Friday, September 05, 2008

A Call to Action: What YOU Can Do

Yesterday, I had a lengthy conference call with key C.O.D.R.A. members and other experts concerning the appropriate response for volunteers in the wake of Hurricane Gustav.

I have also been made aware of many groups who are willing to be deployed and are awaiting some information and direction on how, when and where they can be most effective.

Gustav was different than Katrina and so must be our response. Co-ordination of effort is key, as there is work to be done to clean up and, in fact, still much work to be done as a lingering consequence of Katrina. The people of Pearlington - and this is critical - need to know that our attention and willingness has not been blunted by time and that this new challenge will spur as back into action, back to their support and that we do, indeed, continue to care.
To this end, then, volunteers are badly needed in Pearlington.

Therefore, C.O.D.R.A. has appointed Tom Dalessandri of The Pearlington Project as leader and Co-ordinator for our response to Gustav. Anyone who knows Tom would understand this obvious choice. Aside from a solid, ongoing commitment to Pearlington, Tom and his teams have made an enormous contribution since the day Katrina blew out of town. He is a man of integrity, leadership, honesty and straight-shooting "Git ‘er done" attitude. Tom was on holidays with his family in the Gulf Coast area when Gustav came to town, and has been on the scene every day since. I trust no one in Pearlington more than Tom. His credentials as a law officer, First Responder, teacher and emergency planner are impeccable.

I am inviting all the groups who have so wonderfully contacted me with offers to help to be in touch with Tom immediately.

He will coordinate your deployment, assign you tasks and projects that are congruent with your group’s mission and help get the job of healing Pearlington done ONCE AND FOR ALL!

If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know.

Tom Dalessandri can be reached in the following ways:

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Tender Mercies

A new day dawns in Pearlington and the clean-up continues. I am receiving news now more easily from the ground, although phones lines are swamped with traffic and cell phone reception is still a bit sketchy.
This in this morning from Glenn and Kris Locklin at One House at a Time:

"Attached are two pics from Pearlington this morning. Water is currently receding nicely. Ice, water, and hot food available Wednesday at the Pearlington Recovery Center. We’’ll be getting as much done as possible without making "permanent" plans until there is a better known track of Ike, so OHAAT trailers and others are staying north of Pearlington while we busily await developing news. More news as the girls and I head back tomorrow afternoon to begin cleanup as well.
Thank you so much for the information you are sorting and compiling from afar. We’re so busy doing what we can that we miss out on what others are doing, seeing, and experiencing as well.
Blessings to you!"


"Burners Without Borders volunteers in several states are standing by to see if we/funds are needed. We were at the event last week, and had the very surreal/unpleasant experience of reliving same place, same thing as 2005. Although we could have no doubt raised a enormous amount of material in a short time ( we had 50K people camping there with us ) it seemed prudent to wait and see, we so grateful to hear it wasn't too bad. Has brought up a lot of emotion amongst our volunteers, some of whom were in the Gulf Coast for six months. And we have a team just back from an Earthquake in Peru who're also waiting and watching.
Fingers crossed, much love and support to our friends and families in Pearlington, thanks for keeping us updated. Any word on the Buskers, or Mr. and Mrs. Ladner?"
Tom Price

"I spoke with Bob Putnam and Laurie Spaschack this evening. They were back in their home. Things in Pearlington appear to be better than I thought they were.

Bob and Laurie have power and it appears that their home (2 blocks from the Pearl River) did not flood. There was clearly standing water on Rt. 90, so the homes south of there (like Leroy's and Steve's) likely took water on the first floor. Other than Jesse & Evelyn's house, all the others appear to be fine (we don't know anything about Jesse & Evelyn).

Turtle Creek took 7' of water on the first floor (remember the first floor is below Rt. 90). They plan to open in the next day or two.

The Pearlington Recovery Center site appears to be in pretty good shape, though the Mess Tent we erected in March of 2007 collapsed. hopefully they can just re-raise the tent without too much repair.

Much of the clean up work right now is tree cutting work. Clearly there will be some mucking out and drywall repair."
John Chickering

John also sends the following links with news stories. He reports that the first link has a very balanced and informative story on Pearlington:

Note: There are volunteers all over the continent who are concerned about the welfare of individual people. As I post these concerns, please email me if you have information and I will forward it. - CJ
More to come....

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Update #3 to: A New Call to Action

Here is the latest from Pearlington:

Tom reported very few trees down-mostly limbs. The Fire Department in Pearlington had approx. 4-5 feet of water in their station. A shelter is set up in Kiln. Boil water notices are in effect for Adams, Franklin, Wilkinson, Harrison and Hancock counties. The National Guard is in Pearlington. Power is being restored in Pearlington. Water is receding. Ben Taylor got a minimum amount of water in his home. The Dawsey’s are fine.
The Pearlington Project via Vern Holmes, Carbondale, CO

PDA is back at our headquarters in Gulfport and as soon as we can get permission to get in we'll be rebuilding the camp. Right now the dining tent and individual tents are either in storage or windblown. A lot of them can be salvaged we think. The village manager is back living on the site already.
Jane Els, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

David and I are "on the long string" for disaster relief with The Salvation Army. The Carolina Division is holding off our units until we know that Hanna will not hit here. We're working on stocking the trailer. The canteen is ready to go. Our team has their bags packed. Now.....we wait. I talked with Beth Randall on the phone. She asked if we were coming. I told her, as I tell you now, as soon as these hurricanes quit coming in, we will be back to P'ton to rebuild again.

As I read your update on Suzie, I thought of the days we spent redoing her house before. We will be back. Seven months is not enough. Please ask P'toners about Pat and Harry Wilson and Miss Lillie and keep us updated.
David and MaryLena Anderegg

Mom and Dad were so, so fortunate. After hearing early in the day Monday that there was a very good chance that they would have water in their house, we found out late Monday evening that they were spared. They had about a foot and a half of water in the "unattached" garage, but that was all. My sister across the street remained high and dry this go around.

Thank you for everything you have done and continue to do. I'll tell you, I thought I had dealt with the losses brought by Katrina. I really thought that I had. Then, as the track of Gustav became clear, I found myself an absolute wreck. It felt like it was the day after Katrina - even before the storm hit.

My heart goes out to those who were not spared, but my soul rejoices in those angels who continue to spread, Jennifer Johnson, and countless others. Flood-ravaged homes can be repaired or rebuilt. Broken spirits and the death of hope cannot. Hope has never, ever died in Pearlington.... Thank you so very much.
Claudia Park,Shreveport, LA Daughter of George and Margaret Ladner

The current condition of things in Pearlington is the electricity is coming back on as I write this, 4:30 pm Tuesday, with 100 homes having been flooded. Cindy Diaz will be one of them, as her neighborhood still had water receding this morning. We will be adding chain saws and shovels to our tool list. some homes have trees on them, and all those with water, also got mud, hence the shovels.

9 men from a NY team will be joining the Dog Soldiers on the ground in Pearlington, MS. They fly in Thursday, rent a van in New Orleans, and drive to a place they have never been before.
Tim Goodnow, The Dog Soldiers

"We got the floor mopped and we are in the house tonight. The power is on here, but not yet everywhere in town. I’m not unloading another thing from the truck ‘cause we is pooped!"
Susie Sharp

Update #2 to: A New Call to Action

A bit more news, this coming from Frank Cloud, who has worked very hard on behalf of his neighbours in Pearlington:

Frank and Sharon had some damage to the lower level of their home. He says, "in may ways we dodged a bullet here." There is some wind damage in town, mostly flooding. Many residents still have not returned, of course, and some die-hards even rode the storm out, despite the evacuation!

Frank was struck by the reality of what happens to 2 million people or so when they are told to evacuate, when most of them had nowhere to go. He said even little truck stops had people draped over every conceivable space - in one spot 40 buses worth and hundreds of people driving. They "over-stressed" the bathrooms and there isn't a hotel room to be had "as far north as the Canadian border."

Meanwhile, volunteers are mobilizing to come and help. This just in:

"We are putting out the call to recruit a team to come and help. We had a team down there after Katrina so we have chain saws, etc if needed. As soon as you know more about the needs, let us know, We can be ready soon.
Blessings, Corrie
Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minn., MN

We have heard that Joel’s house is ok, that there is food and water at the K-Mart parking lot and that some power in Pton is back on. The weather here has slowed for a while, we've got the car running and packed....we are on our way. I will call after we get there....Bob P is videotaping our return trip and I have my camera with me as well.
Laurie Spaschak

Hi! Everyone,
We have been ready to go in with a group of MD's and RN's and are waiting to hear from the EOC. Most likely we will not be activated. Nurse Linda and Gene helped called all our previous volunteers that rotated through the clinic. Dr. Bill Gossman from Ill., Nurse Chris Arndt from Ill, DR. E. Shander from NY..are on stand by to come and help. I am also part of a group of MD's. and RN's from Mississippi. Our Miss. team is called MMAT. These are "local" MD's that are ready to respond within hours after the storm. The out-of-staters will back us up.

If you hear of any more MD's form your area that want to join our team...please let us know.
Most everyone evacuated so medically they should be ok.

Tom with Carbondale Fire Dept., [Tom Dalessandri of The Pearlington Project] who cleaned 300 plus yards of fallen trees after Katrina, will need resources for tree removal. We have to be careful again; people that have no experience with chain saws can get hurt. So let’s wait to get his assessment of needs. Just everyone hold tight....

Let's pray Hanna nor Ike comes our way. Please send names of RN's and MD's that would like to join and help...if not now in the future. We love all you precious people for helping.

Thank GOD for Canada Jon. We ALL know how much he gave - over and over - just stayed and stayed to help. He is made of Love and Steel....because he endured and is forged with fire!

Paula Buhr, RN

[Wow! Don’t ya just LOVE that woman! - CJ]

News from the Ground in Pearlington

First hand news is starting to trickle in directly from the ground. Here is what I know so far:

Susie Sharp on Hwy. 90 east of Oak Harbor: 4-6" water in the house - 1 foot in the big shop;
Turtle Landing: water up to the bottom of the windows, 4-5 ft. bit deeper in the bar;
Janet and Tommy Dawson: no water;
10-12" on Jenesse Rd.
no power or phones in town; company claims everybody will be back on end of day - cell phone service sketchy at best;
Some trees down in town and in Oak Harbour, which has 8-12", yet some in Oak Harbor have electricity;
Rocky Pullman (County Supervisor) reports food truck and water and ice available in town after 12-1 p.m.;
No trees or serious debris on Interstaes or Hwy. 90 - 90, 607, I-10 and I-59 are all clear; road debris comrised of pine needles, etc. no obstructions;
604 north of town is closed for a small bridge repair near Logtown, so Hwy. 90 is the way in and out of town - 604 open in town to the Recovery Centre and beyond
No eyewitness report on condition of Pearl*Mart, but it is likely there is no or minimal water damage.

All residents are thankful for mercy shown by Gustav, yet some are saying they've had enough and will move on. We'll see; they need time to process their feelings and come to a place of better judgement-making.

Glen Locklin of One House at a Time is back in town and calling for volunteers. His house is OK but their car got drowned. Everyone made it our safely from the Recovery Centre and are commited to continue. Contact Glen at 615-496-6981 with offers of help.

More as it comes in....look soon for another update on volunteers mobilizing....

Canada Jon
Home: 705-445-8713
Cell: 705-443-7638

Update #1 to: A New Call to Action

God, I love these people!

The response to my call to action has been immediate and starts off this day on a heartening note:

"The BRICK Layers of North Alabama will return to Pearlington this week. August 29th was supposed to be our 30th trip to Pearlington in 3 years. Gustav was able to delay us, but not stop us. We will return this week with a different mission than originally planned. We are waiting from reports to know how we can best help and what supplies are needed.

We have also learned a lot in the last 3 years. We've learned that there are amazing volunteer groups all over North America and Canada who proved that they could coordinate efforts to help others and get the job done. We have learned to ask for gift cards to Wal-Mart and Lowe's and Home Depot. They are much easier to transport and much easier for the residents of Pearlington to use.

I challenge each volunteer group to think about resources that they have not tapped yet. Have you asked area schools to help collect supplies and gift cards? Have you asked all of your area churches to consider adopting one family and help them get back on their feet? Are there area stores in your area that would be willing to serve as collection points? Have you asked any of the political candidates in your area to publicly support the recovery efforts? We look forward to Tom's report from Pearlington. He can help us determine how we can be most helpful to the residents of Pearlington.

How could we turn our backs on them now? The people of Pearlington are not only our friends. They're family.

Jennifer Johnson BRICK Layers Huntsville, AL

Thanks for restarting the blog. I know a bunch of us like to know what is happening down in Pearlington. Our group from Michigan will again be in Pearlington from October 26th thru November 8th. This will be a 6th trip for most of us from Howell, MI. Any updates on the PDA camp would be appreciated.

Hi Jon, We were there in Pearlington shortly after Katrina hit. Our group has made several trips over the past three years. Please keep us posted on what we can do. I should be able to form a group to come when needed. We are from the St. Louis area and will do our best to respond as quickly as needed. We stayed in Diamondhead at the Presbyterian Church the first time we came. I will contact D. Pres. to see what their response is in need of housing people like before.
Blessings, Dana

I am working with my missions pastor to get a response plan in place. As soon as I know what our plan is, I will email it to you. I hope to be able to send a team down to help out if necessary.
Blessings, Corrie Ayers, Minn. MN

Brunswick Presbyterian Church of Troy, NY has been to Pearlington, MS. We have worked with the PDA on three occasions and will be making our fourth trip in just a few weeks.
Colleen Lais"


From Gara Gillentine in Oxford, MS:

Point Of Distribution Sites In Hancock, Harrison Counties
Posted: Sep 1, 2008 07:58 PM

PEARL, MS (WLOX) - Food, water and ice will be distributed to residents in Hancock and Harrison counties beginning at 1 p.m. Tuesday from point of distribution sites from the following locations:

Harrison County:
Crossroads Mall, U.S. Highway 49, north of Interstate 10, Gulfport.
Menge Avenue, and Second Street, Pass Christian.
Yankie Stadium, corner of Lee and Division streets, Biloxi.
Rite Aid parking lot, 4031 Pops Ferry Road, D'Iberville.

Hancock County:
The Kiln ball field, 18324 Highway 43, Kiln.
Kmart, at the Fred's old parking lot, 3044 Highway 90, Waveland

So far these are the only sites requested for the distribution of commodities. The distribution will be handled by the Mississippi National Guard. Additional sites may be added later based on continuing damage assessments or requests from local governments. Communities where power is restored and where food water and ice are available from local retailer's points of distribution sites will not be opened.

God Speed,

A New Call to Action

The news from Pearlington this morning is much better than it could have been, but distressing nonetheless.

Although no one has been able to get back in an any organized way, there is word from the ground such as this comment posted by Kayte:

My husband just came from Oak Harbor, Pearlington. The water has not gone out yet. The firestation apparently had about 5 ft of water. They parked on 90 and walked through water as high as their waist to get to my parent's house. So far there isn't the mud and stink Katrina`left behind. Not much wind damage...just water."

John Chickering has been in touch this morning and send this: there is a news link up and running on the Pearlington Recovery Center site at

He also sends the following links to check out more current news:

Governor Says Evacuees should Stay at Least One More Day
WLBT-TV - Jackson,MS,USA... says flooding is a significant problem in the Hancock County communities of Pearlington and Waveland as well as most low lying areas on the coast. ...See all stories on this topic

UPDATE 1-Gustav shuts ports, waterways from Texas to FloridaReuters UK - UKThe Gulf ICW was closed from Mile 40 near Pearlington, Mississippi, at the Louisiana-Mississippi line, to Mile 250 near Panama City, Florida. ...See all stories on this topic

Latest from MEMA: surge numbers, flooding, etc.
Biloxi Sun Herald - MS, USAPearlington: About 100 homes are flooding in the Pearlington area in Hancock County. No reports of anyone occupying those residences at this time. ...See all stories on this topic

Gustav shuts Mobile, ICW between Miss., Fla. - USCG
Reuters UK - UKThe ICW remained closed from near Pearlington, Mississippi, to near Panama City, Florida, the Coast Guard said. (Reporting by Bruce Nichols; Editing by John ...See all stories on this topic

Ports in Miss., Ala., and Fla. Panhandle remain closed
Selma Times-Journal - Selma,AL,USAMOBILE — All waterways along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway from mile marker 40, near Pearlington, Miss., to mile marker 250, near Panama City, Fla., ...See all stories on this topic

Debris Closes Portions of Highways
WTOK - Meridian,MS,USA... at Picayune to Poplarville in Pearl River County. There are trees and debris on Highway 604 near Pearlington and on Highway 43 south of Firetower Road.See all stories on this topic

Gustav Impact Update
WJTV - Jackson,MS,USAHighway 90 in Harrison County is still closed as is Highway 90 in Pearlington in Hancock County. · Highway 43/603 south of I-10 is closed because of ...See all stories on this topic

Flooding, power outages plague Mississippi
Jackson Clarion Ledger - Jackson,MS,USAUS 90 in Harrison County is closed as is US 90 in Pearlington in Hancock County. Mississippi 43/603 south of I-10 is closed because of flooding. ...See all stories on this topic

Water rising in Hancock, tornado reports unconfirmed
Biloxi Sun Herald - MS, USAHowever, farther west in the Pearlington area, flooding did not appear to be a problem. One Mississippi Marine Patrol officer had a taste of the stiff winds ...See all stories on this topic

Tornado warning issued at Slidell
The Times-Picayune - - New Orleans,LA,USARadar indicated a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado 16 miles southeast of Pearlington, Miss., and 10 miles south of Waveland, Miss., ...See all stories on this topic

Tom Dalessandri from The Pearlington Project hopes to be in P'ton today, as a First Responder, and will keep me in the loop - so check back here often. Other sources intend to return today as well, if possible, and I will post their observations.

No one should rush to Pearlington this second! This will not be the relative free-for-all Katrina was. We embarassed them too much the last time and they will not be seen as incompetent. Let's get some information first, then measure our response accordingly.

Time for some straight talk.

Those of us who care for Pearlington and for the residents who have opened their hearts to us, have two choices. We can turn our backs, walk away: we've done our share, we've done enough. Let someone else take up the challenge. We're tired, tapped out and have hit up everyone we know already for money. It's someone else's problem now.


We can accept that our disappointment and dismay, that some of our hard work has been undone, must be insignificant in relation to the way the people of Pearlington must feel. As a mental health professional, I can assure you that their emotional state in the wake of this new challenge will be fragile at best. We can tuck our collective chins into our chests and get back to work. We can find the eloquence and determination to create the resources we need to do what we have to do.

We can stand beside the people of Pearlington and hold their hands as they rise again from these new ashes. We can show them that we will love equally the ones who want to give up and the ones who wish to stay and start again. There will be cynics and naysayers enough, but we will not be among them.

YOU choose.

Let me know. Email me or leave a comment on this page. We must begin gathering resources now.

God bless Pearlington and the spirit of determination.

"Canada" Jon

Monday, September 01, 2008

"Doctor: My Eyes Have Seen the Tears...."

I have just now received an email from John Chickering, a great friend of Pearlington and someone whose involvement has wrought miracles there, that the Associated Press is quoting remarks made by Greg Flynn of MEMA - Mississippi Emergency Management Agency - include the following:

"Flynn said 100 homes flooded in Pearlington, a town near the Louisiana border that was entirely submerged during Katrina because it was so close to the Gulf of Mexico and the river and also sat directly under the eye of the storm."

The full story is located here:

Additionally, I have spoken with the great and only Paula Buhr in Texas. Paula was one of the very first on the scene in Pearlington after Katrina and is watching the situation very closely. After Katrina, Paula spearheaded the emergency Clinic in Pearlington and it was Paula who handed off the Pearl*Mart to me in early September 2005. Tom Dalessandri from The Pearlington Project and Mountains to Mississippi also rode out the storm down south and will soon be back on the scene. Pearlington will be much the better for it when he does.

I'll keep you posted....

Update: 9:05 p.m. EDT - Gara Gillentine, a C.O.D.R.A. member from Oxford, MS sends this:

"You can also get live streaming continuous coverage online if you have windows media player -- check out Biloxi's tv online at I watched it last evening & most of today. Lots of images, live reports, statistics, etc. Praying for Pearlington."

Gustav Makes Landfall

As Hurricane Gustav makes landfall as a Cat 2 storm, concern for Pearlington continues unabated as water breaches the eastbound lanes of Hwy. 90 to the east in Gulfport, MS.

Hwy. 90 continues parallel to the Gulf across the south end of Pearlington. There are several subdivisions south of the highway in Pearlington, as well as homes and businesses just to the north. These include Turtle Landing nightclub, as well as the homes of Susie Sharp, Pam Kirkland and others.

Additionally, many areas - including Pearlington - are under tornado warnings, as serious ones have been clocked as close as the Stennis Base and Biloxi. Fortunately perhaps for Pearlington, they are tending on a north-westerley course.

Unlike Katrina, whose eye was to the east of New Orleans, and in fact right over Pearlington, the wind from Gustav is driving the water directly north from the Gulf onto land and this could be a dangerous situation for Pearlington.

We will continue to monitor the situation. I have contacts I could call on the Gulf for first hand reports, but am loathe to do so while their hands are so full just surviving. I recommend we depend on the excellent coverage CNN is providing, before I seek on-the-ground sitreps of the conditions in and around Pearlington.

Keep praying.

"Canada" Jon
Home: 705-445-8713
Canadian Cell: 705-443-7638
American Cell: not currently activated

Update: 12:30 p.m. EDT - Waveland and Bay Saint Louis reporting sea levels 10 feet above normal. Most levees in New Orleans are over-topping and the ones in Lower and Upper Ninth Ward may be leaking, a prelude to a possible breach....

Update: 2:00 p.m. EDT - It is CONFIRMED that the storm surge in Pearlington is above Hwy.90 and the south end of town. This will mean that residences in Oak Harbor, for instance, will have some flooding, as many are still at the 8.5-9 ft. level; water has not, at this time, risen much more that just over the roadway. By comparison, Katrina was 10-12 feet deeper than current levels. Power is out, of course, so even cell phones must be used judiciously, as they cannot be re-charged easily. We will do our best to get what information we can.

Suffice it to say, it would appear as if our greatest fears have NOT been realized in Pearlington. The day is young, though, and there is much weather yet to come.

Update: 4:20 p.m. EDT - NOT SO GOOD NEWS FOR PEARLINGTON: The water level, the surge, is rising in Pearlington. There are currently 7.5 feet of water in the Turtle Landing bar and Hwy. 90 is now under 3 feet of water. As far up Hwy. 604 as the Fire Department and the PDA Camp, water is moving on the road. As you know, it is not the wind or rain that will lay Pearlington low yet again, it is the water.


Pray hard and be ready to help in any way you can. More to come....

Update: 7:30 p.m. EDT - Reports from the Coastal area around Pearlington indicate that the storm surge, while much tamer than Katrina's, has fully breached Hwy. 90 and in the Gulfport/Biloxi area has water flowing right up and into the doors of the casinos there.

In Pearlington, the tide is on its way out and hopefully that will bring some relief. Many of the P'ton folk hunkered down in Picayune, Kiln, Diamondhead and other more northern towns are considering returning to Pearlington tomorrow. Power is off all over the coast and First Responders will be heading into the affected areas tomorrow.

Tonight, we must hold the light against tornadoes and further flooding and pray that Pearlington can begin to breathe again in the morning.

A personal thought: I was there right after Katrina and I am very grateful that the aftermath of Gustav will be nothing of the same. As a Canadian, I am watching your electoral process with interest and note that the timing is good. Let's hope both camps and the President fight over who will be the most magnanimous and quick to respond generously in the wake of Gustav.

My own timing has been interesting, as well. I did not know of the existence of Gustav when I decided that my hiatus from active service in Pearlington was over. As I became re-involved, things began to happen and I believe I once again answered the call.

Judging by the many hundreds of hits on the blog today, this site is still relevant and useful. I will continue then....