Monday, October 01, 2007

Ok.. Going Home:::::::

Again folks .. sorry it has been so long.. but this has been a remarkably busy disaster. I am going to be home by noonish on Oct 2 back in Highlands Ranch. I got good reviews and was pleased to be able to do this work. It is good to have positive feelings out of one of these.

I do have some thoughts about this place though. Rochester is a city of sick people really. The Mayo Clinic is for real and it attracts tens of thousands of patients here all year long. The Clinic is simply huge.. spread all over town and perhaps 1/3 of the 90,000 residents work for this health concern. If you are just passing through you would not notice it, you afterall see sick people all the time... but it is the scale and overwhelming numbers of them here.. is really sad after awhile. One of the features here is people profoundly deformed either by accident or disease or birth. One man was so altered he wore essentially a hood that was see through to him. he was eating at a buffett.. and faced the wall to eat... I saw what can best be described as a walking cadaver.. he was grey, sunken and eating dinner with what appeared to be his family.

If you are here for three meals a day.... you see families coping with the best and worst of things life can throw you. You can see families trying to come to grips with the worst news.. groups of people undergoing treatments out on the town to get pie... On balance what you see here is hope.... Overwhelming hope.. sick kids smiling cause they believe they are getting better.. parents smiling cause they cannot contemplate the alternative.... disfigured men and women hoping to feel restored... sons and daughters trying to find a way to take mom home one last time.... Perhaps if you live here long enough this all becomes part of the landscape.. but for me .. for five weeks... I have been thankful that I am happy and whole.. that I have choices that are not all bad and most of all that I am almost 56 and just now discovered what a place like the Mayo Clinic is all about.

Good luck folks.. I will post again.. new disasters after the first of the year unless a big hurricane strikes somewhere in a nice place in the south... (= anywhere but LA)

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Ok.. Tomorrow is a day off and I am looking forward to the rest. We had last Sunday off and it was nice but this one is really worth it. We started releasing Community Relations people this week and are now down to 171 people today from 205 fema people. that still leaves over 30 per IT guy so we will likely not downsize till Oct 1 although our hours will likely go way down in the next two weeks. I am the first one of the group to go so as long as I make Oct 1 I am happy.

There was wierdness in the JFO today. The human Services group try to put people in trailers to use as homes till their regular houses are completely fixed or 18 months which ever comes first. Before they set those trailers at someones house they have to do an inspection.. because they hook up sewage, power etc to the trailer before they walk away from it. The HS people got a call from a household that was supposed to get a trailer that was a complaint ..... apparently the home owners were upset that FEMA sent "an African" to evaluate the trailer site. There were aparently more words which I did not get and the whole thing was turned over to the managers to smooth over... seriously.....

The portions in restraunts here are just gigantic. I have only not taken home leftovers when I simply could not put any more in the fridge. Serious lumberjack meals no matter where or what. There is a chain of "Bakers something or other" that specializes in pie and a diverse kinda american menu. I ate there tonight.. (Cobb salad the size of a bale of hay) and I finished it off with a piece of "Carmel Pecan Satin Supreme" pie.. holy shit... four layers.. bottom like pecan pie.. next like cheese cake.. next like a carmel candy but not chewy and finally whip cream with carmel and chocolate sprinkles. wow.. come to Minnesota for THIS pie. Now I had a text message exchange with my SO Trena before ordering and she convinced me to order the salad instead of the 1/2 lb hamburger with real wisconsin chedar..... but when she suggested that I should not have the pie, her signal got kinda weak.. breaking up really.....

Frost this morning and 32 degrees... I do not have quite enough long sleeved shirts to make a week so.. either I try to man up and do short sleeves in Minnesota or I go buy another one or two from Farm Fleet.. i need to box up stuff to send home anyway I guess. They gave us shirts (short sleeved ofcourse).. I got a coat and wool hat in Louisiana... and short sleeved shirts in Minnesota in September.. go figure.

Pedicure and a movie tomorrow..going to see a real mans movie with Russel Crowe in it with a couple of the geek squad guys I work with. well.. the movie anyway.. the Pedicure is only me... LOL.. but it helps with the feet doing what i do... I am going to try to avoid Illinios, Ohio , Texas Lousiana and Arkansas that are either fresh declarations or soon to be fresh... and finish out my time for the year..... ... see what hits next year.... the raise I got has been nice on paychecks and the per diem up here is pretty fat so.. this is going to be pretty profitable for me. Time to enjoy home again. Two more weeks eh?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Food Related maunderings::::::::

Ok... when you are feeling better and rested it is kind of amazing what catches your eye in places to eat. I was asked in a Dennys yesterday if I wanted grits with my "Moons over My Hammy".... I asked the waitress if anyone she knew ever ate them and she said "no..not unless they sound like you::"... (eyeroll).... I went to a Noodles and company where they advertised "Real Wisconsin Macaroni and Cheese" which is a favorite of mine... and.. had great expectations of some REAL mac and cheese... ok.. not so much... The Country Buffet has tobasco, tartar sauce and "chili sauce" on those pump applicators at the end of an isle .... they will also serve you a bloody steak if you ask for it.. I would caution you if you DO ask for one wear an apron.. they will bring it out making a pool on your plate. The corn bread has the option of eating it with either honey or REAL maple syrup.... I recommend the rhubarb pie too.. it was like home style for sure......

I get a day off Sunday.. and work hours go down an hour a day to 7 am to 6 pm six days a week... see how long that lasts.. but I think it looks good to get outa here early October for me still. Got my laundry washed and folded this morning..I now have fresh smelling clothes... I onlly have one long sleeved t-shirt and a very light fema jacket for this disaster... and cooler weather is starting this weekend with rain etc. I hate to go back to wearing long pants all the time again.. but oh well.. summer has been awesome for the shorts......

This place has the palest people in it...

Everyone have a good week ... more as I think it up.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Not Exactly Cheeseheads:::

Ok.. I have not published because I have been both ill and working 12 hour days again... it has been wierdness associated with the beginnings of a disaster and what mom calls "FEMA flu" it is like everyone gets it at one time and struggles for a day or two.. runny noses, swelled heads.. congestion .. its tough. then.. boom it is gone...

Here in Rochester MN.. way out of my region.. (thanks to a promotion and upgrade in my status)... and i am having one of my best disasters so far. The group is pretty sober.. not too too of anything really and seem low key enough to get past all the day to day friction that can break up some departments. We have a simple setup.. not bad computers and a reasonable management team.. .. so the days are flying past and even though I have been ill I have enjoyed it.

As a note.. comments that get posted are "moderated" that is.. I read them before they get put on the blog as comments... So far I have only blocked one but had to go to them as a couple of comments were not appropriate back when. So if you post and it does not show right away, rest assured I am going to read it and approve it shortly... (Someone named SHARON with FEMA? I am sorry I missed your posting in February and just today approved it.. I was having a family crisis that month and did not do my mail very regularly.. thank you for your comments as a sister in the movement... :-D)

Travel put me in a "smoking room" .. bastards and I have been too busy to move.. and I kinda like the neighborhood.. I live across the street from some kind of fairgrounds... it is overviewed by a city water tank that is both shaped like and painted like a big ear of corn... its not exactly fair to say everyone here talks like FARGO but it is humerous to go to restrauants... last night there was some kind of party in the house behind my bedroom ... Karaoke ... till nearly midnight. You have not lived till you wake up (sick) to the sounds of a very loud drunk doing Johnny Cash.. (I turned 21 in prison doing life without parole!!!).... oh well... the food here is reasonably priced and not too bad.. the trees are starting to turn color.. noticed it on September 1st.

i am going to do my 60 days this year for sure.. plan on going home October first week ish.. I am sure this JFO will slow down pretty quick.. looks like it is going to top out at about 160 people.. they run pretty lean up here although we are getting shirts (short sleeved no shit in Minnesota in the fall)... funny I got a wool stocking cap and Jacket in Alexandria La last fall.. jeez... we are still working 12X7 and I expect it to go to 10X6 next week.. they are running a lot of DRCs here (7) but they are not planning for them to be open long.. maybe one or two by end of two weeks... so all those folks are going home.. (thankfully.... :-D)

I miss home but i am glad to be here too. This is good work. They seem to be having problems giving away FEMA trailers... no one will live in them for now.. (we will see how that fares as time goes by... living with other people for months is insane....).. one of the towns had four feet of sewage contaminated flood waters in every single building in town.. (lets all go EWWWWWWW at the same time)..... and local politicians are all prettied up expecting to hit the lottery in FEMA dollars... There are stories of communities sandbagging the local major employer and Liquor mart and overlooking the courthouse and firestation.. ... oh well... housed within our disaster is also the group of engineers that are building the bridge back in the minneapolis.. CH2M HILL is the lead and apparently we are giving some kind of aid and comfort to them as they are housed in our JFO. That collapse was pretty horriffic... gratefully we are not surrounding ourselves with pictures of it.

More as I have time and energy to provide it......Miss you all...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Missed me:::::::::::

The State of Texas began de-mobilization this morning at 6 am... bringing everyone home from the valley and sending assets back home... the command center where chairs and tables were being fought over yesterday morning are in abundance and in the way today.. about half as many folk over there as today... traffic jams of ambulances and busses going home... some wierdness.. we have showers for the shelters being installed by tonight.. for maybe 12 hours use .. they are using the haz mat decontamination unit of the local firefighters to take showers .. it is akin to standing in a car wash.. that damn wand looks like it hurts...

this has been a wierd excercise.. we have a very skeleton crew.. but six new people showed up today. We only have two ESF groups here.. (Planning and OPS) and the wierdness of USDA veterinarians (I guess VMATS is not really around anymore>>???) five Logistics people showed up today and a new planning person.. and I think we are going home thursday night... I got a few pictures... nothing spectacular.. .. i will try to make a picture post of some of this with annotations.

I just have the best hotel room... marriot Plaza downtown.. place has an awesome pool area, restrauant and even room service which I have not used..... kinda pricey but they make the government rate... there is strangeness in the parking down there.. i guess there is like no place at all to park in the city so they charge an arm and a leg.. if you go in and out of the parking lot during the day it is up to $19 a day... since i am gone 12 hours at a time it is free.. go figure.

There is a chance i am going to be able to go home later this week. There is some chance i may have to go back to Denton and I will post that as I find it out. What an interesting deployment.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Artful Dodger::::::::::::::

The morning briefing suggests we are going to be missed by a wide margin and likely Dean is heading for the dark heart of Mexico..... Ihave seen too many hurricanes turn due north after hitting the Yucatan though.. the high forehead types are saying something about a high stuck over Texas holding it down there.. yada yada yada.... Anyway they are using the word Demobilization here (we have one box to pack and outa here... ).. I never even got a phone, laptop or new badge.

This is a pretty big show though.. this morning driving in I saw a pad of an old building that had something under 200 ambulances parked door to door facing east. They had 600 school busses setting on a building pad half a mile over for deployment for evacuation and 6 fixed wing aircraft (great big C-130s) and another 6 helicopters sitting on the Air force base apron awaiting 24 hour operations.. these guys were seriously ready for the shit to hit the fan. They were ready for something in excess of 200,000 evacuees to hit the city of San Antonio.

The funny part about this is .... this is a State operation.. we are here as guests.. literally sitting on our hands.. (FEMA is used to throwing its weight around .. when we deploy we are the boss for the most part and our managers and ops people are not very well practiced in being observers and resources for questions.. a learning experience for our group.. kinda fun to see). My job would have been to prepare the place for a bigger FEMA presence in case the disaster got declared and we grew to our normal FEMA size... so I have had a badge and access to every part of this preparation and had not a single dedicated task in the whole thing. What a fun trip.

Now comes our De-Mobilization plan... (pack the one FEMA phone, put my laptop back in the bag, do expenses, do my time sheet and go home.... :-D) we can leave a dark room 20 minutes after we get the word this time.. usually it takes a week to break down an installation. I look forward to going home although it is possible they will ask me to go back to region for some reason. I am not wild about cooling my heels in Denton.. saw all i need to see of that operation last Friday afternoon.

More as it becomes clear to me.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

On the Road Again::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Hi guys.. it has been awhile. I got deployed to first Denton and now San Antonio to stand in front of Hurricane Dean. It has been an interesting trip.. I have to be either available or deployed for 60 days a year to maintain my active status with FEMA. We had some words between Region and myself about the terms of the contract I renewed with them this past spring. :-D eventually they saw things the way I read the words........ So I made myself available Aug 1 and I am going to do my 60 days of service and call it a year unless something interesting comes along.

I had a different mission this time.. I am "forward deployed" ahead of Hurricane Dean which was once forcast to hit the center of the Texas Gulf Coast.. and is not forcast to hit mexico way south of us... Frankly i am not sure.. once it hits the Yucatan it usually turns north a lot.. last couple that hit there did that.

I am embeded in the State of Texas evacuation center on an old air base in San Antonio. I am with an IT weenie from Denton and the two of us are FEMA for this site. There are hundreds of state and local officials, fire and rescue and police here from everywhere planning evacuations and executing their plans for a big hurricane coming ashore. I have to say.. these guys were ready to rock as soon as a blip occured on the satellite imagery. FEMA will not have a role till a disaster is declared but we are here in an advisory capacity till it hits .. and when the rest of the staff gets here today we should see all our OPS and management features in place to just hand off to the state when they ask.. it is very cool. If it does hit shore here I will likely be forward deployed to help build Disaster Recovery Centers toward the coast from the JFO which is already in Austin for this disaster.

Could be home in a week or six...LOL who knows. anyway.. it is back in the grind.. i am enjoying my new pay grade although I am still a grunt in all ways practical.