The folks of Brunswick County know a little about big storms. When Hurricane Isabel hit the region in 2003, it knocked out power, tore down trees and closed roads in the small south-central Virginia county and left $925 million in damage to the state in its wake.
But Hurricane Katrina's devastating effect on the Gulf Coast was like nothing Brunswick officials had ever seen, and it spurred them to act. Last week, the county's Board of Supervisors approved a $25,000 donation for relief and challenged its counterparts in the state to do the same.
The goal, said Brunswick County Administrator Gerald Vincent, is to raise more than $2 million by encouraging all 95 of Virginia's counties to step up to the plate.
On Tuesday, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors agreed, unanimously approving the $25,000 without a hint of debate.
"You can't be human and not be affected by what happened," Supervisor Bruce E. Tulloch (R-Potomac) said.
The money will be routed to the Virginia Association of Counties, which will pool the funds as donations are approved at county board meetings throughout the month. It will then be sent to the American Red Cross, said Wendy Jenkins, a spokeswoman for the association.
As of Tuesday, Loudoun, Isle of Wight, Augusta and Shenandoah counties had accepted Brunswick's challenge, Jenkins said.
Vincent said the images and reports of horror in Louisiana and Mississippi had "hit home" for Brunswick residents, who remember Isabel's destruction all too well. And after balancing a 2005 budget that began with a $1 million deficit, Brunswick officials were happy to be able to dig into the county's pockets and offer some help, he said.
"For us to put up $25,000, it just means a lot," Vincent said.
Several Loudoun supervisors expressed shock and sorrow at Katrina's damage, and some called on Loudoun to better prepare for natural disasters. Jim E. Clem (R-Leesburg) said he wanted all county departments to look at the local disaster plan and suggest improvements by October.
County Administrator Kirby M. Bowers told the board that Loudoun and other Northern Virginia jurisdictions were organizing a team of emergency workers, including at least five Loudoun firefighters and 25 sheriff's deputies, that could be deployed at a moment's notice to aid relief efforts on the Gulf Coast. They also are forming two municipal support teams -- comprising residents with expertise in finance, logistics and computer systems -- to help the affected areas rebuild their government infrastructures.
"We're trying to put our resources together so we can respond when we are called to do so," Bowers said.