Ray Iddings, an OOIDA member from Indianapolis, is one of unknown number of truckers dispatched to help haul emergency supplies to the disaster area along the Gulf Coast.
Armed with a fistful of permits, Iddings has been hauling huge generators into storm ravaged areas of Mississippi and Louisiana and said the scenes he has encountered so far are worse than the war zones he saw while in the military.
"I was in the service and this is worse than anything I've seen in the service, even after bombings," Iddings toldLand Line on Friday, Sept. 2.
"These people have lost everything - they don't have anything left - whatever anybody can do isn't gonna be enough . I'd say its going to take 15 to 20 years to rebuild."
Although Iddings is making his way south, he said it is not easy going. He described the ground as being so saturated with floodwater that trees are just falling over because the soil can't hold their roots in place.
"The Guard (is cutting) holes through where trees have fallen," Iddings said, who is an owner-operator leased to a carrier that has a contract with Caterpillar.
"We stopped at one rest area - no one was around - there were (blades of) grass and pine needles stuck into the concrete. It was like you just drove nails into the concrete, (but it was grass). I'd never seen anything like that."
In addition to the fallen trees and other debris on the roads, there are other driving challenges. Iddings said no one is allowed to drive after dark and most vehicles are limited to 50 mph because of the road conditions.
Fuel is another issue.
"I've got two 150 gallon tanks," Iddings said. "I've got just about enough to bobtail back to get my next load. The National Guard will top us off down there - of course we pay for that through our company and they'll take it out of my settlement."
Iddings said he was part of a convoy of about 50 trucks that had headed south. Officials split the group into smaller convoys of about 10 trucks each to distribute the supplies they were hauling.
The OOIDA member said he had planned to take the Labor Day holiday weekend off, but when Katrina hit, he told his company that he would work as long as they needed him to. In addition to the generators he is hauling to the disaster area, Iddings stocked up with some food and water too.
"On way down I stopped at Kroger and bought four cases peanut butter, four cases of crackers and eight cases of water - that's about all I can haul in my sleeper," he said. "Peanut butter and crackers don't sound like much, but you know, it don't take a lot for kids and if they don't have anything and I see someone who I think can use it . when I get down where I'm going I'll give anything I have left to the National Guard and let them hand it out."