Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Katrina Encours et Toujours III
This is another entire posting devoted to Katrina's after effects. It's getting uglier and uglier, and New Orleans appears to be finished for now. While one mustn't ignore the nearly 800 Iraqis who died today in the bridge stampede, that and other Middle East issues are to await another posting.
One thing that scares me about the future of New Orleans is that FEMA and OSHA have gained a reputation in other disasters for single-handedly bulldozing property in order to pave the way for rebuilding and relocation. They're considered extremely high-handed and imperious, and I'm worried that they will simply declare entire neighborhoods "uninhabitable" and bulldoze them, paving the way for "re-development," which would reduce New Orleans to a ranch-style carbon copy of the rest of America -- combine that with the recent Supreme Court decision on eminent domain for commercial viability, and it seems like a likely enough scenario. Such an outcome would be a fate worse than death for a city with the (now waterlogged) beauty of New Orleans. Although it's not a priority YET, I hope soon enough that there's a campaign to prevent FEMA and OSHA from doing such violence to our great city.
If you are a New Orleanian reader and you haven't checked with me yet, please tell me whether or not you're allright -- especially all you Ninth Ward folks who might've stuck it out. My apologies if you get multiple copies of this posting, but I'm sending it to a bunch of common lists:
1) An abbreviated version of last night's posting made it to Juan Cole's blog:
2) This is a link to a BBC interviewe made by one of our New Orleans friends, Chris Wiseman:
Got interviewed night before last. Then again today after the storm. Here's the first interview. Will forward the other soon, which features a shameless promotion for our fair city:
3) Here's a disaster slideshow. Check out #13 especially:
4) Here's a posting by another one of our New Orleans friends, Ben Rosow:
Whew!! We’re really exhausted. Haven’t thought about it but I’m just realizing it tonight.
My company is headquartered in Austin and I had a Solidworks 2006 rollout presentation scheduled for today in San Antonio, so I figured that we could lay around in Memphis for a week or we could go to Austin I could do some work before I crashed and burned.
The drive out of NOLA, which started at 5:00 AM Sunday morning, was insanely hampered by the typically incompetent implementation of Contra Flow on I-10 going west. They opened up the eastbound lanes for west bound travel. Sounds good right? Then they put a one lane bottleneck to get to the contra flow lanes. Hmm… Finally, to top it all off, they required that the normal west bound lanes all be diverted north to I-55 and Mississippi. If you wanted to stay on the normal westbound lanes, NO DICE. You had to go north. Madness. Two lanes to Mississippi and ONE LANE to Baton Rouge. Officials being interviewed on emergency radio were wringing their hands, saying, “Too many people want to go west. PLEASE GO NORTH.” Hey folks, that’s where it made sense to go.
We complied and went north with the intention of turning west soon after getting out of town, maybe US 190, state route 16 or…No, the contra flow on I-55 wouldn’t let us exit until…we had to go all the way north to Jackson Mississippi before turning left on I-20 to Shreveport. Then we spent 6 exhausting hours on an otherwise charming Texas two lane (hwy 79) through rolling meadows and verdant ranches. Got into the AmeriSuites Airport hotel (rm 318 thru Wednesday, maybe longer) at about 9:30 PM Sunday evening, 17 hours after we left and just as the gail force winds were being felt in New Orleans.
It had been our intention to drop some valuable possessions off at my office which is on the 2nd floor of a beefy uptown office building. But time did not permit. At the last minute before we left, Nancy and I each decided to leave certain things behind that we could not reasonably fit into our Rodeo with four cats in carriers. To wit, I took not one guitar or saxophone. Nancy took nothing of personal value except for some family photos. We DID bring our important papers.
The cats were wonderful throughout the ride. After some medium level complaining for the 1st hour or two, they settled down for the entire trip and were as good as gold. We think they trust that as long as they are with us, things will be OK. What a fine brood of felines. After we got to our room they were extremely lovey, and they all want a piece of us for themselves.
So yesterday, I went in to work after lunch. We spent the morning doing what all good Americans do when things look really desperate: We went shopping. And Austin doesn’t disappoint. You could drop a fortune here saving money all the while. Needed to get a nightgown for Nancy, some cat supplies, some FOOD to eat. The nightgown is really cute, lilac and mint green flowers on white. The catz love the scratcher (the hotel is pet friendly for a price).
At work I prepared for my Solidworks 2006 software rollout, part Powerpoint presentation, part pizza lunch, and part ice cream social for engineer nerds. I have to demonstrate all the new Solidworks features for the 2006 version which was just released. It takes an hour. I was barely ready to do this because I had planned to use my weekend to review all the picks and clicks. Ah the best laid plans of mice and Ben. So I reviewed my stuff in the car all the way down to San Antonio today and somehow pulled it off. Even my boss liked it. As soon as I was done (at about 5:00 PM), I went to find a corner and I started crying…FINALLY. If New Orleans is no longer going to be there as we know it, I’m really going to miss it. What a special place and what a special bunch of friends we have made there.
I miss my guitar and my horns. I had just bought a new guitar amp off of ebay and it has been in transit since last Thursday. I may never see it. I had also just brought two guitars and a fabulous amp in to Todd’s music in Metarie to sell on consignment and secure a beautiful Gibson ES 135 that plays like a dream. Maybe Todd and his friends had a madcap evening before they evacuated trying to bring his stock to safety, but where would he bring it? None of us quite grasped the scope of what was happening.
I tell you all these personal things because I figure that I’m fairly typical and that those of you who are also evacuated are going through similar things. Fortunately, I have my computer with me. I can still do some design work for my buddy Steve and maybe finish a sample of modeling for my dentist.
For now Nancy and I are turning over the meaning of this event. Maybe this whole thing happened because Blue Fondue (our little jump blues band) finally got a gig at a really nice place, the Fairmont Hotel downtown. We were supposed to play there this coming Friday and Saturday and maybe (my fatalistic side says) this was God’s way of keeping it from happening. Kind of a Sirens of Titan premise where the whole purpose of the planet earth and our solar system was to get a little piece of metal (a repair part) to a spaceman from a faraway planet who was stranded for 800 million years on Neptune.
So, where are we going to live for the short term? Where will we hole up for the next few months? Do we try to rebuild in New Orleans? Will there be any economic base here? Will FEMA simply shut down large tracts of New Orleans? Will any companies want to relocate here? My boss thinks that New Orleans is too economically important to let die. He and others at work think that there will be tons of FEMA and other monies flowing into the area. For now we live the simple life of those without possessions. I’ll write more tomorrow because there is a lot more to write.
Ben Rosow, Application Engineer
M LC CAD Systems
1215 Prytania St, Suite 208
New Orleans, La. 70130
5) This is really tragic. The news goes from bad to worse:
Governor: Everyone Must Leave New Orleans
Wednesday August 31, 2005 3:01 PM
AP Photo LADP216
By BRETT MARTEL
Associated Press Writer
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The governor of Louisiana sayseveryone needs to leave New Orleans due to floodingfrom Hurricane Katrina. ``We've sent buses in. We willbe either loading them by boat, helicopter, anythingthat is necessary,'' Gov. Kathleen Blanco said. Armyengineers struggled without success to plug NewOrleans' breached levees with giant sandbags, and thegovernor said Wednesday the situation was worseningand there was no choice but to abandon the floodedcity.
``The challenge is an engineering nightmare,'' Gov.Kathleen Blanco said on ABC's ``Good MorningAmerica.'' ``The National Guard has been droppingsandbags into it, but it's like dropping it into ablack hole.''
As the waters continued to rise in New Orleans, fourNavy ships raced toward the Gulf Coast with drinkingwater and other emergency supplies, and Red Crossworkers from across the country converged on thedevastated region. The Red Cross reported it had about40,000 people in 200 shelters across the area in oneof the biggest urban disasters the nation has everseen.
The death toll from Hurricane Katrina reached at least110 in Mississippi alone, while Louisiana put asidethe counting of the dead to concentrate on rescuingthe living, many of whom were still trapped onrooftops and in attics.
A full day after the Big Easy thought it had escapedKatrina's full fury, two levees broke and spilledwater into the streets on Tuesday, swamping anestimated 80 percent of the bowl-shaped,below-sea-level city, inundating miles and miles ofhomes and rendering much of New Orleans uninhabitablefor weeks or months.
``We are looking at 12 to 16 weeks before people cancome in,'' Mayor Ray Nagin said on ABC's ``GoodMorning America, ``and the other issue that'sconcerning me is have dead bodies in the water. Atsome point in time the dead bodies are going to startto create a serious disease issue.''
Blanco said she wanted the Superdome - which hadbecome a shelter of last resort for about 20,000people - evacuated within two days, along with othergathering points for storm refugees. The situationinside the dank and sweltering Superdome was becomingdesperate: The water was rising, the air conditioningwas out, toilets were broken, and tempers were rising.
At the same time, sections of Interstate 10, the onlymajor freeway leading into New Orleans from the east,lay shattered, dozens of huge slabs of concretefloating in the floodwaters. I-10 is the only routefor commercial trucking across southern Louisiana.
The sweltering city of 480,000 people - an estimated80 percent of whom obeyed orders to evacuate asKatrina closed in over the weekend - also had nodrinkable water, the electricity could be out forweeks, and looters were ransacking stores around town.
``The logistical problems are impossible and we haveto evacuate people in shelters,'' the governor said.``It's becoming untenable. There's no power. It'sgetting more difficult to get food and water suppliesin, just basic essentials.''
She gave no details on exactly where the refugeeswould be taken. But in Houston, Rusty Cornelius, acounty emergency official, said at least 25,000 ofthem would travel in a bus convoy to Houston startingWednesday and would be sheltered at the 40-year-oldAstrodome, which is no longer used for professionalsporting events.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency wasconsidering putting people on cruise ships, in tentcities, mobile home parks, and so-called floatingdormitories - boats the agency uses to house its ownemployees.
To repair one of the levees holding back LakePontchartrain, officials late Tuesday dropped3,000-pound sandbags from helicopters and hauleddozens of 15-foot concrete barriers into the breach.Maj. Gen. Don Riley of the U.S. Army Corps ofEngineers said officials also had a more audaciousplan: finding a barge to plug the 500-foot hole.
Riley said it could take close to a month to get thewater out of the city. If the water rises a few feethigher, it could also wipe out the water system forthe whole city, said New Orleans' homeland securitychief, Terry Ebbert.
A helicopter view of the devastation over Louisianaand Mississippi revealed people standing on blackrooftops, baking in the sunshine while waiting forrescue boats.
``I can only imagine that this is what Hiroshimalooked like 60 years ago,'' said Mississippi Gov.Haley Barbour after touring the destruction by airTuesday.
All day long, rescuers in boats and helicoptersplucked bedraggled flood refugees from rooftops andattics. Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu said 3,000people have been rescued by boat and air, some placedshivering and wet into helicopter baskets. They werebrought by the truckload into shelters, some inwheelchairs and some carrying babies, with stories ofsurvival and of those who didn't make it.
``Oh my God, it was hell,'' said Kioka Williams, whohad to hack through the ceiling of the beauty shopwhere she worked as floodwaters rose in New Orleans'low-lying Ninth Ward. ``We were screaming, hollering,flashing lights. It was complete chaos.''
Looting broke out in some New Orleans neighborhoods,prompting authorities to send more than 70 additionalofficers and an armed personnel carrier into the city.One police officer was shot in the head by a looterbut was expected to recover, authorities said.
A giant new Wal-Mart in New Orleans was looted, andthe entire gun collection was taken, TheTimes-Picayune newspaper reported. ``There are gangsof armed men in the city moving around the city,''said Ebbert, the city's homeland security chief. Also,looters tried to break into Children's Hospital, thegovernor's office said.
On New Orleans' Canal Street, dozens of looters rippedopen the steel gates on clothing and jewelry storesand grabbed merchandise. In Biloxi, Miss., peoplepicked through casino slot machines for coins andransacked other businesses. In some cases, the lootingtook place in full view of police and NationalGuardsmen.
Blanco acknowledged that looting was a severe problembut said that officials had to focus on survivors.``We don't like looters one bit, but first andforemost is search and rescue,'' she said.
Officials said it was simply too early to estimate adeath toll. One Mississippi county alone said it hadsuffered at least 100 deaths, and officials are``very, very worried that this is going to go a lothigher,'' said Joe Spraggins, civil defense directorfor Harrison County, home to Biloxi and Gulfport. Inneighboring Jackson County, officials said at least 10deaths were blamed on the storm.
Several of the dead in Harrison County were from abeachfront apartment building that collapsed under a25-foot wall of water as Hurricane Katrina slammed theGulf Coast with 145-mph winds Monday. Louisianaofficials said many were feared dead there, too,making Katrina one of the most punishing storms to hitthe United States in decades.
Blanco asked residents to spend Wednesday in prayer.
``That would be the best thing to calm our spirits andthank our Lord that we are survivors,'' she said.``Slowly, gradually, we will recover; we will survive;we will rebuild.''
Across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, more than 1million residents remained without electricity, somewithout clean drinking water. Officials said it couldbe weeks, if not months, before most evacuees will beable to return.
Emergency medical teams from across the country weresent into the region and President Bush cut short hisTexas vacation Tuesday to return to Washington tofocus on the storm damage.
Also, the Bush administration decided to release crudeoil from federal petroleum reserves to help refinerswhose supply was disrupted by Katrina. Theannouncement helped push oil prices lower.
Katrina, which was downgraded to a tropicaldepression, packed winds around 30 mph as it movedthrough the Ohio Valley early Wednesday, with thepotential to dump 8 inches of rain and spin off deadlytornadoes.
The remnants of Katrina spawned bands of storms andtornadoes across Georgia that caused at least twodeaths, multiple injuries and leveled dozens ofbuildings. A tornado damaged 13 homes near Marshall,Va.
6) Awful story:
Floating the city's dead
Wednesday, 10:46 p.m.
WWL-TV reporter Karen Swensen related a particularlysad tale from a region overflowing with sad tales.
One New Orleans woman waded through the streets of thecity, trying to get her husband to Charity Hospital.He had died earlier and she floated his body throughthe inundated streets on a door that dome off theirhome.
Mayor: Katrina may have killed thousands
8/31/2005, 1:38 p.m.
CTBy BRETT MARTEL
The Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The mayor said Wednesday thatHurricane Katrina probably killed thousands of peoplein New Orleans.
"We know there is a significant number of dead bodiesin the water," and others dead in attics, Mayor RayNagin said. Asked how many, he said: "Minimum,hundreds. Most likely, thousands."
The frightening prediction came as Army engineersstruggled to plug New Orleans' breached levees withgiant sandbags and concrete barriers, whileauthorities drew up plans to move some 25,000 stormrefugees out of the city to Houston in a huge busconvoy and all but abandon flooded-out New Orleans.
Gov. Kathleen Blanco said the situation was desperateand there was no choice but to clear out.
"The logistical problems are impossible and we have toevacuate people in shelters," the governor said. "It'sbecoming untenable. There's no power. It's gettingmore difficult to get food and water supplies in, justbasic essentials."
The Pentagon, meanwhile, began mounting one of thelargest search-and-rescue operations in U.S. history,sending four Navy ships to the Gulf Coast withdrinking water and other emergency supplies, alongwith the hospital ship USNS Comfort, searchhelicopters and elite SEAL water-rescue teams.American Red Cross workers from across the countryconverged on the devastated region in the agency'sbiggest-ever relief operation.
The death toll from Hurricane Katrina has reached atleast 110 in Mississippi alone. But Louisiana has putaside the counting of the dead to concentrate onrescuing the living, many of whom were still trappedon rooftops and in attics.
A full day after the Big Easy thought it had escapedKatrina's full fury, two levees broke and spilledwater into the streets Tuesday, swamping an estimated80 percent of the bowl-shaped, below-sea-level city,inundating miles and miles of homes and rendering muchof New Orleans uninhabitable for weeks or months.
"We are looking at 12 to 16 weeks before people cancome in," Nagin said on ABC's "Good Morning America,"and the other issue that's concerning me is we havedead bodies in the water. At some point in time thedead bodies are going to start to create a seriousdisease issue."
With the streets awash and looters brazenly cleaningout stores, authorities planned to move at least25,000 of New Orlean's storm refugees — most of themtaking shelter in the dank and sweltering Superdome —to the Astrodome in Houston in a vast exodus by bus.
Around midday, officials with the state and the ArmyCorps of Engineers said the water levels between thecity and Lake Pontchartrain had equalized, and waterhad stopped rising in New Orleans, and even appearedto be falling, at least in some places. But the dangerwas far from over.
The Army Corps of Engineers said it planned to useheavy-duty Chinook helicopters to drop 3,000-poundsandbags Wednesday into the 500-foot gap in the failedfloodwall. But the agency said it was having troublegetting the sandbags and dozens of 15-foot highwaybarriers to the site because the city's waterways wereblocked by loose barges, boats and large debris.
Officials said they were also looking at a moreaudacious plan: finding a barge to plug the 500-foothole.
"The challenge is an engineering nightmare," thegovernor said on ABC's "Good Morning America."
As New Orleans descended deeper into chaos, hundredsof people wandered aimlessly up and down Interstate10, pushing shopping carts, laundry racks, anythingthey could find to carry their belongings. Dozens offishermen from up to 200 miles away floated in oncaravans of boats to pull residents out of floodedneighborhoods.
On some of the few roads that were still passable,people waved at passing cars with empty water jugs,begging for relief. Hundreds of people appeared tohave spent the night on a crippled highway.
In one east New orleans neighborhood, refugees werebeing loaded onto the backs of moving vans likecattle, and in one case emergency workers with asledgehammer and an ax broke open the back of a mailtruck and used it to ferry sick and elderly residents.
Police officers were asking residents to give up anyguns they had before they boarded buses and trucksbecause police desperately needed the firepower: Someofficers who had been stranded on the roof of a motelsaid they were being shot at overnight.
8) It's our turn, Metairie:
East Jeff flooding worsening;
west bank deluged withevacuees
Wednesday, 11:05 a.m.
By Matt BrownWest Bank bureau
Jefferson Parish Director of Emergency ManagementWalter Maestri said Wednesday morning that theflooding situation in East Jefferson was worsening.
Officials said water from the breach in the 17thStreet Canal levee was flowing across I-10 at theOrleans-Jefferson parish line and flowing into EastJefferson.
Maestri said the parish was scrambling to buildtemporary levees at various Metairie locations to tryto stop the flow.
On the West Bank, where flooding was less prevalent,Jefferson Parish officials were grappling with adifferent crisis: Refugees from New Orleans werestreaming over the Crescent City Connection in searchof food, shelter and water.
Maestri said the population at three west bankshelters was increasing by 200 people per hour. He putout a call for large food distributors that might beinterested in donating food to the shelters to callthe Emergency Management Center at (504) 349-5360.
9) Hello, where is our LA National Guard? Don't let any politician try and persuade you that there's no price to pay for sending your guard units overseas:
Officials Helpless Against Looters
Wednesday August 31, 2005 6:16 PM
AP Photo LAEG108
By KEVIN McGILL
Associated Press Writer
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Authorities frantically tried torestore order Wednesday to the devastated city asbrazen looters ransacked stores and houses for food,clothing, appliances - and guns.
Thieves chased a state police truck full of food. TheNew Orleans police chief ran off looters while cityofficials themselves were commandeering equipment froman Office Depot.
Officials tried to balance security needs with savinglives.
``We're multitasking right now,'' said New OrleansPolice Capt. Marlon Defillo. ``Rescue, recovery,stabilizataion of looting, we're trying to feed thehungry.''
Gov. Kathleen Blanco appealed to the White House tosend more people to help with evacuations and rescues,thereby freeing up National Guardsmen to stop looters.
``We need to free up the National Guard to do securityin the city,'' Blanco said.
Meanwhile, city officials were taking advantage of thestate of emergency to empty an Office Depot, whichalready had been looted, of supplies they needed for atemporary command center. During a state of emergency,authorities have broad powers to take private suppliesand buildings for their use.
At 4 a.m., while officials were loading up routers andother technical equipment, Police chief Eddie Compass``starts screaming -- he had to chase some looters outthat were coming in to loot some more,'' Defillo said.
City security chief Greg Meffert said he was awakenedto help form a human chain to quickly unload a statepolice truck filled with food.
``The truck was about to be attacked by looters. ...Ithad state troopers in it,'' he said.
In the city's Carrollton section, which is onrelatively high geround, looters commandeered aforklift and used it to push up the storm shutters andbreak the glass of a Rite-Aid pharmacy. The crowdstormed the store, carrying out so much ice, water andfood that it dropped from their arms as they ran. Thestreet was littered with packages of ramen noodles andother items.
Defillo said looters were also taking guns andammunition.
``We're very concerned about that,'' Defillo said.``We will maintain order. Let me say that. We willstabilize the situation.''
Gunshots were heard throughout the night inCarrollton.
Defillo said an officer and a looter were wounded in ashootout. Defillo had no word on their condition.Three or four others were also arrested, he said.
One looter shot and wounded a fellow looter, who wastaken to a hospital and survived.
Staff members at Children's Hospital huddled with sickyoungsters and waited in vain for help to arrive aslooters tried to break through the locked door, Blancospokeswoman Denise Bottcher told the newspaper.Neither the police nor the National Guard arrived.
Authorities planned to send more than 70 additionalofficers and an armed personnel carrier into the city.
In the meantime, city authorities were putting ahigher priority on rescuing victims and repairing thelevee breach that was spilling water into the streets.
``One of our fears is if we don't stop the breach,that we will put good people's lives in jeopardy andthey would lose theirs, too,'' the governor said. ``Weare concerned about essentials. We are asking for moremilitary presence in the city to control the situationbetter.
On New Orleans' Canal Street, dozens of looters rippedopen the steel gates on clothing and jewelry storesand grabbed merchandise. In Biloxi, Miss., peoplepicked through casino slot machines for coins andransacked other businesses. In some cases, the lootingwas in full view of police and National Guardsmen.
The historic French Quarter appeared to have beenspared the worst flooding, but its stores were gettingthe worst of human nature.
``The looting is out of control. The French Quarterhas been attacked,'' Councilwoman Jackie Clarksonsaid. ``We're using exhausted, scarce police tocontrol looting when they should be used for searchand rescue while we still have people on rooftops.''
Sen. Mary Landrieu's helicopter was taking off Tuesdayfor a flyover of the devastation and she watched as agroup of people smashed a window at a gas-stationconvenience store and jumped in.
At a drug store in the French Quarter, people wererunning out with grocery baskets and coolers full ofsoft drinks, chips and diapers.
11) Another eyewitness account from one of our New Orleans friends, Chris Wiseman:
Folks, Spoke to a buddy who STAYED and lives on Camp Street two blocks from Audubon Park (about four blocks from the Miss. River and 10-12 blocks from Loyola).
They are high and dry for the moment. Water is apparently coming up on St. Charles Ave. I would assume Loyola is beginning to take water, but I haven't confirmed. Ricky told me looters had broken into Loyola and stolen computers, but that security chased them off. Looters have hit all the businesses on Magazine Street, which had seen an incredible boom over the past year or so. Ricky has charcoal to last awhile. He plans to stay with his wife and kids (wife is a Catholic school teacher).
Two days after, the situation continues to get worse. New Orleans is going away as it exists. It will either die, go on as a small city, or be rebuilt elsewhere. I can't currently imagine another option.
My wife is a physician. She worked all night in the Assembly Center at LSU. It is now a hospital. The place where Shaquille O'Neal used to play basketball and where I saw U2 in concert now houses beds with elderly and sick people.
Things were not well-organized there. CDC and FEMA people seemed to be around, but no one had really taken charge. I roamed freely without anyone asking me who I was or why I was there (I was there to pick up my wife after a 14 hour overnight shift). Security guards were getting themselves coffee. Many talented and good people were there, but there wasn't much direction. Isn't that why we have a FEMA? Healthcare people are healthcare people, not manageers.
I'm not angry with federal efforts here, but I'm not impressed either. Why does my friend Ricky have to choose between troops doing search and rescue, and troops doing basic security?
A man my wife cared for is 60 years old. He was horribly sunburned. He had spent two days on a rooftop in the Lower Ninth Ward. He said he did two tours in Vietnam, and that was better than this. If you are reading this, I appeal to you to keep us in the family.
I think New Orleans has given a lot to our nation and the world in terms of culture, good times, cheap gasoline, etc. Please help us rebuild, not in the same old way but in a new way that preserves the best. Charity will not do it. This will require a Depression-era effort--systematic, engaging the best of us, which is damned impressive. Don't give up on us. We're not done yet.
12) This story is now a tad out of date, as the Lake waters are starting to recede. Generally speaking, however, New Orleans is in BIG trouble with floodwaters:
Flooding will only get worse
Wednesday August 31, 2005
The catastrophic flooding that filled the bowl that isNew Orleans on Monday and Tuesday will only get worseover the next few days because rainfall from HurricaneKatrina continues to flow into Lake Pontchartrain fromnorth shore rivers and streams, and east winds and a17.5-foot storm crest on the Pearl River block theoutflow water through the Rigolets and Chef MenteurPass.
The lake is normally 1 foot above sea level, while thecity of New Orleans is an average of 6 feet below sealevel. But a combination of storm surge and rainfallfrom Katrina have raised the lake's surface to 6 feetabove sea level, or more.
All of that water moving from the lake has foundseveral holes in the lake's banks - all pouring intoNew Orleans. Water that crossed St. Charles Parish inan area where the lakefront levee has not yet beencompleted, and that backed up from the lake inJefferson Parish canals, is funneling into Kenner andMetairie.
A 500-yard and growing breach in the eastern wall ofthe 17th Street Canal separating New Orleans fromMetairie is pouring hundreds of thousands of gallonsof lake water per second into the New Orleans area.Water also is flowing through two more levee breachesalong the Industrial Canal, which created a HurricaneBetsy-on-steroids flood in the Lower 9th Ward onMonday that is now spreading south into the FrenchQuarter and other parts of the city.
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin warned Tuesday eveningthat an attempt to plug the holes in the 17th StreetCanal had failed, and the floodwaters were expected tocontinue to rise rapidly throughout the night.Eventually, Nagin said, the water could reach as highas 3 feet above sea level, meaning it could rise to 12to 15 feet high in some parts of the city.
Louisiana State University Hurricane Center researcherIvor van Heerden warned that Nagin's estimates couldbe too low because the lake water won't fall quicklyduring the next few days.
"We don't have the weather conditions to drive thewater out of Lake Pontchartrain, and at the same time,all the rivers on the north shore are in flood," hesaid. "That water is just going to keep rising in thecity until it's equal to the level of the lake.
"Unless they can use sandbags to compartmentalize theflooded areas, the water in the city will riseeverywhere to the same level as the lake."
This isn't the first time that the 17th Street Canalhas proved to be a hurricane-flooding Achilles heel.Following a 1947 hurricane that made a direct hit onNew Orleans and Metairie, officials were unable toclear floodwaters from Metairie through the canal fortwo weeks.
Sewage from a treatment plant that stagnated in thecanal created enough sulfuric acid fumes that nearbyhomes in Lakeview painted with lead-based paint turnedblack.
The slow-motion flooding of the south shore mirrors asimilar flooding event during Tropical Storm Isidore,when weather conditions blocked water from leaving thelake as heavy rainfall pushed its surface higher andhigher, causing extensive flooding in low-lying areasof Slidell a day after the storm had passed by.
Van Heerden said water flowing through New Orleans.back door used a weakness that he and many others havebeen concerned about for years: a V-shaped funnelformed by the joining of the Mississippi River-GulfOutlet and the Inner Harbor Navigation Channel. Stormsurge as high as 18 feet pushed through the funnel,into the Industrial Canal and on to the lake. It'sthat surge water that is thought to have caused breaksin the Industrial Canal levees breaks that lake wateris now flowing through into the 9th Ward.
Water entering that funnel also is thought to havetopped levees surrounding Chalmette and eastern NewOrleans, causing extensive flooding in both places.
Van Heerden said that if there's a silver lining tothis disastrous event, it's that the eye of Katrinadidn't go directly over or to the west of the city. Ifthat had happened, the storm surge could have beenmuch higher and would have directly topped levees allalong the lake and much more rapidly filled the bowl,which would have meant an even higher death toll thanis anticipated from this slow-moving event, he said.
This flood event contains many of the features used byfederal, state and local planners early this year tobegin shaping what was supposed to be a catastropherecovery plan for New Orleans: failed pumpingstations, breached levees, rooftop rescues, makeshiftmedical triage zones.
In drawing the plan, officials assumed that it wouldtake several days to a week before enough manpower andequipment could be staged to deal with many of theproblems they're facing now, such as how to close thebreach in the 17th Street Canal.
There, the problem is how to close the hole quickly.Strategies suggested during tabletop exercisesindicated it could take several days to positionbarges and cranes in place to more permanently fillsuch a gap, assuming it was part of the worst-case,storm-surge-driven flooding scenario.
The slow-motion reality of the collapsing canal wallhas the state Department of Transportation andDevelopment and the Army Corps of Engineers workinginto the night to plug the breach and try to stem theflooding in Lakeview, West End, Bucktown and largeswaths of East Jefferson.
A convoy of trucks carrying 108 15,000-pound concretebarriers - like those used as highway constructiondividers - was en route to the site Tuesday night,said Mark Lambert, chief spokesman for the agency.Helicopters will lift the barriers above the hole anddrop them in place, even as another 50 sandbags, eachweighing 3,000 pounds, are also being maneuvered intoplace.
"That's 800 tons of concrete," Lambert said. .What weare trying to do is just stop the water from goinginto the city."
More difficult will be the overtopping of levees alongthe Industrial Canal caused by the high lake waterflowing in. Lambert didn't say how the state wouldaddress that problem.
The problems caused by floodwaters will only getworse, according to van Heerden and the earliertabletop exercises. For one, if the water in the citydoes rise to the height of levees along the lakefront,it may be difficult to open floodgates designed tokeep the lake out that would now be needed to allowthe lake to leave. Van Heerden said the risingfloodwaters also would cause major pollution problemsin coming days, as they float dozens of fuel andchemical storage tanks off their fittings, severingpipelines and allowing the material to seep into thefloodwaters.
"In our surveys of the parish, a lot of the storagetanks we looked at weren't bolted down with bigbolts," he said. "They rely on gravity to hold themdown. If an industrial property is 5 feet below sealevel and the water gets to 5 feet above sea level,that's 10 feet of water, and I'm certain many welooked at will float free.
"You'll see a lot of highly volatile stuff on thesurface, and one spark and we'll have a major fire,"he said.
13) New Orleans' T-P now only a "virtual" T-P. I've never cared much for the Times-Picayune over the years, but their website (nola.com) is doing a grand job at keeping up with things, along with wwltv.com:
New Orleans Paper Publishes Online Only
Wednesday August 31, 2005 3:46 PM
By ERIN McCLAM
Associated Press Writer
Working out of a small office where some staffers aresleeping, The Times-Picayune of New Orleans publisheda 13-page online edition Wednesday detailing thecatastrophic flooding in the city.
The newspaper's staff evacuated its New Orleansbuilding on Tuesday as the waters rose, and moved toan emergency office in Baton Rouge, La., that belongsto that city's newspaper, the Advocate.
It was the second consecutive day the Times-Picayunecould not publish a paper edition. Instead, it postedimages of 13 news pages on its Web site.
Wednesday's edition carried an icon of tatteredhurricane-warning flags next to the paper's logo,along with the words, ``Katrina: The Storm We'veAlways Feared.''
The editorial page criticized the looting in NewOrleans and bore an editorial cartoon of a man in aT-shirt that reads, ``You Gotta Have Faith.'' The mansays: ``It's not just the Saints' slogan anymore.''
Bret Dupre, creative services manager for theAdvocate, said the Times-Picayune had bought about$21,000 of laptops for use at the emergency office inBaton Rouge, which has about 15 seats.
``Some of them are actually sleeping there. They can'tfind hotel rooms,'' he said.
Relying on satellite phones, blogs and the hospitalityof colleagues, news organizations whose offices andproduction systems were devastated by HurricaneKatrina have improvised to report the storm's awesomedamage.
The Sun Herald of Gulfport, Miss. - one of the placesmost brutally pounded by Katrina - relied on a team ofeditors and page designers in Columbus, Ga., to printabout 20,000 copies of its Tuesday edition.
Lee Ann Schlatter, a spokeswoman for Knight Ridder,the owner of both the Gulfport and Columbus papers,said the company was sending in dozens of additionaljournalists from other papers as well as supplies.
``We're trying to get food and water in there,'' shesaid Tuesday. ``It's real basic survival needs to makeit possible for these people to do the job.''
With most regular telephones and cell phones rendereduseless after the storm, Schlatter said the companywas sending in satellite phones - the same piece ofequipment used by many reporters covering the war inIraq.
The Sun Herald also relied on its Web site to carrynews of the hurricane. At one point Tuesday, theheadline read, ``Our tsunami.''
The newspaper posted a Web log, or blog, of dispatchesfrom its reporters. It paper also posted a telephonenumber and asked its employees to call in to reportthey were safe.
In New Orleans, talk radio station WWL-AM becamesomething of a crisis line, with callers reporting thelocations of people who needed to be rescued fromattics and rooftops.
On the air Monday night, host Bob Del Giorno describedhuddling near a closet with employees at the station,near the Superdome, when windows in the station blewout at the height of the storm.
As of Tuesday afternoon, The Associated Press stilldid not know the condition of its bureau, on the 25thfloor of a building near the Superdome.
While five of its reporters stayed in New Orleans tocover the devastation, other staffers set up animprovised bureau at the Baton Rouge newspaper.
Most of the bureau had been working since Saturday atthe offices of the Hammond Daily Star, a newspaperabout 55 miles away from New Orleans, until thefurious storm hit Monday.
``The phones went out, and then after the power faileda few hours later, water started coming through theroof,'' said Charlotte Porter, the AP's chief ofbureau for Louisiana.
In all, the news cooperative had 30 staffers - text,audio, video and photo - covering the disaster, APspokesman Jack Stokes said.
Television stations in the storm's path also had toscramble to make alternate plans.
WWL, the CBS affiliate in New Orleans, moved on Sundaynight from its studios in the city's French Quarter tothe campus of Louisiana State University in BatonRouge.
And WDSU, an NBC affiliate, sent its main anchors toJackson, Miss., where a station there - both are ownedby Hearst Argyle - broadcast its signal onto WDSU'sair in New Orleans.
For news outlets of all kinds, simply getting in touchwith reporters proved to be extremely difficult.Editors and managers spent much of Monday and Tuesdayjust trying to track down their staffs and make surethey were safe.
``We're having tremendous problems with phoneservice,'' said Carl Redman, managing editor of theBaton Rouge Advocate. ``The reporters can't dial inhere. The land lines are all messed up. Communicationis a very, very big problem.''
14) More local color:
Searching for Jesus' finger
Wednesday, 2:10 p.m.
In the garden behind St. Louis Cathedral on Royal Street lies an incredible tangle of zig-zagging broken tree trunks and branches, mixed with smashed wrought iron fences.
But right in the middle, a statue of Jesus is still standing, unscathed by the storm, save for the left thumb and index finger, which are missing.
The missing digits immediately set off speculation of divine intervention.
New Orleans has a long history praying to saints for guidance and protection in times of great peril. In fact it was Our Lady of Prompt Succor who was said to be responsible for saving the Ursulines Convent in the French Quarter from a raging fire that consumed the rest of the city centuries ago.
Since then, New Orlenians have prayed to the saint for protection from natural disasters. On Saturday, Archbishop Alfred Hughes read a prayer over the radio asking for Our Lady's intervention to spare the city a direct hit by Hurricane Katrina.
Many in the Quarter are now saying it was the hand of Jesus, the missing digits to be precise, that flicked the hurricane east just a little to keep the city from suffering a direct blow.
And the search is one for those missing fingers.
Shortly after Katrina passed, several men went to Robert Buras, who owns the Royal Street Grocery and told him they know who has the finger. Buras said he'd give them all the water and beer they need if they bring him the finger.
They told him they'd find it and asked to be paid upfront. But Buras told them he wouldn't take it on credit
"I'm going to find Jesus' finger,'' Buras said. ''I've got a lead on it.''
15) Bobby Jindal has all but disappeared, but he did have this to contribute to the looming debate concerning Katrina:
"If we had been investing resources in restoring ourcoast, it wouldn't have prevented the storm but thebarrier islands would have absorbed some of the tidalsurge," said Rep. Bobby Jindal, R-La. "People's livesare at stake. We need to take this more seriously."