Louisville Response to Hurricane Gustav
September 15, 2008
“I’m just so proud of our staff and volunteers. What I’ve seen this week is just amazing,” said Virginia Wilson, a long-time Louisville Area Red Cross Chapter volunteer.
Over Labor Day weekend, Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson and Emergency Management Agency Director Doug Hamilton were contacted by Kentucky Emergency Management officials to ask if Louisville would provide shelter for New Orleans residents fleeing from Hurricane Gustav.
Flights began arriving on Saturday evening and continued throughout Sunday, eventually transporting up to 1,500 people to Louisville’s Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center.
For more than a week, more than 750 Red Cross volunteers cared for 1,500 residents from New Orleans and adjacent Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. With the help of generous community partners, the Red Cross served over 38,000 meals and 37,000 snacks, provided showers and laundry services, tended to medical needs and offered daily activities both inside and outside the shelter.
Providing support for the evacuees was a total community effort.
Abramson and the Louisville Metro Government team provided public safety and protection, health services, transportation and overall emergency management support.
Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, Kentucky Emergency Management and the Kentucky Air National Guard coordinated the evacuee flights coming and going. The Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center employees insured that the area remained a safe and healthy environment.
Chefs and kitchen volunteers from the Southern Baptist Convention, Kentucky Association, provided home cooking, smiling faces and mobile shower units. The Christian Appalachian Project provided a mobile shower unit and volunteers.
Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau arranged trips and staffed an information desk at the shelter to help make a tough situation much better for the evacuees. Trips were scheduled for people to visit the Louisville Zoo, the Louisville Slugger Field to see a Louisville Bats game, the Muhammad Ali Center, the Louisville Slugger Museum, the Louisville Science Center, the Kentucky Derby Museum, the University of Louisville Cardinals football game and Kentucky Kingdom, the nearby amusement park.
The Greater Louisville YMCA provided safe and fun activities every day for all the children. The Louisville Free Public Library provided 1,000 books and periodicals and backpacks for all children.
Corporations and businesses provided everything from clothing to cell phones, bath towels to newspapers – Wal-Mart, Fruit of the Loom, Best Buy, Home Depot Preston Highway, Verizon Wireless, B&J 2-Way Radio Service, Mic-Zee’s Ice, Ryder Truck Rental, Bennett’s Gas, Ferrell’s Gas Company, Universal Linen and The Courier-Journal.
Papa John’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Texas Roadhouse, McDonalds, Louisville Water Co. provided food and water. UPS provided 25 volunteers to help pack away 1,500 cots.
The Salvation Army provided clothing, and the many faith-based partners provided volunteers and spiritual support.
With assistance from Conference of Mayors CEO and Executive Director Tom Cochran and USCM President Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, Mayor Abramson and his team worked with FEMA to arrange for flights to return the evacuees home after Gustav had passed. The last evacuee left Louisville on September 7.
Abramson and his Emergency Management team wishes to thank the Conference of Mayors, and FEMA Intergovernmental Staff for their assistance in helping Louisville successfully provide support for the city’s shelter initiatives.