Meridian Star

November 18, 2012

Emergency responders coming home

By Brian Livingston /
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     David Sharp, Eddie Ivy and Jeff Mayo have all seen these images before.

    The landscape filled with debris that used to be homes, vehicles rolled and crumpled like old soda cans, and the masses of people who sift through what is left of their lives trying to salvage anything from the devastation Mother Nature can conjure upon humanity.

    Hurricane Sandy devastated portions of the Caribbean, the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States, and Eastern Canada in late October. Early on Oct. 29, Sandy curved north-northwest and then moved ashore near Atlantic City, N.J. as a "post-tropical cyclone" with hurricane-force winds. Shortly after, media outlets were calling the storm "Superstorm Sandy."

    Sharp and Ivy, as members of the Lauderdale County Emergency Management Agency, along with Mayo, the director of the Neshoba County Emergency Management Agency, have been in Freehold, a coastal town on the New Jersey coast, helping the Monmouth County Office of Emergency Management in assessing the devastation from Sandy. For almost two weeks the men have lent their expertise gained through another natural disaster, Hurricane Katrina, in helping officials in New Jersey.

    "It's cold up here," Sharp said. "We have seen things that have brought back memories of Katrina. We feel badly for the people here and we are doing all we can to help them get their lives back together."

    Sharp, Ivy and Mayo are part of the overall Incidence Management Assistance Team made up of emergency management officials from the Northeast to the Southeast. Sharp said the team is responsible for an area roughly 650 square miles which has a population of about 650,000 people. He said the places the team has gone into to try assess the damage reminds him of Katrina in many ways.

    "Debris all over the place," Sharp said. "Houses washed off their foundations and many thousands of other homes flooded. The power is back but the people have no homes to go back to."

    Sharp said the hurricane force winds downed trees, taking out both homes and power grids. On the coast, debris litters the landscape much like those scenes from the Mississippi Gulf Coast on those hot, humid September days after Katrina wrecked havoc in places like Biloxi, Gulfport and Bay St. Louis.

    "The water damage is not as far inland as it was with Katrina but where the water did reach, it left its mark," Sharp said.

    Sandy, the 18th named storm and 10th hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, was a Category 2 storm at its peak intensity. While it was a Category 1 storm off the coast of the Northeastern United States, the storm became the largest Atlantic hurricane on record (as measured by diameter) with winds spanning 1,100 miles.

    Sandy is estimated in early calculations to have caused damage of at least $20 billion. Preliminary estimates of losses that include business interruption surpass $50 billion, which would make it the second-costliest Atlantic hurricane behind only Hurricane Katrina. At least 199 people were killed along the path of the storm in seven countries.

    Not long after the men arrived, 13 inches of snow fell from a strong Nor'easter that came through the area. Sharp said even though the snow melted away in a couple of days, it created an additional obstacle for the surveyors to hurdle.

    "It was hard to get people in the field with the snow on the ground but we managed," Sharp said.

    Sharp said the three men should be back in Mississippi today or Monday. He said he is glad he could contribute to the effort to help the region get back on its feet and knows that the service may be needed here if another Katrina comes in the near future.