns said they expect to continue helping put on "blue roofs" into the next week as more families discover that their roofs may not be as undamaged as they look. "This tornado did an awful lot of widespread damage," she explained. "Westwego probably had the worst damage, but more people will come forward when it rains and their roofs aren't okay."

Jefferson Parish, home to Westwego, saw 52 homes destroyed and another 137 with major damage. Across the three affected parishes, more than 170 homes saw minor damage. The tornado destroyed 16 homes in St. Martin Parish, where the community of Breauxbridge was hit hard.

Darryl Tate, director of disaster recovery for the Louisiana Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (LAUMC) said responding agencies are worried about families with no insurance.

"I'm being told that 50% of homeowners in Breauxbridge had insurance, but many of those without are elderly and disabled," said Tate, who is the treasurer of Louisiana Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (LAVOAD).

The LAVOAD is holding regular conference calls to coordinate the response, he added. Tate said he will utilize some UMC caseworkers from the Hurricane Katrina work in New Orleans if it's determind necessary, and that he assessing whether aid from the United Methodist Committee on Relief will be needed.

This is a second round of disaster relief for the affected families across the communities of Westwego, Carrollton and Gentilly. Many families were still in trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as they awaited final home repairs from Hurricane Katrina. Some of those FEMA trailers were damaged, and another hotel where more Katrina families were staying in the meantime saw its roof ripped off during the tornado.

Still others had just moved back into finally finished and repaired homes - only to see disaster again early Tuesday morning.

Operation Noah, a Hurricane Katrina long-term recovery agency run by Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, also sent out volunteers to check on tornado-affected homes they had helped repair or rebuild earlier last yearin the Gentilly area. The agency also provided support to a local Baptist church that served as a shelter for residents during the week.

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Related Links:

Mennonite Disaster Service

Operation Noah

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