For Some, Repeat of Flooding Tests Their Faith

2:52 PM, Sep 2, 2008   |    comments
(Tim J. Mueller/USA TODAY)
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By The Associated Press

PEARLINGTON, MS (AP) -- The Furey brothers figure someone upstairs must be testing them.

As John Furey sat on an island in the flooded kitchen of his brother Pat's home in Pearlington Tuesday, he pondered this latest forced exit from home.

Pearlington was practically wiped off the map by Katrina. Since 1964, John's home had flooded only twice, during Katrina and now Gustav.

"The Lord must be testing our faith," said John, 65. "I don't know what I did. He's just testing me."

His 70-year-old brother, Pat, shook his head and smiled at the thought.

"That's right. He's just testing us."

As the two ate in the damp, powerless home, John said locals are upset. He just finished settling with an insurance company after Katrina.

After two hurricanes in three years, 74-year-old Tony Vegeletta vows he won't take a chance on another.

"I've had enough of this," said a disgusted Vegeletta as he cleaned Hurricane Gustav mud and water out of the ground-level garage of the house he built on stilts after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. "As soon as I sell this ... I'm gone."

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BIRMINGHAM, AL (AP) -- Storm evacuees taking shelter in gymnasiums and convention centers across the south are a thankful lot. They're safe and, for the most part, well fed.

But life as a hurricane refugee can be stressful. James Katicich, 49, said his stay at a Birmingham shelter has been rough -- rationed portions of food and sleeping close to strangers.

"It seems like when you get on the other end, people don't care," he said. "They don't look at me like I'm a human. They treat me like a number."

He called it a "miserable 18-hour bus ride" from New Orleans to Birmingham because of evacuee traffic.

"But it's better to be safe than sorry," he said.

Friends who stayed behind in Louisiana called Chad Dykes, 26, to tell him his trailer in Livingston, La., had flipped over. But he still wishes he had stayed behind. Staying at the convention center shelter was too uncomfortable.

"I hate this," said Dykes, who drove with his parents in their truck to Birmingham. "I don't like being here. I can't sleep. I have no privacy."

Donald Carriere, 56 and a Red Cross volunteer, set up tables to serve lunch. He lived in New Orleans until he lost everything to Katrina. He now lives in Birmingham, and said he decided to volunteer because of his painful experience in 2005.

"Some of these people say they wish they had stayed in New Orleans since the storm was not that bad," Carriere said. "But I tell them it is always best to leave. Gustav could have been worse."

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CHAUVIN, LA (AP) -- Few present the image of a stout, resolute Louisianan better than Darrell Domangue.

A boat captain who trawls for shrimp and lays crab traps, Domangue lives in the village of Chauvin, where a number of homes on pilings took on water in an area where the wind-driven surge appeared to approach 9 feet.

One of those homes was Domangue's century-old fishing camp. He was one of the only people in town on Tuesday, when he and a friend stood in knee-high water raking grass from under the house to keep snakes away.

His house sits on stilts about 5 feet above ground. He had at least 3 feet of water inside the house and now had to clean out about 5 inches of muck and ruined furniture.

"Ain't nothing we can't pick up and start again," he said.

Domangue's house was built by his grandfather. He lives there with his wife and his two youngest daughters, who went north to the central Louisiana city of Alexandria during the storm.

But Domangue never flees from storms. During Rita three years ago, the water in his camp was up to his neck, while papers and family photos kept atop a refrigerator washed away. This time, personal and sentimental items were taken by his wife, while Domangue -- sporting a tattoo of Moses on his biceps -- was determined to stay and clean up as soon as the winds died and the water receded.

"If you got good sense and faith you're going to make it. You can't go wrong. I got faith in God and I don't ever give up," he said. "I ain't going nowhere. I sent my wife and kids out of here, but the devil got to fight a lot harder to win me. If dad do bad, they all do bad, so dad can't give up."

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MINDEN, LA (AP) -- National Guard troops from the Show-Me State are showing big support for coastal residents reeling from Gustav. But the cavalry can only go so fast.

Members of the 1139th Military Police Company in Missouri didn't seem daunted during their journey by the hours spent in hot, cramped Humvees and military trucks, nor by the uncertainty of what lay ahead.

"We moan and complain a lot during this part, but when we get there, we get out our gear and get to work," said Sgt. John Randall, 45.

The company made the journey at convoy speed, traveling about 50 mph in non-airconditioned Humvees. It means taking about four and a half hours to drive what a passenger car -- in cool comfort, mind you -- could cover in three hours.

But there were spirit-lifting stops for food and fuel at service stations along the way. The sight of two dozen Humvees and military trucks lined up at a Phillips 66 while uniformed troops milled around drew a lot of high-fives, waves and smiles.

"You have to wave a lot," Randall said.

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Associated Press writers Holbrook Mohr in Pearlington, Miss., Juanita Cousins in Birmingham, Ala., Vicki Smith in Chauvin, La., and Maria Sudekum Fisher in Minden, La., contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Associated Press

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