This week marks ten years since Hurricane Katrina devastated portions of the gulf coast. Members of Missouri Task Force One were called in by the federal government and helped rescue victims, often by boat and often from homes. Approximately 80 members from Missouri helped with the hurricane efforts.
Task Force leader Doug Westhoff says he remembers the people who were helped.
“The heart of the people was probably one of the most notable things that sticks out in my mind. They were very appreciative of the efforts we were making and the efforts of the federal government,” said Westhoff. “It was a huge flood event that I don’t think anybody could anticipate. It was certainly a notable response that will probably never be replicated again in my career anyway.”
“Every time one of these events occur, there’s always an impact to humans. That’s always an emotional challenge for all of our responders,” said Westhoff.
Westhoff says the federal government was criticized for its response to the disaster, but he says that response was there early.
“Very few people knew that first responders had been moved in prior to the storm making landfall. That was never really reported,” said Westhoff. “It was very frustrating to us as first responders to be down there and engaging in activities sixteen hours a day and everything in the media that we were seeing had a negative connotation about the government’s response or lack thereof. We were down there beating our heads against the wall and working our rear ends off.”
At least 1,200 people died in Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent floods. The Hurricane was the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, including more than $100 billion in total property damage.