Friday, September 30, 2005

NOPD Rumors

Earlier this week, Chief Compass resigned from NOPD. This surprised everyone as he had announced he would stay through the duration 2 weeks ago. At some point Compass was going to leave. He has long been eligible for retirement and prior to Katrina, people knew he would leave at some point. Still, the timing is quite odd especially since he was insistent about staying.

I have spoken with people who were present when he announced his resignation. His people were shocked. One school of thought is that NO has such a high crime rate combined with the police not handling the recent events well and officers leaving their posts during the event forced him out. There are reports that he and Mayor Nagin got in a shouting match on Tuesday and this is why he resigned. There are also reports that after he resigned, he went back to where is direct reports were and stated he was forced out by the Mayor. I think that there is probably some truth to all of these rumors but I also believe that they are looking for a scapegoat to fire. Time will tell - keep an eye on this one as it should get more interesting each day. Chief Riley is acting superintendent. Everyone that I know thinks that Riley will do a great job.

Another rumor that is circulating has to do with the 249 officers that quit. Some people claim to have evidence that these were "phantom" employees. This will certainly be interesting to watch as well. All eyes and auditors will be on the city books. Remember, in government, its always about the money.

Not rumor - Chief Riley is calling officers in that were accused of looting, investigating and firing with extreme prejudice.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Finding Uncle Henry

Many people have asked why people left certain things behind in New Orleans. First, no one thought that the flooding would be as significant as it was. Second, even if it did flood, no one considered the possibility that you would not be able to get into the houses for more than a few days. Consequently, people left things behind that they would not have if they had known what was going to happen and for how long. This is a story of one of those items.

One of our great Aunts lives (or lived) in East New Orleans. This is one of the areas that was flooded the worst. Fortunately she got herself out several days ahead of time. Like many people she did not bring a ton of clothes or too many personal items. One of the items that was left behind was a sealed box with her late husband's ashes or as we call him - Uncle Henry.

Imagine the stress and frustration of knowing that you probably lost everything and realizing the pictures and memorabilia that you left behind, when you remember leaving a loved ones remains behind. It doesn't do much to help your spirits. Needless to say, everyone wanted to go inside the house and get them, unfortunately that area of New Orleans has not been open. After Rita, it may have re-flooded.

I have been trying to use all of my connections to get a pass into that area. Unfortunately, it is the one area that even police can't tell me how to get into. I did manage to get access to a real (see previous posts about the fake ones) FEMA pass and an a commissioned officer that volunteered to help but even he couldn't get in. Realize, up until this week it was probably not the safest place to be.

Today, my brother in law decided to give it a shot. He made it all the way to her exit off of I-10 (Read Blvd.). When he came off the exit, he was met by an NOPD officer. They let them know the humanitarian mission that they were on but the officer made it clear that this area was closed and would not open until next Wednesday. They had to turn on a few streets to get back to I-10 and just kept going. Civil disobedience at its finest. As all incidents I have been involved in, the officer did nothing. I think they "officially" have to tell people to go away but look the other way if you have a reason to be there.

He made it to the house and quickly discovered it was locked up tighter than a drum. Since this was a heavily flooded area he wore a mask the entire time. He went around to every window and they either had burglar bars or locks that prevented him from breaking in. He finally decided to break the sliding glass door that was not bared. As soon as the glass broke a smell overwhelmed him even with the mask on. He has cleared out 5 smelly houses and this was in a league of its own.

Side Note: All houses in this area were checked for bodies. If that is the case, why was this bunker not broken into? Once again, the media and officials have lied about things from the get go.

Back to the story...He went around the house and noted that it looked as if about 4 feet of water had been in it. This was good news as we had been told it had been up to the roof. Once again it seems that misinformation abounds. He had to take small baby steps as the floor was extremely slippery. There was a green and black mold that covered everything. It actually looked like fuzzy wallpaper. The furniture was a total loss as were most other items. He could not find the box so he ended up calling his father, who called the Aunt and found out where the box was. He eventually found it and a few other important items that weren't destroyed.

Leaving with Uncle Henry in hand, he made his way back to the Interstate and eventually Baton Rouge.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Camp Status

I keep having people ask about their camps. Even Senator Landrieu (D) LA, mentioned her family's camp as being flooded. For the sake of the non-natives, I need to help with the definition of camp.

From the Louisiana Dictionary:
Word: camp Function: noun Pron.: kamp 1 a: a place usually away from urban areas where people hunt, fish or water ski or any combination of the three b: a building that is either an old house, new house, or building built for recreation. Often times the building can be as much as 20' off the ground depending where it is located. Camps are often located on or near a body of water such as a bayou, lake, or swamp. Usage: (1) We're going down to the camp this weekend to shoot some ducks and we're bringing the fishing poles just in case. (2) We went to my parents camp to ski but the motor was froze up. (3) Man we drank so much cold beer at the camp, we forgot to go fishing.

Most people who have camps, assume that something will happen to them sooner or later. I friend of mine (Zippahead) has a camp in Grand Chenier which is in Cameron Parish. Take a look at the before and after photos.


Note the trees are green and there is a shed.


Siding, roof and deck damage. No shed.

Note the amound of water everywhere. Frankly, I'm impressed with the fact that the structure is still there and in reasonably good shape.

This is typical for the rural areas. In many cases the water that would be fresh water in a normal flood has a high concentration of salt from the storm surge. There are reports that many of the oak trees are turning black. Not sure if they recover once the water comes down.

People's camp status ranges from something like the above to complete devastation. These are people's camps - buildings that are not primary residences that are used for some type of recreation. Realize, there are people whose primary homes are in these areas as well. It is one thing to lose a second home, it is another to lose your primary. This is an area that has heavy cattle farming. Just like in Audrey, the birds aren't around.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Send in the Cows

It was inevitable. I knew this would happen once people started reporting on the more rural Parishes like Plaquemines and Cameron. Where are all the cows? The reports are coming in from Cameron Parish after Rita of the number of cow carcasses that are lying around. I have spoken with people who helped with the cleanup of Plaquemines Parish after Camile and Cameron Parish after Audrey. They all mention the cows. 1000s of them lying down, legs up, bodies swollen. They are all over Cameron Parish and there was a story today about a farmer with 350 head in Plaquemines who has been caring for about 60 on the levee. The 60 managed to swim there and have no place to go. Why no one chose to report on Plaquemines until after Rita is beyond me. I still think that the death toll will go up once they count everything in the rural Parishes where people able to leave stay out of tradition. There are many pictures of cows or horses on porches of houses surrounded by water. No one ever mentions dead horses, only cows. Sounds like the CIA must be involved.

In one of my earlier posts about St. Bernard, I wrote of a family who stayed and managed to get rescued by the skin of their teeth. The daughter went to release two of their horses that were tied up. I'm happy to report that both horses made it through the ordeal. When she went to untie them, she led them to the top of the levee as the water was rising. As she started to leave, they walked back down to the barn which had waste deep water. She figured she had done the best she could and began to leave when she ran into a vet who happened to have a horse trailer. Small wonders.

Since this post seems to have the animal theme, I thought I would share a story about the wild dogs. There have been reports that in the heavily flooded areas there are packs of wild dogs running rampant. I'm sure they are not truly wild but no one gets excited about a couple of hungry pets. Mostly the dogs are pets that are starving and have sought refuge out of the heat. One of our friends went to Chalmette which is in St. Bernard Parish to meet a FEMA agent and process his claim. When they went into the house it was quickly realized that it was a total loss. He wanted to go through the house to see if there was anything salvageable. When they went into the living room, he noticed tracks leading into the kitchen. He went to investigate but the FEMA agent grabbed him and said not to. He explained that nothing was salvageable and that people who had tried to help or get the dogs out had been attacked. I'm sure there is a bad horror movie in the making. If they had killer bees in the Superdome, they can have killer dogs in Chalmette.

Back to the cows... I spoke with someone who flew over Jefferson Davis and Cameron Parishes today. Complete devastation in the southern most areas. The islands (Pecan, Forked, etc.) and places like Holly Beach were flattened much like Buras and Empire were with Katrina. There are people in Cameron Parish that are on their roof tops - funny there aren't any pictures on the news that I have seen about these people. I guess the public is tired of people on their rooftops and wants to look at refineries instead. There are reports of some people waving off rescue attempts from boats or helicopters. Now that is dedication. You have to realize that these people either fish or farm and don't need the government to protect them. You can see how well it worked in New Orleans.

My brother in law has a FEMA pass to get into New Orleans since he is working for Intercosmos Media Group which owns the DirectNIC hosting and domain registration that had the cool web log that was up throughout Katrina on downtown Poydras. He went up to Canal this morning and said that when he got to the casino (which fared well - no looting) that the smell of the Aquarium was overwhelming. You may remember that while the zoo fared well (only 3 deaths) the Aquarium had its generators commandeered and had almost a total loss. As bad as a fridge with shrimp in it smells after 5 days, I can only imagine a shark tank after a month. You can not go down Canal to the Sheraton (where I was engaged) as it is FEMA central and makes downtown Baghdad look like a good neighborhood. Many of the bars on Decatur were looted as well.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

God Hates Casinos

I just spoke with my friend at the Lake Charles Police Department. I have been trying to get in touch with him and some friends that work for the Sheriff's Office. Fortunately, it sounds like everyone is more or less OK.

Casinos - as I suspected some of the Casinos took a hard lick. The Casinos in Bilouxie were completely leveled and the one in New Orleans took some water damage (no looting). The ones in Lake Charles are located on the lake. At least one casino boat broke away from the building and is toast. Lots of water damage in the other buildings. One of the new ones is OK and the Police are using it as a place for their officers to sleep.

The pictures the media is showing from Lake Charles with with the flooded houses are from South Lake Charles. This is a low area, near the lake and closest to the Gulf. Much of Lake Charles is not flooded. The Police Department and our servers are fine. Unfortunately their air conditioning and internet connection are down so our servers are close to useless. We are rerouting all of our users to other available hubs. The phone company is out working on the lines and have extra generators at each Central Office (CO). The Sheriff's Office didn't do as well. Their main office and jail are near the Lake Charles Airport which was leveled. They are flooded and abandoned ship once the generator started taking in water. All are OK but this will be a mess.

Looting - yes, it is happening but on a much smaller scale than New Orleans. Police and Sheriff are out actively getting these people picked up. They put them in the cell with a bottle of water and an MRE and let them know they will be back in a few days to check on them. I wish people understood that Law Enforcement needs to be out rescuing people not arresting them. Most of Lake Charles evacuated and is not flooded so there is no need to break into buildings looking for food.

Idiots - yes, once again there are idiots. The best one is an 18-wheeler trucker with an empty load who decided to leave this morning. He made it to the top of the I-10 bridge over the lake and was blown over. No wreckers are available so the Police are doing the best they can without any. Again, you made it safely through the hurricane and think you know more than anyone else and can go about your business. Now resources are saving your ass instead of saving people who already needed the help. Additionally, you are blocking the Interstate for emergency vehicles.

Buildings - there is a decent amount of building damage. The larger ones have lots of broken windows. There are some older ones who are completely leveled. Again, like in New Orleans after Katrina, some are fine. The biggest problem is the lack of power and phone lines mixed with the downed trees.

Emergency Communications - Lake Charles Police kept their 911, Dispatch and other radio communications up and running 100% of the time. Their mobile data terminals in the cars are up as well. Somebody needs to see how a smaller PD is able to do this when the 3 largest agencies in the State can not. They have many downed phone lines so I don't know what the difference is here. Cell towers are hit and miss. Some are up, some are down.

Loss of life will be minimal since most people left. They too like Vermillion Parish received much of their flooding as a result of the rain passing through and everything having no where to drain.

Rita vs. Katrina

Already the media has begun to focus on Rita and has all but stopped reporting on Katrina. They will continue to focus on New Orleans due to the levee breaches but other than that, coverage is at a stand still.

It seems all eyes are on Texas. While Texas did get a considerable amount of damage, once again so did Louisiana. Reports from Lake Charles are sketchy. It did receive a great deal of flooding in many areas and there is significant electrical damage. The only report of any major road damage is the I-10 overpass in Iowa [Pronounced eye-oh-way, they have a running joke that eye-oh-wah is the state and eye-oh-way is the city]. If the report I have is correct it is the Hwy 165 overpass that was lifted and set down on I-10. Should be easy to fix but still causes some problems.

Cameron, Vermillion and Iberia parishes have significant flooding. What is interesting about this is that Vermillion made it through the storm surge OK. Some residents returned and then flooding occurred and they became in need of rescue. Many areas that have never had flooding, even after Audrey and Lilly, are flooded. Video is starting to show up showing the cows and horses up to their heads in water. Most of Cameron was evacuated but it appears that many residents in Vermillion did not.

Lafayette is just north of Vermillion Parish and was hit hard by Lilly. For what ever reason, it seems to have been spared by Rita. Some power outage and trees down but nothing significant. There are good pictures from many of the affected parishes on the KATC website.

Jefferson Davis Parish is not Jefferson Parish. Look this one up on a map. Any 8th grade Louisiana student had to learn all 64 LA Parishes. It appears that when the LA State Government ordered the mandatory evacuation, they mistakenly said Jefferson instead of Jefferson Davis. Scared the crap out of the Jefferson Parish residents. Jefferson Davis is east of Calcasieu Parish (Lake Charles) and is and north of Cameron Parish. The southern cities (Lake Arthur not Port Arthur, TX) took a beating. Jennings has some water and no power but looks OK. Some of my company's state servers are in Jennings and they have been on generator power since Friday night. Since it was the closest place that had power it has become a makeshift State Police headquarters.

Baton Rouge did well all things considered. Some power outage and some trees down but Katrina culled most of the weak trees and power poles. Our house had a few flickers but power never was down for more than a couple minutes. Glad we had a generator plus food and water but even happier not to need to use them. Restaurants and grocery stores are having a hard time getting supplies since I-10 in both directions (closed in Lake Charles and New Orleans). I-12, I-49, I-55 and I-59 remain open. Gas isn't a problem and prices seem to be around $2.55/gallon. Many stores stayed open until their normal closing time Friday night and were open regular hours on Saturday. Ones without power on Saturday had issues but things are close to normal today.

Refugee Bowl 2005 - there were no LA College Games on Saturday to keep people amused. We ended up having a bunch of friends over to watch the USC vs. U of Oregon game Saturday night. A few of the people were displaced New Orleans residents and some were out of town residents in town to help family with cleanup. Much food and drinks were consumed and it was fun to be with friends to forget about reality for an evening. I realize that college football has little to do with rescuing hurricane victims, but with events of the last month, people need a mental break.