UPDATE: More info on the load out the carrier is bringing to the afflicted area here:
The Navy loaded extra fuel, water, food and bedding onto a Norfolk-based aircraft carrier Thursday and sent it and another ship to join other military ships providing relief to residents along the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast.
The USS Harry S. Truman took along an additional 3 million gallons of fuel and will serve as a refueling station for helicopters rescuing stranded residents and taking supplies to the stricken area, said Cmdr. Doug Carsten, the carrier's air boss. He estimated 40 to 50 choppers could fit on the 4 1/2-acre flight deck.
"This is a very noble mission," Capt. Jim Gigliotti, the Truman's commanding officer, said from the pier at Norfolk Naval Station -- where hurried preparations were being made before departure at high tide.
The Truman's supply officer, Cmdr. John Palmer, said 30 to 40 tractor-trailers loaded the Truman in about 12 hours with rations for storm victims. The ship is taking an extra 20,000 bottles of water, 17,000 meals that are similar to combat rations and 9,000 frozen dinners, as well as cots and linens for 350.
If necessary, Gigliotti said, some of those left homeless by the storm could be housed on the carrier.
UPDATE 2: Seahawk helo
12 California based Navy helos enroute:
Twelve Navy helicopters and their crew took off Thursday from a San Diego-area Navy base to aid in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.
The helicopters leaving Coronado, outside San Diego, include eight twin-engine Seahawks, the Navy's version of the Army's Blackhawk helicopter, and four Knighthawks, an update of the Seahawk. All can be used for search and rescue operations.
It will take two days for pilots and crew to fly the helicopters to Naval Air Station Pensacola, a staging area for military relief efforts, said Senior Chief Petty Officer Donna Corvin.
The helicopters are attached to three submarine-fighting squadrons and a sea combat squadron based on Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado.
About 120 maintenance and support personnel from Naval Air Station North Island departed on two C-40 Clipper aircraft bound for Florida. More personnel would be departing later in the day, Corwin said.