City Manager Andrea Travis agreed to send Welch. “It also provided a tremendous learning opportunity for Ric,” Travis said. “There was a benefit to the city in terms of training and level of preparedness. There are many things that are similar whether you’re facing an earthquake or hurricane.” Welch flew to Jackson, Miss., then drove to Baton Rouge, where he initially helped inspect shelters and delivered supplies. Later, he spent time with officials in the Environmental Protection Agency, getting a big-picture look at the disaster. Welch also took a couple of days to drive along the Mississippi coast, looking up aunts, cousins and uncles. Everyone was OK. He never caught up with his parents. “They had jumped in their RV and headed north like smart people,” he said. Welch then returned to Baton Rouge, where he acted as liaison between the Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and local parishes. “I knew some of the people by name, and I can turn my Louisiana accent back on and make people feel comfortable. I went down to open some doors and ease some of the tension,” he said. One of the biggest issues was dealing with when or whether to allow the re-entry of residents to their homes, he said. “It seemed like every day, four to five times a day, priorities shifted,” he said. Welch returned home last month, with some important lessons learned. “I learned how the best-laid plans can fly out the window, the need for redundancy, the need for trained self-reliance among residents, and the need for cooperation between agencies and municipalities,” he said. Emergency officials “wanted desperately to help but didn’t know how,” Welch said. “I don’t want to ever find myself in that position. Hopefully I never have to look at our residents and not have a plan.” — Mike Sprague can be reached at (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3022, or by e-mail at [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! LA MIRADA — La Mirada public safety Manager Ric Welch lived in Louisiana for most of his life, so when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, he just knew he just had to go. “Having been born and raised there and realizing that a lot of the sites that make Louisiana what it is may never be seen again, it was extremely difficult to put (the disaster) out of mind and come to work and act like nothing was going on,” he said. Welch, 42, who lives in unincorporated Riverside, spent three weeks in Baton Rouge and nearby cities, working with the Red Cross and others. That experience was like nothing else he has ever done, he said. “It was like seeing the aftermath of war right here on your home turf,” Welch said. “I don’t think you can see that kind of devastation and all these familiar places undone — buildings you used to go watch movies, sporting events or theatrical events now filled with refugees — and not have a deep, lasting impact. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 “It’s one thing to see the skeletons of your home after it’s burned down,” he said. “This was pulling up to what used to be city limits and now it’s a greasy water part of the Gulf of Mexico.” People in Southern California can get an idea of the devastation by picturing everything along the coast — from here to San Diego — suddenly gone from one day to the next, he said. Born in Baton Rouge, La., Welch grew up in areas near there. At age 23, he joined the U.S. Navy, but returned home nine years ago to become director of parks and recreation for Pointe Coupee Parish, La. In 2000, he was hired by the city of La Mirada as its gymnasium coordinator, eventually becoming an administrative analyst until his promotion to public safety manager in July. But he still has relatives, including his parents, in Louisiana.