After days of being on standby, a plane carrying hurricane refugees from New Orleans landed in Des Moines early this afternoon (Friday). Department of Public Safety spokesman Jim Saunders says 16 of the 18 evacuees boarded a bus to the state fairgrounds while two others were taken to local hospitals. Saunders says their medical conditions were unknown, but says it didn’t appear to be serious. The flight also included two dogs and a cat owned by the refugees.
Saunders says, “Our goal here is to do what we can for these folks. They’ve experienced a very traumatic, uh thing. I can only fathom what they’re going through and we’re doing the best we can to try and minimize any additional stress.” Saunders says more people could be coming to Iowa, but that’s not certain. He says the plan that flew the 18 in will go back to New Orleans and see if there are more people who want to come to Iowa. He says they won’t know for sure until later today.
Lieutenant Colonel Greg Hapgood says the people are going through processing at the Varied Industries building on the fairgrounds. He says they’ll go through with the Red Cross, the Department of Public Health, the Department of Human Services. He says they’ll be able to rest on cots and get food and water. He says they’ll be able to get whatever benefits they’re entitled to and then they’ll go to transitional housing. Hapgood says the transitional housing can be a hotel, apartment or home. He’s not sure if all of the people will stay in Des Moines. He says it depends on where they want to go and where there are facilities to take them. Hapgood says since it’s a small group, they could easily all stay in Des Moines. Hapgood says they don’t know how long the evacuees might stay in Iowa.