Katrina’s impact felt in Colorado | SummitDaily.com

Katrina’s impact felt in Colorado

COLORADO SPRINGS ” Carrie Riffee’s sister had died and her mother, along with her stepfather and three stepsisters were huddled with the body in a hallway in their flooded house in Saucier, Miss., unable to summon the coroner.

That’s all Riffee knew after the news poured out from her mother during a frantic three- minute phone call that ended abruptly when the line cut out.

Riffee’s sister, 29-year-old Tammy Mayfield, was suffering from terminal cancer and died Sunday as the hurricane began moving in.

“I knew she was going to die. I just didn’t think she would die in a hurricane,” Riffee said tearfully. “I was hoping to actually see her before she died.”

Riffee had not heard back from her family nor had she learned the fate of her aunt, uncle and grandparents, who live in Biloxi, Miss., another area hit hard by the storm.

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“I’m preparing for having to go back home to four or five funerals,” she said.

DENVER ” Daynel Hooker alternates between crying and praying for the safety of her loved ones as she watches television coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“The biggest issue I’m struggling with, on an emotional level, is I feel more helpless than I have ever felt in my life,” Hooker, a Denver attorney who hasn’t had contact with her grandfather and an aunt, said Thursday. “I can’t get on a plane and go home. There is no home to go to.”

She awaits to learn the fate of her 82-year-old grandfather, Oscar Singleton, who lives in New Orleans’ 9th Ward, one of the areas submerged in deep water.

GREELEY ” Every semester, Paul Bianchi of Larkspur tells his professors at the University of Northern Colorado that he is in the National Guard and could be called to duty at any time. That call came around 8 p.m. Wednesday, before he could make his speech.

“My mom, like every mother, she started crying, but she was happy that we were going to be able to help,” said Bianchi, 20, who had been preparing to begin his junior year at the school.

Gov. Bill Owens on Thursday announced he ordered 450 members of the Colorado National Guard to the Gulf Coast to aid relief efforts and put another 250 on standby, saying Colorado had a duty to help other states in need.

Bianchi said he doesn’t know what he will be doing or if he will have to drop his classes for the semester.

COLORADO SPRINGS ” Assured by their airline that their flight would be able to leave Sunday, Fred Burtzos and his family decided to wait.

After turning in their rental car at the airport, Burtzos and his wife Joan, along with son Benjamin learned their flight had been canceled. With buses and trains halted and no remaining rental cars, the Burtzoses rode out the storm in a hotel and later watched the water rise as the city’s levees gave way.

They survived on snack-bar junk food and used buckets of water taken from the Jacuzzi to flush the toilet.

The hotel’s owner gave the family a ride to Baton Rouge, La., Tuesday in a van that had to pass through water that reached above the door handles.

“I thought we might not get out of there,” he said Thursday, while driving a rental car across Texas. “It looked like a Third World country down there, and we’re worried about a lot of the people we met there.”

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