Louisiana locals upbeat as recovery continues | VailDaily.com

Louisiana locals upbeat as recovery continues

Scott N. Miller

AP photoA lone dog runs down a flooded North Claiborne Avenue in New Orleans on Friday. Hurricane Rita has pushed water into neighborhoods that had just dried out from the flooding caused by hurricane Katrina.

BELLE CHASSE, La. – When it was obvious Hurricane Rita would deliver only a glancing blow to Plaquemines Parish, everyone hunkered down for the night. The morning would bring more work.Among those working in the town southeast of New Orleans is Greg Treece, a volunteer with the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District. He and other firefighters from Colorado and around the U.S. are helping the local fire department, which lost its trucks and equipment to Hurricane Katrina.In a cell phone call from Belle Chasse, Treece said the folks coming around for food and water seem to be in good spirits.”There’s a big mix of people here,” Treece said. “There’s a strong contractor presence here now, people trying to clean up.”

While the southern half of Plaquemines Parish remains mostly underwater, Treece said the northern half is mostly intact.”The top half of the parish had wind damage, and some flash flooding from the Mississippi, so there’s some water damage, but nothing’s under water,” Treece said.With Belle Chasse’s fire department in tatters, the first job the visiting crews have is fire protection. But the firefighters are doing a lot more.”Along with fire service, we’re doing a lot of community service stuff, handing out food, water and ice. And we’re talking to folks to see what they need,” Treece said.

He’s only been through New Orleans on the interstate, but Treece, who goes to Mardi Gras every year, said it was odd to see the city as it is now.”It was odd seeing the lack of people, seeing the downtown and the water lines on the buildings,” he said.Treece’s stint in Belle Chasse lasts another 10 days or so. He said he and other firefighters feel welcome.”We’re doing fine,” he said. “People are cooking meals for us every night. We’ve got good places to stay. And we’re doing everything we can to help them out.”

Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or smiller@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail Colorado