Coast Guard Auxiliary sends two to work with FEMA on storm relief

Another is on standby, ready to join colleagues helping Katrina victims

Posted: Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Two members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary's Juneau Flotilla have joined the federal team helping people in the South recover from one of the worst Atlantic hurricane seasons on record.

Juneau's Paul Brohard is working as a supervisor at the Disaster Recovery Center in Dallas, said Mike Folkerts, Coast Guard Auxiliary commander for District 17, covering the state of Alaska.

Verlyn Renke, also of Juneau, is going door to door in Gonzalez, La., to let people know about available help and see if they are OK, his wife, Monika Renke, said. Gonzalez is about 45 miles from New Orleans.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency brought in Coast Guard Auxiliary members from Alaska to help with disaster relief from last year's hurricane season, Folkerts said. "They like using us."

Brohard is working as FEMA tries to get people back home to get on with their lives, Folkerts said.

Hurricane Katrina did an estimated $200 billion in damage and left more than 1,100 people dead. It hit greater New Orleans and Mississippi the hardest. In September, Hurricane Rita lashed the Gulf Coast, hitting Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi.

Auxiliary members who get called out will do whatever FEMA needs, Folkerts said.

Many auxiliary members have the sort of expertise FEMA is looking for because they are trained to work with incident command systems that the federal government uses, he said.

Auxiliarists are volunteers who assist the Coast Guard in areas such as boat inspection and safety education. The Juneau Flotilla has about 50 members, and statewide there are about 400 auxiliarists, Folkerts said.

Monika Renke said she is proud that people from a relatively small place like Juneau have been called on to help. She said she has talked with a third member who is on standby to be deployed by FEMA.

Jody Hayes of the Coast Guard Auxiliary said he thought FEMA would call him out last week or the week before. He is still ready whenever they need him, he added.

"We can send money, but sometimes they need people," he said. He joined the auxiliary to help people, and as far as needs go, "this is a huge one," he said. "If they want me, I'll go."

"I was pretty concerned about him going down there," Monika Renke said of her husband, because of the possibilities of contracting disease. But she talked with him Monday and understands he is working in an area farther away from the coast and not left underwater the way part of New Orleans was.

Verlyn Renke has been part of a two-member team making sure that people know where they can go to get help, going to churches and business and going to homes, his wife said. "I feel pretty good about where he is."

Monika Renke said she has no idea how long her husband will be gone. "He said it would be at least a month or more. Now it looks like more."

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