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2 local Red Cross volunteers aid Isaac evacuees
Joe Figueredo of Dahlonega and Gail Buesnel of Dacula unload supplies. - photo by For The Times

Two area residents serving as American Red Cross volunteers were doing their part Wednesday helping Hurricane Isaac evacuees with shelter, food and other needs.

Gail Buesnel of Dacula and Joe Figueredo of Dahlonega, representing the Red Cross’ Gainesville-based Northeast Georgia Chapter, arrived Tuesday in Mississippi and were deployed to Jackson, where they worked as part of a team at the Mississippi Coliseum.

About 80 storm victims, mostly from New Orleans, showed up for help, with dozens more expected as the weather was expected to intensify.

“I’m a psychologist and I’ve always been involved in trauma relief,” Buesnel said. “My life is bringing trauma relief to those at the point of need, so I find it an honor to be able to do this.”

Isaac, later downgraded to a tropical storm, made its second U.S. landfall on Tuesday.

Driving rains and heavy winds pelted the Gulf Coast, including New Orleans, on the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Isaac is the first hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast since Ike in 2008.

The storm hasn’t packed the same winds as Katrina, but slow, drenching rain systems still have flooded homes and streets and shut down schools and other public buildings.

Lt. Matt Cunningham of The Salvation Army said Wednesday he and his mobile kitchen were on standby to respond, if called.

“Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi are able to respond within their divisions,” he said.

Larry Tyson, emergency services program manager for the Red Cross’ Northeast Georgia Chapter, said Buesnel and Figueredo are helping out as part of a larger group from Atlanta.

“It was a team of 14,” Figueredo said. “Some of the team went down to Gulfport (Miss.), and we have a team in Jackson and one in Hattiesburg (Miss.)”

At the time of the interview, wind was picking up in Jackson, “but we expect it (to) get worse by about 8 (Wednesday night),” he added.

“We’re trying to do the best we can for anybody who needs help, and we have (evacuees) from all walks of life,” Figueredo said. “We have medical people here, so they are well taken care of.”

The storm has revived memories for residents who fled the city after Katrina and settled elsewhere, including Gainesville.

“It’s very reminiscent. ... If they’re going to have 20 inches of rains, that’s going to put tremendous strain on the levees,” said Athol Barnes, who worked with Gainesville-based Adventures in Missions after Katrina. He now works for Missouri-based Call 2 All, also a mission-minded organization.

“We do volunteer work and send mission teams,” Barnes said. “On the one hand, I still love the city of New Orleans and would love to help in any way I can. On the other hand, I hope we don’t have to. I really hope it doesn’t get to that point.”

Takisha Angeletti, who has lived in Gainesville since Katrina, is concerned about family still living in New Orleans.

“Because it was a (Category 1), a lot of them stayed, not realizing Isaac was going to be over New Orleans so long,” she said.

Angeletti said her loved ones have lost power, “but overall, they’re OK. ... They’re all safe.”

Her family was among the throngs of people who fled before Katrina unleashed its wrath on New Orleans.

In an interview two years ago, marking the hurricane’s fifth anniversary, Angeletti said she missed home, but she could never return.

That view hasn’t changed.

“I’m going to always visit because that’s home and I have family there,” Angeletti said. “I have three kids and I think Georgia has given them more opportunities and a better education, and I couldn’t get that at home, even before the storm hit. Afterward, definitely not.

“I’m loving Gainesville. Gainesville is definitely home to me now.”

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