California's governor and its largest utility pitched in Wednesday to provide help in the recovery effort in the wake of Hurricane Katrina's devastation, and local governments quickly volunteered fire and public works personnel and equipment for the ravaged Gulf of Mexico coast in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. On Thursday the governor added assistance from the California National Guard.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered the state National Guard to activate "any personnel or resources necessary to respond" to the national emergency created by the hurricane. The California National Guard said it was deploying more than 500 troops along with their equipment to support relief efforts.
Noting again that his state "will do everything in its power" to assist the hurricane victims, Schwarzenegger said he was in touch with his counterparts in Louisiana and Mississippi before sending state personnel to both states to provide assistance. California dispatched what the governor called "urban search and rescue teams" among more than 500 people that were sent to the gulf coast region.
"We are trying as a state to do everything that we can to help those two states because it is unbelievable the suffering that is going on in those two states right now," Schwarzenegger said.
Meanwhile, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. said it has offered to send help in the form of utility crews, equipment and charitable aid, noting that its top executives have been in contact with their counterparts at utilities in the ravaged areas.
PG&E's utility has offered to send electric, gas and transmission tower construction crews, along with vehicles and equipment needed to help restore electricity and natural gas service. Utilities in the three hardest hit states were expected to let PG&E know by early next week what resources they needed, and when the aid should be sent.
"We will be giving up to $100,000 in charitable contributions to the Red Cross to assist hurricane victims, matching donations by our employees, to try to help with the human side of this tragedy," said Gordon R. Smith, the PG&E utility president/CEO, who characterized the damage to equipment infrastructure in the region as "extensive," requiring as much help as can be mustered from around the nation.
The utility said the crew deployment is based on employee volunteers, and in this situation the PG&E utility crews are likely to work and live under very difficult conditions. "The company applauds the spirit and commitment of the men and women who choose to participate in this effort," said a PG&E utility spokesperson.
In Los Angeles and Orange Counties, fire, search-and-rescue and medical assistance personnel were dispatched Wednesday as parts of state teams totaling more than 500 volunteers who were reportedly on their way to the disaster area. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called the hurricane's destruction the worst experienced in his lifetime.
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