Military News

Seabees in Gulfport ready to do more for Hurricane Harvey relief

A group of Seabees walk under the Oak trees at War Memorial Park in Pass Christian, where they are encamped while helping clean up after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Seabees from the base in Gulfport are waiting to hear if they will be sent to Texas to help with the recovery from Hurricane Harvey.
A group of Seabees walk under the Oak trees at War Memorial Park in Pass Christian, where they are encamped while helping clean up after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Seabees from the base in Gulfport are waiting to hear if they will be sent to Texas to help with the recovery from Hurricane Harvey. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com File

Anyone who was in South Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 saw or heard of the heroic efforts of the Seabees to clear the debris and put the Coast back together.

That’s what the men and women of the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport are trained to do, and they travel the world clearing away the destruction, erecting emergency bridges and rebuilding towns after disasters.

As the waters recede from Hurricane Harvey in Texas, it’s possible the Seabees will be called upon to help restore the towns and cities devastated by the wind and water.

“We’re ready to assist but we haven’t been requested to,” said Sr. Chief Jeff Pierce, Naval Construction Group 2 public affairs officer.

Meanwhile, the Seabees stationed in Gulfport are getting ready for training exercises at Camp Shelby.

One call already came from the Navy to help while several feet of water from Hurricane Harvey still flooded homes in Texas.

The Fleet and Family Support Center at the NCBC Gulfport has made about 100 phone calls to military families and connected them with resources to get medicine, food, water and whatever else they may need.

“These are not Seabees,” said Jean Sammons, the project lead, but Navy personnel attached to bases in the area. “The Navy does a really good job to make sure the families are taken care of,” she said

“The initial phone calls were for family members of deployed personnel,” she said. Her husband served in the military for 29 years, and she knows what it’s like to have to handle a crisis when he was far from home. Their home was damaged in Katrina when a tornado tore up a neighbor’s home and blew it into her house, so she also can empathize with families.

“That’s coming across on the phone calls as we talk to people,” she said.

The first 47 calls were to deployed families. She asked if the family was safe, where they were and was their house flooded.

“For some people it made it to the second story,” she said of the floodwaters.

The families had warning that the storm was coming, but she said, “No one could have envisioned what 30-40-50 inches of rain would look like.”

She spoke to one woman who lost most everything last year in the flooding in Louisiana. She packed up what was left and moved to an area in Texas that had not flooded, Sammons said, but it did and the woman lost everything.

“I know there’s a lot of work ahead for these folks,” she said, and most of the people in that area don’t have flood insurance to cover what they lost.

The storm in Texas and others in the Atlantic are reminders to people in South Mississippi to be prepared for the possibility of a hurricane.

“I want folks ready,” she said.

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