Vale to help with hurricane aftermath

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As most people along the coast of Louisiana and Mis--sissippi were fleeing Hurricane Katrina on Monday, Routt County Emergency Services Manager Chuck Vale was making plans to travel into the center of the storm.

Vale, who spent two weeks last fall with hurricane relief efforts in Florida, plans to make the journey to Mississippi today, where he will help governments organize emergency response.

Vale is unsure where he will go in Mississippi and with what government agency he will be working. But he expects to help the area with planning and setting up logistics and operations.

His work with building fire and ambulance departments and search and rescue teams and as the county's emergency manager helps, he said.

"How do you get government entities to stand back up for the people when there is nothing left? How do you come together and do that?" Vale said. "If the government doesn't do it right, then the smaller local governments don't get reimbursed. They are already on their knees."

Colorado is one of five states that have been asked to help with relief efforts from Hurricane Katrina.

Two Colorado officials were sent to Louisiana on Monday, and three, including Vale, are scheduled to arrive in Mississippi today. Vale said he was told to be ready to leave with 15 minutes notice.

Unlike most Americans, Vale said he didn't have time to watch the TV coverage of the storm, which caused a great deal of flooding and wind damage Monday. He has been getting updates from the state.

For a man who has spent a good deal of his career in Routt County, Vale has accumulated quite a bit of experience with hurricanes. Last fall, he spent two weeks working with Osceola County, Fla., in the aftermath of Hurricane Charley, which caused billions of dollars in damage.

From his time there, Vale can anticipate what Louisiana and Mississippi will go through in the next few weeks.

In Florida, Vale saw how a downed electrical system could wreak havoc on modern day society. Things as simple as getting gas were major problems without electrical power to turn on the pumps, Vale said. He also noted that generators don't last forever and need fuel.

By Day 14, Vale said the county was dealing with rotting food, and the problem was not feeding people but how to dispose of bad food.

He pointed to Louisiana, where he said 85 percent of the state does not have electricity, and the state's Internet system is down.

"There is a lot of things connected to electricity," he said.

If citizens want to help with the relief efforts in the area, Vale encourages them to contact the American Red Cross.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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