Alaska Otterbacher of Fairbanks, Alaska, Joy Perovich of Conesus, and Tom Bujnoski of Erie, Pa. make up the Red Cross Disaster Team working Hurricane Isaac at the Springfield, La. shelter. Joy's 'lifesaver' T-shirt is one she also wears while working as a blood drive volunteer back home.
Conesus volunteer helping with Hurricane Isaac relief in Louisiana
Red Cross volunteer Joy Perovich of Conesus is on assignment at the Louisiana Hurricane Hotsite in Baton Rouge, La. in the wake of Hurricane Isaac. On Tuesday of this week she contacted The County News by cell phone and reported on her activities.
When she spoke with us, Perovich was “surviving the heat” and had finally moved to a new shelter with air conditioning.
“It’s been so hot I think I’ve lost ten pounds,” she said.
She arrived in Atlanta, mustering with other volunteers from across the United States on Aug. 28. The next ride, by plane to Baton Rouge, was plagued with air turbulence. The closest thing to it which Perovich had experienced previously was, she said, a ride on a mechanical bull.
After arriving at Baton Rouge, Perovich was assigned to Albany in Livingston Parish. She appreciated the irony of the New York State namesakes.
The shelter she served was in the gymnasium of an old high school building. Perovich was inside the shelter when Isaac struck on Aug. 29. Lost electrical power was soon restored by a generator while, fortunately, the public water and sewer systems were not affected.
Isaac had an unusual trajectory.
“It kept coming back,” Perovich related. “It stormed for a solid day and kept coming and going. We sat inside the door and watched.”
The only structural damage of consequence was the destruction of a covered steel walkway connecting two of the school buildings. The cement block school building itself came through unscathed.
Perovich and her fellow workers attended the needs of about 100 persons, most of whom had been flooded out of their homes. Some of the victims’ houses were entirely underwater — and some were “gone.” A number of people had been bussed in from New Orleans, about 20 miles away. Many were in a state of semi-shock over the loss of their homes.
A boy from a family who lost its home nevertheless was able to celebrate his 13th birthday with cake and a party.
The menu was largely “heater meals” and assorted snacks. Perovich’s duties entailed meal preparation, organizing the ‘cafeteria’ in alphabetical shifts, working the desk, head counts and supervising play activities for children. A locker room with a shower was her personal quarters.
Perovich was at the Albany school until Monday, when the shelter was dismantled to make way for school starting the next day.
Her new air conditioned headquarters was a large AmVets Post 68 building in Springfield, serving about 13 families.
A nearby dam to the south had released its water as a precaution against breaking. Many of the registrants at the shelter had been from the area threatened by the dam water.
As she was speaking to us, Perovich reported the arrival of FEMA tractor trailers “bringing tents and port-a-potties” and “Army guys all over the place.”
She had just served a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift, and remains on call around the clock.
Perovich expects to be in Louisiana for up to three weeks. If her assignment is not renewed, she will be home on Sept. 17.
The current assignment for Perovich is her fourth nationally. She has also worked relief efforts for Hurricane Irene in New York State (2011), the western Tennessee flooding (2011), and hurricanes Gustav and Ike (2009).
Perovich is a retired social worker for the Livingston County Department of Social Services. As a Red Cross volunteer, she is ready to head out to the next national disaster at any time.