Dome Magazine, 3/16/10
Hurricane Katrina was slamming into New Orleans, leaving most of the coastal city underwater. The Category 5 hurricane would eventually claim the lives of 1,836 souls, making it the deadliest storm in eight decades.
It was August 29, 2005, and the raspy voice on the other end of the line belonged to Jefferson County Parish Sheriff Henry Lee. They had no communication system or bullets and desperately needed help. As the director of government affairs for the Major County Sheriff’s Association, Mike Bouchard was the man to call.
“And then his undersheriff called and he was actually crying,” the Oakland County sheriff recalls. “They couldn’t get any help out of the federal government, his deputies hadn’t slept in 48 hours, a lot of them didn’t know if their own families were alive — but they were still on the job.
“I called every federal agency I could to get approval. So they ran us around the circle like that for 24 hours. And I just said, ‘forget it.’”
That’s when Bouchard phoned three other large sheriff’s departments in Georgia, Alabama and Florida to form one of the first caravans with his Oakland County team. They headed down immediately and Bouchard surveyed the damage via helicopter. Then deputies started 12-hour shifts, setting up their own self-contained compound just outside the city in the parking lot of a shuttered restaurant.