State receives praise for Hurricane Katrina response

Washington receives high praise for response to Hurricane Katrina
Washingtonians received high praise today from Gov. Kathleen Blanco. Gov. Gregoire spoke to the Louisiana governor in an unexpected personal phone call.

“I was surprised to receive a call from Gov. Blanco today,” said Gov. Gregoire. “She called to let me know how much she and the people of Louisiana appreciate the outpouring of support and offers of assistance from the people of Washington state. She really appreciates the National Guard troops and aircraft support along with all the civilian volunteer helping out in Louisiana.

“Her sister lives here in Washington and has told her how many people here are donating and volunteering, doing whatever they can to help. I told her that the thoughts and prayers of Washingtonians are with her and everyone in the Gulf Coast region. And I thanked her for letting the people of Washington know that even 2,500 miles away they know we are here for them.”

State and local agencies and volunteer organizations worked Friday to update plans to receive evacuees from the Hurricane Katrina disaster area sometime after September 14th. The state still has not been told by the federal government whether it will be used as a location for hosting Katrina evacuees.

Operation Evergreen planners are arranging for Katrina guests to arrive at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. As part of their greeting process, they will receive an initial health screening by staff from Seattle and King County public health agencies. Pets and service animals will be screened by the state Department of Agriculture. Individuals who require additional medical treatment will be taken to local clinics or hospitals. All others will be transported by charter bus to the Operation Evergreen Welcome Center in Thurston County.

“Public Health’s primary objective will be to meet the immediate health care needs and concerns of our guests,” said Dorothy Teeter, Interim Director and Health Officer, Public Health – Seattle and King County. “We are coordinating with our partners at the Port of Seattle and providing clinical teams from our own staff as well as those recruited through our key health care partners for an anticipated SeaTac arrival.”

“We are humbled by the prospect that we may soon play a small part in helping people recover from this national tragedy,” said King County Executive Ron Sims. “Our public health team is experienced and highly trained and is working with the state and other regional partners to make sure we provide the best care possible for those who have endured so much hardship.”

At a Welcome Center in Tumwater, Katrina guests will be assisted in applying for disaster and other benefits available through FEMA and other state and non-profit organizations. After this, they will be provided with temporary housing at Tumwater and Olympia area hotels.

“We hope to make their stay in Thurston County as pleasant an experience as possible under the circumstances,” said Diane Oberquell, chair of the Thurston County Commission. “We are happy and more than willing to provide all the support and services available through county, state and community organizations.”

The Welcome Center will give first priority to assisting Katrina evacuees who arrive under the auspices of Operation Evergreen, but will not turn away other Katrina evacuees who have come to Washington on their own. People who have come on their own can also apply for assistance by with FEMA at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or . Washington state has also established a help line at 1-800-688-3469 to assist evacuees in obtaining federal disaster benefits.

Washington residents wishing to help are encouraged to make cash donations to Washington Cares, a fund established by Gov. Christine Gregoire in partnership with Washington Mutual Bank. Donations can be made at any Washington Mutual branch around the state, and will go to the Red Cross. People who want to donate time, goods or services may call the state’s Operation Evergreen hotline at 1-800-941-2930.

The City of Seattle will be sponsoring a Day of Giving next week, on Thursday, September 15, between 10 a.m.-4 p.m. benefiting Second Harvest, Habitat for Humanity, Mercy Corps and the Red Cross. There will be giving stations throughout the city; including the Seattle Municipal Tower, City Hall, the Alaska Building, all Car Toys stores, U-Village, Pacific Place and numerous other locations.

Operation Evergreen is an effort of state, local and federal officials along with community organizations to help people who have been displaced by Hurricane Katrina.