Monday, September 12, 2005

Katrina Encours et Toujour XIV

Soon, it will be time to return to non-Katrina related postings. The news cycle is gradually returning to normal, and it's unclear that the world will be as obsessed with Katrina as we New Orleanians and Gulf Coasters will be in the coming months. However, that time hasn't come yet, so here's another posting devoted solely to Katrina.

I find it really odd to be citing the New Orleans Times-Picayune for so many postings, considering how it's often in the past been a completely lame local paper driven primarily by corporate interests. Yet, I must admit that they're doing a great job in this disaster.

Finally, seeing the Saints and LSU win at the last minute must have felt great to an awful lot of area folks -- it worked for me.

1) Here is the best flood mapping website I've seen yet. Try the "hybrid" map to pinpoint various blocks in the city, or where your house is:


2) Here are some alternative organizations to donate to for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts:

Grassroots/Low-income/People of Color-ledHurricane Katrina Relief

3) Here's a blog detailing some of the nasty things carried out in the past two weeks:

4) Some of the conspiracies outlined in this blog go further than I would, but others make sense enough:

5) Summer Camp with Tom DeLay (taking his place on the Wall of Shame with Hastert, B. Bush, W, Tancredo, Santorum, and the other freaks of nature):

DeLay to evacuees: 'Is this kind of fun?'U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's visit to Reliant Park this morning offered him a glimpse of what it's like to be living in shelter.

While on the tour with top administration officials from Washington, including U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao and U.S. Treasury Secretary John W. Snow, DeLay stopped to chat with three young boys resting on cots.

The congressman likened their stay to being at camp and asked, "Now tell me the truth boys, is this kind of fun?"

They nodded yes, but looked perplexed.

With a group of reporters and press officers in tow, DeLay then moved on, chatting with others, including a local IRS representative. He then visited with job recruiters set up in Reliant Park.

Earlier DeLay spoke with volunteers and thanked them for their service.

"You are becoming famous all over this country and even the world," he said, adding that he's often approached by lawmakers commending Houston's response to the disaster.

--Purva Patel

6) Another local official faces FEMA down:

Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee commandeers Sam'sWal-Mart stores
Sunday, 10:30 a.m.

Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee said he has"commandered" the Sam's and Wal-Mart stores in theparish and ordered them to open as soon as possible.

Lee said he took the action after he learned that aWal-Mart store wanted to open recently but was told byFEMA officials that it could not.

"I am upset with FEMA and some of their regulations,"Lee said.

After talking about the situation concerning theWal-Mart on Thursday, Lee said he briefly talked toSen. Mary Landrieu, D-New Orleans on Friday. He askedher to check on the situation and find out if therewas a legitimate reason to keep the store closed.

But because of communication difficulties, he did nothear back and took the situation in his own hands.

Lee said he gave handwritten notes to Wal-Mart storesin Harvey and Kenner saying they were ordered to openas soon as possible. Lee said Parish President AaronBroussard agreed with the decision.

Lee said anyone from FEMA who tries to close eitherstore will be arrested by deputies.
"We're encouraging the businesses to get up andgoing."

On other topics, Lee said he had 40 deputies whodidn't report for duty for the storm. One who tried toreturn was told not to waste his time.

"As far as I am concerned (he) will never get a job inlaw enforcement again," Lee said.

7) Nagin on relief mistakes:

Nagin: Mistakes were made at all levels
His biggest frustration was slow pace of relief
By Gordon Russell Staff writer

In a stark reminder of how drastically HurricaneKatrina has affected the lives of New Orleanians,Mayor Ray Nagin has purchased a home in Dallas andenrolled his young daughter in school there.

Nagin, who spoke with The Times-Picayune by telephonefrom Dallas, where he has been since Wednesday, saidhe plans to return to New Orleans on Saturday. He saidhe will remain in the Crescent City while his familylives for the next six months in Dallas, makingoccasional visits to his family when possible.

It's not clear where Nagin will be living: His home onBayou St. John suffered massive flooding, the mayorsaid, although he has not inspected it.

In a brief but wide-ranging interview, the mayorreflected on the tragedies of the past two weeks.Acknowledging that he may have made some mistakes, hesaid he hopes others in positions of authority -including President Bush and Gov. Kathleen Blanco --are scrutinized as closely as he and his staff havebeen.

"I'm not pointing any fingers at anyone," Nagin said."But I was in the fire. I was down there. Where werethey? I'm confident the truth is going to come out.But I want everybody's record analyzed just as hard asmine.

"Listen, this was unprecedented. Nothing has everhappened like this. For people to sit back and say,'You should have done this, you should have done that'it's Monday morning quarterbacking. They can shoot ifthey want, but I was there, and I will have thefacts."

Nagin's biggest frustration, and his biggest source ofpuzzlement, is the slow pace of the relief efforts. Hesaid state and federal officials made repeatedpromises that weren't kept.

"This is ridiculous," he said. "I mean, this isAmerica. How can we have a state with an $18 billionbudget and a federal government with anI-don't-know-how-many trillion dollar budget, and theycan't get a few thousand people onto buses? I don'tget that.

"All I saw was a huge two-step, if you will, betweenthe federal government and the state as far as who hadthe final authority. Promises made that weren't reallykept. It was frustrating. We'd analyze things,double-check them, and then, later in the afternoon,we'd find out that someone was changing the plan,moving resources around."

Where were the resources?

Some officials at the state and federal level havesuggested that part of the reason for the slowresponse was a lack of awareness about the level ofdevastation the city had suffered. They have faultedcity officials for not sending out a stronger SOS.

While Nagin has said he didn't think the slow responsewas related to the demographic of the overwhelminglypoor, African-American residents that needed rescuing,his thinking has evolved.
"Definitely class and, the more I think about it,definitely race played into this," he said. "How doyou treat people that just want to walk across thebridge and get out, and they're turned away, becauseyou can't come to a certain parish?

How do resources get stacked up outside the city ofNew Orleans and they don't make their way in? How doyou not bring one piece of ice?

"If it's race, fine, let's call a spade a spade, adiamond a diamond. We can never let this happen again.Even if you hate black people and you are in aleadership position, this did not help anybody."

As hearings on the Katrina response start to crank upin Washington, Nagin said, those questions, amongothers, need to be asked.

"I think the government ought to be asking itself,'What happened to the resources?'

"Why were people promised resources and they didn'tshow up? Where were the military resources? Where wasthe National Guard? Why were we left with a city onthe verge of collapse, fighting for the soul of thecity, with 200 National Guardsmen and 1,200 police?

"It was a serious breakdown," the mayor continued."Make sure that whether it's Ray Nagin or the governoror the president, we take a serious look at this andmake the changes that need to be made. I'm afraid someof this was a tug-of-war about who gets to spend themoney at the end of the day. And I don't appreciatethat.

"I saw too many people die, and a lot of people didn'tsee any of that. They had a press conference and left.I'm looking up, fighting this incredible battle, andthey're doing press conferences and lying to thepeople. They're telling them 40,000 troops are in NewOrleans. It was all bull."

Communications shut down

"Analyze my ass, analyze everyone's ass, man. Let'sput the facts on the table and talk turkey. Why wasthere a breakdown at the federal and state level onlyin Louisiana? This didn't happen in Mississippi.That's the question. That's the question of the day."

Nagin said the city's communications essentially shutdown, but said that state and federal officials werelikewise at a loss. Within a few days, city officials,including Chief Technology Officer Greg Meffert aidedby a crew from Unisys and other outside volunteers,were able to patch together a rough network.

"All communications broke down," Nagin said. "I gotcell phones from as high up as the White House thatdidn't work. My Blackberry pin-to-pin was the onlything that worked. I saw the military struggle withthis, too. No one had communications worth a damn."

Even if communications were challenging, Nagin notedthat FEMA officials were up in helicopters inspectingthe damage from the storm within about 24 hours afterit passed. So the message should have been clear, hesaid: Send in the cavalry.

"I think they realized the magnitude of what washappening," he said.

The best-laid plans

Federal officials have faulted Nagin's administrationfor not marshaling its Regional Transit Authoritybuses and those of the School Board to start ferryingthe tens of thousands of evacuees stranded at theSuperdome and the Convention Center out of town.

Nagin said perhaps some of the criticism is fair. Buthe said there were various logistical hurdles thatmade it hard to use that equipment, and the buseswould have hardly created a dent in the size of thecrowds anyway.

"It's up for analysis," he said. "But we didn't haveenough buses. I don't control the school buses, andthe RTA buses as far as I know were positioned highand dry. But 80 percent of the city was not high anddry. Where would we have staged them? And who wasgoing to drive them even if we commandeered them? IfI'd have marshaled 50 RTA buses, and a few schoolbuses, it still wouldn't have been nearly enough. Wedidn't get food, water and ice in this place, andthat's way above the local level.

"Our plan was always to use the buses to evacuate tothe Dome as a shelter of last resort, and from there,rely on state and federal resources."

Those resources took way too long to arrive, Naginsaid - in fact, much of the help didn't arrive untilafter the mass evacuations from the Dome and theConvention Center had occurred. As a result, peoplesuffered and died needlessly, a truth that has beenweighing heavily on his mind.
"I saw stuff that I never thought I would see in mylifetime," he said. "People wanting to die. Peopletrying to give me babies and things. It was ahelpless, helpless feeling.

"There was a lady waiting in line for bus who had amiscarriage. She was cleaning herself off so shewouldn't lose her place in line. There were old peoplesaying, 'Just let me lie down and die.' It's bulls---,absolutely bulls---. It's unbelievable that this wouldhappen in America."

Answering criticism

While a number of people in the sea of refugees thatpacked the Dome and Convention Center complained thatNagin had not come to address them, Nagin said he didvisit both facilities and speak with people.

"I went there," he said. "I went through the crowdsand talked to people, and they were not happy. Theywere panicked. After the shootings and the looting gotout of control, I did not go back in there. Mysecurity people advised me not to go back" afterWednesday, he said.
By Thursday, crowds had gotten increasingly restless.At one point, a crowd surged dangerously around PoliceSuperintendent Eddie Compass, and a knot of policeofficers had to help him to safety.

Part of the discomfort in the Dome and ConventionCenter was due to the lack of toilet facilities afterthe city's water system went down late Wednesday. Thecity's hurricane plan calls for portable toilets atshelters, but none ever arrived. Nagin said hisunderstanding was that the National Guard was incharge of providing them.

Also, he added, "Our plan never assumed people beingin the Dome more than two or three days."

Nagin said he saw a few bright spots amid the rubbleof the city. He said the New Orleans Police Department- at least, the majority of it, given that there werea number of desertions - should be hailed for fightingan almost impossible fight, handling search-and-rescuemissions while trying to keep an increasingly lawlesscity in check.

"They were absolutely heroic," he said. "The stuffthey were dealing with, man. They spent the first twoor three days pulling people out of the water. Whenthe looting started to get to the point that it was areal concern, they had to get involved in seriousfirefights. I mean, we had radio chatter where policewere pinned down in firefights and ran out ofammunition. That's never happened."

'A better city'

Nagin also expressed cautious optimism about thecity's future.

"I think we'll be a better city," he said. "I thinkwe're going to see an unprecedented construction boom,and some better-paying jobs. Small businesses willstart thriving, and I think the tourist industry willbounce back stronger than ever."

Many people who were stranded for days at the Dome andConvention Center told reporters they were nevercoming back to their devastated city. The mayoracknowledged that some of them probably meant it,including some of the displaced New Orleanians he'smet since arriving in Dallas.

"I think some people will probably not come back," hesaid. "You know, Texas is treating people very well,probably much better than we treated people.

"But I think once people start to see the rebuilding,and that the culture of the city will not bematerially affected, they'll be back."

How things progress will depend largely on the levelof federal aid, the mayor said. And it's still unclearwhether entire neighborhoods will have to be razed -and whether some areas should be abandoned because oftheir propensity to flood.

"The longer those neighborhoods stay under water, theharder it's going to be to rebuild them," he said.

Meanwhile, there are going to have to be seriousconversations about changes to the housing codes andimprovements to the levee system, whose inadequacieswere laid bare by Katrina.
"I've been talking to some people in Texas, and Ithink maybe some better designs for housing that canhandle some of this," Nagin said. "And the leveesystem is designed only to withstand a Category 3storm. Obviously, we have to do better than that."

8) T-P writer David Meeks on Reconstruction:

Residents will rebuild their city
By David MeeksSports editor

New Orleans is still beautiful. In the pitch blacknight of an unlit Magazine Street, it's beautiful. Inthe eerie, abandoned Uptown neighborhoods, its allureendures. Dominated by floodwaters, its water systemunusable and power lines shredded from the river tothe lake, the soul of the city is still there, as ithas been for almost 300 years.

In the resilient eyes of the people still in thestreets, working to get the residents out and therecovery started, there is a look that says NewOrleans already is coming back from its greatest disaster.

It's always been that way in this town. New Orleanshas seemed perched on the edge of destruction at manypoints in its history, seemingly vulnerable to afinal, catastrophic punch. But through several boutsof yellow fever, the Civil War and the economiccollapse of the 1980s, New Orleans has been a symbolfor America in its remarkable ability to persevere.

Hurricane Katrina may be unprecedented in its level ofdestruction, but it will not make any difference tothe most steadfast New Orleanians who, helped bypeople from around the world, are determined to keepthis special place alive. New Orleans may have beenknocked unconscious, but it's not dead. It still has apulse, and it's waiting for us to come back, get it toits feet and help it take its first steps.

And although most of the people who love New Orleansmust now do so at a distance, the perspective I bringis not from Baton Rouge or Houston or Birmingham. It'sfrom being on the ground - from the day the storm hit,through the looting, chaos, violence and massive troopdeployment - covering a story all of us hoped we'dnever have to cover.

In one fateful week, we saw a city pushed to the edgeand pulled back. We saw terror and we saw teamwork. Wesaw fellow citizens hit with more desperation than anyhuman being deserves, but they hung in there. For mostin our small group of journalists, we were armed forthe first time in our lives, but we didn't want tofire a shot and never had to. We were on our own andyet we weren't - there were thousands of good NewOrleanians, sticking together, helping each other out,sharing clothes, food and water. Getting the job done.

When we had extra food or water, we gave it away. Whena convoy of ambulances got lost and desperately neededto get to the Convention Center, we led them there.When we could help refugees, we helped. There's nodoubt about it: We were not only on this story, wewere in it, and there was nothing to do but get towork - as journalists, and as residents, too. Get towork for New Orleans. It's what we all have to do.

Reporting in the city the week after the hurricane waslike reporting from a hole, sending your stories outto someone and never seeing what happened to them. Wesaw only snippets of national coverage, with thebreaking news leading inevitably to the endless expertopinions of people who don't know a damn thing excepthow to look into a camera and listen to themselvestalk.

I remember a blabbering woman going on about how weshouldn't give too much money to New Orleans torebuild because the city's so corrupt it will just getwasted. I remember a guy weighing the value of thecity in economic terms, as if it's only worth savingif it can keep the oil and gas coming so he can drivearound in his big fat SUV.

To see fellow Americans so casually disregard our ownhistory saddens me. Here is historic New Orleans, atruly European city in the United States, a place thatwas a major urban center under two foreign nationsbefore it became American, a city that was one of thefirst to donate firetrucks and dispatch volunteers toNew York after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks,and people talk about throwing it away because ahurricane hit.

Well, I'll give the opposing view: This is a bettercountry than that. We're better people than that. Wecan do better than that. Perhaps it is true thatpeople shouldn't live here. But then, they shouldn'tlive in San Francisco, waiting for the nextearthquake. And they shouldn't live on the side of ahill in Southern California, fearing the next wave ofwildfires and mudslides. There sure are a lot oftornadoes in Texas. And how many hurricanes have hitFlorida? Should we all get out?

Seems to me we can either make a list of all theplaces we shouldn't live or learn our lessons and tryto live as smartly as we can in the places we love. InLakeview, where my house is under 8 feet of water,should we rebuild the houses higher? Yes, we should.Should we fix design flaws in the levees and make themstronger? Definitely. Should we take this opportunityto redevelop the city in a way that makes it a betterplace to work and live? We all want that.

We've got issues, and believe me, New Orleaniansaren't blind. Anyone who lives here knows what it'slike to curse this town in a loving embrace. Sweepingchanges need to be made, but now is not the time totalk about that.

We learned a few things in trying to keep a newsoperation running on streets where, if something goeswrong, all the help you're getting is the help youhave with you. You've got to be resourceful, andyou've got to focus only on the task right in front ofyou. We learned the latter from law enforcementpersonnel and rescue workers, who have an amazingability to do just that.
I remember a scene that gave us a laugh, just becauseit's something you can't imagine really happening. Acolleague and I were in a canoe on Canal Boulevard,headed to rescue some pets in Lakeview. A boat wascoming the other way, passing us just like it wasstill a highway - except the road was 8 feet underwater.

An officer from out of town looked over and askedsimply, "Is this the way to Esplanade?"
"Yep," I said.

Neither of us said anything more. We just kept going.We got our job done. Whatever job he was going to do,I can tell you by the look in his eyes that it gotdone.

And that, my friends, is how we're going to get thisdone.

9) Chris Rose:
Stop, in the name of normalcy (or a hint of it,anyway)
By Chris RoseColumnist

Amid the devastation, you have to look for hope.Forward progress of any kind.

Even the smallest incidents of routine and normalcybecome reassuring. For instance, I was driving downPrytania, and at the corner of Felicity, the lightturned red.

Out of nowhere, in total desolation, there was aworking stoplight. I would have been less surprised tofind a Blockbuster Video on Mars.

And the funny thing is, I stopped. I waited for it toturn green, and then I drove slowly on my way, eventhough there were no other cars anywhere and thelikelihood of getting a ticket for running the onlytraffic signal in town seems very unlikely right now.


Also on Prytania, there was a gardener watering theplants on the porch of Nicolas Cage's mansion, and Iguess that's a good sign. Life goes on. In very smallways.

The toilets flush now, and I never thought that wouldbe a sound of reassurance. An even better sound wasfinding out that WWOZ is broadcasting on the Web -radio in exile - laying out their great New Orleansmusic.

That's important. I have no idea from where they'reoperating or which disc jockeys are spinning thediscs, but I can tell you this: The first time I hearBilly Dell's "Records from the Crypt" on the radioagain, I will kiss the dirty ground beneath my feet.

On Friday, you started to see guys with broomscleaning Canal Street and Convention Center Boulevard.Up until then, any tidying up required either abackhoe, a crane or a Bobcat.

God only knows where they're going to put all thisgarbage, all this rubble, all these trees, but they'regathering it up all the same.

The streets of the French Quarter, absent the rubbleof the CBD, basically look and smell the same as theydo the day after Mardi Gras, except with no brokenstrands of beads in the gutter.
OK, maybe it was a real windy Mardi Gras, but you getthe point.

It just needs a little face-lift, a little sweeping upand a good hard rain to wash away . . . all the badstuff.

A counterpoint to that scene would be Uptown onBroadway - Fraternity Row - where the street isactually cleaner than usual, and that's because thefine young men and women of our universities had notyet settled into their early-semester routines ofdragging living room furniture out onto their frontyards and drinking Red Bull and vodka to while awaytheir youth.
I wonder where all of them are? When this is over, whowill go there and who will teach there?

What will happen to us?

One thing's for sure, our story is being told.

The satellite trucks stretch for eight blocks on CanalStreet and call to mind an event like the Super Bowlor the Republican Convention.

It's a strange place. Then again, anywhere that morethan 10 news reporters gather becomes a strange placeby default.

I saw Anderson Cooper interviewing Dr. Phil. And whileCooper's CNN camera crew filmed Dr. Phil, Dr. Phil'scamera crew filmed Cooper, and about five or six othercamera crews from other shows and networks stood tothe side and filmed all of that.

By reporting this scene, I have become the mediacovering the media covering the media.

It all has the surrealistic air of a Big Event, whatwith Koppel and Geraldo and all those guys wanderingaround in their Eddie Bauer hunting vests, andimpossibly tall and thin anchorwomen from around theregion powdering their faces and teasing their hair sothey look good when they file their latest report fromhell.

"And today in New Orleans . . . blah blah blah."

Today in New Orleans, a traffic light worked. Someonewatered flowers. And anyone with the means to getonline could have heard Dr. John's voice wafting inthe dry wind, a sound of grace, comfort andfamiliarity here in the saddest and loneliest place inthe world.

It's a start.

Columnist Chris Rose can be reached

10) I hope this fellow's wrong, but I admit he may not be:,6903,1567215,00.html

We will never return, say survivors of drowned city

As the tide of evacuees rolls into Baton Rouge, JamieDoward learns that thousands will not go back to NewOrleans - and the effect on the economy across theSouth will be deep and prolonged
Sunday September 11, 2005
The Observer

Guns and God are easy to find on Highway 61 - butgasoline is harder to come by. The churches and gunstores along the road that hugs the Mississippi northout of Baton Rouge are struggling to meet demand fortheir services in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.By contrast, many petrol stations along the highwaystill stand idle a fortnight on, their forecourtsclosed off with ticker tape as they await newsupplies.

The tens of thousands in the New Orleans diasporapassing through the area and leaving their drowningcity behind have to travel 200 miles north, to Monroenear the Louisiana-Arkansas border, before they canhope to find a motel. And then they may balk at theprice: even the most flea-bitten hostels have raisedtheir prices as demand for rooms has rocketed. Thoseevacuees prepared to stump up cash spend their dayssitting around motel swimming pools, mobile phonesglued to their ears, waiting for news.

Most evacuees, however, have no choice but to takerefuge in one of the hundreds of church shelters thathave mushroomed across Louisiana and Texas, some ofwhich now house hundreds of people. But, as the lastof those who refuse to leave New Orleans are forciblyevacuated, many shelters now have signs saying Full....

11) Cornel West on Katrina:,6903,1567216,00.html

Exiles from a city and from a nation
Cornel West
Sunday September 11, 2005
The Observer

It takes something as big as Hurricane Katrina and themisery we saw among the poor black people of NewOrleans to get America to focus on race and poverty.It happens about once every 30 or 40 years.What we saw unfold in the days after the hurricane wasthe most naked manifestation of conservative socialpolicy towards the poor, where the message for decadeshas been: 'You are on your own'. Well, they reallywere on their own for five days in that Superdome, andit was Darwinism in action - the survival of thefittest. People said: 'It looks like something out ofthe Third World.' Well, New Orleans was Third Worldlong before the hurricane.

It's not just Katrina, it's povertina. People werequick to call them refugees because they looked as ifthey were from another country. They are. Exiles inAmerica. Their humanity had been rendered invisible sothey were never given high priority when thewell-to-do got out and the helicopters came for thefew. Almost everyone stuck on rooftops, in theshelters, and dying by the side of the road was poorblack....

12) On New Orleans Live Oaks:

Replanting trees part of rebuilding effort
Rooting for recovery: Live oaks weather storm
Hurricane Katrina can teach lessons, arborists say
By Sheila Grissett Staff writer

Despite the horrific blow dealt to southeastLouisiana's urban forest by Hurricane Katrina and itsfilthy, watery aftermath, local landscapeprofessionals say many of the area's rugged, belovedlive oaks are doing what they do best: soldiering onand surviving.

But, they say, there was massive loss of other typesof trees throughout the metro area, and recovery willtake years.

Of the 720 live oaks that edge stately St. CharlesAvenue in soft shadow and shade, only four fell toKatrina's winds, said arborist John Benton, whoregularly surveys trees on the avenue and tends liveoaks on public and private property throughout themetropolitan New Orleans area.

Ditto the live oaks in Audubon Park and the ancientstand along City Park Avenue, areas that escaped thesalt-tinged floodwaters that are still submerging theroot systems of trees on lower ground to the north andeast.

"I haven't been able to do a close inspection yet, butfrom what I've seen and what I know of those trees, Idoubt that there's a single live oak down in Audubon,"Benton said.
"Live oaks evolved here on the coastal zone," he said."They're designed for this geography and this weather.They're tough."
The healthiest among them may even be tough enough tosurvive the filthy soup that has swamped much of NewOrleans and parts of heavily canopied Old Metairiefrom the breach of the 17th Street Canal, as long asthe roots aren't submerged more than a few weeks.

"Live oaks have the ability to recover from a periodof standing water, where most other trees don't," saidBenton, owner of Bayou Trees, which is removing treesfrom utility lines for BellSouth and helping cleanJefferson Parish streets for the Federal EmergencyManagement Agency. "But the saltier the water, and thelonger they stand in it, the less chance they'll haveof recovery," he said.

Benton said salty water will dry out tree roots muchlike table salt shrivels a garden slug and thatstanding water kills a tree by cutting off oxygen tothe roots.

"There are so many variables at this point that it'simpossible to know how this will turn out for the liveoaks now under water. What has happened here, as faras I know, is unprecedented," Benton said. "There's nomodel to compare this to. Only time will tell."

Survival of the fittest

State Department of Forestry and Agriculture personnelhaven't yet begun to examine tree damage or urbanreforestation, focusing instead on its continuing rolein the search for Katrina's human victims. And thedepartment won't send urban foresters in into the NewOrleans area until environmental testing indicates itis safe to return, said Paul Orr, a departmentspokesman.

But Orr said he has seen enough from satellite imageryto agree with Benton's assessment that the oldest liveoaks on high, dry ground along City Park Avenue shouldbe safe, while those growing in more northerlysections of the park, flooded Old Metairie and the NewOrleans lakefront are in peril.

"It looks like we could lose the trees from Storylandto Robert E. Lee Boulevard because of standing water,although there are some cypress trees in there thatcould survive," Orr said.
Orr said he hopes to begin assessing widespread treedamage on the north shore this week.

"There's more tree damage there because there are moretrees there," he said. "And we had significantdowning, especially pines."Indeed, north and south of Lake Pontchartrain, treessmashed homes, businesses, vehicles and utility lines,damaging vital infrastructure and complicating theexpensive task of restoring electricity and otherpublic services.Tropical Storm Cindy in July "took out the weakesttrees, and Katrina took out the unstable trees thatCindy left, as well as the technically healthy treesthat were planted in the wrong environment," Bentonsaid.

Katrina's victims included a behemoth live oak thatwent down in Old Metairie on Dorrington Avenue justoff Metairie Road.

"It's probably 90 years old, but look at this," Bentonsaid, examining the upended tree, which sheared limbsfrom a neighbor's live oak in its fall. "You can seethat years ago, these roots were cut here at thestreet, meaning the tree wasn't anchored well enoughto stand.

"You show me a healthy live oak in a yard that hasn'tsuffered that kind of mechanical damage, and I'll showyou a tree that's not moving," Benton said.

A stronger future

In the rebuilding to come, Orr and Benton said theyhope the communities affected by Katrina learn toredevelop a safer urban tree landscape by planting theright trees in the right spots and properlymaintaining them, so that the ghastly lessons ofKatrina aren't repeated.

"We'll be watching from the sidelines and looking foropportunities to have input," Orr said. "The way tominimize tree damage in future storms is not toexclude trees from the landscape, but to usewind-resistant varieties to protect structures.

"It's easy to look around now and see tree-relateddamage, but if you hadn't had those trees, you'd havehad direct wind damage because there would have beennothing to deflect the wind," Orr said. "The canopy ofa city like Baton Rouge, for example, where you have50 percent coverage, actually deflects hurricane-forcewinds and keeps them from getting down to therooftops.
Remove those, and you'd have wholesale wind damage toall the rooftops instead of having tree damage to someof them."
But not all canopies are created equal.
Water birch and Bradford pear trees split. Pine andpecan trees crack. Pines and water oaks also blowover. And even the revered bald cypress, which sharestop billing with live oaks as a super wind-resistanttree, can topple if it's not growing in wet soil,which is its natural environment.
"You can't say enough about how important it is toplant the right tree in the right place," said Benton,who said a 20-year-old cypress fell on his mother'sMetairie home during Katrina because it was growing ata higher-than-ideal elevation. "It didn't act in itscharacteristic way because it wasn't well anchored,and it wasn't well anchored because it was growing toofast as a result of not growing in wet soil."

Benton reported "unbelievable" tree loss throughoutwhat he calls "new Metairie" north of West MetairieAvenue.

"The live oaks and palms, which also evolved along thebeach and are adapted to the area, did very well," hesaid. "But those other tall trees, especially thewater oaks, which did most of the damage south of thelake, were down everywhere."

Trees can come back

Professionals say people shouldn't jump to conclusionsabout the status of their trees. Although many liveoaks lost limbs, that's not a fatal blow if the treeis generally healthy, arborists said.
"The live oaks of the Mississippi Gulf Coast were torndown to nubs during Hurricane Camille, but most ofthem came back," Orr said.

And live oaks that lost their leaves during Katrinadid so in order to decrease wind resistance, nature'sway of helping them survive. Releafing should begin ina month, Benton said.
On the other hand, brown leaves could simply be theresult of salt spray, or they could indicate that thetree is dying. Only time will tell, arborists said.

"Human beings are impatient," Orr said. "The urbanforest isn't some sort of 1,000-year-old forest. It'sa dynamic and growing thing. It grows back . . . butnot overnight. We're going to be dealing with thisdamage probably for years."

13) Another Katrina Cartoon:

14) What does FEMA stand for, four letter word that it is and all?:

F---! Evacuate! Move on! Apply Blame;
Finally Emergency Men Arrive;
Federal Experts, My Ass;
Falsely Exaggerating Management of Accidents;
Fail to Evacuate and Manage Appropriately;
Forget Ever Managing Again;
For Evacuees, Missing in Action;
Flood Evacuation? Maybe After;
Fearing Every Mass Attack;
Federal Emergency Mismanagement Agency;
Funneling Everyone's Money Away;
Few Emergencies Merit Attention;
Federal Emergencies Managed Atrociously;
Forget Emergencies, can't Manage Anything;
Feeble Excuses Mounting All over;
Flood Event Maims Administration;
Failure Eventually Means Asskicking;
Foreseeable Election Matter Already;
Finally Evaluating Messy Aftermath;
Federal Excuse-Making Agency;
Failed to Evacuate My Ass;
Failure to Effectively Manage Anything;
Farting Each Minute Automatically;
F---ing Evacuate Masses Appropriately;
Fumbling Every Major Attack;
F--- Every Minority in America;
F--- Everything, Massive Anarchy;
Farewell, Emergency Mike, Adios

And our favorite:Former Equestrian Managers Association.

15) ESPN weighs in on the value of New Orleans, at least to sports writers and broadcasters:

16) On Drainage progress:

Sunday, September 11, 2005
Pace of drainage is rare bright spot
Drained but not defeated, pump crews offer optimism
Water is going down faster than expected
By Gordon Russell Staff writer

First the good news: The city is draining faster thanexpected, and much of it could be largely dry inweeks, not months, the Sewerage & Water Board nowdares to hope. The problem is that water service, aprecondition for safe resettlement, may be monthsaway, due to the extensive damage to S&WB mains andpiping.

The challenge of "dewatering" the city, to use thefashionable term for pumping it dry, is being met by agroup of about 300 water board engineers and pumpoperators who stayed on the job in Hurricane Katrina'saftermath at sometimes harrowing risks.They briefly abandoned their posts when the waters gotso deep that pumps' motors fried and the possibilityof drowning was real. But once rescued, most went backto work anywhere they could be useful, and they havecontinued nonstop ever since, sleeping on the floorswhere they work. Despite the ordeal, many wereoptimistic this week about getting pumps on line andstarting the arduous task of removing an inland sea ofcontaminated water from the city.

Amid visible evidence that the water levels aredropping in various parts of town, some agencyemployees expressed optimism that much of the citywill be dry in two or three weeks, although theycautioned it could be longer.

The Army Corps of Engineers offered more specificpredictions Saturday. Current projections are that the"primary flooded areas" of Orleans Parish will be dryby Oct. 2, said Dan Hitchings, a director in thecorps' Mississippi Valley division. More heavilyflooded eastern New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish areexpected to be dry by Oct. 8, and Plaquemines Parishby Oct. 18, or about 40 days sooner than initialprojections.

Among the signs of progress: Near City Hall, PoydrasStreet -- which had been under about 3 feet of water-- is dry. Uptown, the water along Carrollton Avenuehas receded almost to the Interstate 10 overpass, adrop of at least 3 feet. Parts of the Lower 9th Wardnear the river, including blocks of Tricou Street, aredrained almost completely, with as much as 5 feet ofwater receded in some places, leaving behind acrusted, brown sludge.

"Pumps are constantly coming on line," said Marcia St.Martin, the water board's executive director.By early Saturday, more than 16 of the city's 75 majorpumps were working. She was unable to say how much ofthe city was still under water. Eighty percent of thecity was under water at the height of the flooding.

The areas near major pumping stations are expected todry first. Some said the Lower 9th Ward - though thesite of the greatest reduction in water depths so far,thanks to drainage through levee breaches - may be thelast to be dry because of likely damage to pumps thatdrain the neighborhood. To a large extent, what driesout first will depend on which pumps are restoredfastest.
Even if the city dries out relatively soon, however,agency officials warned that getting the water outwill be just the beginning. The storm's floodwaterscaused massive pipe breaks in both the sewerage andwater systems, they said. That means it could be morethan three months before city tap water is safe todrink. Meanwhile, sewerage and foul floodwaters, forthe time being, will be pumped directly into theMississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain.

Bullet dodged?
The force of Katrina's catastrophic winds was awesomeeven to water board veterans of numerous hurricanes. At one point, a massive set of ancient wooden doorswas ripped off its hinges, nearly flattening a groupof employees, said one of the chief operators at theMelpomene Pumping Station No. 1, at Martin Luther KingJr. Boulevard and South Broad Street. It took six mento hoist the doors back up and brace them with scraplumber, said the operator, who did not want his namepublished, in deference to civil service policy thatforbids employees to talk to the media.

But a few hours after the storm passed, there wascause for optimism. New Orleans seemed to have dodgeda bullet. The operator was getting ready to shut offhis pumps because the area was dry. "Everyone thought,'OK, it's over with,'" he said. "Nobody knew about thebreach. Then I saw water running down Broad Street. Iain't ever seen that."

Within 48 hours, the group had to be rescued andbrought to another pumping station that was still dry:Pumping Station No. 6 on Metairie Road, which dumpsdirectly into the 17th Street Canal, the now-repairedwaterway that fed the cataclysmic flooding in thewestern parts of the city. On Thursday, a week and a half after Katrina'spassage, they were restoring more pumps.
"It was traumatic, but God is good," the operator saidof his ordeal. "He got us out. And when it was time topump this water out, he got us back here."Jason Higginbotham, the water board's emergencydirector, told similarly frightening stories aboutother workers trapped by rising waters.

One group of operators at Pumping Station No. 5 had toswim to safety across the roiling water of the FloridaCanal in eastern New Orleans. Another group of 12 mengot trapped at Pumping Station No. 4 on the LondonAvenue Canal in Gentilly, where levees were twicebreached.
"These guys got flooded, and they made a makeshiftboat out of a fence," said Higginbotham, whocoordinated the rescue of trapped workers. "They triedto float to UNO, and on the way, they rescued a bunchof people from their rooftops."

Eventually, the group made its way to safety at the Interstate 10 pumping station near the SouthernRailroad underpass, close to the Jefferson/Orleansparish line. Higginbotham said one man had a cellphone that worked, and members of the group were ableto call their families.

Then it was back to work.
Three hundred of the agency's 1,200 workers werecalled to work during the storm, while most of therest -- whose jobs do not involve drainage --evacuated. While some workers were stranded for days, St. Martin said she thought that by Saturday all ofthose who were working during the storm had beenaccounted for. As far as she knew, there were nodeserters, St. Martin said.

The dedication shown by workers is particularlyimpressive given that many are paid only about $20,000annually and were coping with emotional trauma.

Some lost their homes, and many more have been unableto contact their families. St. Martin, for one, saidshe thinks her Gentilly home is gone, but she hasn'thad a chance to look.

"These people are clearly dedicated to the citizens ofour city, and I personally feel they should berecognized for it," St. Martin said. "These guysrisked their lives."

The heroics were supported by stubborn pride amongmany agency workers. At least one retired employeeshowed up for work after the storm and pitched in:General Superintendent Joseph Sullivan, who is wellpast retirement age, worked around the clock untillate this week.

A number of employees said that they thought theirpumps could have done the job had the levees donetheirs.

"We had this hurricane beat, man," said Bob Moeinian,superintendent of pumping, shaking his head infrustration. "If the levee had not broken, we'd bejust like the West Bank: street cleanup and poweroutages.

"And all that $500 million we spent on the sewersystem, we don't know where that is," he added,referring to the massive infrastructure replacementthe board has been working on for several years undera federal consent decree.

The floodwaters that consumed many pumping stationseventually made their way to the main waterpurification plant on South Claiborne Avenue inHollygrove, knocking out the agency's power supplylate Aug. 31, two and a half days after the storm.

That was a devastating blow. It meant no more sewerageservice for the tens of thousands of people still inthe city, including emergency workers and theunfortunate people waiting to be evacuated at theSuperdome and the Convention Center. It also crippledground-level firefighting, although helicopterspulling water from the Mississippi River helped stopthe burning that broke out on both sides of the river.

Drying out
The first sign of major progress for the water boardcame Tuesday, when water board workers were able torevive the first of four turbines that juice theagency's power plant. The plant, now dry, had beeninundated by about 3 feet of water, a first in theannals of New Orleans storm disasters. Since then, asecond turbine has been restored.

The return of power meant the water could be turnedback on, though at only about half its usual pressure, and not at all in the system's far easternextremities. Though some of the few residents left onthe east bank have been showering and cooking withboiled water, St. Martin said Saturday she stillcouldn't guarantee water safety.

"We're providing water for fire protection only," shesaid.

The restoration of power also means some of theagency's massive drainage pumps, once repaired, can bereactivated. About two-thirds of the pumps are poweredby the S&WB's plant, and the rest use power fromEntergy and are still off line.
Before the plant was re-energized, the only waterleaving the swamp
ed city was either flowing back outthrough levee breaches or being pumped out by small,portable pumps brought in by the Army Corps ofEngineers.

Though they say they appreciate the corps' help, waterboard employees said portable pumps are too small tomake an appreciable difference in the water level inflooded neighborhoods.

"They secured the levee, and without them, we wouldn'tbe playing ball," Higginbotham said.
"The corps isusing the biggest sump pumps you can get. It's aidingus, and they deserve credit for that. But the Sewerage& Water Board's pumps are the ones that are going topump the city dry."

Higginbotham said the portable pumps have twoproblems. One, their capacity is about a tenth of thatof an S&WB monster. And two, the small pumps are proneto clogging, whereas the water board's pumps areprotected by a huge rakes that collect debris and thenperiodically dump it onto a shelf above the intake.

Those rakes, which were still inoperable Thursday atPumping Station No. 6 on Metairie Road by the 17thStreet Canal, have scarfed up all manner of flotsam,including tree branches, garbage cans, flowerpots andother household items. For all that, the pumps arestrong enough to push a rippling current of watertoward the lake -- indeed, so strong a current thatofficials must be careful not to stress the pluggedbreach in the 17th Street Canal. But for that concern,the Melpomene Pumping Station No. 1 on South BroadStreet would be up and running. For the time being itis being held in abeyance because it dumps into the17th Street Canal and might overwhelm it, St. Martinsaid.

Once the rakes at the pumping stations begin working,officials expect to find grim evidence of the storm'stoll. "After a normal storm, we sometimes pick upbodies here," one employee said. This time, therecould be dozens, workers predicted.

A slow slog
Though about a fifth of the 75 major drainage pumpsare back on line, restoring the rest will take time,officials said.

Flooded pumping stations first have to be drained.Then the equipment, which has been fouled with grit,debris and mud from the storm waters, must bepressure-washed and dried with a special heater. Thenit can be tested.

In many cases, the equipment will have to be repaired.Workers from General Electric are helping, and thecompany has promised to rush delivery of necessaryparts, which in normal times can take up to a year.

According to John Huerkamp, director of operations fordrainage, GE had promised to deliver a new switch gearfor one of the broken turbines at the power plant.

Hundreds of workers from other public utilities aroundthe country also are on the way. The hope is to givethe water board's employees a break, although many sofar have refused to take one.

"They offered us some R and R," Moeinian said. "Butfolks decided to stay around because there was no oneelse to operate the equipment."

Along with exhaustion, water board workers are facingtechnical obstacles, among them the challenge ofgetting diesel fuel into pumping stations stillinaccessible by road. Drums have had to be brought byhelicopter and boat. Soon, high-riding trucks will beable to make it to most or all of the stations,officials hope.

There also are other, more practical, considerations.St. Martin said the agency is trying to account forthe 900 workers thought to have evacuated and isasking them to call (877)863-9405 to report theirwhereabouts. An employee Web site is in the works.Meanwhile, the board is trying to find housing for theworkers it will need in the months ahead.

Higginbotham said he has requested that a cruise shipbe made available. Mobile homes and tents are anotheroption; St. Martin said FEMA has begun procuring themfor the agency.

Water breaks
Water board employees have not been able to assessdamage to the agency's water and sewer operations, inpart because of lingering high water and in partbecause the priority is on pumping out the city, butit's clear the system suffered massive damage.In Algiers, which was relatively unscathed by thestorm, pipes usually deliver about 8 million to 10million gallons of water a day. After the storm, thenumber was up to 27 million gallons, Huerkamp said.The reason is that the water is leaking massivelyunderground, probably because uprooted trees havebroken water mains.

The damage is expected to be worse on the east bankbecause of the flooding, which causes the ground toshift, breaking pipes.

The same pattern of destruction applies to the sewersystem. For now, the agency is shooting its wastewaterdirectly into the Mississippi River, as is permittedin emergencies under its permit from the U.S.Environmental Protection Agency, St. Martin said.The situation presents troubling long-term problems:Untreated sewage, even after the plant is fixed, willcontinue to seep from broken pipes for months, untilthe agency can find all the leaks with smoke tests andclosed-circuit cameras. Once the problems areidentified, it will take months or even years torepair all the leaks, work that will likely involvetearing up streets.

The water repairs will be similar in scope. And untilmost of the water leaks are fixed, tap water may beunsafe to drink, because of infiltration bygroundwater.

Huerkamp said officials from the federal Centers forDisease Control and Prevention asked him this weekwhen he thought the water might again be potable. "Itold them maybe 90-days plus," he said. "The problemis, how do you know if the water is clean if it'smixing with groundwater?"
St. Martin was more optimistic. "We got a new shipmentof filters, and we're going to start changing them,"she said. "I think it will be sooner than that."

17) On the connection between wetlands, global warming, and storm damage:,,SB112561128847329529-1B4pBn_Apa5SSUnjHjFLuuj_Lc0_20051003,00.html?mod=tff_article

Man-Made MistakesIncrease DevastationOf 'Natural' Disasters
September 2, 2005;
Page B1

While storms such as Hurricane Katrina are sometimes called an act of God or a natural disaster, the devastation they leave behind is not. Some scientists believe even the storms themselves could be at least partly man-made.

As Theodore Steinberg argues, God is getting a bum rap. "This is an unnatural disaster if ever there was one, not an act of God," says Prof. Steinberg, an environmental historian at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland. "If the potential for mass death and destruction from extreme weather existed anywhere in the U.S., it existed in New Orleans."

In his 2000 book "Acts of God: The Unnatural History of Natural Disaster in America," Prof. Steinberg documented how much of the toll from "natural" disasters, from the 1886 Charleston earthquake to 1990s hurricanes, has been exacerbated by human actions....

18) The issue of US Government aid to the State of Israel has never really resonated with most Americans. However, perhaps it will start resonating with Katrina survivors when they compare the relative relief packages below, one for withdrawing from illegally occupied land and the other for surviving a storm and then being driven off one's land by one's own government:

Israeli aid vs Katrina aid

"How much will it all cost?

Approximately $2 billion US with much of the moneycoming in the form of U.S. government assistance. Eachsettler family will receive between $200,000 to$300,000 US and the opportunity to relocate to othercommunities being created for them inside Israelproper. Most of the houses, synagogues, buildings andmilitary infrastructure in the settlements will bedestroyed before the land is handed over to thePalestinians.",1282,-5263193,00.html

U.S. Offers Katrina Families $2,000 Each

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