NEW ORLEANS - Detective Cate Summers is a career cop, but the Carson City Sheriff's investigator also has another career that has taken her to New Orleans - she's a soldier.
Summers is one of seven Sheriff's Department officers, including Undersheriff Steve Albertsen, deployed in one capacity or another to help in the cleanup and evacuation of Gulf Coast ravaged by Hurricane Katrina or levee breaks last week.
Stationed at the Louis Armstrong Airport since Friday, Summers shares space with an estimated 200 Nevada Army and Air Guard troops - about a half-dozen of those being from Carson City, said Sgt. First Class Erik Studenicka, who is also from Carson.
Tuesday, First Sgt. Summers talked excitedly by cell phone about the work her Medical Detachment is doing.
"You're just on a constant high. When you help somebody off that plane and they're crying and hugging you, that's the payoff," she said. "I have a good job."
The main goal of the triage center she works in is to treat the people, but when Lt. Col. Doug Nesler, a Reno veterinarian, saw animals suffering, he couldn't help but do what he does naturally, Summers said.
"He set up a vet clinic and we had two full-time vet technicians with us who jumped in. We didn't even plan on it," she said.
The first day Nesler saw 30 animals, the second day 60. He is caring for the pets, while the victims are being treated by the doctors.
Summers, an admitted cat fanatic, said her comrades can't help but be touched by the stray animals wandering in the area.
"The guardsmen and all these rescue people have adopted so many," she said. "On our down time we all go down to the clinic and walk the dogs. It's a mental release for us."
making their way
In a caravan 50 vehicles long, somewhere on a road in the Southern United States, Undersheriff Steve Albertsen, and deputies Dan Oschenslager and Jose Gomez are among 103 Nevada law enforcement officers making their way to Mississippi.
After an overnight delay in Las Vegas when it was unsure if the officers would be needed, Albertsen said word came late Monday night to begin Tuesday morning the 27-hour drive to Jackson, Miss. Once there, it's possible they could be sent elsewhere to aid in body recovery, Albertsen said Tuesday by cell phone outside Winslow, Ariz.
Three other deputies, Mike Fischer, Cody Dellabitta and Don Gibson, were scheduled to join Albertsen's crew, but when the delay happened, the trio went ahead with a scheduled vacation. They will fly in on Friday, according to Sheriff Kenny Furlong.
Disaster Hits home
For Deputy Wayne Wheeler, the New Orleans disaster hits home. His father resides in Pass Christian, La., and it was a few days before he got word his dad was OK, Wheeler said.
"I talked to my dad Monday and the power's back up and the phones are back up and they've got water," he said. "My dad said they had a 1,000 lineman working and that's why they got the power back in a week. Pretty awesome."
To some, the 3,000-mile separation between Carson City and Louisiana means nothing in the grand scheme of things.
For Carson City Supervisor Pete Livermore, New Orleans was the city of his youth. He and his three brothers explored every street of Big Easy.
Livermore said he was on edge and glued to the television wondering how his brothers fared until he finally got word, Douglas, Jim and Carl were fine.
"I grew up in New Orleans, right in the downtown. In fact, I was just there in May for a family reunion. I have some pictures of New Orleans that I took then. I don't know what it will look like when I get back," he said.
The people of Louisiana are well versed in the ritual of preparing for hurricanes, he said. As a boy he remembers four or five times his father, who worked on the river, bringing home rope.
"It would be big ropes that they staked in the ground to try to keep the roof on the house," he said chuckling at the recollection. "They would use rope to tie down the roof."
But the memories the hurricane brought back recently, always turn to the present it seems.
"I also remember when you were in New Orleans, the only place to run a soap box derby that had a hill on it was the overpass," he said. "And now we know that's where people camped out to save themselves."
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