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April 25, 2006

New Orleans Katrina Clean Up Day Three

It is day three for us here in Camp Premier, though it is only day two of actual work. After starting our first house yesterday, we were eager to finish it off if we could.

We began in what is becoming routine of sorts, slightly different for each of us, but probably largely similar: wake, go to mess tent to eat, get dressed, team meet-up, prep gear and cooler, load onto bus, go to work site.

Three days in and we are indoctrinated fairly well.

The word for today is "humid". Wow. Temperatures were not bad, and much of the time clouds would slide in front of the sun, but boy were we wet. Only 20 minutes into it, my shirt was soaked, and my jeans fell like they were being pulled to the ground by gravity. Still, I appreciated the slightly cooler temperature in general - but humidity can just make you uncomfortable.

Working on our house today, I realized that there are really two phases of work. Yesterday we moved things and scooped muck. A massive undertaking in itself. We did get some light stripping in - our house had wood paneling covering every wall in the house, including closets.

So, today, with most of the things moved and scooped, we began the second phase, the actual gutting.

This is the phase that can be fun at times, particularly when you have a need to use the sledgehammer.

We still had the master bedroom and bathroom to clear. Ugh. The bedroom included a queen size mattress and box spring, a bureau, lots of clothes and about 4 inches of much on every square foot of the room.

Half of the room was carpeted. Oh, carpet. I forgot to mention that yesterday. It is a lot harder to scoop muck off of carpet. Also, the carpet itself must be then be removed, after you've scooped muck off of it and cleared the entire room. It, like everything else, is wet and heavy.

Innovative as we are, and doubtless the crews around and before us do this as well, we use large strips of carpet to drag/haul out drywall and other debris. As some of the volunteer trainers had told us on Sunday, "try to touch things once" - get it in a wheelbarrow or onto a sheet or whatever you can find to drag it out.

The master bathroom had the worst muck. I simply can't describe the pungent odors released with each scoop. The bathtub was filled with water, but was probably more like raw sewage at this point. We were allowed to leave that as is.

While a few of us finished off the bedroom, everyone else proceeded with the actual gutting of the house. Ripping down the paneling, drywall and insulation. Lighting fixtures, ceiling and baseboard molds, everything you can think of comes out. The only things you leave are the water heater and toilets.

This family had a large aquarium in the home. It was smashed up and we imagine the fish may have been happy to be free for a short while. We found what we think as a "pet fish" embedded in the drywall about eye level in the master bedroom.

There is lots of activity in the neighborhood as you work. The other three teams that come out with us on our bus are each at various houses up and down the street. Construction trucks and other large sanitation or cleanup vehicles trawl the streets. Not sure if they are going to jobs or looking for them.

There are home owners at some of the houses. Many have trailers or RVs parked on the lawns, hooked into electricity and septic, for living while they figure out what they are doing with their house.

As we ate lunch in the car port of an abandoned home next to ours, the neighbor on the other side came over and chatted to us. As we've heard from others, he expressed just how much the community appreciates the volunteers. He said people here talk about "us" everyday.

We talked to an estimator/contractor hired to demolish the house on the other side of ours. He said most "gutting" efforts produce 75 to 150 cubic yards of debris. He figured we had over 75, which for a single level dwelling I think is a lot. Our pile was massive (I'll post pictures later).

I think about the amount of work we did in two days. 10 of us, say 6 hour shifts for two days - 120 man hours. It is really quite remarkable what we did, and I can't imagine these families doing it on their own. The cost to have your house professionally gutted, we here, is 5 to 10 thousand dollars. That has to make a big difference to these folks, and I am glad we were here to do it.

Tonight we head into New Orleans, the French quarter, for some well deserved time "off base". The mess tent has good eats, but I am looking forward to some local grub.

We should start a new house tomorrow, so more to come on our adventures here through the week.

Posted by gcrgcr at April 25, 2006 10:29 PM


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