DNR gets runaround in Katrina relief effort
Written by The Mining Journal   
Tuesday, 13 September 2005 17:15
Michigan conservation officers sent Sept. 4 to help with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts expected to find chaos and confusion in the hurricane zone.

They found it far before reaching the Gulf Coast.

"Fifty-four people left the state on Sept. 4 with orders to head to Louisiana," said Lt. Creig Grey, a spokesman for the DNR. "We hadn't quite reached there when they told us to stand down."

Responding to a request from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for 500 boats with rescuers, Grey said Michigan sent 50 conservation officers, including several from the Upper Peninsula, to the Gulf. Four other volunteers were sent as well, including support staff.

The Michigan Department of Transportation hired a trucking company with flatbed trailers to haul 23 DNR flatboats to Baton Rouge, La.

"When we received the request," Grey said. "I had over 90 names to choose from."

En route, the officers were told to wait in Jackson, Miss. According to Grey, eight officers continued on to New Orleans where they participated in rescue operations for a half day before told they were no longer needed.

"Through FEMA and the Emergency Operations Center, we were told Mississippi needed help in Harrison County, which I guess is Gulfport," Grey said. "When our supervisor on the ground met with the county sheriff, we were told we weren't needed. At that point I made the decision to demobilize and return to Michigan."

The officers had traveled more than 1,000 miles, visited two disaster zones, and finally arrived home Saturday. A communications rift between local agencies on the scene and FEMA is being blamed for this and several similar mix-ups.

"We understand that the communications infrastructure was just wiped out" after Hurricane Katrina hit the coast Aug. 29, Grey said. "But here they traveled over 1,000 miles and didn't really get to help out at all. It was very frustrating."

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