As cleanup for Hurricane Irene begins, one local man remembers lessons learned from Katrina

Keith Donker went down to help in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit six years ago and is ready to help clean up after Hurricane Irene. (WRDW-TV / Aug. 29, 2011)

Keith Donker went down to help in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit six years ago and is ready to help clean up after Hurricane Irene. (WRDW-TV / Aug. 29, 2011)

News 12 This Morning / Monday, Aug. 29, 2011

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Six years ago Keith Donker's 55-seater coach got him through some of the most treacherous zones in Louisiana after Katrina left her mark.

"It literally wiped out much of New Orleans," Donker said.

As he thinks of the people packing up and shipping out the states like North Carolina and New York for Hurricane Irene, he remembers his own journey.

"Ended up being a 14-hour ride down there; there was not fuel, no electricity, no light, no nothing," he said.

Once in New Orleans, Donker had to evacuate as many people as he could out of the city he said he felt like he was driving through a war zone.

"We would drive through sometimes two feet of water to get to where we were going," he said. "Katrina of course, it hit very surprisingly even though for the weather forecasters it wasn't too surprising to them. People of New Orleans just weren't prepared."

Donker said it was an emergency management nightmare. His luggage compartments used to haul supplies left no room for anything else. His mission was dangerous and he was armed at all times.

"Gunfire was not far off ever," Donker said.

His main goal was to just get people to a safer destination.

"Because of their lack of preparation, they didn't prepare to have paramedics, firefighters and police officers come in until it was too late," Donker said.

He said that's not the case with hurricane Irene.

"Any large metro area should have learned from Katrina that it is wise to import these folks from other parts of the country before you need it," he said.

This time around, Donker is still prepared to help out any way he can. Donker is on FEMA's standby list for Irene. He has not yet been called up to help.


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