By Capt. Dale Greer
Kentucky Air National Guard
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - As Hurricane Gustav gained in intensity in the Gulf of Mexico Aug. 30, hundreds of New Orleans-area displaced began arriving by aircraft at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base here for transportation to Red Cross shelters across the state of Kentucky.
The first airplane, a commercial 757, arrived from New Orleans at 9:20 p.m. Eastern Time with 178 Louisiana Gulf Coast residents. Two U.S. Navy C-9s and another 757 followed within the next three hours, carrying another 286 displaced. Additional flights continued.
Kentucky disaster preparedness officials made arrangements to accept up to 4,250 displaced statewide, said John W. Heltzel, director of the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management.
About 3,000 of those displaced persons were bused to a Red Cross shelter at the state fair grounds in Louisville, while approximately 750 were sent to shelters in Lexington. The remaining displaced, if any, will be housed at shelters in Bowling Green and Owensboro, Mr. Heltzel said.
More than 160 Kentucky Air Guard troops volunteered on the Labor Day weekend to assist with initial relief efforts, said Maj. Gen. Edward Tonini, Kentucky’s adjutant general, and more stand ready to assist if needed for additional operations.
“I’m extremely proud of the commitment that our Kentucky Air Guard troops have made to help their fellow Americans in this time of need,” General Tonini said. “These citizens are facing the prospect of devastating hurricane damage for the second time in just three years, and we’re happy to help in any way we can.”
Mr. Heltzel noted that the hurricane evacuation was a multi-agency effort calling on the resources of federal, state and local governments, as well as The American Red Cross.
“This is a great example of agencies working together as one team,” he said.