Principal, firefighter return from duty in New Orleans
Two Lansing residents are back from a five-week National Guard mission in New Orleans.
Sgt. Maj. Tim Newton, principal of Lansing Elementary, and Sgt. Mark Alligood, Leavenworth County Fire District No. 1 firefighter, returned Oct. 10 to Kansas with members of their 35th Infantry Division of the Kansas Army National Guard in a convoy of about 42 trucks and 100 troops.
Newton resumed his principal duties Oct. 19 after another week of deployment at Fort Leavenworth after his return. "Everyone's happy to be back," he said.
Alligood said he'd most looked forward while gone to being back with his family and getting back to his job upon returning. Alligood's first wish came true - he had three days off when he first returned, and he has been able to see his family in the evenings. At the fort he took inventory of supplies and returned borrowed equipment to other Army units. He won't start back at the fire department until Monday, Oct. 31.
Army convoys like the one Alligood and Newton rode in to Kansas don't travel quickly, going about 50 mph on interstate highways where the median traffic speed is around 80, Newton said. For that reason, and the size of the convoys, routes are determined by the National Guard command of the state from which the group is leaving.
For their three-day return trip, Newton and Alligood's convoy took Interstate 55 through Mississippi, with an overnight stay at Fort McCain there, to an Army base near St. Louis, Mo., for another overnight stay, then west on I-70.
Newton said of the New Orleans area after Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent flooding, "Slowly, things were improving."
Newton said he didn't see the hardest-hit parts of New Orleans, but his unit drove through downtown, north of which he could still see evidence of the havoc wreaked by Katrina.
"The wind damage is one thing, but the water damage is so many times worse," Newton said.
Alligood said he saw the most dramatic evidence of Katrina and its aftermath when he was flying in a helicopter over the southern part of New Orleans.
"There were six or seven or eight ships just lined up on the ground," Alligood said, far inland from port.
After Hurricane Rita struck, Alligood helped rescue people stranded in their homes in Dulac, La., southwest of New Orleans. Alligood said the flooding from the levees breaking there wasn't as bad, but he said he still helped "surprisingly a lot" of people on two or three trips there.
While the floodwaters went to the tops of doorways in New Orleans, Alligood said, the water in Dulac came only up to the tops of doorsteps.