Sunday, September 18, 2005

Katrina Encours et Toujours XIX

A lot of today's postings are just reading from the Sunday T-P. If you're checking on your own, then there's less interesting stuff today than most days:

1) As far as I'm concerned here's the Katrina quote of the day (as excellent a quote as the one I heard on the Wednesday after the storm -- "they'd better do something quick, 'cause people gettin' medieval around here"):,1280,-5286726,00.html

..."The Wal-Mart store in uptown New Orleans, built within the last year, survived the storm but was destroyed by looters.

``They took everything - all the electronics, thefood, the bikes,'' said John Stonaker, a Wal-Martsecurity officer. ``The only thing left are thecountry-and-western CDs.''..."

2) It's clear that NO needs a few visionaries rightnow, and there's literally not a moment to lose because reconstruction events will start to move very quickly now. I hope a few local visionaries step up to the plate, because otherwise a mess will emerge:

Rebuilding plans confront turf wars, political strife

Racial tension mars initial discussions

By Robert Travis Scott
Capital bureau

BATON ROUGE - Twelve days after Hurricane Katrina, asthe worst of the storm's physical perils subsided,about 60 business people and public officials from NewOrleans gathered in Dallas with Mayor Ray Nagin todiscuss the future of the city.

The room full of "type A" personalities, as oneparticipant described them, showered advice on themayor. But it was New Orleans-born trumpeter andcomposer Wynton Marsalis, one of several peopleparticipating by phone, who passionately made thepoint that seemed to resonate most with the group: NewOrleans must rebuild its cultural, as well as itseconomic, strength.

For a city suffering an almost total exodus ofresidents and standing on the precipice of historicchange in its population size and demographic makeup,the challenge of Marsalis' message struck deeply,according to people who attended the Dallas meetingSept. 10. One huge concern is the potential loss of adisproportionately large number of African-Americanswhose neighborhoods endured some of the most damagingflood waters and whose low incomes hinder theirreturn.

Reaching agreement on how to rebuild New Orleans won'tbe easy. Nagin's effort already has run up against aLouisiana political environment rife with historicaldivisions and turf wars. The city's initiative alsowill face a headstrong wave of federal aid andfree-market forces that will play a role in making orbreaking a new grand plan, whatever it turns out tobe.

"We can talk in the abstract about what a rebuilt NewOrleans would look like," said Jim Schwab, seniorresearch associate with the American PlanningAssociation. "In the end that is not going to matternearly as much, I hope, as what the people of theregion themselves decide they want."

And while critics from across the political spectrumdarkly warn about the dangers of "social engineering"as a strategy for rebuilding the region, costs, safetyissues and what insurance companies are willing tounderwrite may be the determining factor in manydecisions.

Urban planners who have studied the history ofcommunities struck by disaster recommend they begin bybuilding a consensus about what they want to preserveand create, Schwab said. But Katrina makes that jobespecially difficult.

"Every time you've done it before, you still hadpeople in the community," Schwab said.

In Dallas alone, as the mayor's group met, thousandsof evacuated citizens from New Orleans filled sheltersand hotels, including about 2,000 people being placedthere in federally subsidized housing. Nagin was inDallas primarily to rent a place for his family and tosettle his children into school until they canre-enroll in a New Orleans school.

Marsalis and others participating in the Dallasmeeting predicted that if the diverse peoples of NewOrleans do not return, its distinctive neighborhoods,musical inspirations and culinary traditions probablywon't, either.
Confusion, hard feelings

The Dallas meeting was an early lesson in thedifficulties facing those who seek a consensus on aplan for the future. It quickly ignited a controversyand led to miscommunication and hard feelings amongsome political leaders.

One of its organizers was Nagin's RegionalTransportation Authority chief, Jimmy Reiss, a whitebusinessman who was quoted that week in the WallStreet Journal saying that some people who want torebuild the city foresee a town with a new demographicof fewer poor people. To some in the city, the storypainted an impression of an elitist cadre of white NewOrleans leaders callous to the plight of the city'spoor.

"It was an extremely unfortunate article," said BillHines, a lawyer and leader of the economic developmentgroup Greater New Orleans Inc. who attended the Dallasmeeting.

The story enraged a number of black state lawmakersand New Orleans City Council members, includingCouncil President Oliver Thomas, state Rep. CedricRichmond, D-New Orleans, and Sen. Diana Bajoie, bothD-New Orleans, who confronted Nagin in a publicmeeting Sept. 12 at the state Capitol. They expressedconcern that Nagin and the Dallas group of mostlywhite businessmen were coordinating a recovery programassuming that a large portion of poorAfrican-Americans would be discouraged from returningto the city.

As the legislative hearing room gained the air of aformal inquiry, Nagin responded sharply that he had nosuch intention and said he had made that point clearat the Dallas gathering.

"So don't worry about this city being hijacked by asmall group of people who are trying to take usbackward," said Nagin, who is black.

Reiss, contacted at his home in Aspen, Colo., wouldnot comment. In a letter to The Times Picayune, hesaid, "there was no selfish politics, no parochialgoals" at the Dallas meeting. "We all shared the sameobjective: Make New Orleans a prosperous city thatprovided jobs and a high quality of life for all ofits citizens, and preserving the diverse cultural andethnic heritage that makes us special."

Some of those who joined the Dallas meeting, whichlasted several hours, said it was positive andunified, and that Nagin persuasively articulated hisdream for a prosperous city. In addition to Marsalis,there were other African-Americans who participated,including Entergy New Orleans chief Dan Packer, who isthe board chairman of the Louis ArmstrongInternational Airport, businessman David White andstate Sen. Derrick Shepherd, D-Marrero.

Still, the event fed Nagin's reputation as an aloofleader indebted to the white business establishmentthat helped elect him. Nagin himself is a businessmanwith no prior experience in elected office. Few haveforgotten that Nagin, a Democrat, endorsedconservative Republican Bobby Jindal in the 2003governor's race over Kathleen Blanco, the Democrat whowon. His relations with Blanco - and hence relationsbetween New Orleans and state government - have beencool ever since.

He also has strained relations with council membersand the black legislative delegation from New Orleans,many of whom feel shut out by his administration,especially in this time of crisis. Those same peoplewere unaware of the Dallas meeting until it was over.

"You don't need to fight these battles by yourself,"Thomas told Nagin at the Capitol hearing.

"You may have done it that way in the past," stateRep. Karen Carter, D-New Orleans, told Nagin. "But youdon't have to do it that way in the future."

Nagin explained that he had been dealing with urgentand stressful conditions hampered by dysfunctionalcommunication systems. He made his mea culpa andannounced he would appoint a racially balanced taskforce dedicated to planning the city's revival. He wasadamant that New Orleanians, not state or federalofficials, will determine the new plan for NewOrleans.

Limited local leadership

Bernie Pinsonat, a consultant with Southern Media &Opinion Research in Baton Rouge, said the publicperceives the Katrina political landscape as devoid ofoutstanding leadership from the president on down.

"Louisiana produced no Giuliani figures for the restof the country," Pinsonat said, referring to formerNew York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's much-lauded handlingof the 2001 terrorist attacks on his city.

Leadership is critical to the recovery process, andNagin seems determined to emerge as the one settingthe agenda for the future.

But the city has long been limited in determining itsown affairs and revenue base. For example, statecommissions own the Superdome and the Ernest N. MorialConvention Center, and the Legislature ultimatelydecides how much room tax New Orleans hotels willcharge to pay for the buildings. The state,represented by the governor, is the primary negotiatorin deals with the New Orleans Saints. Local sales andproperty taxes are capped by state law.

The city's public housing authority, which hastemporarily moved to Houston, is under the control ofthe federal Department of Housing and UrbanDevelopment because of past financial problems.Financing for future public housing projects willdepend largely on the impetus of the federal agency.

Last week, the state Bond Commission, acting on arequest that preceded Katrina, approved a federallybacked $49 million financing package to continue aredevelopment program for three of the city's majorpublic housing developments, one of which was severelyflooded. It won't matter if people don't come back tooccupy the apartments; the federal financing is notbased on occupancy.

One senator on the commission questioned whether thepanel was moving too fast considering the manyunknowns about New Orleans' public housing scene. Butthe commission decided it was better to have the moneyin the pipeline than to derail the projects whilewaiting for a grand new plan for public housing.
The federal government has its own recovery agenda,announced by Bush last week, and it plans tocontribute billions of dollars. There has been muchtalk about the possible appointment of a federal tsarfor the recovery effort.

Federal Emergency Management Agency money for the citywill pass through state agencies. It remains to beseen whether state or federal authorities willinterfere or attempt to dictate the city's plan.

The state at times has been possessive of the city'srevenue. For example, the state is the main taxcollector for Harrah's New Orleans Casino downtown.Blanco has refused to release millions of dollars ofHarrah's tax money that was supposed to be passed onto the city, and pleas from city officials andlawmakers have not convinced her to let it go.

Blanco wrote President Bush this week requesting thatfederal dollars cover 100 percent of the cost forKatrina recovery, and lawmakers at the state Capitollast week were nearly universal in their expectationthat federal money would take care of New Orleans,leaving state budgets to continue providing the sameservices and projects elsewhere in Louisiana.

Whitney National Bank President King Milling, whoparticipated in the Dallas meeting, said that despiteall the obstacles, he is hopeful consensus can beformed on a recovery plan.

"We can create a better community in the long run withthe same sensibilities and culture," said Milling, whois white.

Late last week, Nagin spent considerable time buildingpolitical allies and staking out a national mediapresence to put a confident face on the dauntingrecovery effort. Now out of crisis mode, he can spendmore time on the future.

"We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rebuildthe greatest city in the world," Nagin said. "It'sbeen a wild ride, and we're getting ready to get onanother wild ride."

3) I don't really agree with the premise of thisarticle -- namely that LA might go Republican due tothe potential loss of all those African-AmericanDemocratic voters. First of all, such voters won'tjust disappear -- they may swing TX Democratic, forexample (not addressed in this article). Secondly, anawful lot of NO locals who might've voted Republicanthree weeks ago might be reconsidering their vote now-- and that could change yet again depending on howBush's reconstruction plan plays out...

Evacuations throw wrench into Democratic strategy

Return of reliable voter base uncertain

Those in Houston shelters skeptical of government

By Laura Maggi
Capital Bureau

BATON ROUGE - With so many New Orleans residents inevacuation centers and temporary housing arrangementsacross Louisiana and the rest of the country,political analysts say that Hurricane Katrina couldprove a turning point in the state's politicalhistory.

The potentially permanent diaspora of voters -especially the poor and black residents who make upthe Democratic Party's most loyal constituency and maylack the resources needed to return - could change thecalculations for getting elected to statewide officefor years to come.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco and other leaders are beginningto assess the task of rebuilding the city andsurrounding region, emphasizing that they want all ofthe Louisiana citizens to come back home. Thosedisplaced lower-income residents currently withoutjobs, they say, can be put to work on the massiveconstruction projects that are soon to come to thearea.

The city of New Orleans has always been key instatewide elections, where well-established politicalmachines have historically been able to turn out alarge Democratic vote.

African-American voters make up about 63 percent ofthe registered voters in the city and 29 percent inthe state. They have historically vote overwhelminglyfor Democrats, making them essential to a winningstrategy.
The well-organized black voters in New Orleans havebeen an essential factor in statewide elections,allowing Democrats to compete in a way that theyhaven't been able to in neighboring Deep South statessuch as Mississippi and Alabama, said Jim Nickel, aformer chairman of the party.

"Unless there is a very significant, almost completereturn, the math gets very complicated for Democrats,"Nickel said.

It is unclear exactly how many people from southeastLouisiana have left the state since Katrina struck thecoast three weeks ago, although Blanco estimates that1 million residents from the region have beendispersed. Many of them are now out of state,including an estimated 250,000 in Texas alone.

Which of those Louisianians choose - or are able - toreturn will set the political landscape.

Residents already have begun to return to St. Tammanyand Jefferson parishes, which have majority whitepopulations that often back Republican candidates.Both parishes went for Blanco's GOP opponent, currentU.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal, in the 2003 governor's raceand gave Republican George W. Bush some of his highestpercentages in the state in 2000 and 2004.

People from the flood-ravaged parishes of St. Bernardand Plaquemines are unlikely to be able to return asquickly because of the extensive flood damage. Butthose rural parishes, which are almost entirely white,are less politically predictable, evenly split betweenDemocrats and Republicans in competitive races.
The real question mark remains Orleans Parish, even asresidents are being allowed back this week into dryneighborhoods such as the Central Business Districtand Uptown. Heavily black neighborhoods such as theLower Ninth Ward and eastern New Orleans sufferedextensive flooding, which could take months, if notyears, to rebuild.

At the same time, thousands of lower-income NewOrleanians, most African-American, who were unable toleave the city before the storm waited for days to beevacuated, often without food, while increasingviolence dominated the streets. Many have expressedanger at their state and local leaders and reluctanceabout returning to the area. One recent poll ofevacuees at shelters in Houston found that 44 percentintended to permanently relocate outside New Orleans.

State Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, said thatit may be too soon to tell whether people will beunwilling to return to the city because of theirexperiences during Hurricane Katrina. AnAfrican-American politician, Richmond acknowledgedthat the exodus of large numbers of black voters wouldbe significant for state Democratic politics.

"If we don't get people home, it is going to be veryhard for Democrats to be elected," he said, whileemphasizing that politics isn't the priority rightnow. "The main goal is to create a new city thateverybody who was displaced would want to come hometo."

Bernie Pinsonat, a pollster and political consultantwith Southern Media & Opinion Research in Baton Rouge,said it likely won't be clear for at least threemonths how the storm will impact the voter base in NewOrleans. For example, if those who evacuated toHouston find it a more appealing and safer place fortheir families, the new lifestyle might keep themthere, Pinsonat said.

Roughly speaking, if New Orleans loses more than40,000 black voters, then the impact will be felt insome local elections. Once more than 50,000 AfricanAmericans leave the state, the departure will impactstatewide elections, Pinsonat said.

Recent statewide elections won by Democrats broke downalong 52 percent to 48 percent lines: U.S. Sen. MaryLandrieu beat her Republican challenger Suzanne HaikTerrell by 42,012 votes in 2002, while Blanco beatJindal by 54,874 votes in 2003.

For current leaders, the political impact of HurricaneKatrina could be problematic even if people do returnto the state. A survey of 680 people at shelters inHouston, almost all of them from New Orleans, foundthat evacuees were critical of politicians at everylevel.

Fifty-eight percent disapproved of Blanco's handlingof the storm's devastating aftermath, when floodingand violence overtook the city and thousands of peoplewere stranded with little assistance for days. About53 percent disapproved of New Orleans Mayor RayNagin's actions, while 70 percent found fault withPresident Bush.

The survey showed that people experienced a totalcollapse of local and state services, said RobertBlendon, professor of health policy at the HarvardSchool of Public Health, who helped conduct thesurvey, along with the Kaiser Family Foundation andThe Washington Post.

Only 7 percent of respondents said they were helped bythe New Orleans police or fire departments or a stateagency, compared with 25 percent who said theyreceived assistance from the National Guard or othermilitary units.

"There was a real skepticism about the ability torebuild and make things work in the future at thestate and local level," Blendon said.

As the survey polled only people in emergencyshelters, it is not a representative sampling of allNew Orleans-area people who have evacuated to Houston,capturing generally low-income people who stayed inthe city during the storm and needed government helpto get out. More economically well-off evacuees, whoare typically paying for their own housing or stayingwith family and friends, were not included.
Capital bureau reporter Robert Travis Scottcontributed to this report.

4) Here's to plans to keep Louisianans home:

State looks at ways to keep folks in La.

Businesses, homeowners could receive tax credits

Blanco says she has repaired fractured friendship withNagin
By Laura Maggi
Capital Bureau

BATON ROUGE - State officials are working on aneconomic development package they want Congress toconsider to help jump-start businesses in New Orleans,as well as encourage people to rebuild their homes inthe area, Gov. Kathleen Blanco said in an interviewSaturday.

Based on the tax breaks and other incentives that werecreated for New York City after the Sept. 11 terroristattacks, the state is trying to craft "sellable" taxcredits program for homeowners and businesses thatwould benefit anyone who rebuilds in the 10-parisharea affected by the storm, Blanco said.

The package is still in its conceptual stages, Blancosaid, being worked out in partnership with Mississippiofficials, who will have similar problems rebuildingalong the coastline.

"A lot of the details are not yet identified, but wewant it as liberal as possible," Blanco said, addingthat any incentives would likely have to be in placefor as long as a decade. "We want it to work forre-employing our people."

Among the ideas:

* A $50,000 tax credit for homeowners who rebuild inthe area or a $20,000 tax credit for renters whoreturn. People whose tax liability is less than thoseamounts would be allowed to sell those credits.

* An accelerated depreciation schedule for businesses,allowing them to write off 50 percent of theirinvestment in the first year.

* A $30 billion bond issue allowing businesses thatwant to rebuild to get tax-free bonds, as well asproviding businesses that reopen in the New Orleansarea with a $100,000 tax credit.

The state already is working with large companies toget their work forces back into the area, Blanco said,by helping set up temporary housing at facilities.This will help get the larger employers up andrunning, she said, providing a boost for the stalledeconomy.

In a phone interview before she traveled to Alexandriato meet with troops coming back from the war in Iraq,the governor said she had a good meeting Wednesdaynight with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. The mayor hasbeen critical of the state's post-hurricane response,saying that he did not get enough support as floodingswamped the city and violence became more pervasive.

"We began the process of debriefing each other,sharing what our unique experiences were," Blancosaid. "I know the mayor felt very desperate in hishour of need."

But Blanco said that because of the communicationsnetwork breakdown, Nagin was unaware of all that wasgoing on at the state level to deal with the crisis."We came to some new levels of understanding that wereabsolutely necessary," she said.

Although Nagin endorsed opponent Bobby Jindal duringthe 2003 governor's race, Blanco said she hasdeveloped a good working relationship with the mayorsince she took office. "We re-established ourfriendship," Blanco said of their conversation.

5) Here's a disaster assistance website:

Sorry, all.

D'oh! Jimbo

This is a site my friend has set up for victims of Katrina in New Orleans. It is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to helping out the city that everyone on this list has enjoyed. Check it out, purchase a bracelet and wear them with pride. Every little bit helps. Take care, all. Jim Brooks ps. I never ask anyone to do this, but send it to as many people as you can on your email lists. The money needs to be raised and people need to be helped. The message is ready to be sent with the following file or link attachments:

Shortcut to:

6) New Orleans' Vietnamese will be back -- they've started from scratch once before, and can do it again:

Vietnamese businesses must start over - again
Many made homes in eastern N.O.
Businessman says many residents will return
By Doug MacCash
Staff writer

The grass in the neighborhoods along Chef MenteurHighway beyond Interstate 510 is a cadaverous graycolor, seemingly lifeless after being submerged fordays beneath floodwaters.

Bass boats, V-bottomed pleasure craft and even oneforlorn Sunday-in-the-park paddleboat are grounded onthe four lanes' shoulders, medians and side streets -evidence of a hectic exodus. Car washes, mobile homesand threadbare motels dating from the era when ChefMenteur, also known as U.S. 90, was a thoroughfare tothe Gulf Coast, seem to have exploded into rubblealong the roadside.

Other, more substantial architecture is merely scouredby the wind, missing shingles and gutters. Cypress andcedar trees are bent to the ground, their roots pulledsummarily from the earth like garden weeds. As otherNew Orleans neighborhoods seem poised for aspeedier-than-expected comeback, eastern New Orleansis still utterly humbled by Hurricane Katrina's power.

Near the corner of Chef Menteur and Alcee FortierBoulevard, where for 30 years Vietnamese lettering hasreplaced English on the roadside shop marquees,businessman Huang Tran, 49, surveyed the damage withnervous dismay Friday.

"I feel very down," he said. "It's so terrible. BeforeI came back I thought I could rebuild in a few weeks.Now I think it will take five or six months."

Tran pointed to several of the storefronts in theblock-long strip malls that line the intersection,each owned by a member of his immediate or extendedfamily, all of them damaged. His younger sister ownsthe jewelry store, his wife's older sister owns thepharmacy, and his older sister owns the Vietnamese hamfactory, where, he said, the hundreds of pounds ofmeat have certainly spoiled.

Other family members ran small businesses inneighborhoods across New Orleans, most, he said,damaged to some degree by the storm. Everyone, hesaid, escaped to Carrollton, Texas, near Dallas, wherethey waited for his report on the damage.

Tran's own business, a second-story video rentalstore, had survived both wind and floodwaters.Ironically, this fact only seemed to add to hisfrustration, since somehow he'd misplaced the keys,making the long drive from Texas to retrieve valuablesand begin the repair process in part useless.

"I've almost lost my mind," he said, patting hisforehead, the heat of the midday sun rippling from themuddy, littered pavement around him.

As a 19-year-old, Tran was one of thousands ofVietnamese who escaped their war-ravaged homeland totake permanent asylum in the somewhat familiar heatand fecundity of the reclaimed wetlands in NewOrleans' eastern reaches. There they'd established alargely self-sufficient Southeast Asian communitysuperimposed on a typical American suburb of tracthouses, modest yards and chain-link fences.

"I feel the same thing as then," he said. "I have tostart at the beginning, just like when I came here in1975."

A fishy smell filled the air from the nearby bayou,which had returned to its banks only days before. Thestaccato pulse of helicopter blades could be heard inthe distance. The streets of the neighborhood werealmost completely vacant, except for a rare passingcar with wide-eyed occupants inspecting what the floodhad left behind.

Tran had not abandoned his neighborhood and businesseasily. He drove through the limb-strewn streets whileKatrina's winds still wailed. He forded the samestreets as the tide rose, leaving only when thewaist-deep water threatened to drown the engine of hisFord pickup. Now he was among the very first to stealback in for a peek. He said he believes that many ofhis Vietnamese neighbors will return.

"The young people are gone, he said. "The old people,yes, they'll come back for the church."

He was referring to Mary Queen of Vietnam Church onDwyer Boulevard a few blocks away, a modernsheet-metal structure adorned with subtle Asianmotifs, but with part of its roof torn away anddropped like a shed snakeskin in the adjacent parkinglot.

"Now I have to go back to Dallas to see what to donext," he said.

Unexpectedly, Tran went to the back of his truck,returning with cold Cokes to share.

Inside the truck's large cab, two of Tran's employees,Willie Watson, 56, and Michael McKinley, 22, waitedsomewhat impatiently, dust masks pasted to theirforeheads with sweat. In the front seat sat PhatQuach, 26, introduced as Tran's daughter's boyfriend,a newly minted Xavier University pharmacist.
The next and last stop on Tran's expedition wasQuach's house, a mile away down Chef Highway on ashort cul-de-sac that was no longer marked with streetsigns.

The modest low-slung ranch house had one of thenow-familiar rescue schematics spray- painted on thedoor, a crossed circle indicating no one was foundinside, dated 9-10. The house had taken in a foot ofwater that drew a greasy brown tidemark around theinside of the living room. The floor was slick withmud, the walls polka-dotted with quarter-sized moldcolonies. Scenes of Vietnam's long-ago war with Chinaand da Vinci's "Last Supper," rendered in mother ofpearl, shared the wall with formal, old-world, familyphotos.

"I just kind of expected it," Quach said of his musty,waterlogged home. "But it's just now hitting me thatit's real. You have to step into your house and see itfor yourself."

Quach was most interested in retrieving two articles.The first was a sheaf of papers including the permitsand licenses for the pharmacy he and Tran were on thebrink of opening in Mid-City when the storm struck.
"We were going to open in October," he said, a faintsmile of pride, or perhaps irony, lighting his face ashe handed the documents to Tran for safekeeping.

"I work 365 days," said Tran, standing in the doorway."I never close. In the evening I go fishing for acouple of hours. I go home and have a couple of beersand go to bed and get up again every day."

"He's a good boss," Watson said. McKinley nodded inagreement. "But it's going to be a long while beforewe're back. Just look at the place."

Quach clutched the other object he hoped to salvage, asuit he said he'd recently paid $1,000 for, stored ina now-dripping vinyl carrying bag. No one stated theobvious, that the suit was a lost cause.

Unexpectedly, there was the sound of another vehicleon the road and a heavily accented voice called out toTran's party.

Three police offers had arrived, parking their blackpickup across the driveway, trapping Tran's vehicle.One wore an NOPD T-shirt. The other two, a man andwoman, wore black and khaki combat gear, complete withflak jackets, spare clips and leather-sheathed gearclustered on their belts. He carried an assault riflewith sniper scope; she, a bulky pistol.

Special Agents Kim Wright and Manual Noudewo,accompanied by officer Douglas McGowan, were on looterpatrol. They politely asked for ID, never assuming athreatening posture - never needing to. In theirregular life, they said, they are Drug EnforcementAdministration officers in Miami. Agent Noudewo, withthe distinct accent, was born in Cameroon.

Once the IDs were produced, the officers chatted for afew minutes with Tran's expedition party. "It's thebad luck of our people," Tran said, explaining hisbelief that every 30 years the Vietnamese have beenforced to leave behind one life for another. In 1945they escaped Japanese occupation; in 1975 they fledthe communist takeover; now it's Katrina.

His father, he said, had seen it all, but since he isnow in his 80s, Katrina will probably be the old man'slast exodus.

Heading back to the black pickup, Wright said,"Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

"You'll get it, you'll get it," Watson saidreassuringly as Tran and the others stepped to theFord, preparing for the long trip to their temporaryhome. "You're a businessman; you've seen hard times."

7) Wetlands article:

Bob Marshall: Lessons to be learned from Katrina
By Bob Marshal
lOutdoors editor

The dividing line between good and bad could not havebeen starker.

Inside the levees that formed the border of PortSulphur - the Mississippi River levee on the east, theso-called hurricane protection levee on the west - thescene was one of utter, ugly ruin. Islands of debristhat had once been homes, marinas and schools floatedin a sickening black sea of fetid water. Even at 300feet in a seaplane, the odor of what had happenedthere permeated the humid air.

It was a different story outside the levees. On oneside green oyster grass sliced by bayous rested underthe sun, clean and quiet. One the other the big riverflowed easily toward the Gulf. Nature seemed at peace.

We all saw the contrast. Wildlife biologist ScottBurdett spoke first. “There’s a lesson to be learnedfrom that picture, and some serious questions to beasked,” he said.


In the immediate wake of Katrina, the obvious questioncoming from all parts of the country went like this:Why rebuild a city that sits on sinking lands in ahurricane zone?

The answer is equally obvious. For the same reasonwe’re not moving Los Angeles or San Francisco, whichsit on major fault lines. Or Miami or Tampa, which sitright on the coast in hurricane zones. Or Denver andLas Vegas, which are sucking local aquifers dry.

It would be too expensive and far too inhuman toattempt to move a million or more people. Further,those cities represent important cogs in the nation’seconomy. In our case, the city’s port is indispensableto the economies of all those states that touch theMississippi River and its tributaries, easilyone-third of the nation.
That said, this disaster should finally teach thenation a lesson it has refused to learn for 200 years:Our communities must live within the infrastructure ofthe ecosystems upon which they are built. If we allowourselves to grow beyond those limits we are courtingdisaster, whether on the Gulf Coast, the Great Plainsor the arid west.

We can live safely in New Orleans, but only if werespect the natural storm defenses that once existed.If we hadn’t allowed industry to destroy half themarshes that were found south of the city 100 yearsago, Katrina’s blows would have been much less severe.If we had put parochial concerns aside 20 years agoand united behind plans to rebuild those marshes, manymore of us would be dry today, and the nation would be$100 billion richer. If we hadn’t allowed developersto put houses and businesses in areas prone toflooding, we would have a smaller city – but we wouldhave had much less death and destruction.

We can live here in safety, but not if we try toignore nature. Yes, we will need to build levees thatare high enough and strong enough to withstand aCategory 5 storm, but we must also rebuild thewetlands we’ve destroyed, even if that means removingsome old developments and curtailing future growth. Ifnot, we’ll soon be an island in the Gulf toovulnerable for levees of any height to protect.

This lesson isn’t only for New Orleans. Disasters on asimilar scale are building across the nation, justfrom different forces of nature, and all because ourplanners put “growth” ahead of respect for theirecosystems. Western cities like Denver and Las Vegasthat were built on dry or semi-arid landscapes havebeen allowed to grow without limits. Now they face theprospect of running out of water in 30 or 40 years,leaving millions of people homeless.

Yet the solutions being discussed point to furtherdevelopment – trapping water in endless reservoirs,piping it down from Canada, taking it from the sea.Even if possible, those ideas would cost billions andstill not solve the problem, because the continuedgrowth would soon out-pace the new supply.

They can have their cities in the desert just as wecan have our city on the delta – but only if werespect the natural systems we’re building on. Thepenalties we court for ignoring and destroying thosesystems can be found in New Orleans today.

8) NO area university news:

Colleges to seek billions in federal assistance

Officials hope aid strengthens systems
By Coleman Warner
Staff writer

A tattered American flag was tacked to a thin plank ofwood just inside the door of Delgado CommunityCollege's main administration building, a hurricanerelic that soldiers from the Oregon National Guardplucked from a tangle of storm debris.

The shredded flag could serve to symbolize the blowsuffered by several campuses that are beginning torestore crippled physical plants. Preliminaryassessments of damage to campus buildings, equipmentand lab materials has set the stage for a historicrequest of as much as $5 billion in federal aid.

Louisiana Commissioner of Higher Education JosephSavoie said Saturday that congressional staffers areworking out the details but that the request should beintroduced in Congress as soon as Monday. Savoie saidthe total is "subject to all sorts of strategicdecisions they're going to have to make." In additionto rebuilding damaged buildings, the money would beused for scholarships, faculty stabilization, economicdevelopment and to restore damaged research, Savoiesaid.

To fine-tune the damage assessment, "we're hoping tohave people on site this week looking at all thosecampuses," Savoie said.

But in interesting ways, despair over the havocwrought among institutions so important to NewOrleans' economy and culture is giving way to optimismthat the storm may have provided an opportunity.College and university leaders meeting regularly inBaton Rouge as part of the higher education responseteam have begun talking about how wise use of federalaid could ultimately strengthen the institutions,Savoie said.

"There's a growing sense of opportunity; people arethinking of ways they can improve theircircumstances," he

Last week, conditions at several campuses appearedgrim. A sheen of white and brown muck marked buildingwindows and was cracking in the sun.

Floodwaters covered two-thirds of the TulaneUniversity's Uptown campus between Freret Street andSouth Claiborne Avenue, to depths of three or fourfeet in many places. The brackish water tossed debrisabout a baseball stadium that was under renovation,ruined virtually all of the university's vehicle fleetand spilled into the basement of Howard-TiltonMemorial Library, where a world-famous jazz musicarchive is stored, officials said. The universityhired a document salvage firm, but it was unclearSaturday how much of the archive will be saved. Muchof the campus was strewn with large tree limbs.

"We're going to be buying a lot of stuff," said SeniorVice President Yvette Jones. "We're moving quickly."

Floodwaters still covered most of the SouthernUniversity at New Orleans campus Wednesday, the firstday anyone representing SUNO could access the propertynear the Lakefront to check on its condition, interimChancellor Robert Gex said. There were reports ofwater as deep as 14 feet around the campus after thestorm, and by Wednesday the receding water was stillan inch deep in the administration building. A statedamage assessment team hadn't yet begun its work, hesaid.

"In every building, some damage has taken place. Weneed people to look at foundations and things," hesaid Thursday. "It's been hard on everybody. We'retrying to make the best of the situation."

At the University of New Orleans, floodwaters at somepoint covered about a third of the Lakefront campus,mostly on its south and west sides, invading the firstfloor of a dorm and the city's premier high school,Ben Franklin, at the edge of the college campus. But"most of the academic buildings didn't have water,"Chancellor Timothy Ryan said. Still, he estimated thatbuilding repair and equipment replacement needs willtop $100 million.

Storm refugees brought from rooftops by helicopter toopen ground at UNO broke into many buildings and spentdays on campus, with the bulk of them, 1,500 or more,apparently sleeping at Kirschman Hall, a newmulti-story business complex, Ryan said.

"Apparently there was some miscommunication, becausethey were left there for several days," Ryan said,adding there was "some substantial damage done, butreparable damage." Some of the displaced residentsapparently broke into soft drink machines, he said.

Cleanup workers on Wednesday said they found humanfeces and mounds of trash inside the business hall,and more than 100 chairs from the building had beendragged out and left in a grassy field.

"For somebody to have that much trash in there, it hadto be a whole, whole bunch of them," said Ricky
Burch,director of a private cleanup crew hired by UNO. "Itlooked like Mardi Gras inside."

Xavier and Dillard universities, both hit hard by whatappeared to be at least a few feet of flooding onground floors, were strewn with tree limbs and otherdebris last week. Damage at Xavier, near SouthCarrollton Avenue and the Pontchartrain Expressway,had yet to be formally assessed, Savoie said.

In addition to flood damage, Dillard lost threebuildings to fire, said Savoie, who did not know whichbuildings burned. A drive past the campus suggestedthat the stately buildings along Gentilly Boulevardhad been spared. But dried muck and downed tree limbsacross much of the campus gave it a look ofdevastation.
Dillard and Xavier officials weren't immediatelyavailable for comment.

"Dillard requires significant cash investments fromalumni, government, foundations, corporations andfriends to restore the physical facilities andinfrastructure, equipment and academic instructionalmaterials," Dillard's Web site says. "We are dedicatedto the success of our students and the entire Dillardcommunity, and all of us eagerly await our return tofair Dillard."

Floodwaters invaded ground-floor medical facilities ofTulane University and Louisiana State University in theCentral Business District, damaging records, killinglaboratory animals and disrupting hundreds of researchprojects, Savoie said. Money for shoring up suchresearch projects will be sought from Congress, hesaid.

Nunez Community College in Chalmette, part of a swathof destruction caused by storm surge in St. BernardParish, saw six to seven feet of water on the bottomfloors of its four buildings, spokeswoman Teresa Smithsaid. Some of the buildings also sustained roofdamage, and mud from the storm waters filled parkinglots, one of which was littered with marooned boats. Adamage assessment for Nunez was incomplete last week.

Delgado received some flooding on the back sections ofthe City Park campus, and soldiers from the OregonNational Guard found in the main administrationbuilding trash that appeared to have been left behindby a small colony of storm refugees. But the unit,which had more than 240 soldiers camped out at thecampus, found no major damage or evidence of looting,said its spokesman, Sgt. 1st Class Cameron Hanson.
"I've only seen one broken window, and that was from abullet hole," he said.

Using Delgado equipment, the Oregon soldiers mowed thelawn.

Other than minor wind damage, Our Lady of Holy Cross,located in Algiers, and Loyola University, off St.Charles Avenue Uptown, were left relatively unscathedby Katrina, officials said. Serving as theheadquarters for Texas National Guard units, Loyolabenefited from its location on the river side ofFreret Street, avoiding the water damage that willrequire months of repair at neighboring Tulane.

9) Jefferson Parish Update:

Jefferson Parish springs to life
Residents come back, businesses reopen
By Mary Swerczek
Kenner bureau

Backing away from a phased return order that hadstretched through next Wednesday, Jefferson ParishPresident Aaron Broussard announced that all JeffersonParish residents are welcome to return this weekend.

"He feels the parish has come back enough," saidWalter Maestri, the parish's Director of EmergencyManagement. "That was his commitment that he couldbring more and more people in as the infrastructurewould admit."

Maestri estimated Saturday that about 75 percent ofelectricity and sewerage is working in the parish. Buthe said the hardest-hit areas of Old Metairie,Bucktown and Terrytown remain without those services.Parish officials say about 65 percent to 70 percent ofthe parish's residents have already returned.

Beginning Monday at 5 a.m., residents will have totalaccess to the Causeway bridge, said Causeway GeneralManager Robert Lambert. Previously, the commission hadrestricted access to emergency personnel and thosewith special business permits, in an effort to helpadhere to the curfews enforced in various parishes,Lambert said.

But as of Monday, each parish will have to decide howit wants to handle the curfews in light of theCauseway's opening, he said. "The parish will have toenforce (curfews), not the Causeway Commission," hesaid.

With more and more residents arriving, Maestri saidthe biggest challenge facing the parish now is findingtemporary housing for thousands of citizens lefthomeless by the storm. West Bank residents have beenallowed to return, with the main problem area beingTerrytown, Maestri said.

Also, the parish is lifting the restriction againstrecreational vehicles and trailers in driveways, aslong as residents get a permit from the JeffersonParish Department of Inspection and Code Enforcement,Maestri said. There is no charge for the permit.

He didn't have an estimate of how many businesses havereopened, but said more are springing to life everyday.

"Today's the first active day," said River Ridgeresident Sandra Couvillion, standing outside aMcDonald's on Jefferson Highway on Saturday.

The fast-food restaurant's lobby was closed atlunchtime, but the line for drive-through stretchedonto the highway.

Many businesses advertised not just that they wereopening, but that workers were needed.

"We're hiring for every position," said Lowe's zonemanager Dwayne Dempster, at a Veterans MemorialBoulevard location. Employees from Lowe's storesthroughout the country and Lowe's vendors are helpingout at New Orleans area stores, Dempster said.

In addition to the new businesses opening, there wereother signs of life returning closer to normal.
In River Ridge, only the crumpled awnings and damagedsigns signaled the storm that came through nearlythree weeks ago.

Traffic was brisk along Jefferson Highway where themedian was dotted with spray-painted signs announcingthat various restaurants were open for business.

At Colonial Lanes bowling alley in Harahan, ownerChuck Ferrara threw a party for police andfirefighters who hepled the city reopen. "It's just alittle bit of appreciation for the people who helpedget us back on our feet again," said Ferrara, as theemergency workers bowled and ate pizza.

An RTA bus that was commandeered by New Orleansevacuees to escape the city in the days after thestorm is parked in front of City Hall. The dozenpeople on the bus weren't booked with a crime, butwere brought to the evacuation center at LouisArmstrong International Airport.

"I understand why they did what they did," PoliceChief Peter Dale said.

Staff writers Matt Scallan and Jenny Hurwitzcontributed to this report. Mary Swerczek can bereached at

10) Another response analysis - looks like the city turned down that empty Amtrak train after all. Guess it wasn't part of the evacuation plan:

Need and response proved out of sync
Initial confidence rooted in ignorance
Getting 'boots on the ground' proved particularlydifficult
By Bill Walsh
Washington bureau

WASHINGTON - It was 8:30 a.m., shortly after HurricaneKatrina made landfall Aug. 29, and Donald Bordelon wasfeeling pretty good.

Katrina's 145-mph fury was still raging outside hisArabi home. But in St. Bernard Parish, where residentslook up at the Mississippi River, the real worry iswater. Always, the water.

For the time being, the levees were holding back theforces of nature that daily threatened to render hisneighborhood just one more south Louisiana swamp. Hisrelief didn't last long.

Forty minutes later, water swirled up around the stovein his kitchen. He jumped into his boat and gave uphis home to the storm.

Elsewhere in the hurricane's tailwinds, a brief senseof security swept across much of southeasternLouisiana and the nation. In the early afternoon ofthat Monday, it seemed, the 287-year-old city had onceagain been spared a direct hit by a major storm. Aheadline in a national press service assured, "NewOrleans Weathers the Storm."

That assumption was dead wrong.

As surely as water seeks the lowest level, Katrina wasabout to lay bare the shortcomings of disaster plansby local, state and federal officials.

And as levees were breached around a city restingmainly below sea level, years of disaster planninggave way to finger-pointing, legal wrangling anddenial that things were as bad as they clearly were -even as residents suffered through unimaginableconditions just to survive.

A million evacuate

Days before it struck, Hurricane Katrina commanded afear and respect uncommon along the Gulf Coast, whereresidents are annually menaced by several hurricanesthat are often false alarms and near misses.
More than 1 million people fled the region ahead ofthe massive storm under a new evacuation plan. Manyhad heeded New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin's stern warningto "treat this one differently." Those left behind -some who chose to stay, others who couldn't afford toleave - were promised a shelter of "last resort" inthe Superdome. Nagin said the city "planned for themto be in there for four of five days."

Amtrak offered its last train out of town Saturdaynight, which had room for several hundred passengers.A railroad spokesman said the city declined and thetrain left empty.

On Sunday, Nagin ordered the first-ever mandatoryevacuation of New Orleans. Police with bullhornscombed neighborhoods for stragglers.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco also issued a mandatoryevacuation and Michael Brown, director of the FederalEmergency Management Agency, described "a phalanx ofsupplies" positioned in a semi-circle around the cityready to deploy once the storm had passed. PresidentBush had taken the extraordinary step Saturday ofdeclaring a state of emergency, activating for thefirst time the much-vaunted National Response Plancreated in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"We've planned for this kind of disaster for manyyears because we've always known about New Orleans andthe situation," FEMA's Brown said on NBC's "Today"show as the hurricane made landfall. "We actually didcatastrophic disaster planning for this two years ago,so we've put all of those in place. One year ago weactually did a tabletop exercise with the state ofLouisiana, so they've been through this drill."

But, as Nagin had said in urging residents toevacuate, this was not a drill.

FEMA's role

His frequent public pronouncements notwithstanding,Brown clearly saw himself in a supporting role in thedisaster drama. He issued a directive to FEMAemployees Monday not to respond to hurricane-ravagedareas "without being requested and lawfully dispatchedby state and local authorities."

The directive revealed an allegiance to bureaucraticprocesses that proved maddening to some as FEMAdemanded written requests for food, troops and fuel. AFlorida congressman said the agency turned down anoffer for flat-bottomed air boats because it didn'twant to sign a contract with the supplier.

Save for the Coast Guard's dramatic air rescues, adetached, legalistic approach set the tone for thefederal government's response. Brown is a lawyer as ishis boss, Department of Homeland Security SecretaryMichael Chertoff. And the founding document of U.S.disaster planning reads like a legal brief.

The National Response Plan is chock full of legalese,case law and statutes, but it doesn't clearly spellout something as basic as who is responsible forgetting food and water to flood victims. The 426-pageplan was supposed to have remedied thecommand-and-control problems that plagued the responseto the terrorist attacks in New York City. But it'shardly a model of clarity. Its authors thought itnecessary to attach an 11-page glossary of "key terms"and a three-page explanation of acronyms. On theseminal question - Who's in charge? - the FederalResponse Plan is murky.

It says incidents are "typically" managed at thelowest levels of government. On the same page,however, it says that "Incidents of NationalSignificance" put the secretary of the Department ofHomeland Security in charge. The next page seems toreverse course again. It says that "Incidents ofNational Significance," emergencies declared by thepresident, puts the federal government in a supportingrole to protect state sovereignty. That is, unless thepresident decides he wants to be in charge, in whichcase the governor is secondary. Under thosecircumstances, the plan says, the president willconsult with the governor, "if practicable."

Desperate situation

Legal nuances meant little to those in the disasterzone. In many parts of New Orleans, the water was onthe rise.

Three breaches in the Industrial Canal levee pouredwater into the Lower Ninth Ward and Bywater. Twoothers breaks along the London Avenue Canal sent adeluge into Gentilly. Another along the 17th Streetcanal levee flooded Lakeview, City Park and Mid-City.As long feared, the barriers that had been built tokeep the water out were now trapping it in.

The thousands of people who hadn't evacuated scrambledto keep above the rising water. By mid-afternoonMonday along Claiborne Avenue, a man and his familycould be seen peering out a window from his attic as12 feet of water churned below. Many people wereforced to cut their way through their roofs to escapethe rising tide. Some were being plucked off roofs byCoast Guard helicopters or lifted into boats, bothwhich were suddenly in short supply.

By nightfall, a helicopter pilot flying over thedarkened city reported seeing dozens of flickeringlights below, signals from desperate flood victimshoping for a ride. Most would spend the first nightafter Katrina on their roofs. Some would be there fordays.

Rule of law falters

Lawlessness became the story Tuesday. Looters smashedstore windows and pried open doors. Some of thelooters sought food and health supplies. Others wentfor the big-ticket items.

New Orleans Police Chief Eddie Compass said that his1,500 officers were too busy rescuing people to worryabout looting. But some officers took more than apassing interest. At the Wal-Mart on TchoupitoulasStreet, an officer was seen loading a shopping cartwith a 27-inch flat-screen television and a

Some residents began arming themselves. Keith Williamssaid he began carrying a handgun in his Uptownneighborhood after seeing the body of a gunshot victimslumped on a sidewalk.

"What I want to know is why we don't have anyparatroopers with machine guns on every street,"Williams said.
Nowhere was the need for law and order more acute thanin the Superdome. About 25,000 people had taken refugein the domed stadium and the situation quicklydeteriorated. The lights went out. Theair-conditioning stopped. The plumbing failed.

Violence, deprivation and worse were widely reportedinside. Thousands were trapped.

Buses that the city was to have provided to get peopleout had been parked on low ground and were now stuckin water. It took at least three days for Blanco andfederal officials to round up enough buses and driversto haul people out.

For the moment, Nagin remained calm. Asked whether hehad enough troops to keep order, he answered:"Absolutely. There are 3,500 National Guard officersthat are on their way and should be here tomorrow. Sowe have enough resources to get the job done."

What Nagin didn't know was that the rescuers werehaving problems of their own.

The National Guard staging area at Jackson Barrackshad flooded, and a downed radio tower crippledcommunications. The water in many parts of the regionwas too deep to drive in trucks pulling rescue boats,yet too shallow for top-grade Coast Guard vessels.

"No one is satisfied with the response early on," saidRuss Knocke of the Department of Homeland Security.
Third World scenes

By Tuesday afternoon, the enormity of the disaster wasbecoming clear to almost everyone. It seemed to knockofficials back on their heels. After a helicoptertour, Blanco called the devastation "untenable" and"heartbreaking." FEMA's Brown predicted it would be"weeks and weeks" before people could return home.
On national television Americans watched Third Worldscenes play out in a beloved American city.

Viewers couldn't help but notice that the vastmajority of those pleading for help from atop roofs oroutside the Superdome were African-American. Some ofthe victims asked whether the response would have beenquicker had their skin color been lighter. Althoughmany white residents were stranded in other placesoutside the majority-black city, race became anundercurrent of criticism of the federal response.

On Wednesday, Bush cut short his Texas vacation andwent back to Washington. On the way, he peered outover the disaster zone from Air Force One as it passedhigh above.

At the White House, Bush hastily convened a Cabinetmeeting and appointed Chertoff to the helm of a newhurricane task force. The political master stroke,though, was the appointment of Army Lt. Gen. RusselHonore, a brash, media-savvy Louisiana native, as thefederal government's new face in New Orleans.
The imposing three-star general barked out orders tosoldiers and obliged countless reporters enthralled byhis cigar-chomping style. Even Nagin was impressed,calling him "that John Wayne dude."

Assessing the federal government's response from thecomfort of the Department of Homeland Security inWashington, Chertoff on Wednesday liked what he saw.

"We are extremely pleased with the response that everyelement of the federal government has made to thisterrible tragedy," Chertoff said.

Dangerous refuge

Chertoff, he would later confess, had not yet seenwhat was unfolding at the Ernest N. Morial ConventionCenter.

Thousands of people since Tuesday had begun seekingrefuge in the Convention Center in the high groundalong the Mississippi River. The massive halls soonbecame desperate scenes of deprivation.
Outside, the body of a 91-year-old man slouched in alawn chair. His wife said he died in the back of aRyder van during the evacuation and was deposited onthe neutral ground.

Inside, there were reports of armed men from rivalpublic housing developments in an atmosphere teemingwith danger. A doctor said he saw at least four deadbodies uncovered, uncared for.
Help, it turned out, was only a few doors away. Acontingent of 250 armed National Guardsmen haddecamped in one of the convention halls nearby. But aGuard spokesman said that they held back attempting toquell the violence awaiting reinforcements.

Getting enough "boots on the ground" proved adifficult task in the aftermath of Katrina. Legalisticwrangling between Gov. Blanco and the White Housewould keep active-duty soldiers out of the disasterzone until five days after the hurricane had passed.

Blanco said she expected to see a heavy federalmilitary presence soon after she spoke with PresidentBush on Sunday.

"I asked him, 'Send me everything he's got,'" shesaid.

But the administration said Blanco hadn't been clearon what she needed. On Wednesday, she asked for 40,000troops. Bush administration officials say Blancowanted active-duty soldiers, who aren't by law allowedto act as police. But, Blanco aides said she requestedany combination - National Guard or regular Army -just as long as there were enough to help restoreorder and help in the rescue effort.

"She didn't know what she wanted or what she needed,"an administration official said.

In between television interviews, Blanco wasquestioning herself.

"I really need to call for the military," she could beheard telling an aide. "We should have started that inthe first call."

On Wednesday, the Guard force in the New Orleans areanumbered nearly 500. It swelled to 6,500 by Thursdayand 7,767 by Friday. But it wouldn't be until Fridaythat the Guard troops believed they had enough backupto seize the Convention Center. When they did, agrateful and mostly passive crowd greeted them.

Fire and water

Soon after Katrina blew through, the U.S. Army Corpsof Engineers had been trying to repair the breaches inthe levees. Their main worry was a yawning, 200-foothole in the 17th Street canal dike that was pouringmillions of gallons of Lake Pontchartrain into thecity.

They had dropped 3,000-pound bags of sand into thebreach, but it did little good. On Wednesday, MotherNature brought some relief. A shift in the tidesstabilized the water in the city, a glimmer of goodnews in a city that was sinking into anarchy.

Fires burned out of control. Hospitals refused to takeemergencies as staffers prepared to evacuate withpatients. Two police officers committed suicide.

'There is frustration'

Thursday dawned with a familiar refrain: Help is onthe way.

President Bush was asked on "Good Morning America" whyaid was so slow. "I understand the anxieties of peopleon the ground. There is frustration," Bush said."There is a lot of help coming."

But there remained signs that officials weren'tcompletely aware of what was happening in the city.
Despite years of warnings that the city's leveescouldn't withstand a hurricane as strong as Katrina,Bush said, "I don't think anyone anticipated thebreach of the levees."

Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff told a reporterthat he hadn't heard reports of thousands of peoplehungry and thirsty at the Convention Center. FEMAChief Brown said the government had learned of it onlythat day.

Terry Ebbert, the city's disaster planner, voiced acommon sentiment inside the disaster zone Thursday.
"This is a national disgrace," he said. "FEMA has beenhere for three days and there is no command andcontrol. We send massive amounts of aid to tsumanivictims, but we can't bail out the city of NewOrleans."

By Friday, the Coast Guard had rescued more than 7,000people, 5,500 by helicopter. Dozens were confirmeddead, but everyone expected the toll to rise.

President Bush visited Mississippi to survey thedamage. He walked past demolished homes and huggedhurricane victims. He gave Brown, the FEMA director, avote of confidence.

"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job," he said.

In a matter of days, Brown would be removed as head ofthe Gulf Coast relief effort and then resign his postat FEMA. Bush and Blanco would, in quick succession,publicly take responsibility for the mistakes thatwere made in the response effort.

It seemed that another corner had been turned fromassessing blame to focusing on rebuilding the city.Nagin and leaders from surrounding parishes begantaking steps so that residents could return.

Bush came back to New Orleans. Ahead of him andthrough deep water, a long-awaited convoy of food,supplies and troops rumbled into New Orleans. At theairport, the president reaffirmed the government'scommitment.

"In America," he said, "we do not abandon our fellowcitizens in their hour of need."

11) Nobody got hit harder than St. Bernard:

Sunday, September 18, 2005
St. Bernard dwellers return to collect belongings andfind there's little left

'It's only going to get worse,' sheriff says

By Paul RiouxSt. Bernard/Plaquemines bureau

The once-tidy cottage on Lebeau Avenue in Arabi hadbeen home to five generations of Susan Probst'sfamily, from her grandparents to her 9-year-oldgrandson. So Probst made sure she was among the firstin line Saturday at dawn when St. Bernard Parishofficials allowed residents in her neighborhood toreturn and salvage the few possessions that HurricaneKatrina had spared.

Despite dire warnings about the devastation throughoutthe parish, Probst and her husband, Tony, held outhope and had even rented a small moving van to haulaway their possessions. But that all changed with oneglimpse through the home's windows.

"Oh, my God! Oh, my God!" she screamed as she fell toher knees and her words dissolved into a piercingwail.

The refrigerator lay in the middle of the kitchenfloor, surrounded by slimy muck. The living room was ajumbled mess of mildewed furniture tossed about byfloodwaters that had nearly reached the tops ofdoorways. Mold was spreading on the walls andceilings.

Once she gathered herself enough to go inside, Probstdiscovered more heartbreak. Her collection of MickeyMouse memorabilia was destroyed, and the water hadsmeared the ink on scores of pictures of her fivegrandchildren, blurring theirfaces so she couldn'trecognize them.

"I tried to prepare myself for what I might see, but Inever imagined this," she said. "Maybe I was justtrying to fool myself."

"Looks like we won't be needing the truck after all,"Tony Probst said.

Similar scenes played out throughout Old Arabi asabout 300 carloads of residents returned to the parishSaturday to see what they could salvage. Most leftvirtually empty handed.

"People are shocked by what they're seeing and this isthe least impacted area," Sheriff Jack Stephens said."It's only going to get worse."

In the coming days, residents will be allowed toreturn in stages to other areas of the devastatedparish, where virtually all 27,600 homes flooded,including hundreds that were simply washed away ineastern St. Bernard.

On Saturday, warped doors and jammed locks forced manyresidents to break into their own homes.

Residentswore masks, rubber gloves and knee-high boots as theydragged moldy furniture to the curb. Soggy
photoalbums and other valuables were delicately placed intoplastic bags.

Mary Ann Hoover, 79, insisted on personally inspectingthe damage to the Friscoville Avenue home, where shehas lived for more than 50 years. "She's got thingsstashed away in there that only she knows how tofind," said her son, Jesse Hoover.

Wearing a flowered shirt and matching slacks, Mary AnnHoover donned a white mask and green rubber gloves.She then shuffled toward her side door past arefrigerator filled with rotten food. "Good thing Ilost my sense of smell," she said.

"What in the world is that?" she said, looking at alarge mold-covered object in her darkened living room."That used to be your coffee table," Jesse Hooversaid. "You've got to be kidding me," she said.

Authorities have estimated that 75 percent or more ofSt. Bernard's homes will have to be razed. ParishCouncilman Craig Taffaro said an informal poll ofresidents returning to the 800-home Old Arabineighborhood suggested that six out of 10 don't planto rebuild.

Even so, Councilman Mark Madary, whose districtincludes Arabi, said he saw some encouraging signs."It was uplifting to see people cleaning out theirhomes," he said. "The rebirth of St. Bernard dependson people coming back. And like childbirth, it ain'talways going to be a pretty sight."

Carol Becnel said she can't imagine rebuilding hershotgun in the 300 block of Angela Drive, which tookon precisely 36 2/3 inches of water, according to herhusband's tape measure.

"I spent the first half of my life renovating thishouse. I'm not going to spend the rest of my lifedoing it all over again," she said, holding backtears. "I try not to cry because if I start, I mightnever stop."

Displaced from the close-knit parish where peoplepride themselves on looking out for each other, Becnelsaid she has had to rely on the kindness of strangers:The waitress in Houma who tore up their dinner billwhen she heard their house had flooded. The woman whooffered to replace the shoes Becnel bought for herson's wedding next month. Even the postal clerk whohanded her a phone book brought tears to her eyes.

"I wish I was the one being kind," she said. "I don'tlike being on the receiving end, but God is workingthrough these people." Children were conspicuouslyabsent from Saturday's recovery efforts, which took onthe feel of a reunion as neighbors spoke to oneanother for the first time since before the Aug. 29storm.

For safety reasons, parish officials had urgedresidents to not bring their children. BrendaSchaubhut, whose recently restored shotgun double wasruined by the storm, left her two children withfriends at a Shreveport hotel. She said they are doingwell and have treated the family's evacuation,including a week at a makeshift shelter in Chalmette,as an adventure. Mallory, 7, told her grandmother howthey "got" to sleep on cardboard at the shelter. AndDylan, 5, was thrilled by the sight of helicoptersbuzzing over New Orleans as the family was evacuatedon a crew boat up the Mississippi River to BatonRouge.

But Schaubhut said the children's resilience is beingstretched thin as the days have turned into weeks."Dylan just about broke my heart the other day when heasked me, 'Does Santa Claus come to hotels?' '' shesaid.

12) Survivor stories:,1280,-5286734,00.html

After Storm, Survivors Learn to Improvise

Sunday September 18, 2005 6:46 PM
AP National Writer

In devastated Chalmette, La., at Lehrmann's bar andseafood restaurant just across the street from arefinery, pool tables were converted to beds for thosewho lost their homes but refused to leave flooded St.Bernard's parish.

In New Orleans, mattresses became life rafts andplastic storage bins were floating baby strollers.
Without electricity and running on sheer adrenaline,survivors of Katrina quickly learned that making domeant making use, in an entirely different way, ofwhatever was at hand.

Their improvisations serve as valuable lessons - andtestaments to the human spirit and adaptability. Ababy can be delivered by the illumination of a singleflashlight. A raft of two-by-fours can be a funeralbarge. Anti-bacterial dishwashing liquid can cleanyour dentures. And an exotic dancer's garter belt canbecome a headband.

``That's called the ingenuity of survivors,'' saidJoanna Dubreuil, standing outside what used to beWaffles Plus restaurant in Bay St. Louis, Miss., agulf-front town that is basically gone. Her sons hadjust secured a length of pipe to an erupting artesianwell, creating a blessed outdoor shower in the middleof widespread wreckage.

In New Orleans' French Quarter, where flooding wascomparatively minimal but running water nonexistent,personal hygiene took a great deal of improvising.Carolyn Krack, 76, used dishwashing liquid to brushher dentures.

Ron Seitzer, 61, took up residence on the roof ofChris Owens' transvestite cabaret on Bourbon Street.Just outside the quarter, in the Mississippi River, hejoined others who came to wash their clothes, theircookware, and themselves.

His detergent was a mix of dish soap and ``cool oceanscent'' floor cleaner. ``I feel sort of bad that it'sgoing to be going into the river,'' he said. ``But I'msure there are a lot worse things at this point.''

After Katrina, even death required improvising. In NewOrleans, a woman's body lay outside for days.Eventually, bricks were stacked to form a makeshiftgrave. A bedsheet became a tombstone. ``Here LiesVera,'' it said. ``God Help Us.''

Xavier Bowie died while his common-law wife was outlooking for help. No one would come get his body, soEvelyn Turner wrapped a sheet around him and floatedhim down to the main road on a raft of two-by-fours. Atruck finally stopped and its driver was persuaded tocarry Turner and her dead companion to CharityHospital.

There, doctors had enlisted bystanders and relativesto squeeze portable air bags for patients - ademanding and tedious job - who had been onventilators that gave out when the generators died.Boats became gurneys, transporting the sick out of thedamaged hospital. ``The patients were being treatedwith not even what you'd have in a field hospital,''said Dr. L. Lee Hamm.

At University Hospital, in a dark and airlessthird-floor room, Dr. Stacey Holman held a flashlightwhile her colleague delivered a baby. The mothercouldn't have epidural anesthesia because there was nopower.

Ferries became giant relief rafts. In Chalmette,would-be evacuees waited in a storm, wearing garbagebags as rain ponchos. Standing in line, exotic dancerCortny Elder, 24, used her garter belt to hold backher hair.
On Canal Street, in the heart of New Orleans' centralbusiness district, relief workers who had journeyedfrom cities across the country - to improviseeverything from meals to housing to rescues - foundthey had to improvise again when they had nowhere toturn for church.

So volunteers stood in the bed of a pickup truck, tookup a bullhorn and led about 100 worshippers in prayer.
``We want to thank you for bringing peace and love andhope to this community,'' said one.

On the fringes of downtown Dallas, at the DeckerDetention Center, a minimum-security prison, 750inmates were removed so the dispossessed of HurricaneKatrina could have a place to sleep. The refugees alsogot new clothes to wear, with ``PRISONER'' runningdown the leg of loose-fitting pants and ``DallasCounty Jail'' printed across the back of shirts.

Some weren't so appreciative, even though a countysheriff's spokesman insisted authorities were doingall they could to make it feel like home. Computerswith Internet access were brought in. Phone calls werefree.

``We don't want them to feel like it's a jail,''said Sgt. Don Peritz.

Which is much easier to say when one doesn't have tosleep there.

``Why we got to stay in a prison cell?'' asked38-year-old Norris Gullo, a New Orleans constructionworker.

``Why we getting strung out like this?''
Associated Press writers Allen G. Breed, MarilynnMarchione, Erin McClam, Matt Sedensky and Vicki Smithcontributed to this story from Louisiana andMississippi.

13) Another survivor story:

Katrina's might surprised the Campo clan

3:47 p.m. Saturday
By Bob Marshall
Outdoors editor

After living in the St. Bernard marshes all of his 87years, Blackie Campo thought he’d probably seen andheard it all – even when it came to hurricanes. It wasa hubris Campo earned by watching storms wipe homesaway in 1947 and 1956.

So as he and his son Ken waited in the Poydras home ofhis grandson Kenny for Katrina to pay her visit on thenight of Aug. 28 Blackie – arguably the best-knownmarsh man in south Louisiana - thought there could beno surprises.

He was wrong.

“This was worse than everything I’ve ever seen beforecombined,” Blackie said Friday from his refuge inBaton Rouge. “I thought we’d have some water. Ithought there would be winds. But I never thought itwould be like this – just all gone.

“I’ll tell you, we’re lucky we got out of there withour lives.”

They have little else left.

Katrina already is being called the most destructivenatural event in the nation’s history, a storm thatspawned a million stories of horror, escape and livessuddenly changed. The Campos have one such story.If a family and a place can be an icon for a traditionas old and cherished as fishing in southeast

Louisiana, it has always been the Campos and Blackie’sShell Beach hoist. They have been fixtures not just onthe Lake Borgne fishing scene, but in the hearts anddreams of three generations of metro-area residents.

Saying “Blackie’s” in a New Orleans crowd is almostlike saying “Archie”. The name brought instantrecognition, and visions of a place as much a part ofthe local culture as Jackson Square. The Campo clanhad been there since the 1800s, running their hoistsince 1931. They seemed permanent, even in a regionwhere land disappeared at the rate of 35 square milersa year.

Today they are gone, and the future is uncertain.Blackie and his wife Mabel are staying with family inBaton Rouge. Ken, 57, and Kenny, 33, are earning awage working on hurricane clean-up crews in St.Tammany Parish.

“We’re making a living, and happy to have it,” saidKenny. “But did I ever dream it would come to this?Not until that day.

“And I can tell you exactly when everything changed.”It was 11 a.m. on Monday Aug. 29, and the Campo menwere in a celebratory mood. Katrina’s eye and itsvicious 145-mph winds had passed close to the area butthey had come through unscathed in the house just 200yards from the river levee. They really weren’tsurprised.

“When I built my house, I chose that land in Poydrasbecause everyone said it had never flooded there,ever,” Kenny said. “That’s why we evacuated there. Wehad locked down grandpa’s house, the hoist and thebusiness on Sunday, our families had gone to BatonRouge, and we’d come to my house because – likegrandpa said – it never floods in Poydras.

“And after the first part of Katrina passed, it stillhadn’t flooded.”

With a new generator purring, the men watched thestorm’s progress on TV and were preparing to have somelunch. Kenny went outside bare-chested and bare-footedto pick up the few shingles blown off his roof.

That’swhen he heard a peculiar hissing sound, and looked upthe street.

“Water was coming down the street, then from the otheryards, then up the street, it was just pouring in fromeverywhere,” he said. “By the time I got back to thehouse, it was up to my knees.”

His alarms dumbfounded his father and grandfather.

“Kenny comes in yelling ‘We got to get out of here! Wegot to go!’ and I didn’t know what he was talkingabout,” Ken Sr. said. “Then, the water started comingin the house.”

The men ran to their two pickup trucks, Blackiejoining Kenny in one, Ken Sr., in the other, and withthe water rising fast made a hurried, fatefuldecision.

“As we’re getting in the pickups, I’m thinking aboutwhere we should go,” Ken recalled. “At first I thoughtwe should try to get to St. Bernard High School, thenmaybe the courthouse. But the levee was right there,so we just took off and drove up to the top of thelevee.

“Let me tell you, maybe 15 minutes had passed sinceKenny saw that water until the time we got to the topof the levee, but by then there was seven feet ofwater in his house, and it was still rising. We wereon the only high ground left. If we’d tried to goanywhere else, we would have all drowned.”

They were safe, but only for the moment. Katrina’swinds returned blowing from the northwest with avengeance.

“It was so strong it was rocking those pickup trucks,and several gusts almost rolled us completely over,”Ken said. “We finally decided we had to drive part waydown the river-side of the levee. That got us someprotection, but we were still being bounced by thegusts.

“We stayed like that for two hours, but it seemed likeweeks. It was really, really scary. Several times Ithought we’d be rolled into the river.”

When the wind and rain finally eased they drove northon the levee to Violet, where Ken’s brother, F. J.,had planned to ride out the storm in his 55-footshrimp trawler. What they saw along the way made themanxious.

The parish was a lake broken only by theroofs of homes, many holding people begging for help.They rescued a few, including several relatives.Each mile made them fear the worst for Violet andF.J.. But he was fine, and the shrimp boat becametheir home for the next three days.

“We had a whole bunch of people living on boats,waiting to find out just what had happened,” Kennysaid.
The survivors helped open the Violet flood gates withhand power and on Wednesday the Campos motored downthe MR-GO to check on their business and homes inShell Beach. It was a short voyage, but one they willnever forget.

“The (MR-GO) levee was gone, and that’s what probablyflooded St. Bernard and Poydras,” Kenny reasoned.

“Thechannel was twice as wide as it was before the storm.

“When we made that turn from the channel into thebayou (Ycloskey), we couldn’t believe our eyes –because there was nothing to see. The steel beams andthe roof on the hoist were still standing, but therewas nothing else left. It was total devastation.”

Blackie’s home that had withstood everything naturehad thrown its way since 1956, the marina store, theboat sheds, and almost every home on nearby Proctor’sLanding and Beauregard Estates were gone. Only slabsremained.

“My house was built strong, with the idea ofhurricanes hitting,” Ken Sr. said. “The pilings weredriven deep, and they were anchored in the slab, andthen bolted to the frame of the house. Everything wasbolted and anchored down. And there’s noting left.

“I don’t mean it was torn down. I mean it’s nowhere tobe found. I don’t know what hit us, but it had to be ahell of a lot of water, and an incredible amount ofwind.”

Blackie looked at the scene through eyes that havewatched nature play violent games with his nativemarshes for 87 years, and was still shocked.

“I knew it would be bad, especially after the floodingat Kenny’s house, but I’ve never seen anything likethis,” he said. “You put all the other stormstogether, and they don’t equal this.

“I don’t know where my house is, or even its roof.Nothing’s left. It’s almost like we were never there.”By the end of the week the family had affected arescue thanks to friends in Covington, and cousinDavid Snyder, a native who had relocated to BatonRouge more than 15 years ago. Like hundreds ofthousands of other evacuees, their immediate concernwas getting work, and their vast extended fishingfamily was ready to help.
“We got offers to work, places to stay, people havejust been unreal,” said Ken. “We’re OK for now.”But the future is in question. The infrastructure ofthe fishing business – roads, fuel, ice and customers– is in shambles.

“Sure, we’d like to rebuild the business, but even ifwe could do that next week – they could open theroads, fix the bridges, get power and fuel - wherewould our customers come from?” Kenny pointed out. “Ican’t see us staying out forever, but for right now Idon’t see how any of that’s going to get done verysoon.”

Ken agreed, but said his clan is struggling with thesame emotions all Katrina evacuees are saddled with.He and Kenny will look for work and places to livewith their families as close to home as possible, andmake the best of it.

Blackie and his wife of 65 years will remain for nowwith his cousin in a Baton Rouge subdivision calledCamelot. He knows it’s too far from the marsh to liveup to that name.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?