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Local crew offering aid in New Orleans forced to return

By Paula Canning

Staff Writer

SOUTH HADLEY With an estimated 1,500 miles separating western Massachusetts from the sights of destruction and despair left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Pioneer Valley residents can only try to envision the reality of the devastation that has rocked New Orleans, La., and the coastal region of Mississippi and Alabama.

But a crew of five local men from Interstate Towing in South Hadley no longer have to rely on their imagination, as they were given a first-hand glimpse of the hurricane-ravaged region after heading down to the area to help recover submerged vehicles. The crew, which left out of South Hadley at 2 a.m. last Monday morning in one heavy duty, one flatbed, one self-loader and a trailer which was to serve as their home base. They intended on parking it on the grounds of one of several State Police Barracks, but burst levees flooding the area forced the crew to retreat 175 miles to a FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) site in Meridian, La.

Those Barracks are all under water now, said Jeremy Procon, owner of Interstate Towing. We really did not anticipate those levees breaking.

Snaking down the areas highways along with uprooted trees and billboards, Jeremy Procon, owner of Interstate Towing, said that his crew was shocked, at what they saw.

They couldnt believe the devastation, he said.

Subsidized through FEMA for fuel costs and toll compensation, Procon explained that he was able to send his crew down through an arrangement with the Louisiana State Police and AAA Southern, which has an office in Baton Rouge, La.

Procon said that with the city of New Orleans closed off, his crew has returned home, planning to return to the area in about four weeks to help recover submerged vehicles.

For the next few weeks, its only the National Guard that they want down there, he said.