Saturday, September 10, 2005

St. Bernard Photos

I finally found some good photos on St. Bernard Parish after/during Katrina. This will be where the death toll takes a spike.

Rumors abound

The rumor mill just won't quit. As I mentioned before almost every city/town in the state has some displaced people staying with them. Everyone is concerned that crime is going to skyrocket and cite the following:

***Note all items below are false rumore and not true***
Generator delivery - man brings truckload of generators to "insert name of civic center" and is followed home by refugees and killed.

Female shelter workers - female shelter worker at "insert name of civic center" is followed home by refugees and raped/killed.

Car jacking - people are car jacked and the perpetrator is always a refugee. Fact - there have been one or two isolated car jackings.

Gun store looted - this varies from a Walmart to a local pawn shop. Only and all of the guns were stolen. Fact - a pawn shop in Baton Rouge did have some guns stolen, police believe it to be a Baton Rouge gang.

***End false rumor mill section***

LA National Guard - the truth will be difficult to get to on this one. The State Officials didn't know where exactly the storm would hit. They didn't want all the people in one location - frankly a good idea. The bulk of the ones that were deployed to the New Orleans area were at the Jackson Barricks. This area was flooded extensively (10' or more). Looks like the bulk of the troops were victims for a few days. This might explain why the Guard seemed abscent for the first few days. Knowing this, why wasn't help called for?

Friday, September 09, 2005

New Orleans - Thursday

Sorry about not getting any updates posted yesterday. I think everyone is doing a combination of work, running around getting items and dealing with traffic. I ran home after work to run a bed to another relative’s house.

New Orleans - people are getting into the city. Many people have been able to get passes (legit) into Jefferson Parish. There are check point to get into New Orleans. The trick seems to be to be in an American SUV that is black or white. Put on a button down shirt, wear sunglasses and drive through the check point like you are supposed to be there. An occasional wave to the military helps. New Orleans looks like a war zone with all of the military. You won't be stopped if you drive around but you will be checked if you leave a house with any items. If it is your house, you won't have any problems. Many people only took one of their 2 cars out and are going in to get the other one. You almost certainly will be stopped if you drive a car (non-SUV) out. Again, if it is your car, you won't have any problems. River Road is the best road to get in. There is still much flooding. As of today, many trees have been cleared so other than flood water, you can get around.

A couple of friends went in yesterday to get a few items and do the fridge cleanout. Everyone mentions that driving around Jefferson is OK but when you get into Orleans Parish it feels like you shouldn't be there. They did spot one body lying face down - a reminder that there is still much cleanup to do. Both houses had little damage and had not been looted. The looting seems to be focused mainly on business but there were a few houses.

I have 2 accounts of businesses that were looted. One was a grocery store and one was a restaurant. The grocery store had everything missing, every fixture broken, all registers stolen and people had defecated all over the store. The restaurant manager witnessed the actual looting and stood by as people destroyed the bar and everything in the restaurant. There were police present but they could do nothing (the police were not participating). I understand steeling food, but please explain the destruction of property.

I forgot to mention in my earlier posts about Metairie and the dogs. Some neighborhoods have a few hungry dogs roaming around them. Since the water dried up there is not much to drink. When helping a relative, we took all the dog food out and put it in the next door neighbor’s back yard and filled every thing we could find with water. The owner was supposed to come by in the next few days (and did) so we figured they would be OK. I mention this because they mentioned this morning that workers being forced to stop at points because packs of dogs are attacking them.

Methodist Hospital Ordeal - One of Rochelle's Aunts worked at several of the hospitals and spent the hurricane at it. The hospital was surrounded by water. Not sure of the amount but it went over the top of pickup trucks. There were over 700 people there including staff and patients. Fortunately, they did not have any criminal problems reported at other hospitals. Starting late Monday people were evacuated out on a somewhat regular basis until late Friday. She finally was airlifted from the roof late Friday afternoon along with 12 other workers in one of the many Chinook's. In a weird twist, after the hospital was abandoned, two people shot each other. She was brought to the New Orleans Airport and left with the thousands of other people to get out. There was a long line that made any line at Disneyland in the height of summer seem short. Towards the end, everyone filed into a single row of people. She had no choice where to go and ended up at a military base in San Antonio. She took a cab to the commercial airport and got a flight to Shreveport. Once in Shreveport she made it to Monroe. Her family met her there and they are finally back in Baton Rouge and staying with Rochelle's brother Eric.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Refugee and other numbers

Refugee updates - I have not seen an official count of how many are spread out around the state. I have talked with many cities in Louisiana and the numbers are amazing. Monroe went from 2,000 last week to 10,000 today. A smaller city, Opelousas has 6,000. They are in civic centers, empty city buildings, etc. I wish there was some way to count the ones that are living in neighborhoods. Many of their children started school today but I'm sure there will be more in the next week. I have no count on these statewide but there are thousands. Ascension Parish has over 1,000 if you count the public and private schools. Baker, a small town north of Baton Rouge, has over 300.

FEMA Camps - not the ones for the citizens, the ones for the employees. There are FEMA camps being setup to house all of the employees that will be down/are down to help. There is a large presence on the LSU campus. They are also setting one up on the LA State Fairgrounds. The fairgrounds have 100s of RVs, a dozen gas tanker cars, many large KVM generators, and portable restrooms and showers. One FEMA official told me that he was going to have close to 80,000 people in East Baton Rouge and Ascension Parishes helping out. I wouldn't believe the number if it didn't come from someone employed by them. He also mentioned he would be setting one up in Gonzales.

House Guests - our 1st family returned to their home in Slidell. There is power but there is only one or two gas stations and places to buy food in all of St. Tammany Parish. I would have waited, but the urge to get back home is strong. We had one couple stay last night before going into Metairie today. We may actually have a free night. It will actually seem lonely. I'm sure we will divvy up one of the remaining families with our in-laws.

New Orleans - I have friends going in tomorrow and will get an update. People have been getting in and out. One report mentions it is easy to get in but you get checked up and down trying to leave. There is a black market for IDs to get into the areas that are closed off. Many people have borrowed relatives medical IDs. I spoke with one person who copied some type of temporary FEMA ID (probably a felony). There are also some disaster recovery team IDs that people are copying. Most people aren't sight seeing they are merely trying to get to their home or some friend or relative’s home and see if it is OK. Many people have mentioned that if they had any idea they would be unable to return to their homes for such a long time, they would have taken a few extra things. Items range from computers to financial records. Most people could care less about their stuff.

The Blame Game

The finger pointing has started. It looks like everyone is trying to blame Governor Kathleen Blanco. I think when the dust settles there will be more than one person at fault. I'm getting a lot of emails from people out of state thinking Mayor Ray Nagin shares the blame. Facts - He asked for voluntary evacuation the Friday before. On Saturday he announced that they would be using the contra-flow for evacuation. Contra-flow is something that they did not do for the Ivan evacuation and people never made it out of the city. Contra-flow is where all of the lanes inbound and outbound on all highways are set to outbound only. On Sunday morning he ordered a mandatory evacuation. I know he could have done more but surely you can't argue he didn't try. It looks like they managed to get 60-70% (unconfirmed) of the city out. He did open the Super Dome as a "shelter of last resort". They had the National Guard there and did not allow any weapons, illegal drugs or legal drugs without a prescription. They learned from Ivan what happens if you do not do that much on screening. He made some mistakes, but it isn’t like he didn’t warn people.

Joke - Some people from New Orleans are suing NOAA. The basis of the case is that if they had named the hurricane Kathleen instead of Katrina it would be wandering around aimlessly in the Gulf.

Ugly - I am getting more and more reports from St. Bernard. Lots of bodies in cars trying to get out and the levee has become a makeshift mortuary. There are also reports that they started tying the bodies to trees so they wouldn't float off. Still lots of water.

Rescues still ongoing - they are still rescuing people today 9/7/2005. More than a week and people are still not out. Can you believe that?

More reports from Metairie that things are getting cleaned up. Still many houses without water. Let's hope it isn't as contaminated as the New Orleans water which people are being warned not to bath in let alone drink.

Traffic is better today in Baton Rouge. The Mayor stated FEMA is going to help Baton Rouge with its traffic issues. We are doomed for sure.

I'm adding Hebert Guns in Prairieville to the list of good merchants still selling guns and ammo. Plenty of stock on everything including the elusive dove loads. $4.00/box.

Gas seems to be dropping slightly in price. I actually filled up for $2.49/gallon and didn't have to wait. There are many places where it is $2.59. Still some higher prices in Baton Rouge but the trend is good.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Minor updates

There is an interesting article in the San Francisco Chronicle that compares the hurricane in New Orleans to the Fire in San Francisco and shows how much San Francisco benefited in the long run. I consider it a must read. Thanks to my sister and her husband for passing it along.

Traffic in Baton Rouge has come to a complete halt. Between everyone trying to get into Jefferson Parish, the huge amount of refugees and a few lights still out, all major streets and back streets are clogged up. I had hoped that since school started today that many people would be into more of their routine. The infrastructure is just not made for this many people.

I may be getting the scoop on New Orleans proper later this afternoon. We'll see.

Back into Metarie

We had to get some items from Cousin Marc's house and had to return to Metairie on Monday. Most people I have spoken with had no idea they would be gone so long even if this evac proved to be real. If they had known they wouldn't be back, they would have brought a few additional financial records and cloths. You can buy cloths but you need your paper/electronic records. Since Monday was the first day back we figured Airline Hwy would be jam packed and decided on an alternate route. We took Hwy 3127 to I-310 and crossed the Miss. River in Luling. We made it to River Road and were in Metairie in about 1 1/2 hours. There was more traffic in Metairie but not nearly as much as I would have suspected given that people had lined up the night before to get in line to get in. They are now making you exit I-10 in Sorrento unless you have proof you need to go somewhere between Sorrento and Kenner.

Once we got to the house, we began moving branches and tree parts into piles. We had enough time to get some additional ones out of the street and neighbors yards to make driving a little easier. There are many electric and tree trucks but there is so much work to do that citizens are cutting and stacking much of the tree debris. A roof vent had blown off the house so we managed to find it and have Marc climb up and put it back on to keep the rain out of the attic. We decided it was probably best to cut the main breaker off as well.

Since we had a little extra time, we did some running around. Mostly the same tree, power and building damage as reported from the Sunday trip. We did go by the Galleria and it has many of its windows broken. The building also sustained some major external damage to two of its walls. We took pictures that I will post later. We took I-10 west to get home.

I saw pictures of some flood waters still in Metairie. The Airline Hwy./Causeway intersection is dry on the Kenner side but still flooded on the New Orleans side. Audubon Zoo had no flooding and only lost 2 otters and 1 raccoon. I spoke with someone who drove into New Orleans on Sunday. They were able to get in and look at some areas around Napoleon and Magazine. Little flooding but wind damage of roofs and awnings. I have some friends going back in today and will keep everyone posted. There are some neighborhoods in Metairie that are starting to get power. I still believe Metairie/Kenner will get cleaned up and be able to support people in a month.

The mood of the citizens is turning against our governor. Apparently Bush called her Friday before the storm and asked her to ask for Federal assistance. This is key because without a State's permission the Feds can not be the police. She turned it down citing that it would make New Orleans look like it was under Marshal Law (which it needs to be). On Wednesday after the hurricane she met with Bush privately and was offered what she called a "complicated" plan. She asked for 24 hours to review and turned it down as well. I don't have the details of the plan, it may not have been right for Louisiana but taking 24 hours to make a decision when time is critical is inexcusable.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Checkpoint Charlie

We decided to avoid the monday rush and go into Metarie on Sunday which is why I did not have time to post anything yesterday. I'm pleased to say that we made it in but more on that later.

The summary - Kenner, Harahan and all of Metarie that you can get into have no water! As a general rule, most places between I-10 and the river did not flood and most places between I-10 and the Lake had some amount of water. There are exceptions to this so please do not assume you are OK or not. Harahan and River Ridge appeared to have no flooding.

Jefferson Parish was officially closed, but as I mentioned earlier people have been getting in and out. We chose Hwy 61 based on our reports but found traffic to be backed up into the middle of Laplace. When we saw the traffic we headed over to River Road. It too was jammed up. We spent about an hour getting through Laplace and found out why there was a backup. At the St. Charles Parish line there was a road block checking IDs. We explained where we were going and that we needed to make a U-turn. I won't admit that we disregarded anyone in law enforcments "suggestions" to turn around but we made a few zigs and zags and were quickly into Jefferson Parish. Once in Haraha, we were stopped and checked for IDs. Once you are in the parish, moving around is easy as long as you have proof that you live there.

First impressions were that things really didn't look that bad all things considered. There are buildings with damage and telephone polls that are down but it is far from completely devistated. We were also suprised by the number of people who were still there and had never left. The locals either have enough provisions or have figured out how to get in and out for food and gas. There is an open gas station on the St. Charles/Jefferson Parish border on River Road. There is also a gas station selling gas, cokes and ice on Transcontinental. Power for the most part is completely off. There are a couple lights on but not many.

The most damage is massive amount of trees and power lines. I'm actaully suprised they are letting people in on Monday. There are trees blocking roads as well as telephone poles with transformers and power lines covering streets. What is amazing is that most of the buildings were missed by the trees and poles. There isn't one area that fared better than the other. The damage seems randomly distributed. Houses have a little roof and siding damages, some have windows broken some do not. There are some that have a tree branch in the roof but in might only be one or two in an entire neighborhood. Commercial buildings are hit and miss as well. Some look fine, others have their fronts ripped off. When you come into Kenner on I-10, there are many storage buildings. Many of those have the entire side ripped off and they look like giant doll houses.

We went to 4 houses to empty the fridge and rip carpet out. I feel for people who can't get into their house for a month. A closed fridge without power has an amazing amount of stench. For those who need to know - do not open the fridge in the house! Duct tape the freezer and fridge doors, bring the fridge outside, empty all food into a trash can, wash the fridge out with water, spray the inside down with bleach, rinse and keep outside with the doors open. I didn't hurl, but myself and one other came close several times. Fortunately, 3 of the houses had zero water. Cousin Marc, Jimmy and Lisa, and Monica and Brad. Rochelle's Aunt Linda and Uncle Jimmy had about 6" of water. We ripped all of the carpet out of their house. The amount of humidty was impressive even for Louisiana.

We were near East Jefferson Hospital an noticed the water lines of the houses 1 block away on Hastings St. were about waist high, but only 1 block away were 6-8". Basically, you have no idea how much or little flooding you have without checking it out personally. We saw one of the FEMA stations on Airline Hwy and Metarie Road at the Sam's Club. Lots of people working and giving supplies out. I can't tell you how many hellicopters we saw. Hundreds of all types for sure. There is no looting going on in Metarie and Kenner. Odds are that if your house survived, all of your possesions are fine. There is a big helpful police presence.

When we were getting ready to leave, we all stopped and listened. The activity of the day had subsided and it was earily quiet. We couldn't help but think that while we were sweating pulling carpet and cleaning fridges that there were other areas still under flood water with rescues going on and bodies floating. We heard no gun shots or explosions and did not see any grusome sites.

I-10 is open out bound and we hopped on I-10 and got home in record time. We did see about 100 military vehicles with generators coming in as well as about 50 Asplundi tree trucks. I think that Kenner/Metarie will be cleaned up and opened much quicker than we have been lead to believe.

Cell Phones - Verizon and Nextel worked well with 100% coverage and full strength bars. Sprint did work but was some outages. We didn't have a Cingular phone. If you do go in, bring plenty of food water and gas as there is nothing. We didn't want to buy anything from the 2 gas stations operating as the locals need it more than we do.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Random updates from the weekend

I just got an account of a couple that was rescued yesterday from Charity hospital. They were high up and had a little/food water. Fortunately they had been able to contact their family. They were bused to the airport via the Westbank. Not sure of the exact route which would be interesting. They were bused from the airport to the FEMA center in Baton Rouge and are safe.

The report from the airport was unreal. People just lying around needing various stages of medical help. You would think it was the Bagdad airport and not New Orleans.

Buses - I reported earlier about the hellicopters. They still haven't sopped but add buses to the list. If you watch I-10 you will see hundreds of buses coming from New Orleans. The ones I saw yesterday were the nice coaches with air conditioning instead of the crappy school ones. A little comfort for a long ride from a hell hole. I'm assuming they were coming from the airport but one bus did have "Lakefront" on it.

On a sad note, we learned last night that one of our rescued friends mother was in a hospice and did not make it. No details yet but it appears she did make it through the storm. Just another reminder these are real people.