Hurricane Katrina Ten Years Later: A Look Back

Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina, a storm with 140mph winds and a presence of nearly 400 miles across, made landfall on the Gulf Coast. She left behind destruction of upwards to an estimated $100 billion, with 80 percent of New Orleans underwater, 234,000 homes damaged or destroyed in Mississippi, and 112,866 displaced Alabama residents. With endless assistance needed, Dewberry mobilized 240 employees to the Gulf Coast to contribute to the recovery efforts.

By the middle of October, 2005, Dewberry staff in the Gulf Coast Region, through our joint-venture partners, totaled more than 2,500 full-time, part-time, and contract employees. We worked closely with FEMA to restore public infrastructure, provide assistance to individuals, mitigate future hazards, and assist with temporary housing management. For this blog, we asked eight Dewberry employees who were directly involved with the Hurricane Katrina response and recovery efforts to share their experiences.

aerial view NOLA
Aerial view of Hurricane Katrina flooding in Louisiana

Pride in our Work

Larry Olinger, strategic initiatives manager in our Fairfax, Virginia, office, is proud of the way Dewberry responded to Katrina. “All of Dewberry's emergency response resources were activated to respond to Katrina. I filled in as Project Manager for the financial and resource management aspects of the contracts, except for Housing Inspection. With Dewberry staff from all over the company we worked seven days per week for over two months and were able to deliver all staff needed under our contracts.”

Douglas Frost, senior vice president and senior project manager in the Fairfax, Virginia, office, led housing inspection efforts. “There was a huge demand for field inspectors to help everyone impacted by the hurricane. Our management team and inspectors worked seven days a week, 15-18 hours a day for a couple months. One day our team completed 19,635 inspections, and for 30 days we exceeded 15,000 inspections per day...that’s what I’m most proud of. They worked tirelessly because there was a large motivation to help people get back up on their feet, our guys played an important role in helping people ‘get back to their lives.’”

Laurel McGinley, senior associate in our Fairfax, Virginia, office, is proud of two related actions. “First, we were able to deploy more than 600 people to support the Public Assistance efforts during the response and recovery efforts. We had an amazing team that pulled together to identify, train, and support deployment logistics of all those people. Most of the people we deployed were very dedicated, and some stayed for years to support the program. Second, in the midst of deploying all of those people, we conceived of, designed, developed, and implemented a personnel database that has evolved into the system we still use today to deploy people to events.”

Ronald Budzinski, recently retired senior principal and project manager from our Peoria, Illinois, office, is most proud of the lasting impact he had on the New Orleans community through his redevelopment of the court system, including prisons and jails. “Before Katrina, the jails looked and acted more like warehouses. I planned out healthcare and rehabilitation elements for the jails as well as planning for parking and other aspects. During my six month tour I came away feeling like I had helped change the community in a sustainable healthy way through my work with the court system overhaul.”

four thursdays
Four Thursdays of Thanks staff serving a Thanksgiving meal. (Molly Wagner, center)

Community Connection

Molly Wagner, corporate communications director in our Fairfax, Virginia, office, remembers leading and implementing the Four Thursdays of Thanks, which brought Thanksgiving meals to families in Baton Rouge, Lake Charles, Pearl River, and New Iberia, Louisiana, in an effort to connect national corporate resources to local businesses and impact the affected communities in a sustainable way. “Every Thursday in November of 2005, we served meals to local communities in Louisiana and hired local caterers to supply the food and local merchants to create our aprons and other related supplies. I remember serving meals to families with other Dewberry employees and even Members of Congress dropped by to support our efforts on Thanksgiving in New Iberia.”

Ronald Artigues Jr., associate vice president in our Gulfport, Mississippi, office, reflects on his experience living in Mississippi when the storm hit. “Getting the schools reopened before the end of October in 2005 was the first huge step in giving our community a sense of normalcy and recovery. This was a difficult challenge. We had piles of debris, houses demolished, and over 70-percent of structures were completely gone. My home, car, and office were blown away. My role at the time was as the County’s attorney in a small town of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, where I acted as an administrator for many of the entities in our community. We all had to come together and do what we could to repair our community.”

devastated home
Devastated home in Biloxi, Mississippi

Memorable Moments

Mark Montgomery, vice president and senior project manager of event driven services in our Fairfax, Virginia, office, went on a field deployment to the FEMA joint field office in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in September of 2005. He provided daily situation awareness briefings to FEMA management and the White House staff. “I’ll never forget while I was working in Baton Rouge, I was able to tour the storm impacted areas of New Orleans via helicopter and getting an aerial view of the disrupted gravesites in New Orleans. I also remember helping out with the Thursday of Thanks efforts in November of 2005 and working to provide dinner to displaced residents in shelters.”

Johnise Molloy, regional marketing manager in our Fairfax, Virginia, office, who participated in the response, recalls the immensity of the experience. “There was that breathtaking moment when you realize just how big the mobilization effort was. It was impressive how many people dropped everything to go down to the Gulf and help in the response.”

A Tremendous Thank You

Our sincere gratitude goes out to all who helped respond to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina ten years ago. Your courage, resilience, and consideration for the larger community is not forgotten and your impact still lives on today. Thank you.

  • Larry Olinger
    Larry Olinger
  • Douglas Frost
    Douglas Frost
  • Laurel McGinley
    Laurel McGinley
  • Molly Wagner
    Molly Wagner
  • Ronald Artigues, Jr.
    Ronald Artigues, Jr.
  • Mark Montgomery
    Mark Montgomery
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