Weather squadron volunteers continue Hurricane Katrina clean-up

  • Published
  • By Ms. Maranda Rimes
  • 96th ABW Public Affairs
After visiting the Bay St. Louis, Miss., area, the commander of the 46th Weather Squadron helped organize a team of volunteers to assist with the on-going Hurricane Katrina cleanup effort. 

Lt. Col. Julie Noto and Senior Master Sgt. Peter Buzynski of the 46th WS organized eight volunteers, rented camping trailers from outdoor recreation and set out on the four-hour trip May 12. 

"We [the volunteer group] spent Saturday and Sunday helping the area's families cut wood, pile up garbage, tear down sheds, clean up beaches, repair houses and build fences, among other things," Sergeant Buzynski said. 

"If you visit the Bay St. Louis area, you will find people in high spirits," he said. "This is really amazing to me because these people are still living without gas in their stoves and taking cold showers." 

"The area is still devastated," Colonel Noto said. "People live in FEMA trailers usually not far from their homes." 

What some used to call their home may now consist of only a foundation or a structure with no windows. 

"If you can imagine the entire contents of your house being thrown outside, that is what people are dealing with," she said. 

"Bay St. Louis seems somewhat abandoned," said Staff Sgt. Mitchell Westland, 46th WS weather forecaster. "When talking to the locals, they said some of their neighbors left and were never heard from again. No one knows if they plan to return." 

Neighbors were not the only ones unaccounted for. Sergeant Westland saw a black lab walking on the beach alone as he was doing some clean up. 

Sergeant Buzynski said the group's main focus was to help out one house at a time, doing the types of manual labor the homeowners could not manage themselves. He said one of the issues locals had to deal with was ensuring debris piles were large enough for the designated relief pick up. Volunteers spent much of their time putting smaller piles together. 

"The people who still live in Bay St. Louis see it as it was before the hurricane," said Sergeant Buzynski. "They see it as they want it to be again." 

He said members of the squadron are ready to help out again as soon as they can. Colonel Noto and Sergeant Buzynski split the cost of the trailer rentals and gas but said it was worth every penny to see the Bay St. Louis local's grateful faces. 

Colonel Noto has challenged other squadrons to continue the support of neighbors who were hit by Hurricane Katrina. She said there is no way they will be finished with the clean-up before the next hurricane season starts, and there is still much to be done.
Members of the volunteer group also included Senior Airman Nathan Hutchings, Staff Sgt. David Bond, Senior Airman Melit Laurry, Tech. Sgt. Christopher Dunstone and retired Col. Vinnie Noto.