Children's Hospital under siege

Tuesday, 11:45 p.m.

Late Tuesday, Gov. Blanco spokeswoman Denise Bottcher described a disturbing scene unfolding in uptown New Orleans, where looters were trying to break into Children's Hospital.

Bottcher said the director of the hospital fears for the safety of the staff and the 100 kids inside the hospital. The director said the hospital is locked, but that the looters were trying to break in and had gathered outside the facility.

The director has sought help from the police, but, due to rising flood waters, police have not been able to respond.

Bottcher said Blanco has been told of the situation and has informed the National Guard. However, Bottcher said, the National Guard has also been unable to respond.

Late Blanco statement

Tuesday 10:15 p.m.

By Robert Travis Scott

BATON ROUGE -- Gov. Kathleen Blanco called for an
evacuation of the 20,000 storm refugees from the
Superdome after she visited the hurricane-damaged
stadium Tuesday evening for the second time of the
day.

She set no timetable for the withdrawal but insisted
that the facility was damaged, degrading and no longer
able to support the local citizens who had sought
refuge in the Dome from Hurricane Katrina.

“It’s a very, very desperate situation,” Blanco said
late Tuesday after returning to the capital from her
visit, when she comforted the exhausted throngs of
people, many of whom checked in over the weekend.
“It’s imperative that we get them out. The situation
is degenerating rapidly.”

Blanco also said the people in the New Orleans
hospitals were being moved out.

The Dome has no electricity, holes in the roof have
let in water and the sanitary conditions are growing
worse, Blanco said.

“It’s a little rough in there,” Blanco said.

Blanco also visited a facility near the Dome where
rescue helicopters have deposited people picked up
from rooftops after becoming trapped at their homes by
floodwaters. Those people are frightened about their
situation and concerned about loved ones still left
back in their neighborhoods, she said.

State officials are establishing evacuation sites,
which will be outside of Orleans Parish, where power
is expected to be off for many days if not weeks.
Blanco said the commodes are not working in the Dome.

Details of how and when the evacuation will take place
are now being determined.

The neighboring New Orleans Arena is not an option,
because it has water in it, she said.

Blanco said part of the population in the Dome are
people “who do not have any regard for others.” But
“many good people” also are living in the Dome, she
said, including mothers with babies.

Meanwhile, Blanco said officials are working rapidly
to fill the hole in the 17th Street Canal, where a
500-foot breach is allowing water to pour into the
city. Areas of the city that were dry or had low water
early Tuesday were slowly filling up with the water by
Tuesday evening. The water is pouring in faster than
the city’s pumps can push it out.

Major Gen. Don Riley with the Army Corps of Engineers
said giant sandbags are being dropped into the Canal
and large barriers are being lowered into the gap to
close it off. It is a massive undertaking, hampered by
nightfall.

Working in the city’s favor is the fact that the level
of Lake Pontchartrain is falling, which puts less
pressure on the canal stream. Once the flow is
stemmed, the city’s pumps can clear out the water.

Until then, the leak will “continue to flow down into
the center of town,” Riley said.

The Inner Harbor Canal also breached and poured water
into St. Bernard Parish, but the level of the canal is
now so low that water is flowing back into the canal,
Riley said.

The scene from south Slidell: High water and devastation

By Chris Kirkham
St. Tammany bureau

Slidell Police and emergency officials continued to mop up Tuesday
after the devastating flooding that overwhelmed much of the southern half of Slidell following the glancing blow from Hurricane
Katrina’s eye wall.

Entire neighborhoods in low-lying areas were under
more than seven feet of water, leaving many families trapped in attics or on second floors.
Slidell Police and St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies have
been combing through neighborhoods hit by the flooding since after the strongest winds
ceased Monday afternoon, said Capt. Rob Callahan, a Slidell Police spokesman.

Police had rescued more than 100 people as of Tuesday afternoon, he
said, none of whom were injured.

At the height of the storm Monday, major flooding extended from Lake Pontchartrain through Olde Towne and up to Fremaux Avenue

But by Tuesday afternoon, much of the
flood water had receded from neighborhoods closest to the lake such as Oak Harbor and Eden Isles. Many portions of Pontchartrain
Drive and its adjoining neighborhoods still were beneath at least three
feet of water.

Callahan said he expects Slidell Police to be wrapping up the boat
rescue efforts by Thursday. Though no fatalities have been reported as of yet, Callahan said there was a likely possibility police would come across some in the next few weeks.

“The hardest part is going to be going back later on and finding the
casualties, although I hope there are none,” Callahan said. “Until the water recedes, we can’t get to those bodies.”

Those plucked from rooftops and attics by boat were taken in dump
trucks to the Founders Building at Slidell Memorial Hospital, Callahan said, where food was being made available.

Callahan said Katrina packed the hardest punch Slidell ever has seen.
“Imagine your worst nightmare and quadruple that times 100,” he said.

Storm surges that ripped through the Oak Harbor and Eden Isles
subdivisions Monday left portions of the area under more than 10 feet of water, but the receded waters Tuesday left behind evidence of the roaring winds that hit the area. Some houses stood with only minor roof and shingle damage, but closer to the lake there was more serious structural damage as chunks of roof
were sent flying through the air and decks were demolished.

Several of the older bars and businesses on Pontchartrain Drive near
the Oak Harbor entrance were reduced to piles of rubble.

“These are bars that we all went to, and now they’re just gone,” said
Chad Lowe, 27, who had just walked more than four miles through Oak Harbor to survey damage at his home and much of the area.
“It’s unthinkable. A lot of this area is just absolutely destroyed.”

Close to the lake near Oak Harbor Marina, boats were suspended on
levees and tossed to the sides of roads. A catamaran was resting on a damaged portion of the twin spans and several other boats dotted I-10 south of Old Spanish Trail.

Serge Celestin, who rode out the storm at his house on Pebble Beach
Drive in Eden Isles, spent most of the storm in his attic to avoid the rising waters. Cars in his
garage came crashing into his walls as the rising water carried them afloat. Portions of his roof
were ripped off, leaving him a view of storm surges inundating Interstate 10.

“I couldn’t tell what I was looking at,” Celestin said. “The interstate, the bridge, the lake. They
were all one.”

Rescue efforts on Tuesday continued in the Pinehurst and Kingspoint
subdivisions south of Fremaux Avenue, where Sheriff’s Office officials used Wildlife and Fisheries boats to rescue residents trapped in attics and on second stories. Waters toppled over the levees surrounding the neighborhood after the worst of the storm passed Monday, leaving some houses beneath
almost eight feet of water.

Arnold Angelo, whose house had water halfway up the garage, braved the
winds Monday afternoon to rescue 19 people and bring them to safety at a neighbor’s
two-story house. He continued patrolling the neighborhood into Tuesday night,
dodging mailboxes, stop signs and submerged cars that were barely
visible beneath the high waters.

Many of the people he saw trapped preferred to ride out the high water
rather than face the uncertainty of leaving their pets and homes behind. Several of the trapped residents Angelo saw had posted signs outside
their homes saying “No food,
no water” or “Help!”

“It’s a shame people had to go through this, but I’m one of the lucky
ones because I’ve got a
boat,” he said.

Slidell Mayor Ben Morris estimated that 75 percent of homes in Slidell
sustained some kind of damage. Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency arrived Tuesday morning, Callahan said.

He cautioned residents not to return to the city, saying many roads are
still completely blocked off
by fallen trees. All entrances to the city are being blocked off by state troopers, who
will check driver’s licenses
to make sure only residents are trying to enter the city.

(Staff writer Paul Bartels contributed to this report.)

Laque extends prayers

Tuesday, 10:40 p.m.

St. Charles Parish President Albert Laque said his parish was lucky. There was some damage and some flooding, but not near as severe as that in neighboring parishes to the east.

"Compared to our neighbors we're lucky,'' he told WWL-TV Tuesday night.

Laque said he and other residents are praying for those suffering across the region.

Broussard the optimist

Tuesday, 10:34 p.m.

No situation is so dire that a little levity isn't appreciated.

Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard might not have been striving for a laugh during an interview on WWL-TV Tuesday night, but he sure got some giggles from a group of Times-Picayune reporters gathered at the Houma Courier putting together Wednesday's edition of The Times-Picayune.

Broussard, responding to questions about how long it would take to get the metro area back in shape, said he would try to do better than any estimate given. For instance, if the estimate for electricity is one month, he said he and other officials would strive to complete the task in less time than that.

I'm an optimist, he told the reporter, adding he otherwise wouldn't be wearing the shirt he had on.

The shirt? A New Orleans Saints shirt, of course.

State Police send troopers to region

Tuesday, 10:30 p.m.

More than 40 State Police troopers are being sent to New Orleans to help local law enforcement combat what Col. Henry Whitehorn called “pretty severe”
looting in the city.

Two mobile force units of 16 officers each will be deployed, as well as about a dozen tactical officers and one armored personnel carrier, which should be
able drive through the deep flood waters, said Whitehorn at a 9 p.m. briefing at the state Office of Emergency Preparedness.

The State Police, which already has more than 250 officers in the area
affected by the storm, will be supplemented by an additional 30 officers from various sheriff and city police office around the state.

Whitehorn would not say exactly when the additional police will be deployed, saying they could go Tuesday night or on Wednesday.

Whitehorn said they have had reports of all kinds of looting, as well as people shooting into vacant buildings. “It is a lot of chaos,” he said. “If we see it, we will arrest it.”

City a woeful scene

Tuesday, 10:14 p.m.

By Brian Thevenot, Gordon Russell, Keith Spera and Doug MacCash
Staff writers

Sitting on a black barrel amid the muck and stench near the St. Claude Avenue bridge, 52-year-old Daniel Weber broke into a sob, his voice cracking as he recounted how he had watched his wife drown and spent the next 14 hours floating in the polluted flood waters, his only life line a piece of driftwood.

"My hands were all cut up from breaking through the window, and I was standing on the fence. I said, ‘I’ll get on the roof and pull you up," he said. "And then we just went under."

Weber sat among hundreds of refugees rescued Tuesday from rooftops, attics and floating debris in the 9th Ward and St. Bernard Parish by an armada of more than 100 boats. Officials from the Coast Guard estimated they pulled thousands of people off of rooftops and attics, many with stories as grim as Weber’s. Officials believed hundreds and maybe thousands more remained in peril. They declined to estimate the number of dead. That will come later.

"We’ve got cadaver dogs, but we’re only looking for the live people at this point," said Rachel Zechnelli of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which deployed all available boats to the Industrial Canal Monday night. "We’re dealing only with live voices and heartbeats."

While the 9th remained the focus of the search and rescue effort, refugees from other neighborhoods flooded by the massive breach of Lake Pontchartrain streamed to the Superdome and CBD, trudging through deep waters to get there.

Then, in an evening press conference, Mayor Ray Nagin announced that the already crippled city would take yet another blow: Another surge of water from the failed 17th Street Canal levee that could push an additional 10 feet of water into already waterlogged neighborhoods – and possibly flood the remaining dry sections of Uptown.

The expected surge stems from a failure to execute a plan to dump sandbags via helicopter into the 200 yard wide breach. Nagin offered up no culprit but promised to investigate the matter.

"I thought everyone understood this morning that that was the highest priority," the mayor said. "It didn’t get done. Now there’s nothing to slow down the pace of the water."

That was enough to prompt some of the city’s few remaining residents to start packing.

Uptown resident Margeaux Gonzalez rode out Katrina at the Queen and Crescent Hotel, then returned to find her Laurel Street home dry. As she and her neighbors watched Nagin Tuesday night on a TV rigged to a car battery, they reluctantly made plans to evacuate to Baton Rouge.

"We were feeling really positive three hours ago," Gonzales said. "The storm is long gone, we suffered through the wind and the rain and survived the flood. It’s ridiculous that we can’t get the help we need from the government to keep the city intact. That’s sad."

Earlier in the day, as flood waters rose to knee-deep levels along Poydras Street, the city’s top brass evacuated to Baton Rouge via the Crescent City Connection, the only clear route out of town. They recommended others follow.

"Get out," said City Attorney Sherry Landry from the window of the SUV she would use to evacuate. "I’m serious."

For many, that wasn’t an option. In the impoverished 9th Ward, many didn’t flee the storm in the first place because of lack of money and transportation, as well as a belief the storm wouldn’t be nearly as bad as threatened. On Tuesday, they remained the focus of efforts to evacuate the newly homeless to the already crowded Superdome.

That left thousands of people in other neighborhoods close to the lake, whose homes had not flooded until late Monday when the canal gave way, with no option other than to walk to the few dry areas of the city. Interstate 10 remained largely devoid of cars, but a steady stream of pedestrians seeking food, water and shelter walked along the highway.

More than 100 New Orleans police officers who rode out the storm in the LSU Medical Center were still trapped by high water on Tuesday. Assumption Parish deputies in boats rescued them.

Some who left their flooded homes faced heart-rending dilemmas. Bethaney Waith of Mid-City, who walked in chest high water with a neighbor to the Superdome, had to leave her disabled housemate behind. The woman suffered from epidemia and can’t walk.

Those trapped in the city faced an increasingly lawless environment, as law enforcement agencies found themselves overwhelmed with widespread looting. Looters swarmed the Wal-mart on Tchoupitoulas Street, often bypassing the food and drink section to steal wide-screen TVs, jewelry, bicycles and computers. Watching the sordid display and shaking his head in disgust, one firefighter said of the scene: "It’s a f---- hurricane, what are you do with a basketball goal?"

Police regained control at about 3 p.m., after clearing the store with armed patrol. One shotgun-toting Third District detective described the looting as "ferocious."

"And it’s going to get worse as the days progress," he said.

In Uptown, one the few areas that remained dry, a bearded man patrolled Oak Street near the boarded-up Maple Leaf Bar, a sawed-off shotgun slung over his shoulder. The owners of a hardware store sat in folding chairs, pistols at the ready.

Uptown resident Keith Williams started his own security patrol, driving around in his Ford pickup with his newly purchased handgun. Earlier in the day, Williams said he had seen the body of a gunshot victim near the corner of Leonidas and Hickory streets.

"What I want to know is why we don’t have paratroopers with machine guns on every street," Williams said.

Like-minded Art Depodesta sat on the edge of a picnic table outside Cooter Brown’s Bar, a chrome shotgun at his side loaded with red shells.

"They broke into the Shell station across the street," he said. "I walked over with my 12-gauge and shot a couple into the air."

The looters scattered, but soon after, another man appeared outside the bar in a pickup truck armed with a pistol and threatened Depodesta.

"I told him, ‘Listen, I was in the Army and I will blow your ass off,’" Depodesta said. "We’ve got enough trouble with the flood."

The man sped away.

"You know what sucks," Depodesta said. "The whole U.S. is looking at this city right now, and this is what they see."

In the Bywater, a supply store sported spray-painted signs reading "You Loot, I Shoot" and "You Bein Watched." A man seated nearby with a rifle in his lap suggested it was no idle threat. At the Bywater studio of Dr. Bob, the artist known for handpainted "Be Nice or Leave" signs, a less fanciful sentiment was painted on the wall: "Looters Will Be Shot. Dr. Bob."

As the afternoon faded, aggression filled the air on the neutral ground of Poland Avenue as well, as people grew increasingly frustrated with the rescue effort. Having already survived one nightmare, a woman with five children feared going to go to the Dome, saying that some of the men preparing to board transport vehicles had smuggled razor blades with them.

On the other side of the bridge, rescue boats continued to offload as many as 15 people at a time late into the afternoon, with no end in sight. Some said they had seen dead bodies floating by their boats.

Many stumbled from dehydration as they made their way onto dry land. Several rescue workers said some of the people trapped were so shell-shocked or stubborn they refused to leave their houses. "If you can figure that one out, let me know," said Oscar Dupree, a volunteer who had been trapped on a roof himself and returned to help save others.

The scene called to mind a refugee camp in a Third World nation. Liquor flowed freely and tempers flared amid complaints about the pace of the relief effort, which seemed to overwhelm the agencies involved and the city’s inability to contain flood waters.

As they emerged from rescue boats, at times wobbling and speaking incoherently, many of the rescued seem stunned they had not died. Johnell Johnson of Marais street said she had been trapped on her roof " with a handicapped man with one damn leg." Gerald Wimberly wept as he recounted his unsuccessful effort to help a young girl, who rescuers ultimately saved. Dupree said he had seen a young man he knew drown. "I just couldn’t get to him," he said. "I had to tell his people."

Weber, the man who lost his wife, seemed at the breaking point as he waited, surrounded by anger and filth, for a National Guard truck to ferry him to the Dome. After 14 hours of floating on a piece of wood, volunteers who knew him had fished him out.

"Another hour, I would have just let myself drown," he said.

A moment later, staring ahead to a bleak future without his wife, he said he almost wished he had.

"I’m not going to make it. I know I’m not."

Evacuees can't get word on relatives

Tuesday, 9:10 p.m.

By Bob Ussery

Some of the 50-plus New Orleans residents who took refuge in Houma on Tuesday were worried about the safety of relatives they left behind in the path of Hurricane Katrina.

Julius Jones, 68, and his wife, Geneva, 63, got a call from their grandson, Gerald Williams, 21, early Monday as the storm approached him in the Lower 9th Ward. Gerald Jones and about 15 friends and neighbors were stranded on the second floor of the home where he and his grandparents live on Tupelo Street. Water was halfway up to the second floor and the group, including two neighbors’ babies needed help.

Julius Jones said he finally got through to New Orleans police but does not know if help arrived in time. The phones stopped working, and as of Tuesday evening, the Joneses had no idea of the safety of their grandson and the others.

Tragedy has already struck at the same family. Julius Jones said his son, Joseph Jones, 23, and daugher, Geraldine Jones, 34, were murdered at the house in 1997.

The Joneses wound up at the shelter at the Houma Terrebonne Civic Center after their first refuge, the Best Western Hotel in Gray, lost electricity and had sewage problems.

Ester Dumas, who was also forced out of the Best Western, along with her family, had her own worries. Her husband, Ernest Dumas, 63, wanted to stay at their home at 5411 Marais Street. Her parents, Emelda Jenkins, 84, and Chester Jenkins, 63, of Roffignac Street, joined Ernest Dumas on Marais Street, but could not be persuaded to evacuate the city.

“They probably didn’t think it was going to be as bad as it was,” Dumas said. “I called them Sunday night when we got to the hotel. Poor darlings, they thought they could go home. I explained to them they could not go home. I hope and pray they’re OK.”

Tuesday evening, Dumas was worried because she had not been able to get in touch with anyone.

Will Torres, human resources director for Terrebonne Parish, said the shelter has a capacity of 2,200 people. As of Tuesday, there were only about 250 people. But that was because more refugees from the flooding in New Orleans were expected to arrive Tuesday. Some would come on two buses sent by Terrebonne Parish.

Saints update from San Jose

Tuesday, 8:50 p.m.

One of the major on-field concerns for the Saints is to figure out how to stop the run. Off the field reports of major flooding back home occupied the thoughts of many of the Saints players Tuesday in the second day of practice at San Jose State.

Going into Thursday's preseason finale against the Oakland Raiders, the Saints have allowed a whopping 535 yards on the ground in the first three exhibitions with a staggering 6.7 yards per carry for opponents.

In the previous preseason outing, Baltimore backup running back Chester Taylor broke off runs of 43 and 51 yards.

"Our problem hasn't been down in and down out running," said defensive coordinator Rick Venturi said as the team worked out in 87-degree weather. "It's allowing the big run. We've allowed three big runs in the last two games.

"It isn't like we can't play the run because there are a lot of times that we do very, very well with the same people. Right now we're having lapses and they're costing us. We've been hurt on cutbacks, more toward the edges, our defensive ends who are more or less the strength of our defense. Our linebackers have played a lot better than people think. They've been maligned."

Coach Jim Haslett said "defense is a mind-set. You can't just do your job one time. We've got to win more one-on-ones. The defensive ends are the ones who are hurting us the most. They're letting runners get to the sidelines. The interior people are doing pretty well."

Second-year defensive end Will Smith declined to share the blame for opposing running backs.

"I think I'm doing OK," Smith said. "I think our No. 1 defense is doing fine. It's a mental thing, not physical mistakes. I don't think I've made any mistakes like that. The mistakes we made against Baltimore wasn't me."

Venturi said his figures show opponents have been successful only 17 percent of the time in third-down conversions.

"There aren't going to be many third-down situations if you're giving up 6.7 yards a run," said middle linebacker Courtney Watson. "We have such a good third-down package here that maybe we rely on that too much. To get to those third-and-longs, we've got to play good run defense on first and second downs."

Martial law clarified

Tuesday, 9:02 p.m.

The state Attorney General's office on Tuesday sought to clarify reports in some media that "martial law' has been declared in parts of storm-ravaged southeast Louisiana, saying no such term exists in Louisiana law.

But even though no martial law exists, Gov. Kathleen Blanco's declaration of a state of emergency gives authorities widespread latitude to suspend civil liberties as they try to restore order and bring victims to safety. Under the Louisiana Homeland Security and Emergency Assistance and Disaster Act of 1993, the governor and, in some cases, chief parish officials, have the right to commandeer or utilize any private property if necessary to cope with the emergency.

Authorities may also suspend any statute related to the conduct of official business, or any rule issued by a state agency, if complying would "prevent, hinder or delay necessary action'' to mitigate the emergency.

It also gives authority the right to compel evacuations, suspend alcohol and weapons sales and make provisions for the availability and use of temporary emergency housing.

The law gives mayors similar authority, except they do not have the right to commandeer private property or make provisions for emergency housing, according to a background brief prepared by the state Attorney General's office.

Crews frantically work to fix breach

Tuesday, 8:55 p.m.

The state Department of Transportation and Development and the Army Corps of Engineers worked into the night to plug a 500-foot breach in the 17th Street Canal
which has flooded Lakeview, West End, Bucktown and large swaths of East Jefferson.

Mark Lambert, chief spokesman for the agency, said that a convoy of trucks carrying 108 15,000-pound concrete barriers – like those used as highway construction dividers -- was en route to the site Tuesday night.

Once there, Lambert said, helicopters which hook up the barriers, and drop them into the hole in the canal.

Lambert said another 50 sandbags, each weighing 3,000 pounds, are also being maneuvered into place to stop the breach.

“That’s 800 tons of concrete,’’ Lambert said. “What we are trying to do is just stop the water from going into the city.’’

Lambert did not say how the state is addressing another breach in the Industrial Canal.

Looting difficult to control

Tuesday, 8:10 p.m.

By Ed Anderson and Jan Moller

Widespread looting contributed to a deteriorating situation in Louisiana's largest city Tuesday in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina Tuesday, according to witnesses and second-hand accounts from evacuees.

The problem is being compounded, officials said, by a breakdown in the ability of public agencies to communicate with one another, said New Orleans City Council President Oliver Thomas.

“The most frustrating thing about this whole thing has been communication,” Thomas said. “We have to devise a better system.”

He said looting has also escalated and an atmosphere of lawlessness has developed as police resources have been almost entirely devoted to search-and-rescue operations for people trapped by floodwaters on roofs and in attics. “Widespread looting is taking place in all parts of the city” - from uptown and Canal Street to areas around the housing projects, Thomas said.

“People are going in and out of businesses at Louisiana and Claiborne (avenues), taking clothes, tennis shoes and goods,” Thomas said. “It is inconceivable to me how people can do this.”

“People are leaving the Superdome to go to Canal Street to loot,” Thomas said. “Some people broke into drug stores and stole the drugs off the shelves. It is looting times five. I'm telling you, it's like Sodom and Gomorrah.”

Feds' Disaster Planning Shifts Away From Preparedness

Tuesday, 8 p.m.

By Bill Walsh, Bruce Alpert and John McQuaid
c.2005 Newhouse News Service

WASHINGTON - No one can say they didn't see it coming.

For years before Hurricane Katrina roared ashore Monday morning, devastating the Gulf Coast, officials from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama have been warning about their vulnerability to the storms that swirl menacingly in the Gulf of Mexico every hurricane season.

Now in the wake of one of the worst storms ever, serious questions are being asked about the lack of preparation.

On Tuesday, looters could be seen carrying away whole shelves of merchandise from stores in New Orleans with no police in sight. A shortage of boats left people stranded on their roofs a day after the storm passed. State, local and federal rescue workers, all supplied with different radio equipment, were having trouble communicating with one another.

Meanwhile, local officials said that had Washington heeded their warnings about the dire need for hurricane protection - including fortifying homes, building up levees and repairing barrier islands - the damage might not have been nearly as bad as it turned out to be.

"If we had been investing resources in restoring our coast, it wouldn't have prevented the storm but the barrier islands would have absorbed some of the tidal surge," said Rep. Bobby Jindal, R-La. "People's lives are at stake. We need to take this more seriously."

Jindal and other elected officials credited the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for positioning stockpiles of food, water and medical supplies throughout Louisiana and Mississippi more than a day before Katrina made landfall. The quick response was triggered by an unusually early emergency declaration from President Bush.

Still, the level of devastation from a storm that everyone agreed was not a "worst-case scenario" has focused attention on whether policymakers took the much-heralded threat seriously and whether adequate plans are in place for future natural disasters.

Warning signs have been everywhere. More people than ever are living near hurricane-prone coastlines, earthquake fault lines, forest fire-prone areas and in flood plains, a trend that has created a landscape of expanding risk, with more people, homes and communities in the path of danger.

Not surprisingly, disaster costs are rising to levels unheard of a generation ago, posing a growing problem for insurers, governments and the people in harm's way. The number of federal emergency disaster declarations doubled from an average of 23 a year during 1980-84 to 53 a year during 2000-2004.

Hurricane Andrew set a record of more than $30 billion in losses in 1992, followed quickly by California's Northridge earthquake the next year, which cost more than $40 billion. Early estimates have put the cost of Hurricane Katrina at upwards of $19 billion.

"We've been on this trajectory for about 15 years. We're seeing increasingly bigger disasters and increasingly higher losses," said Kathleen Tierney, director of the Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center at the University of Colorado. "Now just about any place a hurricane is going to come in, it's going to hit a developed area. This is the way it's going to be from now on."

Disaster and emergency experts have warned for years that governments, especially the federal government, have put so much stress on disaster response that they have neglected policies to minimize a disaster's impact in advance.

"In the same way that Hurricane Andrew was a wakeup call to Florida, this storm will be a wakeup call to Louisiana and Mississippi," said Robert Hartwig, chief economist for the Insurance Information Institute. "It's going to be very evident that there were an enormous number of vulnerabilities that weren't addressed. There's going to be a lot of finger-pointing."

Louisiana's elected officials were quick to seize on the disaster to press for long-requested federal financial assistance in shoring up Louisiana's coastline. The coastal wetlands erode at a rate of 24 square miles a year and expose south Louisiana to increasing danger.

Until recently, efforts to squeeze coastal protection money out of Washington have met with resistance. The Louisiana congressional delegation urged Congress earlier this year to dedicate a stream of federal money to Louisiana's coast, only to be opposed by the White House. Ultimately a deal was struck to steer $540 million to the state over four years. The total coast of repair work is estimated to be $14 billion.

In its budget, the Bush administration had also proposed a significant reduction in funding for southeast Louisiana's chief hurricane protection project. Bush proposed $10.4 million, a sixth of what local officials say they need.

Some critics said that in a post-Sept. 11 world, when the Department of Homeland Security is focused on preventing another terrorist attack, not enough emphasis is being placed on preparing for natural disasters.

A case in point, they say, is the decision to take away from FEMA its historic responsibility for disaster preparedness. Now the agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security, will focus on post-disaster search and rescue.

The Homeland Security agency plans to create a new Directorate of Preparedness, covering planning for both terrorism and natural disasters. But it is still on the drawing board.

Russ Knocke, a Homeland Security spokesman, said the reorganization will lead to better disaster preparation.

"It will let the experts on planning and preparation focus on that and the experts on search and rescue focus on that," Knocke said.

But experts in disaster planning say that it has already sown confusion among those on the front lines of preparing for disasters like Hurricane Katrina.

"It's very confusing to the state and local governments," said James Lee Witt, the FEMA director in the Clinton administration. "Who do they go to and how is it going to be coordinated now? It's really going to be fragmented. I've talked to a lot of the states, and I don't think they're very happy about this."

Five confirmed dead in Jeff. Parish

Tuesday, 7:55 p.m.

Five deaths related to Hurricane Katrina have been confirmed in Jefferson Parish, officials said.

And the death toll is expected to climb.

Meanwhile, another 7 people who decided to ride out the storm on Grand Isle cannot be found, Jefferson Parish Director of Emergency Services Walter Maestri said.

"We're still looking for them,'' he said.

Shot police officer in surgery

The New Orleans police officer shot in the head by a looter Tuesday was expected to survive, officials said.

The officer, who has not been identified, was in surgery at West Jefferson Medical Center after being shot in the forehead, police said.

The officer was shot by a looter after he and another officer confronted a number of looters at a Chevron store at Shirley and Gen. DeGaulle.

Jefferson Parish sheriff's deputies on the scene arrested four people in connection with the shooting. One of the looters reportedly was shot in the arm by an officer during a shootout.

St. John becomes staging point



By Allen Powell II
River Parishes Bureau

Thanks to already operating parish utilities and aggressive roadblocks, St. John the Baptist Parish has morphed into a waystation for evacuees trying to return to New Orleans and Jefferson Parishes in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

A steady stream of southeast Louisiana residents have attempted to use Airline Highway and the River Road to return to their homes on Monday and Tuesday. But many of them have found themselves stranded in parking lots in LaPlace thanks to Louisiana State Police roadblocks that prevent them from advancing past the Bonnet Carre Spillway in St. Charles Parish.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard both have declared martial law in their respective areas due to the devastation there, and both have told residents they will not be able to return to their homes until next week at the earliest. In addition, both men are estimating that it could take more than a month to restore parish and city services. The roadblocks are supposed to prevent residents from entering unsafe areas, and help limit looting.

St. John Chief Administrative Officer Natalie Robottom said the parish has notified the Louisiana Department of Emergency Preparedness that it is willing to help house individuals currently evacuating New Orleans and Jefferson Parish. However, Robottom said the parish will need state assistance to operate the facilities because it does not have the manpower or resources to operate shelters on its own.

“We can’t do it by ourselves, we’re not equipped for that,” Robottom said. “We don’t want to get people in and not have basic services.”

Robottom said St. John Parish schools Superintendent Mike Coburn has agreed to open Lake Pontchartrain Elementary School in LaPlace as the parish’s first shelter on Wednesday, once power is restored there. Robottom said Entergy has told the parish that electricity should be returned gradually over the next two to four weeks, with U.S. 51 and Airline Highway receiving service first. She said Entergy officials have told her it takes six workers four to six hours to install one pole.

The minimal damage to St. John Parish has meant that traffic into the parish was brisk once Katrina’s winds subsided on Monday night. But, as more and more travelers became trapped in the parish, and camped out in the parking lots of local businesses, the parish decided to limit access to individuals essential to repairing infrastructure and parish residents who can prove their residency with state identification, Robottom said.

Most St. John Parish utilities were operating on Tuesday, and parish crews were clearing roads. Although much of the parish is still without electricity, there are a few grocery stores offering limited service in Reserve and LaPlace.

Rescuers working overtime

Tuesday, 7:44 p.m.

By Tremayne Lee
Staff writer

As the nightmare of Hurricane Katrina became a reality for rescuers and
refugees alike Tuesday, the dawn of destruction rose steadily with
flood waters as the city of New Orleans fought for survival.

“We’ve got boats everywhere,” said Capt. Tim Bayard of the New Orleans
Police Department. “We’re going to try and get who we can get and take
them to higher ground. We may have to come back for some.”

Homeland Security Director Terry Ebbert confirmed that a number of
people have died in the floodwaters.

“We have some bodies floating,” Ebbert said. “Not like thousands, but
we have seen some.”

Still, Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson tried to paint a bright future for
the city.

“I think we can bounce back from this,” she said. “We have to.”

Longtime city employee Philip Batiste, 74, and a resident of
Pontchartrain Park near the Southern University of New Orleans,
expressed frustration when it was announced that electric generators at the
city’s Emergency Operations Center had to be shut down because water was
leaking into the basement of City Hall.

“I had five chances to leave and I didn’t take one of them,” he said. “Where do I go now? What am I supposed to do? “In all my years, I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Nagin details latest storm damage

by Melinda Deslatte, AP

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said Tuesday that the city might need to set up a temporary morgue to deal with the death toll in a city that's 80 percent flooded, food and water are scarce and an atmosphere of lawlessness has set in as police and other emergency resources are dedicated to rescuing people still stuck in their homes after Hurricane Katrina.

That's not all. Three levees have been broken, flooding areas of the city that appeared to survive the storm. A 50-inch water main under City Park is cut. And power is running out at the Superdome, where some 15,000 to 20,000 people took refuge at the “shelter of last resort.” At Charity Hospital, which hosts the city's top trauma center, the flood levels got too high foor ambulances to get in or out.

“Charity Hospital is in a crisis,” Nagin said. He estimated it would take as long as two weeks to clear out the floodwaters once the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers fixes the levees.

Also, Municipal Yacht Harbor burned to the ground. And looting has become so widespread that it's sometimes taking place in full view of police and other emergency workers who are busy searching for any survivors in need of rescue. Drug addicts have been looting pharmacies, Nagin said.

There are no official death tolls, but it's expected to be steep. At this point, “Rescue workers are not even dealing with dead bodies. They're just pushing them to the side,” Nagin said.

LSU game canceled

Tuesday, 6:50 p.m.

By William Kalec

BATON ROUGE - Because of the continuing effects of Hurricane Katrina and need for LSU campus resources in the relief effort, the Tigers’ Sept. 3 home football opener against North Texas has been postponed, school officials announced Tuesday.

“I don’t have any doubt, whatsoever, that all Louisiana (residents) who are looking at the front pages of the papers and are looking at what’s been broadcast on TV recognize that this is of epic proportions in terms of the tragedy,” LSU chancellor Sean O’Keefe said. “So, as a consequence, (fans) are going to be extremely understandable.

“We’re a part of this community - and we recognize it first and foremost - and we worry about each other.”

Police barricaded parts of North Stadium Drive - the road that runs between Tiger Stadium and the Pete Maravich Assembly Center - to clear a path for medical vehicles and supply trucks.

The Carl Maddox Fieldhouse is currently being used as a Special Needs Shelter while the adjacent PMAC has been designated as a triage unit for medical emergencies. Also, orange cones lined in the shaped of “X” on the infield of the Bernie Moore Track Stadium served as a landing area for helicopters.

Originally, O’Keefe intended to play the game as scheduled, and for it to be a source of civic pride, but reconsidered because the logistical complexities of hosting games in Tiger Stadium could create traffic problems for medical vehicles and takeaway resources better used in the relief effort.

LSU and North Texas will determine the rescheduled date, which might require some creative maneuvering since the two schools do not share a common bye week. An announcement is expected by Thursday.

“The football team feels just like you do, just like we all do,” athletic director Skip Bertman said. “They want to help. And hopefully, against Arizona State (on Sept. 10), that will be a time - after some recovery and some mourning - when the athletics can once again act as a bonding agent to get everybody back together on a positive note.”

Damage around campus was minimal, including to the partially constructed West Upper Deck of Tiger Stadium. The hurricane should not alter the athletic department’s plan for all seats to be habitable by Sept. 24 when Tennessee comes to town.

Les Miles canceled practice for the second straight day, though players took part in a light run. He plans to return to schedule with a shells workout on Wednesday. Since classes are delayed until next Tuesday, team members will participate in volunteer and good-will ventures to aid in the relief. Miles estimated six to 12 players have family members or friends who evacuated staying at their Baton Rouge residences.

“We’re going to precede to prepare a good football team,” Miles said. “When we step inside the lines we’re going to put some of those issues on the back-burner and pursue excellence. But that’s only a short amount of time within the lines, because they are going to be rightfully preoccupied with being a part of a state, trying to support in whatever small way they can in an effort where people have lost a lot.

“A football game does not rank in the scale (of importance) of what this state has experienced,” Miles said, later. “Certainly, there will come a time when the ability to turn to play, to smile, to enjoy an evening, will be awful important.”

Bucktown, West End devastated

Tuesday, 6:41 p.m.

Homes in West End, Bucktown and at the Orleans-Jefferson Parish line are nearly underwater, with residents being plucked from the water and rooftops by passing boats, WWL-TV video shows.

The video shows that the popular Sid-Mars restaurant is gone.

Along Pontchartrain Boulevard, the video shows only the rooftops of single-story homes and the upper floors of two-story homes.

Many of those rescued are being brought to the I-10 near its split with I-610. They said the area survived the actual hurricane. But soon after it seemingly had passed over the area, the floodwaters rose, swamping houses.

Neighbors spoke of going house to house, using pickaxes to break through roofs to get to people hiding in their attics.

Tulane football update

Tuesday, 6:45 p.m.

If Tulane has trouble opening its doors in the near future, that could lead to a football team playing without a university. That may be a first, and brings to mind all sorts of issues regarding not only rescheduling, but academic progress.

"That's the type of situation that doesn't come up very often, thankfully," NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson said Tuesday. "We'd certainly work with one of our members to be as flexible as possible. It will really depend on what transpires at Tulane."

In the meantime, Conference-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said his office has received many calls asking how they can help Tulane and Southern Mississippi. The game between the two Sunday at Hattiesburg, Miss. has been postponed until Nov. 26. The Green Wave football team, which is on its way from Jackson, Miss. - where it evacuated to on Saturday - to Dallas, will have dinner Tuesday night at Louisiana Tech.

"When the Tulane team drives through Ruston," Banowsky said, "Louisiana Tech will have food for them. Their athletic director, Jim Oakes, called and asked, 'What can we do?' "

Tulane's football team is expected to arrive at Southern Methodist University in Dallas around 1 a.m. on Wednesday. The Green Wave will stay at the DoubleTree Campbell Center and practice at either SMU's Pettus Practice Fields or at Ford Stadium.

Tulane, Southern Miss and Conference USA officials made the decision to postpone the game Tuesday in light of the dislocation of the Green Wave because of Hurricane Katrina and damage to USM's M.M. Roberts Stadium and other parts of the Hattiesburg, Miss., campus.

"Our first concern is the health and safety of our student-athletes and fans," Banowsky said. "There is a tremendous sense of cooperation in our league."

That was demonstrated by the decision Tuesday to relocate the Tulane football, soccer, volleyball, and cross-country teams from Jackson, Miss. The football team will be housed at SMU until it is safe to go back to New Orleans.

Tulane's next scheduled football game is Sept. 17 in the Superdome against Mississippi State.

Banowsky said he was aware of damage to the Superdome plus the prospect of a continuing evacuation of New Orleans, but added it would be premature to speculate whether the Green Wave's entire season is in jeopardy or at the least the team might play all of its games on the road.

Southern Miss' next game is Sept. 10 at Alabama. The Golden Eagles are scheduled to play host to McNeese State on Sept. 17. Banowsky said he understood the stadium will be usable by then.

"We're just trying to figure it all out right now," he said. "This is obviously a terrible catastrophe for everyone and we will just adjust to the situation as it develops."

Water rising at 17th St. canal

Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.

Mayor Ray Nagin has announced that the attempt to plug a breach in the
17th Street canal at the Hammond Highway bridge has failed and the
rising water is about to overwhelm the pumps on that canal.
The result is that water will begin rising rapidly again, and could
reach as high as 3 feet above sea level. In New Orleans and Jefferson
Parish, that means floodwaters could rise as high as 15 feet in the next
few hours.
Nagin urged residents to try to find higher ground as soon as possible.

Chris Rose column

Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.

By Chris Rose

I got out.

I’m mystified by the notion that so many people didn’t even try, but
that’s another story for another time.

We left Saturday, my wife, kids and me. We went first to Picayune,
Miss., thinking that a Category 3 storm would flood New Orleans and knock
out power, but that we’d be dry and relatively comfortable in the piney
woods while the city dried out.

Sunday morning, of course, Katrina was massive red blob on our TV
screens – now a Cat 5 – so we packed up and left again.

We left my in-laws behind in Picayune. They wouldn’t come with us.
Self-sufficient country folk; sometimes you can’t tell ‘em nothing.

We don’t know what happened to them. My wife’s dad and her brother and
their families: No word. Only hope.

Like so many people around the country wondering what happened to those
still unaccounted for; we just don’t know. That’s the hardest part.

If you take the images you’ve seen on TV and picked up off the radio
and internet, and you try to apply what you know to the people and places
you don’t know about, well, the mind starts racing, assumptions are
made and well … it consumes you.

The kids ask you questions. You don’t have answers. Sometimes they look
at me and though they don’t say it, I can see they’re wondering: Daddy,
where are you?

My 6-year-old daughter, she’s onto this thing. What is she thinking?

We spent Sunday night in a no-tell motel in a forgotten part of
downtown Vicksburg; a neighborhood teetering between a familiar antiquated
charm and hopeless decay. Truth is, it called to mind my beloved New
Orleans.

Most of the folks in the hotel seem to live there permanently and it
had a hard-luck feel to it. It was the kind of place where your legs
start itching in the bed and you think the worst and you don’t want your
kids to touch the carpet or the tub and we huddled together and I read
them to sleep.

Monday morning, my wife’s aunt told us they had a generator in Baton
Rouge. As Katrina marched north and east, we bailed on our sullen little
hotel and drove down along he western ridge of the storm, mostly alone
on the road.

Gas was no problem. We had catfish and pulled pork in a barbeque joint
in Natchez and the folks there - everyone we have met along our
three-day journey – has said the same thing: Good luck, folks. We love your
city. Take care of it for us.

Oh, my city. We have spent hours and hours listening to the radio.
Image upon image piling up in your head.

What about school? What about everyone’s jobs? Did all our friends get
out? Are there still trees on the streetcar line? What will our economy
be like with no visitors? How many are dead? Do I have a roof? Have the
looters found me yet? When can we go home?

Like I said, it consumes you as you sit helplessly miles from home,
unable to help anyone, unable to do anything.

If I could, what I’d do first is hurt the looters. I’d hurt them bad.

But you have to forget all that. You have to focus on what is at hand,
what you can reach and when you have three little kids lost at sea,
they are what’s at hand and what you can reach.

I brought them to a playground in Baton Rouge Tuesday afternoon. They’d
been bottled up for days.

Finally unleashed, they ran, they climbed, they fell down, they fought,
they cried, they made me laugh, they drove me crazy; they did the
things that makes them kids.

It grounds you. You take a breath. You count to ten. Maybe - under the
circumstances - you go to twenty or thirty this time.

And tonight, we’ll just read them to sleep again.

We have several books with us because – and this is rich – we brought
on our evacuation all the clothes and things we planned to bring on a
long-weekend trip that we were going to take over Labor Day weekend.

To the beach. To Fort Morgan, right at the mouth of Mobile Bay.

Man.

Instead of that, I put on my sun tan lotion and went out in the yard of
the house where we’re staying in Baton Rouge and I raked a massive pile
of leaves and limbs from the yard and swept the driveway.

Doing yard work and hitting the jungle gym on the Day After. Pretending
life goes on. Just trying to stay busy. Just trying not to think. Just
trying not to fail, really.

Gotta keep moving.

More canal breach flooding predicted

Tuesday, 6:35 p.m.

Mayor Ray Nagin issued an urgent bulletin through WWL-TV at 6:30 p.m.

Nagin said efforts to stop the flow of water at the breach on the 17th Street Canal are failing, which means the floodwaters will rise again.

Nagin said the waters will soon overwhelm the pump, shutting it down. He said the water will rise to 3 feet above sea level - or 12-15 feet in some places of east Jefferson and Orleans parishes.

Nagin has advised residents who have not already evacuated to do so as soon as possible.

Insurance Commissioner: losses to reach all-time high

State Insurance Commissioner Robert Wooley said Tuesday that based on preliminary estimates, the insured losses in the state from Katrina will hit an all-time high of at least $7 billion (cq) and possiblyas high as $19 billion.

Wooley said the numbers are based on models including assessment roles, insurance policies in effect andother factors. He said national figures from Applied Insurance Research Worldwide Corp., an industry consulting firm, said the national damage from Katrina is expected tobe $26 billion.

Wooley said of the $7 billion to $19 billion in losses in the state, half are expected to be in homeowners and auto insurance claims and half in commerical claims. The previous record high for claims in the state,Wooley said, was $576 million in claims from Tropical Storm Isidore and Hurricane Lily two years ago. The previous national high for hurricane losses was $14 billion in claims filed in the wake of HurricaneAndrew a decade ago.

"The numbers will probably change because nobody hasbeen able to get in to the New Orleans area to makeon-site inspections of damages, Wooley said.

Ed Anderson, Baton Rouge

Corps working to fix levee breaches

Tuesday, 5:57 p.m.

The Army Corps of Engineers was focused Tuesday on
finding a way to close the levee breaches in the
Industrial Canal and 17th Street Canal that have let
waters pour into New Orleans, state officials said.

Col. Jeff Smith with the Louisiana National Guard said
the Corps has informed the state that they are
beginning to plan how exactly to fill the holes in the
levee, which observers described as several hundred
feet long.

Smith said the Corps might fill large cargo containers
with a heavy substance, such as sand, which would then
be plugged into the gaps. "It would be better than
just sandbags," he said, adding that Corps officials
haven't figured out exactly what they will do. He
expected that work could begin later this afternoon or
in the morning.

After a flight over the devastated region, U.S. Sen.
David Vitter said that he could see three breaches in
the levees, including a 200 feet hole in the 17th
Street Canal, as well as two separate gaps
encompassing a total of about 500 feet in the
Industrial Canal on the St. Bernard side.

Twin spans, levee breaches the priority

Tuesday, 5:55 p.m.

The I-10 Twin Span Bridge over Lake Pontchartrain, which
links Orleans and St. Tammany parishes, didn’t fare well in the hurricane.

An aerial view indicates about 40 percent of the structure is damaged, with sections missing or knocked askew, officials said.

Mark Lambert, chief spokesman for the Department of Transportation and Development, said the bridge sustained more damage to its east-bound lanes than the west-bound ones. He said a structural examination will to be done in the next few days.

One option under consideration is to repair the least-damaged westbound lanes first -- possibly by using some of the more structurally-sound segments from the east-bound ones. Lambert said that while getting the bridge fixed is a high priority, it is not the state’s top priority.

Plugging breaches in the levee system in New Orleans -- along the 17th Street Canal and the Industrial Canal -- come first, he said.

Even if the bridge is repaired, he said, "there is nowhere to go'' since streets and neighborhoods on both sides of the span are flooded.

"Stopping the levee breaks is the No. 1 thing now,'' Lambert said.

Vitter: Hurricane damage "heartbreaking"

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said that he's satisfied with the federal response to the hurricane, although it might not be as fast as some hard-pressed residents would like.

"We just have horrible conditions to deal with," Vitter said. "For instance, every and route into the city except one is flooded and obviously we are using air assets, but it is tough. They are moving things into the city, diesel fuel, water, ice food etc as fast as they can."

Vitter said taking an aerial view of Metro New Orleans was "heart-breaking."

"Wendy and I grew up in New Orleans, and every place we know and have so many wonderful memories of, is almost all under water," Vitter said. Vitter did get one bit of good news Tuesday.

By happenstance, he said, the helicopter took him over his Metairie
house. "It has a roof on it and it seems dry," Vitter said.

Vitter said that the horrific damage demonstrates in "dramatic fashion" that the state needs more money for flood protection, and to curb the erosion of its coast and wetlands so critical to reducing flooding vulnerabilities.

--Bruce Alpert

President Bush cuts vacation short to deal with disaster

Tuesday, 5:50 p.m.

WASHINGTON – President Bush is cutting short his vacation to return to Washington Wednesday to chair a meeting of a White House task force coordinating federal relief for hurricane ravaged communities across the Gulf Coast.

``We have a lot of work to do,'' the president said of the storm FEMA director Michael Brown has termed catastrophic.

Bush aides said that participants in the meeting will include representatives of the departments of Homeland Security, Defense, Energy, Interior, Treasury, Labor, Small Business, Agriculture, Environmental Protection, Commerce and Justice.

Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said that Bush decided to return to Washington early because of the scope of the hurricane rescue efforts.

“This is one of the most devastating storms in our nation's history. I think that's becoming clear to everyone,” he said. “The devastation is enormous. The destruction and loss of life is very sobering. Our focus remains -- as the President indicated in his remarks, our focus remains on saving lives and making sure that we're prioritizing the relief efforts to get assistance to those who are most in need right now.”


The White House released a list of the response through Tuesday afternoon by federal agencies and the American Red Cross:

FEMA
FEMA deployed 23 Disaster Medical Assistance Teams from all across the U.S. to staging areas in Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, and Louisiana and is now moving them into impacted areas.

Seven Urban Search and Rescue task forces and two Incident Support Teams have been deployed and propositioned in Shreveport, La., and Jackson, Miss., including teams from Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Maryland, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Three more Urban Search and Rescue teams are in the process of deployment.

FEMA is moving supplies and equipment into the hardest hit areas as quickly as possible, especially water, ice, meals, medical supplies, generators, tents, and tarps.


U.S. Coast Guard
More than 40 Coast Guard aircraft from units along the entire eastern seaboard, with more than 30 small boats, patrol boats, and cutters are positioned in staging areas around the impact areas, from Jacksonville, Fla., to Houston, now conducting post-hurricane search, rescue and humanitarian aid operations, waterway impact assessments and waterway reconstitution operations.

Department of Transportation
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) dispatched more than 390 trucks that are beginning to deliver millions of meals ready to eat, millions of liters of water, tarps, millions of pounds of ice, mobile homes, generators, containers of disaster supplies, and forklifts to flood damaged areas. DOT has helicopters and a plane assisting delivery of essential supplies.

National Guard
The National Guard of the four most heavily impacted states are providing support to civil authorities as well as generator, medical and shelter with approximately 7,500 troops on State Active Duty. The National Guard is augmenting civilian law enforcement capacity; not acting in lieu of it.

Department of Agriculture
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) State Emergency Boards are coordinating agricultural-related responses at the county, state, and national levels in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and elsewhere. USDA is also coordinating damage assessments to area crops, livestock, and other agriculture-related operations. Farmers are encouraged to contact their local USDA Service Center for additional information on assistance available.

Department of Health and Human Services
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has sent 38 U.S. Public Health Service Officers to Jackson, Miss., for deployment. In addition, HHS has 217 U.S. Public Health Service Officers on standby for deployment to support medical response in Louisiana, Mississippi, and other Gulf states.

Department of Defense
The United State Northern Command (NORTHCOM) continues to assist FEMA after disaster declarations were issued for Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi following the devastation caused in parts of each state by Hurricane Katrina.

Department of Labor
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is contacting major power companies to the areas affected to provide safety briefings to employees at power restoration staging areas in affected communities. OSHA is also releasing public service announcements to inform workers about hazards related to restoration and cleanup.

American Red Cross
The American Red Cross is providing a safe haven for nearly 4,000 evacuees in more than 230 Red Cross shelters, from the panhandle of Florida, across Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, and Texas. The Red Cross is launching the largest mobilization of resources for a single natural disaster involving thousands of trained disaster relief workers, tons of supplies, and support.

Sen. Vitter statement

Tuesday, 5:50 p.m.

U.S. Sen. David Vitter issued this statement.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said that he's satisfied with the federal response to the hurricane, although it might not be as fast as some hard-pressed residents would like.

"We just have horrible conditions to deal with," Vitter said. "For instance, every land route into the city except one is flooded and obviously we are using air assets, but it is tough. They are moving things into the city, diesel fuel, water, ice food etc as fast as they can."

Vitter said taking an aerial view of Metro New Orleans was "heart-breaking.”

"Wendy and I grew up in New Orleans, and every place we know and have so many wonderful memories of, is almost all under water," Vitter said. Vitter did get one bit of good news Tuesday.

By happenstance, he said, the helicopter took him over his Metairie house. "It has a roof on it and it seems dry," Vitter said.

Vitter said that the horrific damage demonstrates in “dramatic fashion” that the state needs more money for flood protection, and to curb the erosion of its coast and wetlands so critical to reducing flooding vulnerabilities.

Tulane at Southern Miss canceled

Tuesday, 5:42 p.m.

Tulane's season-opening football game at Southern Mississippi has been postponed from Sunday to Nov. 26.

Tulane, Southern Miss and Conference USA officials made the decision Tuesday in light of the dislocation of the Green Wave because of Hurricane Katrina and damage to USM's M.M. Roberts Stadium and other parts of the Hattiesburg, Miss., campus.

"Our first concern is the health and safety of our student-athletes and fans," said Conference-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky. "There is a tremendous sense of cooperation in our league."

That was demonstrated by the decision Tuesday to relocate the Tulane football, soccer, volleyball, and cross-country teams from Jackson, Miss., where they had been since Sunday to the Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas where they will be housed and can train until they are allowed to return to New Orleans.

Tulane's next scheduled football game is Sept. 17 in the Superdome against Mississippi State.

Banowsky said he was aware of damage to the Superdome plus the prospect of a continuing evacuation of New Orleans, but added it would be premature to speculate whether the Green Wave's entire season is in jeopardy or at the least the team might play all of its games on the road.

Southern Miss' next game is Sept. 10 at Alabama. The Golden Eagles are scheduled to play host to McNeese State on Sept. 17. Banowsky said he understood the stadium will be usable by then.

"We're just trying to figure it all out right now," he said. "This is obviously a terrible catastrophe for everyone and we will just adjust to the situation as it develops."

Bush statement on Katrina

Tuesday, 5:30 p.m.

On Tuesday afternoon, President Bush made a statement regarding Hurricane Katrina:

“This morning our hearts and prayers are with our fellow citizens along the Gulf Coast who have suffered so much from Hurricane Katrina. These are trying times for the people of these communities. We know that many are anxious to return to their homes. It's not possible at this moment. Right now our priority is on saving lives, and we are still in the midst of search and rescue operations. I urge everyone in the affected areas to continue to follow instructions from state and local authorities.”

“The federal, state and local governments are working side-by-side to do all we can to help people get back on their feet, and we have got a lot of work to do. Our teams and equipment are in place and we're beginning to move in the help that people need. Americans who wish to help can call 1-800-HELPNOW, or log on to RedCross.org, or get in touch with the Salvation Army. The good folks in Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama and other affected areas are going to need the help and compassion and prayers of our fellow citizens.”

Notes from a plane flight

By Jan Moller
Capital Bureau

LOWER PLAQUEMINES PARISH -- Metal buildings twisted beyond recognition. Neighborhoods almost completely destroyed and submerged, the only clue that humans once lived there being the telephone lines that rise above the floodwaters.

If anyone here in the southeast tip of Louisiana stayed behind and tried to weather Hurricane Katrina as she bulldozed her way north, there was no sign of them Tuesday morning during a three-hour aerial tour of the fishing and farming villages at the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Seen from 1,200 feet above, Katrina left a scene of near-total devastation. Houses and businesses that weren't shattered by the windwere submerged in several feet of water where the river flooded its banks. The only sign of life were a few stray cattle that clung to what little firm ground remains, and the rescue boats searching for anyone who might have been foolish enough to think they could withstand the storm.

Empire. Buras. Triumph. Boothville. Venice. The farther south and east one flies above what used to be La. 23, the deeper the water gets and the more total the destruction. While homes sit underwater, fishing boats lie scattered about like flotsam, presumably deposited there by high winds and storm surge.

Oil slicks dot the river and the floodplains that surround neighborhoods and orange groves while refinery drums sit half submerged. Trees that weren't felled by the wind now stand naked of their leaves, as if winter arrived in a sudden overnight burst.

"We have witnessed the most extraordinary devastation," said Gov. Kathleen Blanco, who surveyed the damage in a State Police helicopter with U.S. Sens. David Vitter and Mary Landrieu. "The magnitude of the situation is unbelievable. It's just heartbreaking."

In the more populated areas of St. Bernard Parish to the north, single-family homes in in Chalmette sit submerged in water up to their rooftops. Even farther north, the twin spans of Interstate 10 that once connected New Orleans and Slidell resemble a jigsaw blade, with some pieces missing while other sections sit by themselves, dislodged from the main road.

The only signs of life in this once-bustling community, witnessed from a four-seat Cessna 182 operated by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture, are a few teenagers wading through waist-high water and rescue boats coming the neighborhoods for anyone who might still be stuck on their roof or in their attic.

Blanco said about 700 people had been rescued as of early Tuesday, and that many more have been brought to safety since then.

In the vacation village of Grand Isle, Katrina's path was less destructive. Many homes appeared to have survived nearly intact, while others suffered severe damage to roofs and a few were totally destroyed. Nearly everyone seems to have gotten the message to evacuate, however, as there were virtually no cars visible from the air and no people were spotted.

But those wishing to check on their property might have to wait awhile; even though most of La. 1, the only road in and out of Grand Isle, is clear, the storm appears to have washed away a small section just east of Port Fourchon. The Leeville Bridge is still standing.

While floodwaters were still rising in parts of New Orleans, they appear to have receded in and around Grand Isle, with the only reminders being the tons of debris scattered on roadways.

Even farther west, the infrastructure at Port Fourchon -- a critical deepwater port for the offshore oil industry -- survived Katrina with few scratches. But the storm flattened much of the surrounding marshland, making it resemble a shallow lake even though the Cessna's global positioning system suggested there should be land beneath.

"What we're dealing with is not what I would call normal hurricanedamage," Blanco said. "This is catastrophic in ways we've not had to deal with." 

Entergy outages: 1.1 million customers in La., Miss.

Tuesday, 5:19 p.m.

This is a news release from Entergy.

New Orleans, La. – Entergy today is beginning the process of assessing the extraordinary damage to its electrical system in Louisiana and Mississippi caused by Hurricane Katrina, the worst storm in Entergy's history.

Company officials said crews could take several days to fully assess the damage, and it expects a long and difficult restoration process due to the scope and amount of damage to its electrical system.

As of 5 a.m. today, Entergy’s electrical power outages from Hurricane Katrina peaked at nearly 1.1 million homes and businesses, with some 790,000 in Louisiana and more than 300,000 in Mississippi without power.

Entergy crews were able to restore power to some customers Monday night in areas that did not suffer heavy damage from Katrina. The company is expecting that additional outages could occur due to wet soil and occasional strong wind gusts.

The outage total already has more than quadrupled the previous Entergy record of 270,000 set only last month during Tropical Storm Cindy. The record prior to that was 260,000 in Hurricane Georges in 1998.

Entergy will first concentrate on restoring service in areas where it is not inhibited by flood waters or other obstacles. The company will work toward the harder hit areas as the company gains access to those areas.

Utilities in Florida that have been damaged by Hurricane Katrina have already brought together a large work force that normally would assist Entergy. Restoration for Entergy customers could be delayed until those workers complete the work in Florida and are released to Entergy.

Customers should be prepared for extended power outages. Severe damage caused by Hurricane Katrina to Entergy’s system could require weeks to rebuild. In addition, restoration may be hampered by flooding, blocked access or other obstacles.

Entergy crews and contractors are prepared to work long hours after the storm passes, restoring service to customers as quickly and as safely as possible.

All of the four Entergy System states, including Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas, are contributing significant numbers of restoration workers to help restore service. While Entergy maintains sufficient personnel in the donor areas to handle emergencies, the company will be slower responding to regular business needs. Entergy sincerely appreciates its customers’ patience and understanding during this time of emergency.

Entergy follows a restoration plan that concentrates on getting service restored to essential customers first like hospitals, police, fire, communications, water, sanitary services and transportation providers. Then, Entergy crews turn their attention to making repairs to electrical facilities that will return service to the largest number of customers in the shortest period of time, then the next largest number, and so on, until power is restored to everyone.

Entergy has placed more people on the phones, more crews in the field and is providing frequent status reports to local news media to make sure customers are well informed. Entergy is recognized in the industry as having one of the best-trained storm restoration teams in the county. The company has a highly-recognized plan of action for emergency storm preparedness and restoration.

Entergy reminds customers to remain safe and stay away from downed power lines and flooded areas. Do not walk in standing water and do not venture into areas of debris, since energized and dangerous power lines may not be visible.

Entergy Corporation is an integrated energy company engaged primarily in electric power production and retail distribution operations. Entergy owns and operates power plants with approximately 30,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity, and it is the second-largest nuclear generator in the United States. Entergy delivers electricity to 2.7 million utility customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Entergy has annual revenues of more than $10 billion and approximately 14,000 employees.

St. John, St. Charles escape widespread destruction

Tuesday, 5:10 p.m.

By Allen Powell
River Parishes bureau

St. John the Baptist and St. Charles parishes appeared to have escaped the widespread destruction officials had feared.

Scattered flooding, a complete public utilities shutdown and mild damage to roofs and carports seemed to be the worst most residents had to endure in both parishes.
“We figured we were better off here (at home) than getting on the road,” Dorothy Sexton said.

Most St. John residents lost their utilities early Monday morning, although some areas like Edgard retained running water, said Natalie Robottom, the parish’s chief administrative officer.On Tuesday, throughout St. John and St. Charles water and sewerage had been restored, although residents are still being asked to boil all water.

Robottom said officials have received varying reports on when electricity will be restored to the parish, and the parish will not return until regular operation until that happens.

Robottom said it appears that most of the parish received no serious damage from the storm, and their have been no injuries or fatalities reported. Most of the parish roads are passable, and officials began letting parish residents return to St. John at about 6 p.m. on Monday. But, a mandatory curfew will be in effect from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. until the majority of residents return to their homes to prevent looting, Robottom said.

“We find we were very fortunate,” said Robottom, who noted that the biggest problem has been communicating with employees because of the lack of cellular and landline telephone service.

That lack of phone service made it difficult to reach most St. Charles officials to get a status report on conditions there, although a tour of both the east bank and west bank of the parish showed conditions were very similar to St. John. St. Charles Parish Councilman Dickie Duhe was clearing debris from his front yard and the streets in Norco on Monday afternoon, but said he had not been in contact with his constituents or parish officials.

A few streets over from Duhe’s home on Clayton Street, the roof of one resident’s home had been peeled like a sardine can, although all of the other houses on the block escaped damage.

In fact, the most prevalent problem in Norco and Destrehan was flooding in the streets. Ormond Boulevard in Destrehan and Apple Street in Norco were both impassable thanks to downed power lines and water. Some homes on Marino Drive in Norco actually received water, although that was fairly isolated.

But not every resident in St. John and St. Charles Parishes was able to avoid serious damage to their homes. Rose Strickland, 63, lost most of the front wall of the one-room apartment she shares with her daughter and granddaughter along River Road in Good Hope at about 9:30 a.m. on Monday.




Closing levee breaches top priority

The Army Corps of Engineers was focused Tuesday on finding a way to close the levee breaches in the Industrial Canal and 17th Street Canal that have let waters pour into New Orleans, state officials said.

Col. Jeff Smith with the Louisiana National Guard said the Corps has informed the state that they are beginning to plan how exactly to fill the holes in the levee, which observers described as several hundred feet long.

Smith said the Corps might fill large cargo containers with a heavy substance, such as sand, which would then be plugged into the gaps. "It would be better than just sandbags," he said, adding that Corps officials haven't figured out exactly what they will do. He expected that work could begin later this afternoon or in the morning.

After a flight over the devastated region, U.S. Sen.
David Vitter said that he could see three breaches in the levees, including a 200 feet hole in the 17th Street Canal, as well as two separate gaps encompassing a total of about 500 feet in the Industrial Canal on the St. Bernard side.

The focus of state and federal agencies on Tuesday remained rescuing people who are stuck on rooftops or attics, surrounded by water and unable to escape. The state has begun moving people out of hospitals in downtown hospitals, including Big Charity, which Gov.
Kathleen Blanco called "out of commission."

Blanco said that while search and rescue operations continued that officials were also getting supplies to hospitals and people who sought refuge at the Superdome, which is receiving more residents as people are rescued. After officials have completed all of their rescue operations, they will begin to assess how to evacuate other people in the city who are in high, dry locations.

Bill Lokey, the federal coordinating officer for FEMA, said they would like to begin evacuating people who aren't in danger within a couple days.

Will New Orleans survive?

Tuesday, 5 p.m.

By James Varney
Staff writer
On the southern fringe of New Orleans' City Park there is a live oak with a branch that dips low, goes briefly underground, and comes up the other side still thriving.
It's ancient and gnarled, this tree, and filtered sunlight slants through its crown at dusk. It's a sublime thing.
When we talk about these majestic items that dot New Orleans' landscape we say, "is," but we may mean, "was." The reports are still scattered, the news from the ground still incomplete, but Hurricane Katrina may have annihilated New Orleans.
It looks bad to everyone. "It's impossible for us to say how many structures can be salvaged," Gov. Kathleen Blanco said late Tuesday. But can the birthplace of jazz truly be wiped from the face of the earth?
New Orleans may yet surprise. Too often the city is written off as a whiskey nirvana, where one guzzles Pimms cups at Napoleon House in the French Quarter at night, and eggs and grits at the Camellia Grill in the Riverbend at sunrise.
In truth, however, New Orleans is as sublime as it is Rabelaisian. For example - and this is a thing few tourists know - the French Quarter, home of Bourbon Street and jazz and possessor of a global reputation for parties, is in fact a National Park. Now and then, through the spokes of a horse-drawn carriage taking honeymooners up Royal Street, one can spot the distinctive, "Smokey," hat of a park ranger telling a more earnest visitor some genuine history.
That could include the iconic statue of Andrew Jackson, rearing back on his mustang between the Mississippi River and the St. Louis Cathedral. At its base - and this is a thing few locals know - are the words, "Our Union: It Must and Shall be Preserved."
Jackson said that as president, and his toast was first carved into the statue by Union troops during the Civil War, a reminder to the former Confederate citadel that even one of the South's greatest sons was, at heart, a Union man.
Of course, the locals in 1864 didn't cotton to that sentiment. Legend holds the ladies residing in the Pontalba, the graceful brick apartment buildings that flank Jackson Square and are reputedly the oldest such edifices in the United States, would dump their human waste pots on the caps of officers strolling underneath.
Fortunately - and how odd that word sounds in association with New Orleans today - the French Quarter was still mostly dry, largely intact, late Tuesday. In another Big Easy quirk, the impossibly charming neighborhood Uptown, which is hard against the Mississippi River, is one of the highest spots in the city.
The true highest spot is an upriver paddlewheel ride away: Monkey Hill in the New Orleans zoo. No one reportedly sought refuge there as Katrina surged about the city, although it might not have been that bad a spot since it's at the opposite end of the zoo from the king cobra and the Komodo dragon.
The zoo itself is another example of how New Orleans, for all its famous decay, can survive. What was once dubbed an "animal ghetto" was turned around by the city and was, until the dreaded "Big One" grazed the city, a bucolic spot.
Other areas, too, may weather the storm. Certainly the fishing spots in the bayous of eastern New Orleans will remain; the fate of the gorgeous trellis of live oak branches arching over St. Charles Avenue is less certain.
Those 19th century trees are one symbol of New Orleans. A 20th century symbol, William Faulkner, was first published in The Times-Picayune while he was living in the city and writing his first novel. He called the city, "a courtesan whose hold is strong upon the mature, and to whose charm the young must respond."
Now, in the 21st century, the courtesan cries for help. The response from young and old will decide if she lives or dies.

To readers of The Times-Picayune

The Times-Picayune was forced to evacuate our Howard Avenue newsroom Tuesday. We are setting up bureaus in Houma and in Baton Rouge to continue to provide coverage of this disaster. We will continue to publish the newspaper each day without interruption. We will make it available in PDF form on nola.com each morning around midnight.

Reporters and photographers are filing a continuos stream of reports on nola.com.

Officials try to shore 17th Street Canal break

Tuesday, 5 p.m.

Terry Ebbert, director of homeland security for New Orleans, said a helicopter dropped 3,000 lbs. of specially designed sandbags on the breach at the 17th Street Canal, which is responsible for massive flooding in the region.

It was unclear what effect the effort had.



For Times-Picayune employees

Times-Picayune staffers: We are working at the Houma Courier for a few days. If you have news, call 985-850-1182. We plan to set up a longer term newsroom in Baton Rouge. Call the Advocate to find out where we are.

-- Dan Shea

Louisiana pleas for continued federal funding



As they try to assess the damage from Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana officials pleaded with the White House Tuesday to waive federal rules that would push a portion of the cleanup and recovery costs onto the state.

Calling the destruction “well beyond anything that has happened in our history,” the state’s congressional delegation asked President Bush to authorize the federal government to pick up all of the post-disaster bill.

Normally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) pays 75 percent of the costs of debris removal and rescue efforts while state and local governments pay the rest. Frequently, FEMA will pay the whole tab for the first 72 hours.

The delegation asked that FEMA pick up 100 of the costs even beyond that, as was done in Florida last year after a series of hurricanes.

The request came as water continued to breach a major levee in New Orleans, pushing flood waters ever higher and prompting Gov. Kathleen Blanco to order an evacuation. New Orleans’ water pumping system has collapsed and much of the southeastern part of the city is under water.

“Louisiana sits at a perilous crossroads,” the nine-member delegation wrote. “This incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state. Without your direct intervention, we will not receive this much-needed assistance.”

There was no immediate response on the request from the Office of Management and Budget.

Broussard: Don't return until Monday

Tuesday, 4:55 p.m.

Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard urged evaucated residents not to return to their homes until Monday, at the earliest.

Residents will be asked to show a driver's license or some other ID to gain entry into the parish. They will be allowed to stay for a short while to pick up necessary belongings and then will be asked to leave for a month.

Broussard also declared a state of martial law in Jefferson Parish.

Broussard also is seeking state aid from the Governor's Office for the National Guard to help patrol Jefferson Parish's streets.

Jefferson Parish school officials said classes are canceled indefinitely.

LaPlace hospital closed; Slidell hospital seeks nurses

Tuesday, 4:46 p.m.

Officials said River Parishes Hospital in LaPlace was closed and that the hospital was routing patients to Ascension Parish.

Meanwhile, Northshore Hospital in Slidell had put out a call for credentialed nurses.

Hotels tell guests to go to Dome shelter

Tuesday, 4:45 p.m.

Many downtown New Orleans hotels who had taken in guests for the hurricane began closing Tuesday, asking their guests to go to the shelter in the Superdome.

By Tuesday afternoon, the National Guard estimated that 60,000 people were taking shelter in the Dome.


LSU opener against North Texas postponed

BATON ROUGE --- Due to the continuing effects of Hurricane Katrina and need for LSU campus resources in the relief effort, the Tigers’ Sept. 3 home football opener against North Texas has been postponed, school officials announced Tuesday.

The two schools will determine the rescheduled date and an announcement is expected within the next 36 to 48 hours on the planned date.

LSU is holding a 4:30 p.m. press conference featuring football coach Les Miles, athletic director Skip Bertman and Chancellor Sean O’Keefe.

--- William Kalec

Petrochemical plant workers asked to return

Tuesday, 4:45 p.m.

Petrochemical workers in St. John the Baptist Parish have been asked to return to work as soon as possible, WWL-radio reported.

The workers, especially those at the Marathon oil refinery in Garyville, should return prepared to hunker down the long term, officials said.

Even a cop joins in the looting

Mike Perlstein and Brian Thevenot
Staff writers

Law enforcement efforts to contain the emergency left by Katrina slipped into chaos in parts of New Orleans Tuesday with some police officers and firefighters joining looters in picking stores clean.

At the Wal-Mart on Tchoupitoulas Street, an initial effort to hand out provisions to stranded citizens quickly disintegrated into mass looting. Authorities at the scene said bedlam erupted after the giveaway was announced over the radio.

While many people carried out food and essential supplies, others cleared out jewelry racks and carted out computers, TVs and appliances on handtrucks.

Some officers joined in taking whatever they could, including one New Orleans cop who loaded a shopping cart with a compact computer and a 27-inch flat screen television.

Officers claimed there was nothing they could do to contain the anarchy, saying their radio communications have broken down and they had no direction from commanders.

“We don’t have enough cops to stop it,” an officer said. “A mass riot would break out if you tried.”

Inside the store, the scene alternated between celebration and frightening bedlam. A shirtless man straddled a broken jewelry case, yelling, “Free samples, free samples over here.”

Another man rolled a mechanized pallet, stacked six feet high with cases of vodka and whiskey. Perched atop the stack was a bewildered toddler.

Throughout the store and parking lot, looters pushed carts and loaded trucks and vans alongside officers. One man said police directed him to Wal-Mart from Robert’s Grocery, where a similar scene was taking place. A crowd in the electronics section said one officer broke the glass DVD case so people wouldn’t cut themselves.

“The police got all the best stuff. They’re crookeder than us,” one man said.

Most officers, though, simply stood by powerless against the tide of law breakers.

One veteran officer said, “It’s like this everywhere in the city. This tiny number of cops can’t do anything about this. It’s wide open.”

At least one officer tried futilely to control a looter through shame.

“When they say take what you need, that doesn’t mean an f-ing TV,” the officer shouted to a looter. “This is a hurricane, not a free-for-all.”

Sandra Smith of Baton Rouge walked through the parking lot with a 12-pack of Bud Light under each arm. “I came down here to get my daughters,” she said, “but I can’t find them.”

The scene turned so chaotic at times that entrances were blocked by the press of people and shopping carts and traffic jams sprouted on surrounding streets.

Some groups organized themselves into assembly lines to more efficiently cart off goods.

Toni Williams, 25, packed her trunk with essential supplies, such as food and water, but said mass looting disgusted and frightened her.

“I didn’t feel safe. Some people are going overboard,” she said.

Inside the store, one woman was stocking up on make-up. She said she took comfort in watching police load up their own carts.

“It must be legal,” she said. “The police are here taking stuff, too.”

(Staff writers Doug MacCash and Keith Spera assisted in this story.)

Flooding in Uptown

Uptown New Orleans, once dry earlier on Tuesday, was begging to flood with water levels up to three feet in the Merango area, roughly five blocks from St Charles Avenue.

Wal-Mart looting in Jefferson Parish

Police had restored order and regained control of a devastated Wal-Mart store in Jefferson Parish.

Police escorted store officials to survey the damage.

"The situation is not good," said one grim faced store manager, before getting into a police car.

News blackout from hard-hit storm areas

Tuesday, 4:31 p.m.

All afternoon, WWL radio was seeking news from St. Tammany Parish, particularly Slidell, to no avail.

News from St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes, like Slidell, absolutely slammed by the hurricane, was also scarce.


We need boats!

Tuesday, 4:30 p.m.

Officials have issued a call for anyone with a flatboat to help rescue people stranded by the flood.

Anyone with a boat, especially a flatboat, who can safely make it to the intersection of Cleary and Airline Drive in Metairie is asked to go there.

River Parishes escape most of Katrina's wrath

By Allen Powell II
River Parishes Bureau

While scores of trees, power lines and fences collapsed throughout St. John the Baptist and St. Charles parishes because of Hurricane Katrina’s 160 mph winds, both parishes appear to have escaped the widespread destruction officials feared from the Category Five storm.

On Monday afternoon, Katrina’s winds left many a “wow” moment, but little in the way of damage to resident’s homes or parish structures. In fact, scattered flooding, a complete public utilities shutdown and mild damage to roofs and carports seemed to be the worst most residents had to endure in both parishes.

Dorothy and Joe Sexton, along with several of their relatives and a host of pets, rode out Katrina at the Sexton’s home in the 300 block of Devon Road in the River Forest subdivision. While the streets around them had some standing water, the Sexton’s home was never in danger, and they could only point to some warped siding and a damaged fence as a result of the storm. In addition, the Sextons were able to maintain some semblance of normality during the hurricane thanks to their family generator, which kept their lights and stove working. Dorothy Sexton said the family considered evacuating on Sunday, but after it took so long for her mother to arrive at the family’s home from Slidell they decided to just stay in LaPlace

“We figured we were better off here (at home) than getting on the road,” Dorothy Sexton said.

Most St. John residents lost their utilities early Monday morning, although some areas like Edgard retained running water, said Natalie Robottom, the parish’s chief administrative officer. But, on Tuesday, throughout St. John and St. Charles water and sewerage had been restored, although residents are still being asked to boil all water.

Robottom said officials have received varying reports on when electricity will be restored to the parish, and the parish will not return until regular operation until that happens.

Robottom said it appears that most of the parish received no serious damage from the storm, and their have been no injuries or fatalities reported. Most of the parish roads are passable, and officials began letting parish residents return to St. John at about 6 p.m. on Monday. But, a mandatory curfew will be in effect from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. until the majority of residents return to their homes to prevent looting, Robottom said.

“We find we were very fortunate,” said Robottom, who noted that the biggest problem has been communicating with employees because of the lack of cellular and landline telephone service.

That lack of phone service made it difficult to reach most St. Charles officials to get a status report on conditions there, although a tour of both the eastbank and westbank of the parish showed conditions were very similar to St. John. St. Charles Parish Councilman Dickie Duhe was clearing debris from his front yard and the streets in Norco on Monday afternoon, but said he had not been in contact with his constituents or parish officials.

A few streets over from Duhe’s home on Clayton Street, the roof of one resident’s home had been peeled like a sardine can, although all of the other houses on the block escaped damage.

In fact, the most prevalent problem in Norco and Destrehan was flooding in the streets. Ormond Boulevard in Destrehan and Apple Street in Norco were both impassable thanks to downed power lines and water. Some homes on Marino Drive in Norco actually received water, although that was fairly isolated.

Wendy Louque said her family’s home on Marino Drive received a “few” inches of water, and water marks in a shed in her backyard were at about four to six inches. However, Louque said most of the water subsided fairly quickly, and the flooding on Marino Drive was actually worse in April from heavy rains then.

She said her family typically does not evacuate for hurricanes, and actually could not leave for Katrina because of the amount of time it took for her mother to arrive at their home from Slidell. Louque said her insurance should cover the damage to her carpet and to her roof, and she was satisfied with the job the parish had done of pumping water out of her neighborhood.

“It was just enough (water) to mess stuff up,” Louque said. “It’s not like in April.”

But not every resident in St. John and St. Charles Parishes was able to avoid serious damage to their homes. Rose Strickland, 63, lost most of the front wall of the one-room apartment she shares with her daughter and granddaughter along River Road in Good Hope at about 9:30 a.m. on Monday.

Strickland said her family was sitting on the front porch of their eight-unit apartment building watching the wind and rain, when they heard a loud cracking sound and saw their wall fall away. She said the family had just moved one of their vehicles from the very spot where the wall fell. At about 4 p.m., Strickland was still waiting for word from her landlord about when he was going to repair the wall, but she said she had no place to go until the structure was fixed.

“We’ve got two cars and not enough gas in them to get us out of Norco,” Strickland said. “We head a boom and we looked and the front of the building fell off.”





Police officer shot by looter

Tuesday, 4:25 p.m.

WWL -TV was reporting that a law enforcement officer was shot in the back of the head Tuesday afternoon on the west bank. The officer reportedly approached the looter near the intersection of Wall Boulevard and Gen. DeGaulle and, while talking to suspect, was shot in the back of the head by a second looter.

Information was not available on the condition of the officer. It was unclear if the suspects had been apprehended.

T-P in Houma

Tuesday, 4:20 p.m.

The Times-Picayune has set up shop at the Houma Courier for the time being. We will resume blogging shortly.

President's comments on Katrina's devestation

"This morning our hearts and prayers are with our fellow citizens along theGulf Coast who have suffered so much from Hurricane Katrina. These are trying times for the people of these communities. We know that many are anxious to return to their homes. It's not possible at this moment. Right now our priority is on saving lives, and we are still in the midst of search and rescue operations. I urge everyone in the affected areas to continue to follow instructions from state and local authorities."

"The federal, state and local governments are working side-by-side to do all we can to help people get back on their feet, and we have got a lot of work to do. Our teams and equipment are in place and we're beginning to move in the help that people need. Americans who wish to help can call 1-800-HELPNOW, or log on to RedCross.org, or get in touch with the Salvation Army. The good folks in Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabamaand other affected areas are going to need the help and compassion and prayers of our fellow citizens."

Officials begin evacuation of Jefferson, Orleans prisoners

Thousands of state prisoners need to be evacuated from the jails in Orleans and Jefferson parishes.

The Louisiana Department of Corrections is in the process of moving 1,000 inmates out of Jefferson Parish Correctional Center in suburban New Orleans, said Pam Laborde, spokeswoman for the agency. A team is currently evaluating how to move 4,000 prisoners out of Orleans Parish Prison, which is flooding, she said.

The prisoners being moved are state inmates who are finishing out their sentences in the local jails. Because of the water surrounding the Orleans prison, the team will need to figure out whether prisoners can be moved by boat to a staging area where buses can move them to state and local prisons around the state, Laborde said.

Evacuation of downtown hospitals begins

By Laura Maggi
The Times-Picayune

Patients at downtown New Orleans hospitals that are being inundated with flood waters are being evacuated to triage centers on the LSU and Nicholls State campus.

People who are being rescued off of roofs will also be sent by helicopter, ambulance or bus to the triage centers, said Dr. Jimmy Guidry, the state health officer. Medical experts will evaluate whether they can be sent to a regular shelter, a special needs shelter or a hospital.

Guidry said some of the people who had been trapped by the floodwaters are dehydrated or have other medical problems, but that some weathered their plights without health complications.

Earlier in the day there were 2,500 people in hospitals in the metropolitan New Orleans area, Guidry said. While the waters are receding in some areas, many patients need to be moved out of Charity, the Tulane hospital and University Medical Center, he said.

Fuel was brought to the hospitals earlier in the day to keep generators running, but some of the generators are at risk of being flooded out, he said.

Guidry confirmed reports that four people have died at the Superdome, which was used as a shelter of last resort. While one person reportedly fell, the others had been sick patients, including some on ventilators, he said.

Earlier, Sen. Tom Schedler, R-Mandeville, described Slidell as "total devasation'' with at least 10 to 15 feet of water in the downtown areas and less in others. Schedler said he spoke with people from the sheriff's office.

"It was house to slab in many ares,''Schedler said. He said Slidell was in the eye of the hurricane as it followed the track from Plaquemines, St. Bernard and eastern New Orleans track.

The western end of the parish fared better than the east end but still had trees down and homes damaged, he said.

As of midday Tuesday, more than 880,000 citizens were without power and about 32,000 were still in evacuation centers around the state.

Maggie Woodruff, deputy director of community and governmental affairs at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, said the airport sustained minor damage but not to its runways.

She said the airport is open for emergency use only, such as cargo planes carrying supplies, but is not open to commercial traffic yet.

"We don't know when it will resume," she said. She said the airport is operating on emergency power just for rescue-related efforts.


Rare strokes of luck mark rescue

By JAMES VARNEY
Staff report

SLIDELL, La. -- As he pushed his skiff past the big boats aground on the interstate highway, Mike Parks feared the worst.

On the horizon, Parks could just make out the catamaran perched atop the twinspan bridge over Lake Pontchartrain. To his left, car antennas poked above the surface of the white caps splashing against a dealership's display windows, and to his right was the vast, watery plain of Oak Harbor and Eden Isles, the upscale neighborhood that at daybreak had contained more than 1,000 houses, a marina and a sprawling three-story apartment complex with scores of units.

The north shore of Lake Pontchartrain -- the one that existed before Hurricane Katrina -- was some three miles to the south. The home Parks and his wife, Melinda, had moved into less than a year ago was about two and three-quarter miles south. It was about 3 p.m. Monday, roughly four hours after Katrina's ferocious eye wall had shaved Slidell and roared off northeastward toward the Mississippi coast.

"Oh, man, oh, man, I just don't know, I had no idea it would be as bad as this," Parks said as he navigated what had once been a golf course fairway. In every direction, Parks saw houses without roofs, with boats smashed through garages and walls, with possessions mean and exquisite spilling into the dirty water that lapped into their foyers and bedrooms.

The tops of street signs provided some landmarks, but what was once an intricate web of streets and canals was now simply a marine wasteland.

"Even if insurance covers it, do we want to rebuild?" Melinda asked.

Parks, jumping out of the skiff now and then to push it across the shallow water over a driveway, shook his head.

"Let's see if there is anybody we can help first," he said.

And so, like a Titanic lifeboat crew, they puttered among the wreckage of Slidell, La., where authorities said Katrina had killed at least two people and left untold hundreds, perhaps thousands, of residents homeless.

In knots creeping along the water's edge, or in motorboats that crisscrossed the flooded landscape, people scavenged for scraps of their former lives. Communications were out everywhere -- even fire and rescue crews were having trouble staying in touch with each other. News from New Orleans or Mississippi was non-existent and the blackout over St. Tammany Parish meant that radio broadcasts carried no information about what was happening across the Northshore.

Throughout Oak Harbor and Eden Isles a creepy calm seemed to have settled over the flotsam of forever shattered lives. In canal network cul de sacs, swaths of boards and shingles and bobbing coolers and appliances formed what appeared to be a solid mass, as if one could walk across the wreckage to the flooded homes just beyond. Boats, some of them whacking big yachts, were aground at weird angles, the air filled with the high-pitched thwack and ping of lines whipping across their booms and masts. Cars had been tossed into homes. Insulation foam bubbled around the fringes of ragged, ripped edges of houses.

And then a screaming came across the water. To his right, Parks saw a woman gesticulating wildly from a second floor balcony at her home. Parks, a captain of sport fishing boats and offshore supply vessels who works out of Gulfport, Miss., navigated closer.

The woman, Ann Nash, told Parks her in-laws were trapped in their house nearby. She had spoken to them that morning, as they crawled into their attic to escape the rising storm surge. Parks agreed to check on them.

But the exact address proved difficult to find. So they pushed on further south toward their own house, figuring they could stop by Nash's in-laws on the return. By now, they were certain they would find little, if anything, worth salvaging.

And then, incredibly, when they motored into the canal behind Cutty Sark Cove, there was their home, largely intact, and sitting atop one of the few mounds of grass still visible. Inside, a slippery layer of mud coated the stone floors and had ruined the carpets, but the water had not reached that high and the meticulous cutout and crayoned tigers and balloon vendors on one wall -- the artwork of Aaron and Brady Parks, identical twins aged two and currently residing with grandparents in Baton Rouge -- was intact.

Melinda Parks opened and closed her mouth like a fish out of water.

"I do not believe it," she said, shaking her head. "I am pleasantly surprised beyond belief."

The Parkses quickly surveyed their astonishing good fortune, stuffed Hershey bars and crackers into a Ziploc baggie, and returned to their skiff. This time, rather than leave the search for the Nashes to chance, he picked up Ann Nash at her home and set off once again.

With Ann Nash guiding, Parks returned to a pocket of a canal he'd searched before, but this time the cries from the boat were returned from shore. Jim Nash, 77, and his wife, Odette, 65, had heard the yells before but could not get out of their attic in time to respond.

Parks cut the motor and the skiff drifted on to the back porch, and the grateful, stunned Nash family was reunited. They were surprisingly upbeat given what they'd endured.

"We really thought we could make it, we were told the water had never gotten much higher than the docks even in big storms," Odette Nash said.

Indeed, she had just hung up a cell phone conversation with an evacuated neighbor around 8 a.m. when she looked out her back window and saw the water coming over the edge and charging her house like a train in a tunnel.

"We just scrambled to the attic and prayed and we've been up there ever since," Odette said.

As the now-crowded skiff returned to Ann Nash's house, Parks encountered two St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's deputies in another boat.

"Are you OK?" one deputy shouted across the canal. "What are you doing out here?"

"We're fine," Parks sang back. "We're rescuing people."

"That's just fine. Thank you," the deputy replied. "We're the first boat that could get out here."
"Second boat," Melinda Parks said softly, a smile creasing her face.

The Nashes deposited on higher ground, Parks turned his skiff toward the Oak Harbor marina and, across the horizon, the oddly lumpy line of the twin span bridges that carry Interstate 10 across Lake Pontchartrain. Even from a distance it was clear the marooned catamaran was the least of the bridges' concerns. Katrina had left both the eastbound and westbound elevated stretches structurally unsound.

The same was true of the marina, where boats had been tossed about recklessly. One giant vessel had pierced a three-story apartment building, parked there half inside and half outside the wrecked building. Now, hours into his odyssey, Parks faced less light and more wind, and he needed to return to the Interstate where he could pull his skiff ashore before dark.

And then another voice wafted across the increasingly unruly water.

On a strip of land still left along what had been the lake's north shore, standing among the demolished camps and houses and restaurants that had once faced the water, a man was waving his arms above his head.

Parks crossed over, his skiff slapping on the waves, and found Jim Elorriaga, a New Orleans blues musician who goes by the simpler name of E.L.

"Do you want a lift?" Melinda Parks yelled. "Oh, God, do I," E.L. said.

As the skiff pulled up in some reeds, E.L. began to relate his tale.

Trapped in his apartment along the lake's edge, he had gone first to the second floor and then the roof as Katrina built in fury and the water rose.

Finally, with the water closing over the top of his roof, Elorriaga saw the Sundance sailboat adrift and passing nearby. He said he jumped to a floating refrigerator and from there to the boat, which began to lurch about crazily in the tempest.

Eventually, the Sundance rammed an even bigger boat, and the two of them ran aground in a T. With his belongings and home gone, Elorriaga sat down to wait for help.

"I even lost my dog, Woody," he said in despair.

But, as it happened, the Parkses had seen Woody earlier. He was nearby, jumping among the wreckage floating around a gas storage tank. Elorriaga splashed off and soon was carrying Woody in his arms.

It was nearing 7 p.m. when Parks finally turned north and headed back to the Interstate. By the time he returned, the water had receded enough so that Slidell Fire Department units had been able to set up a command post near where the Interstate meets Lake Pontchartrain.

Firefighters scrambled into the shallows and helped pull up Parks’ boat, and then got a heavy jacket around Elorriaga. The rescue crews were still desperate for information, asking about survivors and the extent of the destruction in Eden Isles and possessing little news about New Orleans or Mississippi.

"It's like St. Tammany is a black hole," one firefighter muttered. "They don't know anything at all has happened here."


James Varney is a staff writer for The Times-Picayune. He can be contacted at jvarney@timespicayune.com.

T-P EVACUATING

Tuesday, 9:40 a.m.

The Times-Picayune is evacuating it's New Orleans building.

Water continues to rise around our building, as it is throughout the region. We want to evaucate our employees and families while we are still able to safely leave our building.

Our plan is to head across the Mississippi River on the Pontchartrain Expressway to the west bank of New Orleans and Jefferson Parish. From there, we'll try to head to Houma.

Our plan, obviously, is to resume providing news to our readers ASAP. Please refer back to this site for continuing information as soon as we are able to provide it.


-30-

Rebuild power system, Entergy says

Tuesday, 9:25 a.m.

Entergy probably will have to rebuild its power system, a process that will take at least a month, because hurricane-related damage was so extensive, a company spokesman said Tuesday.

"We're looking at a rebuild situation," Dan Silverman said. "I don't want to minimize the devastation we've experience in the metro area. . . . Maybe this isn't he worst, but it's damn close."

Speaking on WWL-AM radio the morning after Hurricane Katrina roared through the New Orleans area, Silverman said that all Entergy customers -- about 750,000 people -- are without power and that nearly all the power poles he has seen had been snapped in two.

Nevertheless, he said, some substations are still in working order. Their capabilities are being assessed as part of a study of Entergy's the power system.

Special needs residents to be transferred to Baton Rouge

8:40 a.m.
August 30
By Jan Moller
Baton Rouge Bureau

About 500 "special needs" residents being sheltered at the Superdome will be transferred Tuesday to the Louisiana State University Field House, a spokesman for the state Office of Emergency Preparedness said.

"Those people are going to be evacuated today by whatever means necessary," said OEP spokesman Mark Smith. Once in Baton Rouge, they will be assessed by state medical teams.

Meanwhile, about 350 search-and-rescue boats set off at daybreak across flooded areas of Southeast Louisiana to look for people stranded in their homes on rooftops or in attics. Dwight Landreneau, secretary of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said at 8:15 a.m. that 700 people had been brought to safety.

"We are picking up as many people as the boats can hold, and we have others hanging on the sides," Landreneau said.

Of the flotilla, 35 of the boats came from Texas, and another 60 are on the way.

More than 30 of the boats are being sent to hard-hit St. Tammany Parish, where state officials are still having trouble establishing communication links.

"St. Tammany Parish is a black hole to us right now," Smith said.

Seeking answers to rising waters

Tuesday, 8:05 a.m.

"The water continues to rise," according to Walter Maestri, director of emergency management for Jefferson Parish.

Maestri told WWL-Radio that parish officials have given engineers the next "three to four hours" to determine the cause of rising water.

Maestri did not specify where water continued to rise.

Asked if it is possible that he and parish consultants will not be able to figure out the cause of the continued flooding, Maestri replied, "Absolutely."

However, he cautioned residents "not to deal in rumor."

"Stay with us," Maestri said. "Dealing in rumor won't help you right now."

The Broussard recovery plan

Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard began laying out a recovery plan this morning for "the horrific tragedy" that Hurricane Katrina visited upon his jurisdiction.

It starts, he told WWL-AM radio, with "Operation Lockdown" using Louisiana State Police and military police to seal off Jefferson's borders until a target of Monday at 6 a.m. to reopen them.

"I will be looking to secure and lockdown this parish," he said.

"It is like a ghost town out there. That is the way we want it. If I can keep it a ghost town for the next five days, the looters will stand out and shine like a bright light."

Next, he said, is "Operation Snowplow," using National Guard bulldozers, cranes, trucks and other heavy equipment to clear the major east-west thoroughfares on both side of the Mississippi River. Concurrently, he will seek state help removing trees, traffic signals, signs and debris from north-south roads.

"We have to establish at least a functional grid," Broussard said.

Neighborhoods must wait.

"The residential streets are off my map right now," said Broussard, who gamely toured the parish Monday evening. "I almost didn't get back, and I have Expedition with a blue light on top. We could hardly find a route to get us back that wasn't flooded."

Broussard said he will seek a crackdown on looting, calling in more military police to work with sheriff's deputies and local police. Looters arrested in Jefferson Parish might have to be taken to jails elsewhere to ensure they are houses in sanitary and humane surroundings, he said.

Also important is raising water pressure, now so low in Broussard's view that toilets can't be flushed and firefighters can't douse flames.

"There was a business on the West Bank that burned to the ground yesterday," Broussard said.

Water pressure has plunged because Katrina uprooted old trees through Jefferson Parish, and in the process their roots ripped open buried water lines, Broussard said.

He said sewerage infrastructure seems to be in good shape but that wasterwater can't get to treatment plants because of lower water pressure in homes.

Other aspects of the recovery plan are:

-- Establishing traffic control once streets are clear, for many signals and signs have vanished.
-- Using parish government's website (www.jeffparish.net) to give evacuees information about their neighborhoods.
-- Bring all drainage pumping stations back online. Broussard said crews are working west to east on East Jefferson pumping stations -- from Kenner to New Orleans -- and in the opposition direction in West Jefferson.

Only way out of New Orleans is West

The only way people can leave the city of New Orleans is to get on Crescent City Connection, head to the West Bank and take Highway 90 to Interstate 310 or I-10 on to Lafayette, authorities said this morning.

Interstate-10 eastbound, toward Slidell and the Gulf Coast, can't be traveled. Several sections of the Twin Spans have washed away and other sections of the bridge are structurally unsound.

The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway has been opened to police, fire and other emergency vehicles after an initial inspection concluded the 24-mile long bridge was sound, WWL Radio reported this morning.

No other vehicles will be allowed on the bridge; and access to St. Tammany Parish remains restricted. The condition of U.S. Highway 11 across the Lake is not known.

Tuesday newspaper

The Times-Picayune's electronic edition for Tuesday is now available online at:

http://www.nola.com/hurricane/katrina/

Near the center of the page, look for "PDF Images: CATASTROPHIC" and click through the pages.

Updates throughout the day at:

http://www.nola.com/newslogs/breakingtp/

Broussard warns JP residents to stay away until Monday

Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard said he wants residents who evacuated to stay away at least until 6 a.m. Monday morning.

"Parts of the parish look like a war zone," he said. "Debris is everywhere."

Broussard said he will ask for authority to use the National Guard or other agencies to keep people out, even if it means armed personnel turning them away. The parish, he told WWL Radio, needs time to clean up, assess the damage, and make the streets safe for passage.

The overview: 'Look, look man: It’s gone'

By Bruce Nolan
Staff writer

Hurricane Katrina struck metropolitan New Orleans on Monday with a staggering blow, far surpassing Hurricane Betsy, the landmark disaster of an earlier generation. The storm flooded huge swaths of the city, as well as Slidell on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, in a process that appeared to be spreading even as night fell.

A powerful storm surge pushed huge waves ahead of the hurricane, flooding much of St. Bernard Parish and New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward, just as Betsy 40 years ago. But this time the flooding was more extensive, spreading upriver as well to cover parts of the Bywater, Marigny and Treme neighborhoods.

As with Betsy, people scrambled into their attics or atop their roofs, pleading for help from the few passers-by.

The powerful Category 4 storm crossed the coast near the mouth of the Pearl River shortly after daybreak with winds of 135 mph. Naval Air Station-Joint Reserve Base in Belle Chasse reported an early morning gust of 105 mph.

With the power out throughout the area and fierce winds raging throughout the day, officials barely began Monday to assess the full damage of the monstrous storm, which was expected to leave thousands homeless and many more coping with damage from the wind and water.

Meantime, five miles to the west, engineers worked to close a breach along the New Orleans side of the 17th Street Canal.

Huge drainage pumps ordinarily can drive millions of gallons of rainwater uphill through the canal, as it takes water from the low-lying city into Lake Pontchartrain. But the breach turned the canal into a major threat. Lake water flowed back through the breach, hemorrhaging into Lakeview and beyond.

Across Lake Pontchartrain and closer to the site of Katrina’s landfall, thousands of homes in Slidell flooded. From the Interstate 10 overpass at Slidell’s Old Spanish Trail, the only visible structure from the dense commercial intersection was a boat bobbing on the waves.

“This is Lake Pontchartrain,” said St. Tammany deputy sheriff Kenny Kreeger.

Sections of the I-10 twin bridges linking St. Tammany and Orleans parishes over Lake Pontchartrain have been “severely damaged’’ in both directions, some knocked out, Louisiana highway officials said.

There were no confirmed reports of fatalities in New Orleans, although officials, including Gov. Kathleen Blanco, said they expected to find bodies in rescue efforts today.

St. Tammany Parish President Kevin Davis said there was one storm-related fatality on I-10, although he declined to give details. Earlier, three elderly residents of a nursing home died during their evacuation to Baton Rouge on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Margaret O’Brien-Molina, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross’ southwest service area office in Houston, said national Red Cross executives earlier today described Katrina as “the largest recovery operation the Red Cross has ever attempted.”

“The Red Cross response to this event is the equivalent Hurricane Andrew, Sept. 11 and more,” said American Red Cross Executive Rick Scofield.

The huge storm also flooded cities along the Mississippi and Alabama coasts.
Katrina pushed Mobile Bay into the city’s downtown district. A 22-foot storm surge devastated parts of Gulfport and Pascagoula, officials said.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin called the storm “pretty awesome.”

He noted the city’s strategic importance as a port and a domestic oil refiner as reasons the federal government should assist in the rebuilding. “I think this is a wake-up call for the city and country,” he said.

President Bush promised swift federal relief for New Orleans and other devastated communities.

“FEMA said give us a list of your needs,” said Nagin, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “And let me tell you, we’re giving them a hell of a list.”

As night gathered over a city without lights, it appeared that at least 150 people – perhaps many more – were marooned on rooftops, sometimes with their children.

State Wildlife Secretary Dwight Landreneau said that by dawn he would have more than 200 boats in the water, about 120 more than he had on Monday. He said he also has a commitment from Texas for another 50 boats.

City officials said they might open the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center as a temporary refuge to shelter an estimated 50,000 people made homeless by the storm.

Police Chief Eddie Compass said officials were desperately trying to make conditions a little more comfortable for the more than 25,000 refugees housed in the sweltering Superdome. Saying that the Dome was filthy and smelled bad, Compass said he was going to allow people to go outside.

Travel about the city on the east bank of the Mississippi River to assess damage was limited, but certain reference points emerged:

-- Floodwaters blocked entry to the Lower 9th Ward along St. Claude Avenue.
“Look, look man: It’s gone. It’s gone,” said City Council President Oliver Thomas, who grew up in the 9th Ward and teared up while discussing the devastation. “This is crazy. Nothing like this ever happened before.”
-- Jackson Barracks near Arabi was beneath 12 feet of water. Chalmette High School and the St. Bernard Civic Center, both on St. Bernard’s main commercial artery, were both under an estimated 12 feet of water.
-- Along I-10 between Treme and Gentilly, only housetops were visible in a sea of floodwater. People waiting for rescue shined lights or called out to the rare motorist on the interstate.
-- At 3:30 p.m., National Guard trucks started bringing dozens of people trapped in their houses to the Superdome. Many were barefoot and wrapped in sheets.

In many neighborhoods, people waded through more than water waist deep, sometimes carrying food. Late Monday, a party of five adults waded along Tulane Avenue between Canal and Broad Streets, towing five toddlers in a large plastic tub.

In Kenner, Williams Boulevard flooded from I-10 to a point near Lake Pontchartain. Officials said it appeared worse than the memorable flood of May 8-, 1995.

On the New Orleans lakefront, the Southern Yacht Club burned to the ground.

Meanwhile, Katrina’s winds split homes, collapsed buildings and uprooted trees across a vast area. The famous oaks along St. Charles Avenue and its Uptown side streets were shattered. The avenue was made impassable by thickets of downed trees, many entangled with downed utility poles and criss-crossing power lines. Parked cars were smashed; many trees fell onto houses they once shaded.

Winds of more than 100 mph tore open a large part of the Superdome’s distinctive white roof. Rain poured in, forcing officials to move some refugees, who were using the building as a refuge of last resort.

Windows blew out of high-rise hotels in downtown New Orleans. Thousands of curtains waved like tattered handkerchiefs out the empty windows of the Hyatt Regency Hotel next to the Superdome.

Charity Hospital lost windows on five floors. Nagin said doctors and nurses there were ventilating patients manually.

Glass shards and other lethal debris whipped down deserted streets. In some hotels, elderly or infirm guests were carried down flights of stairs to the safety of windowless ballrooms.

In Marrero, nurses at West Jefferson General Hospital moved sick patients from their rooms into hallways to protect them as windows shattered, said Jennifer Steel, hospital spokeswoman.

Remarkably, the French Quarter seemed largely untouched.

The neighborhood was among the last to lose power as the storm strengthened shortly after dawn. After its passage, pedestrians bought beer through walk-up windows and guests loitered on second-floor balconies.

Among the only obvious signs of damaged: a portion of a wall collapsed exposing part of the third floor interior of Antoine’s Restaurant, and the U.S. Mint appeared to suffer heavy roof damage.

Jefferson Parish’s Chief Administrative Assistant Tim Whitmer said the damage from Katrina was almost equally split between the east bank and the West Bank. “We have widespread devastation in the parish,” he said.

Whitmer said officials were not able to assess all areas of the parish because of flooding and downed trees and power lines, which were scattered everywhere, as well as a shortage of workers, who had evacuated to escape the storm.

Based on reports officials had received, Whitmer said Westwego was particularly hard hit, with about 90 percent of the homes on the south side of the West Bank Expressway sustaining some kind of damage. Avondale also was hard hit.

Widespread flooding also was reported in Kenner in East Jefferson, particularly north of the interstate. Power remained out and water pressure was lost, but not because pumping stations were not working, he said.

“We had trees that came down and pulled up our (water) distribution lines, which caused breaks and we lost pressure,” he said.

By nightfall, the storm left behind a cluster of soaked, blacked-out coastal communities. Power failed. Telephone service was spotty or non-existent.
Jefferson Parish authorities told residents to boil their drinking water.

Sporadic looting broke out in some locations in New Orleans.

Katrina cut power service to an estimated 770,000 people, including 700,000 who form Entergy’s entire customer base, said utility spokeswoman Amy Stallings. Stallings warned 700,000 electrical customers to be prepared to go without power for a month or more.

The storm damaged every element of the power grid, from big generating plants to transmission lines to smaller feeder lines connecting to homes and businesses, she said.

She called the damage the worst ever seen in Entergy’s four-state territory.
Terry Ebbert, director of homeland security for New Orleans, said it could be two months – twice Entergy’s estimate – before electricity is restored to all of the city. He said Entergy will send 4,500 workers to the region and house them on barges on the Mississippi River.

Katrina struck a nearly empty city. Given the gift of a full weekend to evacuate, hundreds of thousands fled as far as Dallas, Little Rock and Memphis.
Officials urged them to stay away until further notice.

Blanco said people who attempt to return to the city will be stopped.

“You will be turned back. Only official emergency personnel will be allowed in,” Blanco said at an early afternoon news conference at the state Office of Emergency Preparedness.

State Adj. Gen. Bennett Landreneau said that it is too early to say when people will be allowed to return to the city. He said civil authorities haven’t even begun to make initial assessments of the damage.

O’Brien-Molina, the Red Cross spokeswoman, said state officials shut off interstate highways re-entering Louisiana to keep people from returning to flooded areas.

“I-10 is completely closed down,” she said. “No one can go back in and we have to find a place for them to stay.”

Officials are telling the public to expect no one will be allowed to go home for at least two days, O’Brien-Molina said.

Turn back from Tammany

Tuesday
1:55 a.m.

St. Tammany Parish government officials sent an e-mail to WWL-AM radio
via CBS Television to inform the public that all roads into the parish are closed and a curfew is in effect.

"Do not attempt to leave your home if you're in St. Tammany Parish," the message said. "Government is working with utility companies and emergency providers."

The note said officials hoped to begin clearing roads and getting emergency equipment back into the parish later today. The officials said they have no telephone or email access to the area.


Levee breach floods Lakeview, Mid-City, Carrollton, Gentilly, City Park

By Doug MacCash
and James O’Byrne
Staff writers

A large section of the vital 17th Street Canal levee, where it connects to the brand new ‘hurricane proof’ Old Hammond Highway bridge, gave way late Monday morning in Bucktown after Katrina’s fiercest winds were well north. The breach sent a churning sea of water coursing across Lakeview and into Mid-City, Carrollton, Gentilly, City Park and neighborhoods farther south and east.

As night fell on a devastated region, the water was still rising in the city, and nobody was willing to predict when it would stop. After the destruction already apparent in the wake of Katrina, the American Red Cross was mobilizing for what regional officials were calling the largest recovery operation in the organization’s history.

Police, firefighters and private citizens, hampered by a lack of even rudimentary communication capabilities, continued a desperate and impromptu boat-borne rescue operation across Lakeview well after dark. Coast Guard choppers with search lights criss-crossed the skies.

Officers working on the scene said virtually every home and business between the 17th Street Canal and the Marconi Canal, and between Robert E. Lee Boulevard and City Park Avenue, had water in it. Nobody had confirmed any fatalities as a result of the levee breach, but they conceded that hundreds of homes had not been checked.

As the sun set over a still-churning Lake Pontchartrain, the smoldering ruins of the Southern Yacht Club were still burning, and smoke streamed out over the lake. Nobody knew the cause of the fire because nobody could get anywhere near it to find out what happened.

Dozens of residents evacuated to the dry land of the Filmore Street bridge over the Marconi Canal were stranded between the flooded neighborhood on their right, and the flooded City Park on their left, hours after they had been plucked from rooftops or second-story windows.

Firefighters who saved them tried to request an RTA bus to come for the refugees, but said there was no working communications to do so.

Ed Gruber, who lives in the 6300 block of Canal Boulevard, said he became desperate when the rising water chased he, his wife, Helen, and their neighbor Mildred K. Harrison to the second floor of their home. When Gruber saw a boat pass by, he flagged it down with a light, and the three of them escaped from a second-story window.

On the lakefront, pleasure boats were stacked on top of each other like cordwood in the municipal marina and yacht harbor. The Robert E. Lee shopping center was under 7 feet of water. Plantation Coffeehouse on Canal Boulevard was the same. Hines Elementary School had 8 feet of water inside.

Indeed, the entire business district along Harrison Avenue had water to the rooflines in many places.

Joshua Bruce, 19, was watching the tide rise from his home on Pontalba Street when he heard a woman crying for help. The woman had apparently tried to wade the surging waters on Canal Boulevard when she was swept beneath the railroad trestle just south of Interstate 610. Bruce said he plunged into the water to pull her to safety. He and friends Gregory Sontag and Joey LaFrance found dry clothes for the near-victim and she went on her way in search of a second-story refuge further downtown.

The effect of the breach was instantly devastating to residents who had survived the fiercest of Katrina’s winds and storm surge intact, only to be taken by surprise by the sudden deluge. And it added a vast swath of central New Orleans to those already flooded in eastern New Orleans, the Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes.

Beginning at midday, Lakeview residents watched in horror as the water began to rise, pushed through the levee breach by still-strong residual winds from Katrina.

They struggled to elevate furniture and eventually found themselves forced to the refuge of second floors or, just when most in the neighborhood thought they had been spared.

“It would have been fine,” said refugee Pat O’Brien. “The eye passed over.”
But his relief was short lived, O’Brien said. “It’s like what you see on TV and never thought would happen to us. We lost everything, cars, art, furniture, everything.”

Scott Radish, his wife Kyle and neighbor Brandon Gioe stood forlornly on their Mound Street porch, where they had ridden out Katrina, only to face a second more insidious threat.

“The hurricane was scary,” Scott said. “All the tree branches fell, but the building stood. I thought I was doing good. Then I noticed my Jeep was under water.”

The water had risen knee-deep during the storm, but despite the clearing skies, it had continued to rise one brick every 20 minutes, according to Kyle, continuing its ascent well into the night.

“We were good until the Canal busted,” said Sontag. “First there was water on the street, then the sidewalk, then water in the house.”

Officials of the Army Corps of Engineers have contingencies for levee breaches such as the one that happened Monday, but it will take time and effort to get the heavy equipment into place to make the repair. Breach repair is part of the Corps’ planning for recovery from catastrophic storms, but nobody Monday was able to say how long it would take to plug the hole, or how much water would get through it before that happened.

In Lakeview, the scene was surreal. A woman hollered to reporters from a rooftop, asking them to call her father and tell him she was OK – although fleeing to the roof of a two-story home hardly seemed to qualify.

At around 5 p.m., almost as if on cue, the battery power of all the house alarms in the neighborhood seemed to reach a critical level all at once, and they all went off, making it sound as if the area was under an air-raid warning.

Two men surviving on generator power in the Lake Terrace neighborhood near the Lake Pontchartrain levee still had a dry house, but they were eyeing the rising water in the yard nervously. They were planning to head back out to the levee to retrieve a vast stash of beer, champagne and hard liquor they found washed onto the levee.

As night fell, the sirens of house alarms were finally silent, and the air filled with a different, deafening and unfamiliar sound: the extraordinary din of thousands of croaking frogs.

Still wondering if he would spend the night on the Filmore Street bridge over the Marconi Canal, Gruber tried to be philosophical.

“I never thought I would see any devastation like this, and I’ve lived here more than 30 years,” Gruber said. “But at least we have our lives. And that’s something.”

Staff writer Mark Schleifstein contributed to this report.

Red Cross expects "largest recovery operaton" ever

By Mark Schleifstein
Staff writer

Inspecting by helicopter after Hurricane Katrina blasted through New Orleans, it was difficult to make out major city andmarks, the spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency said late Monday.

“I didn’t know it was the airport,” Marty Bahamond, stationed at the New Orleans Emergency Operations Center, said when his pilot pointed out Lakefront Airport, completely under water.

The Southern Yacht Club in West End Park also has burned down, he said.

Meanwhile, Margaret O’Brien-Molina, a spokesman for the American Red Cross Southwest Service Area office in Houston said national agency executives earlier Monday described Katrina as “the largest recovery operation the Red Cross has ever attempted.”

Red Cross officials are staging volunteers, food, cleaning supplies and other rescue equipment in Texas, Arkansas and Alabama in anticipation of moving it into the New Orleans area over the next few days.

She said there were an estimated 37,400 evacuees in shelters in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida as of 3 p.m. Monday and thousands more were expected to join them.

Outside of the devastation in New Orleans, officials still don’t have a handle on the destruction caused on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where news organizations are reporting that the combination of storm surge and reached 33 feet, as high or higher than the surge from Hurricane Camille in 1969.


In Texas, she said, state officials shut off interstate highways re-entering Louisiana to keep people from returning to flooded areas.

“I-10 is completely closed down,” she said. “No one can go back in and we have to find them a place to stay.”

Those who evacuated should expect to stay away for at least two days, O’Brien-Molina said.

Officials are working to identify sites to set up 25 emergency kitchens to be run by Southern Baptist volunteers, which will serve an initial 500,000 meals in coming days, she said. The Spirit of America and Henry’s Kitchen organizations also will set up 18-wheel mobile kitchens.

The volunteer agency has 166 emergency response vehicles and mobile feeding units on the way, and 288,000 “heater” meals, which are chemically heated when opened, are also en route. Another 150,000 will be on their way to Baton Rouge in the next few days.

Thousands of clean-up kits with bleach and mops also are being stationed in Alabama and Houston for shipment to New Orleans when possible, she said.