With “first light” Saturday, communities along the gulf coast of Texas got a hint of the cleanup ahead of them. The past two days have brought a much clearer picture of the task at hand — a daunting one for cities big and small, including the city of La Porte. And, a lot of folks now staying in Corsicana due to the hurricane are keenly interested in what conditions are in their home city, and how quickly they might return.

Those “on the ground” in La Porte are focused on just that — getting life back in order.

“Currently the City of La Porte is undergoing the process of trying to recover from Hurricane Ike,” said Jeff Suggs, director of La Porte’s office of emergency management, interviewed on KAND Radio Monday.

Suggs said there are still widespread power outages in the city, and that some areas of the city had just become accessible to rescue and repair crews Monday afternoon.

“We’re asking residents to just stay away,” Suggs told the radio station. Currently, the infrastructure needed to return to normal life is in need of repair.

“We have water, but we have no sanitation,” he said.

Some people have been allowed to return just to retrieve more clothing and needed medications, but he’s discouraging people from trying to make the trip at this time.

“It’s a very, very challenging time right now, especially for health concerns,” Suggs said. In addition to flooding and lack of services, mosquitoes are becoming a problem in the flooded city.

“Stay where you are,” Suggs said to those who fled La Porte in advance of Ike.

To the evacuees from the La Porte area who made their way to Corsicana, Suggs says they are in a good place right now.

“We’re doing everything that we can, and as fast as we can ... this is just such a large-scale disaster.”

The Red Cross shelter established at Cornerstone Baptist Church has been in non-stop operation since the first evacuees began to arrive on busses from the port city.

Dr. Rick Lamb, shelter director, said he and other volunteers are trying desperately to transfer some of the La Porte evacuees to medical facilities in the area.

“We have 160 people still here, and most are people with special needs,” Lamb said. “They were living at home, but with assistance. We have people on dialysis, with diabetes, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimers, colostomies, you name it. We are not equipped to handle this long-term.”

Red Cross volunteers are currently working with the Department of Aging and Disability to get people with special needs transferred to nursing homes in Waxahachie and Ennis.

“Our most pressing need is for nurses on the midnight to 8 a.m. shift, but they must be cleared through Red Cross,” he said. “We need people in other facilities to help take some of these people.

“We are working hard, just trying to do the best we can for these people with the help of our wonderful community. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

“The shelter is an outstanding effort to meet the emotional, spiritual, physical need of displaced Texans,” said Shelly Campbell of the Corsicana Red Cross office in an e-mail to the Daily Sun. “Citizens from every walk of life have stepped up to meet the needs of those displaced by one of the most disastrous storms in memory.”

Campbell said “if you can serve food, push a broom, hold a hand, and listen compassionately your gifts and talents are needed.”

Those wishing to volunteer need to report to the Red Cross office in Corsicana at 701 West Second Avenue between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. for processing and a background check prior to being assigned volunteer work.

Corsicana was established as a “point to point” disaster evacuation center for up to 450 evacuees through an plan formulated after the strikes of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Suggs said the arrangement has proved to be a blessing following the strike of Hurricane Ike this weekend.

“Corsicana has done a wonderful job for us. We couldn’t have done it without them,” he said.

“What Corsicana has done is take away the potential for the frail and those folks with special needs from becoming injured ... or becoming a potential casualty,” Suggs said.

How long those evacuees will remain in Corsicana is still up in the air.

“I’m not sure when people can come home. I’m hoping this is only just a couple more days ... if people can just hang on a little bit more ... right now they’re in the best place they can possibly be, they’ve got the best care they can possibly have (in Corsicana),” he added.

“It’s a heck of a lot better than being here right now, I can assure you of that.”

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Daily Sun staff writers Bob Belcher and Deanna Brown, and KAND Radio contributed to this report.

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