Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

    August 29, 2005
    Hurricane Katrina
    Louisiana and Mississippi

Report from the LAFD Swift Water Team

The following are emails written by Cheryl Kitahata, wife of Tom Kitahata, Apparatus Operator, Truck Company 3.  Tom is one of fourteen LAFD members deployed to New Orleans, Louisiana with the Los Angeles Fire Department's Swift Water Team.  Each day Tom calls Cheryl and gives her a brief rundown of the days events.  Cheryl writes a daily report and sends them to their family and friends.  Below is a complete collection of her letters.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Thank you for your kind words and prayers.  The team finally made it out of March AFB at 3am and flew into Lafayette early today. It is hot and humid.

Wal Mart found them and donated 50 cases of water for them to take into N.O. All they needed was to gas up the rigs and boats before heading into the city, 130 miles away. I am certain they are in the city as of right now. Will not have any phone contact with Tommy for awhile now. The fire dept. will call me daily with an update received via satellite phone from N.O..

Will keep you posted.


ps. yes, I forgot about the alligators! It seems that Dawn dishwashing liquid is going to be used to handle the fire ants floating in "kelp bed-like patches" in the water. Each guy was issued 2 bottles. I think a gun would be useful too, for all the floating looters.  Jay- let me know the neighborhood you want checked out!

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Hello Friends and Family,

It's midnight in New Orleans. Tommy just called me and I was relieved to hear his voice. Here's the update contained in our 4 minute conversation.

After arriving in town and receiving their orders, they worked actively from 4pm to midnight today, Wednesday, the 31st of August. The L.A. team is working in the center of the city, rescuing people stranded by the water. Their boats carry about 8 victims in addition to 2 rescuers. The victims are taken to a central collection area where they are shuttled to other sites after going through triage. It's all messy.

He is wearing a dry suit, which is like a loose fitting wet suit made of a rubber-like material but with sealed seams, so no water gets inside. Good for keeping out germs, but bad news for the person wearing it in the hot weather!

Tommy reports he is totally exhausted, doesn't feel too good. His next shift begins 6 hours from now, at 6am New Orleans time. He's been on duty since Monday, late afternoon. He'll be lucky to get 5 hours of sleep tonight.

The water is "funky." No explanation needed!!!

And then our phone call was interrupted when they were called to leave the rescue area for their temporary headquarters at the New Orleans Saints' training center, outside of the city, near Slidel. Unsure if they have any beds to sleep on.

No showers. They used water bottles to rinse off. They brought their own port-a-potties so they've got "outhouses" to use. They brought bleach to disinfect themselves and their gear. He's taking what vitamins he's got, and Airborne too.

Bugs are not a problem so far. Didn't have time to ask about anything else before he had to say goodbye.

Needless to say, I was thankful to hear from him. Very reassuring for my sanity.

So, folks, that's the latest info to report. Good night!


Thursday, September 1, 2005

Hi Again,

Today proved to be a blessing for the guys but a bummer for the victims still stuck out there in the water. The team began operations at 6am but were halted and pulled from the water at 9am because a cop was shot a block away from them. It appears that people are shooting at the rescuers for whatever reason, so those same people and their neighbors were not rescued today. It's all very tragic...

Here's what Tommy reported today:

Rescued 300 yesterday. Some dead. Rioting. Some victims were angry towards them while others were very thankful. Many were drunk. Got soaked, through the dry suit. Disgusting! They have to pull people onto the boat and it's all messy. Hasn't seen any wildlife yet but they bought machetes to hack the snakes in half, like the "Coon Asses" do. (I hope that isn't a bad word, I apologize if it is!) These are Bayou-type guys that carry machetes for that very purpose! They are kind of "around" trying to help out. When in Rome.....!

ChiliMac MRE and a Dr. Pepper (for caffeine) for BREAKFAST. (no hot water for coffee!)

After they were pulled from the water, they went back to their HQ at the training center. Someone discovered a swimming pool. So, they found some pumps and rigged them to some small hoses and plugged in their generators and voila! They all got a SHOWER!!! Imagine that.

He washed his clothes and gear in a bleach solution but it's impossible to get them to dry with the humidity.

Well, their luck wasn't over because a catering company rolled in and FED them a HOT MEAL! Louisiana hot links, red beans, and rice! He thinks it was Robert's Cajun Cuisine that provided the food. He is saving his snacks from home. Their MRE's will run out in a couple of days.

And then there were NAPS! The team is refreshed and ready to begin again tomorrow morning.

This evening there were Black Hawks landing outside the center, on the 2 outdoor practice fields. Tommy thinks the military is going to use this site as a HQ and that they might get "kicked out" real soon. What a shame, especially because they are enclosed and safe, with Coast Guard and police there to protect them. And don't forget about the pool!

10,000 troops are set to arrive.

They are sleeping on the Astroturf inside the center. No pillows, just a rolled up jacket. Tommy says it's "a camping trip gone bad."

And that's it for now! I will attempt to send info while camping this weekend. I know a park ranger who might let me use his computer. I'll be back Monday! Y'all have a great weekend!


Friday, September 2, 2005:

The "caravan" is about three miles long. Full of rescue vehicles, boats, gear, and military support, the rescue teams slowly make their way into the work zone each day.

They traveled far today, deep into New Orleans, where no rescues yet had been made. Hard to believe, but true. Tommy saw many dead snakes, pets, lots of birds, and bodies in the waters of N.O.. To top it off, the mosquitoes have returned so each day will bring in new troops of the blood-sucking kind.

A memorable tidbit is about two men that were on the roof of a house, who were in good condition, thanks to a shelter they had built for protection. A lesser tidbit was a lady who spit on their rig...

Remember that great swimming pool and the shower they rigged up? Well, someone broke into the pool and used it as their own personal bath tub, thereby contaminating the whole pool. Hmmmm, that was smart. So it's back to the bottled water for now. The guys did, however, rig up a similar pump to use in their daily decontamination routine.

The same catering company returned to feed them. We're talking about 300 guys, breakfast and dinner. Tommy's not sure how long that man can handle this task!


Saturday, September 3, 2005:

LAFD is shipping via FedEx some needed supplies like Gold Bond Powder and antifungal foot creme. Yum!

The LAFD team managed to get Kawasaki to donate some Seadoo's which they put to use today. Kawasaki works with the swift water team here in L.A. and each year loans out their best models for the team to train and use during the rainy season. They used the jet skis to do recon and gps markings. The boats followed behind to do the rescues, which included a 93 year old woman, her daughter, and granddaughter! The matriarch might not have made it due to dehydration, though. She was medivac'd out.

These women said they heard helicopters but nobody ever came to their neighborhood. Hard to swallow.

MRE lunch today but preceded by sausage and eggs and followed by beef stew and rice.

My Patagonia wading shoes I use for fly fishing are currently walking around New Orleans. Not sure if I want them back, thank you very much. Tommy grabbed them at the last minute because the soles are hard rubber, much better than the water socks everyone else brought or the felt-bottom shoes he uses for fishing. I don't have big feet but the shoes are made to go over my waders so they fit Tommy perfectly. Tommy is very resourceful.

The military escorts are proving essential. The M16's seem to settle people down, if you know what I mean.

Tommy may be the next spokesperson for Gold Bond Powder. He reports it is GREAT! The BEST thing ever!

Noisy at their HQ due to all the generators and military pouring in. Worried they may get booted outside to the practice fields. Imagine how hot it would be to sleep in a tent. They would have A/C but with lots of generator noise. Lose-lose situation.

On his wish list for the next time: waders, water filter, solar shower, camp stove Bryce, the 2 year old, said to Tommy, "Miss you. Miss you Daddy."

Lia, the now 6 year old, asked, "Where ARE you? Where are you sleeping? On a FOOTBALL field? Goodnight-goodbye."

Grant added the surf report," I didn't go boogie boarding today because there is too much kelp. The waves are black! The water is warm like San Elijo, maybe warmer."


Sunday, September 4, 2005:

Very short conversation at 8:30pm our time, 10:30 pm their time. They were dropped off by a Chinook helicopter to their work site but somehow were FORGOTTEN to be picked up. Luckily, they were able to drive the rigs back to the HQ, leaving their boats behind. He was irked. A logistical nightmare. To top it off, the mess hall was LOCKED! This was at 10pm! No dinner! It's late! They still needed to decon themselves!

Monday, September 5, 2005:

Tommy called about noon our time and reported that they were trying unsuccessfully to get a drawbridge lowered so they could cross it. They need to get across the bridge to get their boats! Sounds simple but the operators wouldn't lower it! Something about orders not to......

Exactly who is in charge here? I say lower the dang bridge and raise it right back up! Let's get to saving lives! And that's the latest from Louisiana. More later! I'm off to the Schuster's for dinner. Take care, everyone, and thank you for your calls/emails. Love you all.

And Katie Chidgy, I'll let Tommy know the address. Maybe he can get

some info for you.



Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Hi Again!

It's Tuesday, September 6, 2005.

Talked to Tommy twice today. Yesterday turned out to be a "good day."

They didn't get into the water! They rode in a military truck that drove through the water to deliver food and water and make rescues when needed. That meant less clean-up/decon when they returned to HQ.

It turns out that the draw bridge was not operating yesterday because of some generator problems. Today the bridge was working and they got to their work area quickly. Because the bridge had to be lifted at 5pm, they got to get out of the water earlier than usual. By 6:15pm he was in line for dinner. He ate roasted turkey (of the pressed-type), dirty rice, and salad. Not too shabby. Was going to clean up afterwards.

Why eat BEFORE you are clean? Last night they ran out of food! That hot meal is the one thing these guys absolutely look forward to. It is definitely the simple things in life that matter. And precisely the things that are lacking in N.O.. Hot food, hot and running water, gas, electricity, a warm comfy bed, flush toilets, and coffee!

Today they were back in the boats delivering food and water, making rescues, making notes of where people were choosing to remain in place.

Tommy spotted and tried to catch a snake of some sort. It was 3 1/2 feet long, very thick, and brown all over. The water is filthy so any markings the snake had were not obvious. Heck, the thing could've been neon pink and you wouldn't have been able to tell! They were helped along by a local firefighter from that very neighborhood who knew the streets. The locals were very nice. I believe they were in the area where the levee broke, which one, I am unsure. But this neighborhood had not been canvassed via boat before today. There were holes in the roofs of some homes where people were helicoptered out.

It is only a rumor that water is being withheld by rescuers to get people to evacuate. They are delivering food and water to everyone they meet. They did bring some people back today who were getting weary of living in such horrid conditions. So far the team has made over 600 rescues.

Tommy fed a lot of dogs today. He said, "Poor dogs, felt sorry for them, they had to eat MRE's!"

The smell is getting worse by the day, the water is receding, and more lunatics have been shot by the military. 

The water is disgusting. When he decontaminated his gear today, the bucket of water was BLACK. What he does is open bottle after bottle of water, adding bleach and antibacterial soap. He then churns and rubs his gear to cleanse it. Then he needs to open more bottles of water in order to rinse the gear. A long, tedious process. Sometimes he slices open a bottle with a knife and squeezes it if he needs to "spray" anything. Good thing they have lots of water available. And then he needs to wash his clothes. Everyday. Yesterday when he got back from duty he noticed that a shirt and a sock had blown off of his clothesline. He thinks a Black Hawk's rotor wind must be the cause of the disappearance.

He mentioned yet again the value and attributes of Gold Bond Medicated Powder. He was actually excited about it! I'll have to go get me some....!

There is a chance the team will return home within a week! The military will do the rest of the clean up effort. Most of what is left is body recovery and general clean up. Unfortunately, the need for search and rescue declines each day as we all have learned from other disasters.

They will stay until they are no longer needed.

I have been told that we are going to get a couple of 55 gallon drums to store water at home. It lasts for a year if you put some bleach in it. The motor home is of value as well for storing canned food and the necessities of life. The bottom line is that the government cannot be relied upon to fully respond to OUR needs in the event of a disaster, natural or man-made. We need to be self-sufficient for at least one week, if not two, as we have seen with Katrina. There's something to be said about being prepared!

That's it for now. More later. Good night!



Wednesday, September 7, 2005


It's Wednesday, September 7, 2005.

Search operations began after a 2 hour drive to their work site. Each team is assigned a specific grid area on a map. The sector they worked in today is near the Six Flags Theme Park. It is a middle class area with nice homes. In fact, it is where the 4 hoodlums were shot the other day. Looters were in the area due to it's nice residences. He saw boats and RV's in driveways, lawns, and what were nice yards.

I'm sure you've heard people talk about how slow the rescues seem. To put things in perspective in terms of how tedious and monumental a task it actually is, Tommy says this: think about four teams of fourteen guys covering an area like Thousand Oaks, with over 100,000 people, going house by house, searching, stopping to rescue, marking on GPS who is there, through water/mud/debris, in 90 degree weather, wearing heavy/unbreathable gear! He says each guy will average about a block of residences per day. The area of devastation is 80,000+ square miles, right? That's a lot of area to cover for a group of guys from California. You see, not many people are trained in water rescues.

This neighborhood has never been visited by land until today. Sadly, there are numerous other areas still waiting for a knock on a door, a voice saying "fire department, are you ok?"

Today proved to be another "good day!" Ten rescues, including 3 from a convalescent home! A caregiver stayed back with another three residents, literally keeping them alive throughout this ordeal! All ten were picked up by helicopter since this area is far away from any evacuation point. Again, it's hard to imagine, but these people would die if they tried to walk out alone. It's too far from where there are any people able to help them! 

They used a military truck again, called a "deuce-and-a-half", which is a two and a half ton truck with six wheels. It would drop them off and meet them at the end of the block. They had water a couple of feet deep today. The guys would then go door-to-door doing their searches and markings. Tommy found an older lady today. He was walking around the house and noticed a window slightly open. He knocked on the window and saw a lady in bed! She had enough supplies to keep her alive but she was weak. She said she heard helicopters now and then but by the time she got to the window/door, the helicopter had left! Can you imagine?

Another team found an 87 year old man alive in his ATTIC! It was made into a living area and he had supplies.

And there are more people still waiting....

Lots of wildlife spotted today! Garter snake, turtles, dogs, cats, and 20 HORSES! Yes, Tommy found 20 horses today at an equestrian center! All were alive and doing well! The guys broke into the feed area and fed them hay/oats/vitamins and watered them. Hopefully the horses will  be picked up tomorrow.

Dinner consisted of Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, gravy, salad, and southern dish (?) made of corn, lima beans, peas, and red bells. This was a different caterer than before.

He heard that the Forest Service had put together some sort of shower 1/2 mile away. Too far to walk to! You'd be all sweaty by the time you returned, so he didn't use them today. Plus, ya gotta get in the chow line!!!

The team has chosen not to demobilize at this time. They feel that they need to keep pressing on, covering as many sectors as they can, especially since they are finding people alive. They might demobilize on Sunday which gives them three more days of searches. But things are fluid so I'm not counting my chickens.

There was a guy driving a big trailer full of fancy wheels in it. Probably headed to South Central to sell them. He drove right past the trucks and didn't have a care in the world. He didn't even bother to cover his loot with a tarp! The military is too busy to deal with him... I think they should've tied him to a pole.

That's the scoop for today!


Thursday, September 8, 2005

Hi All!

It was an "easy" day for Tommy, today, September 8, 2005, despite the long hours.

The team worked in the same general area near the Six Flags park, but on the other side of the highway, whatever that would be. This neighborhood was in a gated country club, with a lake and golf course. Beautiful new homes, lots of beautiful new boats, and nobody around except military! Worked in boats today fro the most part. Still a lot of water in some areas, up to the windows. Two feet or less in others.

They helped two people whose car was stuck in the deep mud but that was it!

Lots of wildlife in these parts! Frogs swimming, a raccoon sitting in the back of someone's boat eating a dead fish, a little green chameleon, a ten-pound red fish (dead), Tilapia-like fish, both dead and alive, a dead three-foot long Gar, and lots of pets (alive). Speaking of pets, those 20 horses from yesterday were set to be rescued today! The plan was to walk them out a few blocks in 2-foot deep water to dry land, where a trailer would evacuate them. Another team saw a water moccasin today so keep those machete's handy!!!

And in a field where Tommy was decontaminating the rigs this evening, he got bit by fire ants! He was wearing flip-flops when suddenly he was being bit by ants swarming all over his feet! He put his feet into the bucket of soapy water to kill them. Sprayed on some antiseptic and he is now good to go! No welts or anything. He says these buggers are tiny, about half the size of our ordinary black ants in L.A..

Limited electricity is available at the HQ, mostly for patio and parking lot lighting. No outlets work as of yet. Dinner tonight consisted of sliced roast beef, rice, potatoes, creamed corn, and black-eyed peas. And there has been hot coffee in the morning for a few days now!

No word on demobilization.

Happy Friday to you all!



Friday, September 9, 2005

Hi Friends and Family!

Just checking in with some short updates from You-Know-Who!

Perhaps I should begin with a "disclaimer" as some of these emails are traveling to our extended family. I'm talking to Hubby with three kids yelling/screaming/playing/fighting in the background with occasional static on the line and sometimes with neighbors asking questions to me to ask Tommy, all at the same time. I try to stick to the facts, from what Tommy says (at 10pm, tired, and ready for bed), and I just want everyone out there to know that I may be "off" a bit here and there, but if you get a somewhat clear snapshot into his experience, then my message is successful!

So Friday, September 9, 2005 brought the following:

Hot, humid, buggy. Luckily, the team had to travel only about twenty minutes from HQ to a nice neighborhood to help out with what they call "welfare checks." The team shuttles residents to their homes to pick up medications and other essentials. The neighborhood was virtually empty of victims. One couple was helped whose vehicle was stuck in the mud. Plenty of animals, though. Lots of Anole Chameleons and frogs.

Dinner was BBQ'd tri-tip that some team members picked up from Sam's Club and cooked themselves! All the side dishes were procured from the caterers in the mess hall.

Tetanus boosters, Hepatitis A, and Hepatitis B shots were supposed to be given this evening but the clinic was closed by the time the guys got there. These guys wake up by 5:30am and work till 6 or 7pm. On a good day, 5pm. And then there's the decon process (rigs, gear, clothing, and bodies) after that.

Saturday, September 10,2005

Today, Saturday, September 10, 2005 was again, hot, humid, and buggy.

Daddy asked Grant how school was. "It's SATURDAY, Dad!" "I'm all messed up, sorry! I don't even know what day it is!"

But Mom knows! Today was shot day! The guys received their 3 shots today. Do they still give tetanus shots in the rear?!?

The team worked in a similar neighborhood again except this neighborhood still had a lot of water, waist high. Lots of Anole Chameleons, which Tommy tried unsuccessfully to catch. "Quick buggers!," he says. And geckos like you find in Hawaii!

Rescued an old man today. Wandering around the neighborhood for two days looking for his home. He was disoriented, dehydrated, and his skin was "all messed up." I am certain this man has his own history, his own story to be told, and thankfully he will live to tell it someday.

And so will a cat. The guys rode in Coast Guard flat boats today, larger than the team's red inflatables. They spotted a cat in a house from their boat. Tommy got out and tried to get the cat but it was scared and ran up and into a tree. Tommy went inside the house and opened up two cans of tuna and a can of evaporated milk to leave for poor kitty. Tommy is allergic to cats and not too keen on them either, so I was pleasantly surprised he volunteered to help out a feline!

Some of the guys, who must be missing kitchen duty at the firehouse, got some Louisiana sausages from Sam's Club and cooked them for dinner.  Amazing how the simple things can lift one's spirits!

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks. The military is going to conduct a memorial service of some sort and the guys will be able to participate and enjoy a hot meal. It will be touching, for sure. 

On this deployment, Tommy has run into other USAR members from California and other states that he first met in New York. They all share one commonality, the desire to help others in need. It is quite a reunion there at the HQ. I am sure other team members are experiencing the same thing. The fire family is pretty tight.

Speaking of the fire family, Vince Mena and Paul Cajaio from FS 3 showed up at my front door Friday morning bearing bags of groceries! They proceeded to ignore my orders to go home to their wives, located the gardening shed, and raked, mowed, and edged my lawns! Noticing that my car was filthy from camping, they washed it! Can't tell you how heartwarming it is to be a part of this family. Thank you!!!

No word on demob. Due to the uncertainty surrounding Hurricane Ophelia, the team may stay till Wednesday in case they are needed in the Carolina's. To say we are being cautious is an understatement!

And that is it for now. Good night and God Bless!



Sunday, September 11, 2005

Sunday, September 11, 2005, marks four years since the terrorist attacks in America.  May we all be reminded of the sacrifice given unselfishly by rescuers and brave airline passengers and reminded of the relentless spirit of America's citizens in defense of freedom.

I have heard that Thursday may be the departure date for our LAFD team in New Orleans. The LAFD team that was sent to Mississippi has already departed for Houston, on it's journey home. This means Tommy might make Grant's baseball game next Sunday. I'll believe it when I see him, sporting a hairdo screaming out for a buzz! I've been told it's "almost laying down." That's long for Tommy, about 2 haircuts overdue!

Today the team went out in Coast Guard boats into the same neighborhood as yesterday, taking the Assistant Fire Chief from New Orleans to his damaged house. Water half-way up the door in the single level home.

The Chief gathered what he could. The guys also took two brothers who are both firefighters to their homes as well. One home was a two-level and in good shape up on top. The one brother gathered his sword collection for safe keeping elsewhere.

On a sad note, the guys also brought in a man who wanted to check in on his Dad. The Dad was deceased in the home when they arrived at the house.

And there's another cat story! Tommy reports, and his partner Al Naeole upholds, this next tidbit on the "Super-Duper Underwater Swimming Cat!"  Here it goes! The boat spies a cat. Tommy tries to catch the cat but the cat climbs onto a roof. The cat then JUMPS off of the roof, dives HEAD-FIRST into the putrid water, SWIMS at least five feet UNDER the water, then swims to the other side of the street, climbing onto another roof. Cat got away. Unbelievable but apparently true!

Remember that shark I mentioned last week? The one spotted swimming around the streets? Well it was caught today! It is a Bull Shark who swam away from the aquarium when it flooded. Tommy did not see it but he heard about its capture. He is not sure what group/agency caught it but what a story!

The team collected about 6 dogs today, bringing them to dry land where Animal Rescue was awaiting with food, water, and kennels. Only one frog spotted today.

Good news! Cold showers are now provided by a 200 gallon water tote that is filled up by a tanker truck on site! No more breaking open Sparkletts water bottles! And sack lunches are now provided daily!  This evening the team broke bread with the Coast Guard attachment that is bunked at the same facility. The Coast Guard invited the guys over for dinner and they had mostaccolli with little sausages, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy, and salad. The California teams get along great with the Coast Guard guys, partly because many of them are from California. I've been told that you can tell the California folk from the rest of the bunch. Is it the gleaming white teeth, the tanned skin, the talk of surfing, or perhaps the professionalism exuding from within? Whatever the reason, the guys are enjoying their time with this attachment.

At 8pm Tommy had just finished his daily routine. An early day again!  Got eaten alive last night by the local mosquitoes. He doesn't like to apply repellent after showering-yuck! Says I'd hate it there with the humidity what it is.

Tommy sends hello's out to all of you and thanks you for your kind thoughts and prayers! He sounds great on the phone which soothes my nerves tremendously. Have a great Monday y'all!



Monday, September 12, 2005

Hello Friends and Family!

Barring any further disasters, Tommy will be home this Friday!!! Just short of three weeks gone. They got word today that the water teams will get to go home now that water levels are receding. The team will drive into Austin, Texas and fly to LAX. Their rigs, with all the equipment, will be transported back home somehow. I am not sure how.

LA County will be on the same flight.

Today the team searched together with LA County in a brand new area.  Yes, still there are areas that have not been searched by foot/boat!  They were escorted by the Army, from the 82nd Airborne.  They let the Army boys help with the interior searches and they were "stoked." Water was about two feet deep in most spots and dry in others. There was a convoy of Army trucks carrying bulldozers, sweepers, and lawnmowers to help in the clean up. Yes! The Army is mowing the lawns in New Orleans!

The teams searched house by house, inside and out. Tommy recalls walking inside the houses as "like walking on corrugated metal, as the wood flooring is buckled and bumpy." The team searched over 300 houses today, a great number considering the work involved.

It's disastrous inside of the homes. Black mold is already growing all over the walls. They wore respirators. These homes are totally lost. Lots of dead carp in the water, very stinky. As the streets dry up the smell is not as bad but you can imagine how the scent lingers.....

Sadly, one body was found today, Tommy Haus' boat, to be exact.

Tommy said he found lots and lots of skinny dogs today! They carried some dog food with them as Animal Rescue was not there with them today.

Tommy also saved yesterday's leftover sandwiches from lunch in an ice chest and brought them for the dogs today! At dinner, which the LA County guys cooked to celebrate someone's birthday, they had t-bone steaks. Tommy collected all the bones to take to work tomorrow for all the canines. I find this very heartwarming. These poor pets have not eaten much for two weeks, unless they have been scavenging on dead whatevers and drinking poisonous water.

On their way back to HQ this evening they stopped by Bourbon Street for some quick "sightseeing." They noticed the bricks had been cleaned up, business owners are back to sort things out, and things are looking up!

The mosquitoes are getting worse by the day. Getting bit in between the fingers and toes and on the earlobes! Basically, everywhere.

And that is it for tonight, unless you want to know about how my refrigerator took a dive today....

More later!



Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The countdown has begun!

Hi! It's Tuesday, September 13, 2005, and we've got three more days till Daddy returns home.

Tomorrow is a big clean-up and pack day for the swift water rescue guys. Today was their final day out in the water. They were assigned yet another neighborhood that was partly searched, but not completely.

I believe that there will be some areas left "untouched" by rescue personnel by the time residents begin returning home.

Tommy and his partner Al Naeole found lots of dogs today. The dogs feasted on last night's t-bone steak bones and MRE's that Al brought along. That must be fulfilling to feed a starving animal. So starving they are that these dogs will eat deceased dogs. I know that sounds pretty harsh but it is their only means of survival. I'm sure God understands. There were not cats to be spotted because they are scared and run away from the sounds of the big trucks/boats. Tommy would like you all to remember that underwater cat story. He absolutely stands firm in his eye-witness account!

The teams located two deceased citizens today. There were no residents in the area: totally empty, except for those dogs!

So I get a doorbell ring today and it's a delivery boy bearing flowers.  I thought he must have come to the wrong house! Nope! Tommy sent me and the kids flowers! I had to verify that this was not a "group" effort and I am proud to say that he dialed 1-800-FLOWERS totally on his own! See? Those ads really DO work! And by group effort I am referring to the team effort the day before Valentines/Mothers Day, when the guys zip down to the flower mart and get loads of flowers for every guy working that day. Our flowers are pretty and Mom and kids are blushing!

Did you know that the National Guards serving their annual two week stint in New Orleans are only paid forty dollars a day? Can you believe that? I couldn't! Anyways, two National Guardsmen (actually women) came through the rescue worker area today and offered to give haircuts. No set price, only a "donation." So Tommy got that much needed haircut for a donation of ten dollars. The gal is a hair stylist from Wisconsin doing her two weeks. She must have made about $100 in one hour to supplement her government wage! Good for her to have the foresight and business sense to bring her buzzer and clippers to N.O.! Some of the guys took a picture of Tommy getting all that hair cut off. Probably left a big mess on the floor!

Their final dinner was tri tip with all the usual sides. All the California water rescue teams will depart on Thursday and drive to Houston, Texas. They will spend the night at a hotel then leave for the airport on Friday. The fire department is flying guys out to Texas to drive the rigs back home.

The group is due to arrive at LAX at 1:30pm PST. From there I believe the teams will go their separate ways. The LA City guys will be bused from LAX to Fire Station 88 in Sherman Oaks. We will be there to welcome them home. SSShhh! It's a surprise! I'll pull the kids out of school early for that "dentist appointment" and head to the valley. You are all welcome to join us.

And that is the latest from New Orleans via Thousand Oaks, CA!! Good night!



Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Today is Wednesday, September 14, 2005, and was one of the hardest work days for the team.  The guys spent the entire day and evening cleaning, checking, and inspecting the 5 rigs that they brought from LA. They packed their personal gear and all the equipment they brought. FEMA regs require that each vehicle be inspected, which includes basic stuff like the oil and brakes. 

There are two Swift Water Rescue trucks and three Plug Buggies, which are mid-size pickup trucks that stations keep handy for running business errands.  The fourteen men will drive these five vehicles seven hours to Houston, Texas, tomorrow morning. Departure time is 7am. They will convoy with the LA County team. They do not have a hotel booking at this time.  Heck, a Motel 6 would be a 5-Star accommodation compared to what they are used to! If they are lucky, they'll get a hotel. Ooooohhh! A bed! A pillow! Hot water! A TV! (They have not had access to any media except radio.)

Tonight they ate overcooked pork chops, mixed vegetables, and a really good salad of mixed greens, cranberries, caramelized walnuts, and pears.  Tommy heard that only two USAR teams were utilized today. It appears that the rescue operations are indeed winding down.  We are looking forward to seeing Dad again! My wonderful pal Vicki Schuster has offered to watch the three kids this Saturday or Sunday so Tommy and I can go to dinner and a movie! Tommy immediately said, "Cool! We can go have sushi!" But we rarely go to the movies....any recommendations???

And that's it for tonight! Blessings to you all for your kind thoughts and prayers galore.



Thursday, September 15, 2005


Yes! Today is Thursday, September 15, 2005, and tomorrow is Daddy's homecoming! We are excited to see Tommy. The kids made a cute "welcome back" sign this evening with their cousin Alaina and Auntie Lisa, who spent the evening here at home while I attended Back to School Night.

Today the team drove from New Orleans to Houston. Tommy bought some sort of souvenir for the kids in Baton Rouge but won't say what it is, other than it is "funny."

It is hot and humid in Houston but there was a breeze and even some rain. They checked into a Marriott hotel this afternoon and immediately took showers and shaved. I did not know this but they guys were told not to shave because of the risk of nicking themselves and having an open wound on their body. Tommy has a hard time growing any kind of beard so I'm sure it wasn't THAT bad! But the other guys? EEEWWW!

They ate dinner at Salt Grass Steakhouse, recommended by the hotel as THE place to eat steak in Houston. Baby back ribs and shrimp scampi!

Daddy had civilian clothing to wear but he says some guys didn't pack correctly and had to buy t-shirts in the hotel's souvenir shop to wear to dinner! They had some corny stuff on them like "I love Houston" or something like that! I believe that the city of Houston paid for their meal. After dinner they retreated back to the hotel for some after-dinner swimming and cigar-smoking. The last time Daddy had a cigar was when he got back from New York. He sat in the hot hot jacuzzi trying to sweat out all the toxins but couldn't stand it so he swam some laps instead.

So there it is! A chapter is closing. I will miss this routine of writing every evening before bed! I will miss hearing from all you special people in our lives! I hope you got something to remember from this information that will deepen your appreciation of just how fortunate we are. Have a great Friday!



I'm sure they are sleeping well tonight!

Arrival is 1:30pm our time at LAX on a Continental flight. We'll be at 88's at 3pm to welcome the guys back.

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