Five years later: UNC Hospitals’ Hurricane Katrina response

The five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall undoubtedly brings back memories for thousands of Gulf Coast residents and emergency response providers across the country, including several folks at UNC. On Sept. 2, 2005, a team of physicians, nurses and staff from UNC Hospitals left North Carolina to travel to the Gulf Coast as part of the medical response to Hurricane Katrina.

Five years later: UNC Hospitals’ Hurricane Katrina response
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The eye of Hurricane Katrina passed over Waveland, Miss., leaving behind incredible damage and destruction as seen in this picture taken by our response team Sept. 5, 2005.

View the full, orginal article on UNC Health Care's blog.


Our team chronicled their journey in our “Hurricane Katrina Response Blog.” The team from UNC Hospitals, as part of the MidCarolina Trauma RAC’s State Medical Assistance Team II, set up a mobile hospital in a K-Mart parking lot in Waveland, Miss. The incredible excerpt below was written Sept. 5, 2005, by Dr. Chip Rich, UNC’s chief of Trauma Surgery.

“We deployed to ground Zero, a little place called Waveland between Gulfport and New Orleans. The eye went right over us. The devastation here is complete.

We arrived at night and worked through the night into the morning to set up camp. We’re in a demolished strip mall in front of a Super K. Unbeleivable. You won’t beleive the pictures.

Our SWAT team and a local demo truck pulled flooded cars from the are and piled them to create a sound perimeter. We put the SWAT team in PPE and they crawled around the buildings scouting for our perimeter protection.

They found 8 bodies on the roof. Apparently the flood waters rose above the roofs. 40 bodies in the Walmart next door. Alligators and coppermouths. But we’re safe. Really. Can’t Pee without a guard with an M-16. Ben is doing recon in a helo looking for refugees.

I just got back from the DMAT sytem deployed at New Hanover Hospital. Destroyed. I managed to get some sterilization equipment and TA-55′s. Business is booming. As word gets out, more and more patients are arriving. Bowel obstructions, MVC’s, dehydrated children, wounds, lacs, you name it. Taking lots of x-rays, sending out free meds.

Since we’re here, infrastructure is being built around us. When we arrived, there were whole families in the parking lots. A liitle city with nothing. Now a tent city is being buit next us.

CNN is here, helo’s flying over constantly. I’m going to work now on arranging a landing zone for the helicopters. I’m happy we’re here. A rough couple days, but now eveything is moving right along. Happy to be here. Love to Mel, Jackon, and Berk.

By the way, our first patient was a puppy with dehydration and some nasty skin disease. Doing O.K. on a cardboard box under the hospital.

- Chip

Dr. Rich and his team stayed in Waveland for several weeks and were relieved by two other teams from UNC. Five years later, their stories are no less incredible.

Our best wishes go out to the people of Waveland and the entire Gulf Coast as they continue to recover from Hurricane Katrina. Check out the ways you can still contribute to the relief effort.

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