Tag Archives: Katrina

Mississippi fire department recognized for donating Katrina fire truck to West Hamilton Beach

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Follow Maggie Hayes @magghayes

When the West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department (WHBVFD) was seemingly drowning in Sandy’s storm waters, hurricane veterans came to the rescue.

A Mississippi volunteer fire department wanted to “pay it forward” and help out the hurting beach community, just the way they were helped after Hurricane Katrina swept through their town in 2005.

The southern men were recognized at WHBVFD’s annual dinner Thursday.

Katrina took five trucks from the Gulf Park Estates Volunteer Fire Department crew. They additionally sustained 11 feet of floodwater in two fire stations along with countless damages.

During their recovery, a Virginia department donated a fire truck to help get the group back on its feet. When news of Sandy made its way down south, the Mississippi team wanted to lend a hand.

“We were in the same situation they were,” said David Peto, chief of the Gulf Park Estates Volunteer Fire Department. “We wanted to pay it forward and do the same thing someone did to us.”

Peto searched for ways to help after the superstorm ravaged West Hamilton Beach and stumbled upon a volunteer website. He listed the department’s name and was contacted within a few days.

“It just seemed like the right thing to do,” he said.

After Katrina, the Gulf Park Estates crew received donations from “all across the country,” coming in from as far as the West Coast. When Sandy hit, they knew they had to step up, and passed along the traveling truck.

“It’s good to know you’re able to help another community going through the same thing you went through,” Peto said.

The Larimer Volunteer Fire Department in Pennsylvania also donated a fire truck to West Hamilton Beach, and the local group additionally received two new ambulances.

“We have rebuilt, and we are 100 percent whole,” said Mitch Udawitch, a WHBVFD official.



Op-Ed: Sandy, a natural disaster – a man-made crisis

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


Superstorm Sandy was the worst natural disaster to hit the tri-state area in years. In its wake it left a trail of devastation that stretched from Montauk to Rockaway, upending trees, power lines, and lives in the process. More than 100 homes burned to the ground as the result of a fire, sparked when salt water hit an electrical box in Breezy Point. Staten Island was literally turned on its head, and parts of Brooklyn, Nassau, Suffolk, and of course, New Jersey, will take years to rebuild.

I have always worried that in the wake of a Katrina-like event, my 31st Council District would turn into New York City’s Lower 9th Ward. Throughout my district, we saw major flooding and the loss of homes. We saw downed trees and power lines that destroyed houses and cars. The famous and historic Rockaway bungalows were devastated. Some homeowners in Rosedale dealt with more than five feet of water in basements that crept up to first floors.

For all the physical devastation wrought by Sandy, the true crisis came after the storm, when hundreds of thousands of customers of the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) and Con Edison were without power, many for over three weeks. As of this writing, more than 300 LIPA customers were still without power, nearly a month after the storm. The loss of power created a crisis larger and deeper than was truly necessary, and caused a panic that affected everything from gas prices to the availability of food. Temperatures dropped and a snow storm hit, creating an even bleaker situation for tens of thousands who were still in the dark.

One of the most shocking and egregious aspects of Hurricane Katrina was how quickly government abandoned their constituents. Elected officials tasked with the responsibility of leadership, who were supposed to serve and meet the needs of their citizens, were the first ones to leave New Orleans and the last ones to return. I promised myself I would never let that happen if a major storm were to hit my district.

Two days after the storm, my Far Rockaway office was open. At first it was a makeshift operation. Having no power to function as a modern office, we started with a table, a note pad and a pen. Gradually, we morphed into an operation that took in and distributed supplies like food, clothing, batteries, flashlights, toiletries and other necessities. We went on TV and urged LIPA, FEMA, the Red Cross and the National Guard to expedite their operations in the Far Rockaway area of the peninsula, an area where their presence was lacking until just a week ago.

I’m proud to say that my office had a hand in serving, directly or indirectly, approximately 10,000 families in Far Rockaway. We were aided by the good will of Americans from every corner of our country that sent supplies, food, clothing and money.

There are many lessons we need to take away from Sandy. Never again can we allow a natural disaster to be deepened and prolonged by a lack of readiness on the ground. Never again can we allow our utilities tasked with keeping the lights on to essentially cease to function. When the lights went out, worry set in, leading to fear and eventually, to all out panic in a devastating cascade that made the aftermath of this storm worse than the event itself.

There is no doubt we are living in a new age, where major storms will be both more common and more severe. The litany of ways in which our society needs to advance if we are to see ourselves through this era would drag on far longer than the length of this column. Suffice it to say, we need to adapt to this new reality with better planning, better organization and more precision. We need to update and modernize our infrastructure and our power grids. We need a better plan for servicing those in hard-to-reach areas, and for shuttling people to safety. We need to take seriously the ever-growing threat of a changing environment and a modern world.

Sandy was a devastating storm, but it had ripple effects that were preventable if our society had been better prepared. We need to say no to man-made crises.

Meet VH1’s Newest Star: Funnygirl Stevie Ryan

| choahing@queenscourier.com


A lot of talented people upload videos of themselves performing to websites like YouTube on a daily basis. While a lot of these folks are skilled in what they do, most of them don’t make it past the Internet. One gifted lady who is getting the chance at the big time—with her own television show—is Stevie Ryan.

Stevie was a struggling actress in Los Angeles, working at a Levi’s store, when she decided to start creating mini films for herself with just a handheld camera. “I thought, ‘My God, what have I been waiting for? I can act in my own little movies,’” the 26-year-old Victorville, California-native recently told Aspire. “I started uploading my stupid little videos and became obsessed with it. I became, literally, addicted to it and started uploading stuff like crazy.”

Clips featuring original characters (like Latina homegirl Little Loca and the badly behaved 15-year-old Katrina) and her numerous celebrity parodies (like Amy Winehouse, Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber) were getting lots of hits on the web and Stevie knew she was on to something. “Once I realized I was really entertaining people and I had a small audience, I thought, I’m never going to be able to stop because, if I’m getting one laugh, it’s addicting for me—laughter is my drug and I need more and more and more of it,” explained Stevie. “I just can’t stop—and I haven’t been able to stop since then.”

Now Stevie is bringing the funny to TV as the star of her own VH1 sketch comedy series, Stevie TV. The half hour show, which premiered March 4, will contain six-eight sketches, with introductions from Ms. Ryan, and other little bits. Viewers can expect the sketches to be along the same lines as her hilarious Internet videos, and this season will include parodies of 2012 pop culture darlings like the Mob Wives, The Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Kim Zolciak and Mackenzie from Toddlers & Tiaras. “We really have a variety of things,” said Stevie. “You should watch my show because it blows minds!”

Get to know the pretty and witty, chatty and batty Stevie right now…

How do you come up with some of your original characters?

Stevie Ryan: I’m inspired by other people. Katrina is inspired by the entitlement that the younger generation is growing up with. Sceney Sceneable is inspired by pop culture and what kids are into. Any original character that I do on the show is done in a pop culture setting that people are going to find familiar and relatable. I have one new character that’s this cat lady that I’m really excited about—I just hope everybody likes her and her cats as much as I do.

In some of your sketches, you play more than one character. How hard is that to film?

SR: It’s all about your imagination. The hardest part about acting when there is nobody there is finding your focus. You can’t focus on the corner of the wall and make it look like you are talking to someone right next to you. You have to focus actually in front of your face where that person will be with your eyes. It’s hard to explain unless you are doing it. But it is hard and, at the same time, it’s fun because, how often do you get to do something as weird as that?

Have you ever heard from any of the celebrities you have parodied?

SR: I did a parody of the reality show Pretty Wild and the show’s producers contacted me saying that the girls loved it. Tracy DiMarco from Jerseylicious contacted me and asked me to make a parody. She was like, “Hey! I love your videos and people tell me that we look alike all the time. Will you please make a video of Jerseylicious?” We actually have one in the TV show so Tracy will be happy about that. I had Marilyn Manson ask me to make a video to him from Katrina because he loves that character. I’ve never been confronted by anybody or anything bad. I’m sure after the series, I’m going to get beat up and have my lunch money stolen. [Laughs]

How long does it take for you to learn a celebrity’s mannerisms and voice in order to spoof them?

SR: It just depends on how obvious their mannerisms, facial expressions and voice are. There’s certain times when I can watch a two-minute YouTube video and I can get that person down. Someone I had a really hard time with was Jennifer Lopez. I watched J.Lo [clips] for hours and hours and it’s almost like she doesn’t do anything that really makes her her, if that makes any sense. That one took a while whereas someone like Justin Bieber…there are more obvious things that he does so it’s easier for me to pick those up.

Who do you want to parody next?

SR: I really want to do a parody—and this is ridiculous—of the T-Mobile girl. No one will let me do it though because they don’t think it’s strong enough.

In some of the Little Loca clips, you are reminiscent of Lucille Ball. Is she one of your influences?

SR: That’s such a cool compliment, thank you! Obviously, I grew up watching I Love Lucy. To this day, I still think it’s one of the best shows of all time. I do find Lucille Ball an inspiration with her not ever caring to be ugly. She was so goofy and so weird and I think that women just aren’t like that nowadays—we don’t ever want to be ugly not even for the sake of a laugh. I think Lucy was so anti that. She would black out her teeth and look as ugly as possible just to get a laugh. Some of our [current] female comedians are funny, but they would never ugly themselves up. I think Lucy was amazing for that. She was a true comedian.

Do you have any guest stars appearing on Stevie TV?

SR: We have some awesome people on our show. We have Christine Lakin—Al from Step By Step—who’s actually a really awesome comedy actress and has a few reoccurring roles. We got Uncle Joey [Dave Coulier] from Full House to do something for us. Allison Dunbar, who is a really funny comedian/actress. Rosa Salazar from American Horror Story is in a few episodes. Everyone is just really amazing!

Did you approach VH1 about the show?

SR: We actually weren’t going to pitch the show to VH1. We ran into one of their executives in the hallway when we were pitching to MTV and he knew my manager and said, “Why don’t you come in and pitch to our network?” So we did and had a great meeting with them. Then there was a nice bidding war for the show between VH1 and a few other networks. I love people fighting over me! VH1 made me feel like I’d have the most creative freedom and they were very supportive of me being as creative as possible. We actually pitched to VH1 last February [2011] so, in a year’s time, all of this has happened. It really doesn’t even feel like a year. It happens so quickly and you don’t even have time to think. Having all of this happen has been so cool!

Was comedy what you always set out to do professionally?

SR: I had been booking commercials and low budget, independent films. At that time, I was thinking of myself as a serious actress. My goal was never to be famous—my goal was to be an actress and be creative.

Now that you are known as a comedienne, have you thought about doing a stand-up act?

SR: I’m actually terrified of being myself in front of people. I have a whole respect for stand-up comedians because I could never stand on a stage and just talk as me and entertain people. That’s why I do characters—it’s much easier for me to play somebody else and put that out there than it is for me to be myself and put myself out there. Honestly, I think stand-up comedy is so hard and such an art and it takes so long to master. I don’t know how they do it.

For more information, check out: StevieRyan.info.