Truhett relives Hurricane Katrina at Rotary Club

Published 1:09 am Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What Joe Truhett remembers most about living through Hurricane Katrina was the feeling of how frighteningly close they were to anarchy. “There was no food and no water. People were just milling about in shock wondering what to do next.” He recalls being at the fairgrounds when word came that an ice truck was coming and seeing people running to get some of the ice.

He and his wife Joni were living in Gulf Port, Miss. when the hurricane struck the Mississippi gulf coast nine years ago on Aug. 29, 2005.

He had just been named safety manager at Mississippi Power Co. a few weeks before the storm hit. His wife and mother had moved inland at the approach of the storm. He, of course, stayed behind.

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The storm hit on Monday morning and it was Wednesday before he was able to contact his family to let them know he was okay. There was no power and no cell phones.

The power plant where he was stationed was under water and all the cars that had been parked there were floating around with their alarms going off.

When Truhett was able to get to check on his home he found it still standing, but the roof was gone. He recalls his company sent in two tree crews dedicated to putting tarps on all the employee’s homes so the employees could work on restoring power.

Initially there was no place to stay for the 12,000 workers brought in. There were no hotels. He said they slept in their trucks for the first three nights, eating hotdogs and potato chips until they were able to get tent cities established. Then caterers began arriving with meals for the workers. Against many obstacles, power was restored in just 12 days.

Truhett showed photos of the damages and debris piled on the streets where people had gutted their houses to start over. Other photos showed the casinos that had floated from off-shore onto land. Bridges were destroyed. Acres and acres of fields were set up to hold the hundreds of thousands of automobiles and other vehicles that had been flooded.

There were also acres of campers set up as Katrina villages to hold the homeless.

He told how FEMA took charge of everything and set up barbed wire barriers to prevent looting. He said they had trouble getting their fuel trucks in and out and witnessed an Inland Oil fuel truck that was stopped at gunpoint by FEMA.

A poignant memory was how they had attended their First Baptist Church on the prior Sunday morning, with approximately 30 parishioners in attendance.

They took great pains to cover and seal the large pipe organ and grand piano to protect them from water damage. All to no avail, as the church building was gutted and gone following the storm.

Truhett said the storm caused 1833 deaths, with Louisiana having the most. It also cost $108 billion in property damages—the costliest natural disaster in the United States.

In spite of everything that happened Truhett said he and his wife couldn’t help but feel they had been blessed to come out of it as well as they did.