Intelligent design, my ass.

I stopped for a box turtle crossing the road this evening. They get run over quite a bit so we often stop and carry them across. As I stood over this turtle, it started to pull into its shell. But then it changed its mind and made a run for it! It was pretty fast as box turtles go. I walked behind watching for cars as it crawled off the roadway.

A box turtle on the pavement.

Island visit

I went out to West Ship Island again to take photos for the incident information officer. It was blazing hot, as always. The seas were still a bit choppy from Rita. In fact, the storm surge on Saturday destroyed the temporary walkway on the damaged pier and washed the massive wrack line away. I rode back to the mainland on a very small and very underpowered boat and nearly got seasick for the first time since I moved to Mississippi. I’d have been quite embarrassed but it was a rough ride. I redeemed myself by helping the pilot navigate back to Davis Bayou.

A green tractor is upended and partially buried in the sand.

Escape from Mississippi

I’ve been sleeping a lot on my free time. When not sleeping I’m slowly cleaning my apartment and plotting my way out of Mississippi. I wanted to leave here before the storm and now I really want out. The agency is offering us all a chance to get out on special placement transfers (aka hardship transfers). Hell I had a hardship before the storm with the girlfriend situation. I’m allowed to pick three parks to transfer to, but I’m making a whole list based on places L. can go to grad school. And a supervisor job opened at Sequoia in Central California, which seems like it might be a good place to live in Cal. So I have options, plus the job I applied for in Santa Monica which I don’t want.

Hurricane Rita brought some foul weather to Mississippi but nothing too bad where I live. I heard a tornado killed someone here. There were tornado warnings west of here Friday. There’s still some severe weather coming north of here today. And the damned heat won’t let up. It sucks just to step outdoors.

The Yankees are tied for first place and face the Red Sox to end the season. Zoiks!

Today in Mississippi

I wish I’d kept a journal from the last three weeks or so. It’s been interesting. I’ll backfill entries if I have time.

Today I accompanied two fire crews to West Ship Island for some clean up. It was brutally hot. The wrack line (the line of detritus that washes up on the beach) looks like a wrack mountain, with garbage and debris mixed in with the grasses. I saw a dead alligator and several dead pelicans. A freighter or a warehouse spilled plastic bags of Tyson chicken into the Sound, many of which have washed ashore on the island. Of course these things smell bad. One crew was on “chicken detail,” picking up the nasty stuff. We’re treating it as biohazard waste.

I saw the fort for the first time since the storm. It’s a mess. It’s also damaged, though not severely. It’s ironic that the fort was untouched by warfare but was damaged by a storm.

I said good-bye to Virginia #10, the wildland fire crew I’ve been working with for the last two weeks. They were great and helped a lot of people. They did a lot of difficult work, not just cutting down broken trees but cleaning out people’s flooded homes. They moved out many moldy carpets and putrefying refrigerators. They struggled with the climate as well. I was their handler, so to speak: I worked with them sometimes but mostly I coordinated their work. A good bunch all around.

Katrina update

I’ve been back in Mississippi for over two weeks now. My apartment is fine but the complex (35 buildings) has extensive roof damage. After much inaction and little communication, the owner company only started patching the roofs on Friday. I now have electricity, telephone, and potable water, but I was prepared to leave again if the building conditions deteriorated.

The park where I work is in very bad shape. Most of the facilities have been damaged or destroyed. The wooden buildings on West Ship Island are gone without a trace. Even Fort Massachusetts was damaged. The storm surge covered the entire island including the fort. It knocked some of the granite coping right off the top of the fort. The visitor center at Davis Bayou, where my office is, was flooded with five feet of water. Several of the rangers have lost their homes.

I’m working for a recovery team in the park. The team is doing things like clearing the roads, saving things from the offices, and helping the employees. I’ve been working with the group helping employees out. I have a twenty-person wildfire crew and a bucket truck crew who go to the homes of employees, volunteers, partners, neighbors, relatives, etc. to help cut down hazarous trees and clean out the flooded houses. We also bring them generators, water, cleaning supplies and other things they need. I’ve seen a lot of flooded neighborhoods. Everyone’s belongings are piled up on the curb. It’s very sad.

The beachfront areas are completely destroyed. Whole houses and neighborhoods have vanished. Several bridges are badly damaged. All thirteen casinos are damaged and some of the huge casino barges washed up on shore and crashed into other buildings. I think the local economy will be a long time in recovering from this.

That being said, things are getting better little by little (and certainly are not as bad as the atrocities in New Orleans). The long lines at the gas station are gone, the traffic lights are working, and the water is drinkable. Some businesses are opening back up. But there is still a lot to do.

Thank you all for your concern and good wishes.