Deputies head to La. to help with hurricane relief

COVINGTON - The plea went out from the Louisiana Sheriff's Association that help was needed following Hurricane Gustav, and four of Newton County's finest answered the call.

Capt. Marty Roberts, Lt. Mark Mitchell, Sgt. Randy Downs and Deputy Kevin Watkins headed west Wednesday and have taken on assignments in Lockport, La., located within Lafourche Parish.

The parish is 190 miles wide and 50 miles long, about 50 miles to west-southwest of New Orleans. They have no power and have experienced some problems with looting.

Mitchell said Thursday afternoon that restoring power was a priority with Lockport authorities, because there are no retail establishments open nor are traffic signals operating. That leaves them with dangerous driving conditions and no food, gasoline or other necessities are readily available to citizens.

"We're going to be working morning watch (from approximately midnight to 8 a.m.) helping them patrol," Mitchell said.

He said traveling via Interstate 10 between New Orleans and Lockport is spotty, and there is definite damage.

"There's roofs blown off, power lines leaning over, trees uprooted," Mitchell said. "You can tell which way the wind was blowing. There's been some minor flooding."

The four Newton deputies are part of a 10-county call from the Georgia Emergency Management Association.

"GEMA asked for 40 Georgia deputies from 10 counties. Newton County was one of the counties asked to send four," Sheriff Joe Nichols said. "Fewer deputies were asked to go from Georgia than some of the other states because we might be impacted by hurricanes this weekend."

Nichols said the men would be gone no longer than two weeks and GEMA is paying all expenses, including salaries, associated with the trip.

Barbara Knowles can be reached at barbara.knowles@newtoncitizen.com.