NASA photo of Hurricane Irene.

Utility workers and Red Cross volunteers from Iowa are fanned out across the East Coast helping communities and individuals recover from the weekend strike by Hurricane Irene.

The monster storm came ashore in North Carolina early Saturday and churned northward, nearly six years to the day after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast and New Orleans. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says Katrina and Irene were treated much differently.

“A lot has been learned from Katrina and a lot has probably been learned from the private sector, the Red Cross, Walmart, etcetera,” Grassley says.

 “They did such a better job than the federal government did in Katrina. This does show there’s been some learning.” Hurricane Irene left left four-million homes without power and killed at least 21 people in eight states.

Damage may top seven-billion dollars. Grassley says he was pleased to see how many things went right in this storm. “We found a great deal of cooperation between the federal government and the various state governments and cooperation among the state governments,” Grassley says.

“You also found the local utilities and other service companies making decisions earlier and anticipating what could happen.” Des Moines-based MidAmerican Energy dispatched 140 electrical workers and tree and line contractors to the East Coast while Red Cross workers and volunteers from several Iowa chapters are also on duty there. Many of the Iowans left the state late last week, preparing for the worst.

“You found a great deal of overprecaution,” Grassley says. “I don’t use the word ‘overprecaution’ to be controversial. I say it’s a lesson learned from Katrina when nobody listened to the dangers that were being forecast for Katrina.” By contrast to Irene, Hurricane Katrina claimed more than 1,800 lives and caused $81-billion damage.

Katrina made landfall on August 29th, 2005, six years ago today.