After the mass destruction Hurricane Katrina left 10 years ago, volunteers from all over the country poured into the Mississippi Gulf Coast to provide much-needed help.
In the case of volunteer Sam Yardumian from Pennsylvania, Mississippi Power crews got to return the favor when Hurricane Sandy struck his neighborhood in 2012.
Among those displaced after Katrina were firefighters who had been forced to evacuate before the storm and whose homes were destroyed by the storm. Groups of firefighters from all across the country paid their own expenses to serve one week at a time at the West Hancock Fire Rescue in Pearlington.
One group from Pennsylvania even sent a fire engine to Waveland in 2005 loaded with much needed supplies.
“We had our local lettering guy letter it with Waveland, so that when it arrived it was theirs,” said volunteer Greg Jakubowski, who is currently the principal and chief engineer of Fire Planning Associates, Inc. in Washington Crossing, Pa.
In 2007, Jakubowski volunteered in Pearlingnton and even drove the fire engine his department had donated to the fire department in Waveland.
“We flew into New Orleans and the flight attendant commented on the number of people onboard wearing fire department shirts. She asked if we were going to a convention and we told her we were headed to Mississippi to volunteer our firefighting services for a week,” said Jakubowski, who supervised the volunteers during his visit. “When we landed they announced that we were onboard and our mission. We got a standing ovation from the other passengers. I remember feeling very proud.”
Over the next week, the crew would put out 2 – 3 fires a day and go to the site of several vehicle accidents.
One accident in particular stands out.
“Two pickup trucks collided, causing one to overturn on I-10 just at the exit to Stennis Space Center,” Jakubowski said. “There was a baby in the overturned truck hanging upside down in his car seat. Luckily, he was uninjured and was put in the arms of an 18 year-old rookie fireman who had no experience with children. Today, that rookie is in Beirut, Lebanon, working security for the United States government.”
Another of the volunteer firemen, Sam Yardumian, spoke of work they did to make the firehouse more habitable and to get the fire chief’s vehicle in better shape.
“We had received donations from some of the local businesses back home. We weren’t sure what we would do with the money, but when we got to the firehouse in West Hancock, we decided to use it to make repairs to the fire chief’s SUV.”
When Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in 2012, Mississippi Power crews drove north and assisted in restoring power to several areas, including Yardumian’s neighborhood near Philadelphia, Pa.
“Where I live in Pennsylvania, we weren’t affected as badly as others in New Jersey,” said Yardumian. “We did have massive power outages though. The day our power came back on, there were several Mississippi Power trucks on one of the streets behind my house and I drove over to thank them. I remember telling them I had volunteered in Hancock County following Hurricane Katrina, and they thanked me. The people I met in Mississippi while I was there and the crews who came to help us after Sandy were very nice.”
As a member of the Edison Electric Institute’s mutual assistance network, Mississippi Power crews participated in 10 storm restoration efforts in 2012, earning the company EEI’s Emergency Assistance Award for its “tremendous support” in restoring power after June windstorms and Hurricane Sandy.