Lending a hand in Mississippi

The area was hit hard by 35-foot-high waves, the funeral director said.
YOUNGSTOWN -- A Berlin Center man spent about a week performing search, rescue and recovery operations in one of the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina.
Patrick Yuhasz of Kubina-Yuhasz Funeral Homes in Youngstown and Boardman was one of 14 volunteers from eastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania and West Virginia with the United States Search and Rescue Recovery.
The group, which has its headquarters in Beaver Falls, Pa. returned earlier this week after spending a week in parts of Mississippi ravaged by the hurricane.
The funeral director said the group initially had difficulty gaining access to affected areas, but it eventually aligned with the Columbiana County Chapter of the American Red Cross. The group spent most of its time in Pearlington, Miss., a small low-income area that was hit by 35-foot-high waves.
"Most of what we did was reconnaissance," Yuhasz said. "We went to small towns along the coastline, going basically door to door and talking to the people who were still there to find out what they needed."
They delivered food, ice, medical care and supplies, and mapped out routes for the Red Cross.
Many of the small towns' buildings had been reduced to rubble. In one city, Waveland, Miss., a mostly middle-class community, all that's left of the upscale beach-front homes are concrete slabs, Yuhasz added.
"We learned from talking to people that if you were under 50, you left," he said. "If you were over 50, you stayed."
The older people who survived Hurricane Betsy and Hurricane Camille in the 1960s believed they would weather through Katrina as well, Yuhasz said.
Many people had set up tents in what had been their back yards. Some decided not to head to area shelters because they didn't want to leave their pets.
He described the people of Pearlington as proud and self-sufficient. Many requested dog food so they could feed their pets.
They just want to rebuild and move on, he said. When the team would spot domestic animals or livestock, they'd notify animal rescue organizations so they could round up the animals to care for them until their owners can claim them.
"We met one woman who said that the only thing she wanted was a mop so that she could clean out what was left of her house," Yuhasz said.
He's been a member of the nonprofit, private rescue and recovery organization for seven years.

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