Radio captures the horror, exhaustion

By Dave Walker
TV columnist

The exasperation, sadness, shock and exhaustion in
Dave Cohen’s voice said more than the words he was
saying, and they were bad enough.

This was midday Wednesday, and Cohen was manning the
microphone at WWL AM 870, the New Orleans news-talk
station that was providing a lifeline of information
to thousands of evacuees around the region, one of
them me.

The hole in the levee allowing Lake Pontchartrain to
dump into unflooded portions of New Orleans and
Jefferson Parish had not been mended. The “bowl
effect” was going to be achieved, with the city
filling with water, maybe all the way to the brim
created by the walls built to protect it.

Cohen sounded defeated by the implications. Toxic
contamination, structural wasting by weeks of
submersion, the horrific liquid funk that would harbor
insects, disease, more death.

The possibility that the city itself would be
uninhabitable, even once the breach was blocked and
the water was drained and the destroyed trees and
houses and corpses cleaned up and the looters at last
in retreat, seemed utterly real and likely to Cohen,
and, no doubt, many of his listeners.

That WWL had stayed on the air at all was a dramatic
tale that will be told here in fuller detail in later
weeks and, I’m sure, years.

WWL abandoned its downtown cluster of studios
overlooking the Louisiana Superdome after Hurricane
Katrina blew out all of the office windows.

Listeners who heard host Garland Robinette’s narration
of the live, on-the-air retreat farther inside the
building as Katrina pounded away, heard
horrible/wonderful broadcasting – a horror to listen
to, but a wonder, too.

Literally blown out, a broadcast skeleton crew moved
to the basement of the Jefferson Parish emergency
operations center, according to a spokesman for
Entercom Communications, the Pennsylvania-based parent
company to WWL and several other New Orleans radio
stations.

As last-gasp efforts were underway to remove the
thousands of people still trapped in New Orleans on
Wednesday, Entercom was making plans to remove its
makeshift studio all the way to Baton Rouge, which has
become the local media staging area for post-Katrina
coverage.

With cable news carrying pictures of the USS Bataan
steaming into position to provide a command center for
the relief effort, it was hard not to frame the day in
Biblical context.

Wednesday began with TV and radio coverage of live
prayers by the governor and a collection of holy men.
By the time New Orleans City Council President Oliver
Thomas joined Cohen and Chris Miller on WWL in
mid-afternoon, the things he’d seen in the streets were
going to be literally unforgettable.

He’d seen a body, probably many, in the water on a
reconnaissance boat trip.

“I still see that body,” he said. “I see his position.
I see the color of the clothes he had on.”

He’d seen looters, too, and asked anybody with
ulterior intentions “to get on your knees and pray for
intervention.”

He’d seen hell where a kind of heaven should be.

He’d heard references to Sodom and Gomorrah.

“Maybe God’s going to cleanse us,” said Thomas.

No place is that wicked.

TV columnist Dave Walker can be reached at
davewala@yahoo.com.

Ant balls not an urban myth

In addition to all of the other horrors befalling New Orleanians during the flood was the creepy discovery that red ants form themselves into floating clusters to avoid drowning. As Dante Ramos and I paddled along Carrollton Avenue on Wednesday, I saw two glittering, golf ball-sized masses of ants floating beside our canoe.

- Doug MacCash

Diving in to help others

New Orleans resident Cynthia Shephard took several steps closer to heaven on Tuesday, when she left the safety of her room at the W Hotel in order to rescue flood refugees stranded along the Interstate. When I encountered her on Oak St., her Ford pickup was crowded with 10 people.

Between draws on her cigarette, Shephard explained her motives: "They needed it. It's crowded out there. Law enforcement is too busy. I can't get a straight answer. So I took it on myself. And I'm in a truck, so I should utilize it."

- Doug MacCash

Causeway closed but hardly damaged

Wednesday, 11:35 p.m.

By Meghan Gordon
St. Tammany bureau

Although still closed to civilian traffic, the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway sustained only minor damage from Katrina’s storm surge, General Manager Robert Lambert said Wednesday night in the first official report on the twin bridges' condition.

“There’s no questions about the safety, the integrity of the Causeway,” Lambert said from his Metairie office.

The bridge’s northbound lanes have been used since Tuesday strictly for emergency vehicles shuttling rescuers and critical supplies to the south shore. The southbound lanes remain closed while Boh Bros. Construction Co. repairs two small segments of limestone and concrete that connect the bridge to land. Lambert said the work is likely to take about six days.

Lambert said multiple teams of engineers, including federal and state officials, inspected the bridge from boats and from the roadway. He said divers would inspect the hundreds of underwater pilings Thursday.

“They stopped and checked every inch of this bridge,” he said.

Lambert said that even though both directions of the bridge would be passable in six days, he will not open them to the public until officials in St. Tammany and Jefferson parishes allow evacuees back in.

Desperation, death on road to safety

Wednesday, 11:09 p.m.

By Keith Spera
Staff writer

At 91 years old, Booker Harris ended his days propped on a lawn chair, covered by a yellow quilt and abandoned, dead, in front of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

Mr. Harris died in the back of a Ryder panel truck Wednesday afternoon, as he and his 93-year-old wife, Allie, were evacuated from eastern New Orleans. The truck's driver deposited Allie and her husband's body on the Convention Center Boulevard neutral ground.

And there it remained.

With 3,000 or more evacuees stranded at the convention center -- and with no apparent contingency plan or authority to deal with them -- collecting a body was no one's priority. It was just another casualty in Hurricane Katrina's wake.

A steady stream of often angry or despondent people, many from flooded Central City, trickled first toward Lee Circle and then to the convention center, hoping to be saved from increasingly desperate straits. Food, water and options had dwindled across Uptown and Central City, where looters seemed to rage almost at will, clearing out boutique clothing shops and drug stores alike. Hospitals would no longer accept emergencies, as staffers prepared to evacuate with patients.

"If you get shot," said a security guard at Touro Infirmary, "you’ve got to go somewhere else."

As a blazing sun and stifling humidity took their toll, 65-year-old Faye Taplin rested alone on the steps of the Christ Cathedral in the 2900 block of St. Charles Avenue. Rising water had finally chased her from her Central City home. She clutched two plastic bags containing bedding, a little food and water and insulin to treat her diabetes.

She needed help but was unsure where to find it. She wanted to walk more than 15 blocks to a rumored evacuation pickup point beneath the Pontchartrain Expressway, but she doubted that was possible.

"I'm tired," she said. "My feet have swollen up on me. I can't walk that far."

The church custodian, Ken Elder, hoped to free his car from the parking lot behind the church as soon as the water went down. He rode out Katrina on the Episcopal church’s altar steps and was well stocked with food. But he feared the marauding looters that roamed St. Charles Avenue after dark.

"I lived in Los Angeles during the Rodney King riots," Elder said. "That was a piece of cake compared to this."

Clara Wallace pushed her brother in a wheelchair down St. Charles from Fourth Street to the Pontchartrain Expressway. Suffering from diabetes and the after-effects of a stroke, he wore only a hospital robe and endured part of the journey through standing water.

"Nobody has a bathroom he can use," Wallace, 59, said of her brother. "Nobody would even stop to tell us if we were at the right place. What are we supposed to do?"

A man in a passing pickup truck from the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries finally directed Wallace and the 50 other evacuees under the overpass to the convention center.

But they would find little relief there.

New evacuees were being dropped off after being pulled from inundated eastern New Orleans and Carrollton, pooling with those who arrived on foot. Some had been at the convention center since Tuesday morning but had received no food, water or instructions. They waited both inside and outside the cavernous building.

The influx overwhelmed the few staffers and Louisiana National Guardsmen on hand.

With so much need and so few resources, the weakest and frailest were bound to suffer the most. Seated next to her husband's body on the neutral ground beneath the St. Joseph Street sign, Allie Harris munched on crackers, seemingly unaware of all the tragedy unfolding around her. Eventually, guardsmen loaded her into a truck and hauled her off with other elderly evacuees.

Mr. Harris' body was left behind.

Such a breakdown did not bode well for other evacuees. As the afternoon wore on, hope faded, replaced by anger.

"This is 2005," John Murray shouted, standing in the street near Mr. Harris' body. "It should not be like this for no catastrophe. This is pathetic."



Refugee archbishop

By SUSAN FINCH
Staff writer
BATON ROUGE - Forced out of his New Orleans headquarters by Hurricane Katrina, Archbishop Alfred Hughes was busy here Tuesday praying fellow storm evacuees, then huddling with top aides to make plans for a Capitol City “administrative headquarters in exile.”
“Our first concern is for the people - the people who have died, the people who are left behind, the people who rescued and who were rescued,” said Hughes, who ministered to evacuees gathered at the Baton Rouge Centroplex and three Baton Rouge Catholic churches.
His itinerary included stops at St. George Catholic Church to visit with residents brought here from the Chateau de Notre Dame nursing home in Uptown New Orleans and at St. Timothy Catholic Church, where his audience was a group from eastern New Orleans, many of them Vietnamese.
“I am also a refugee,” Hughes said. “It’s not easy to be so drastically dislocated without any early hope of being able to return."
Sounding like other storm evacuees anxious for details about what’s happening back home, Hughes said the archdiocese is still waiting to find out how the 2,600 residents of Christopher Homes apartments fared in the storm. “We don’t know if some have died; We are waiting for confirmation,” Hughes said.
Christopher Homes is made up of more than 30 apartment complexes for the elderly, families and people with physical disabilities.
Hughes said he received news Tuesday that the National Conference of Catholic Bishops has announced that bishops will set aside a particular Sunday service to take up a special collection to help with the hurricane relief effort.
In light of the damage Katrina left in New Orleans, Hughes said the archdiocese wants to develop a Baton Rouge headquarters “because it looks like we’re going to be located here for the foreseeable future.”
Telephone connection problems in the storm’s wake have prompted Hughes and his team to get cellphones with 985 area code numbers. Their old cellphones, hooked into the 504 area code, were putting through only about one out of every 25 calls, he said.



Along Esplanade, pleas for help

Wednesday, 10:30 p.m.

By Doug MacCash
and Dante Ramos
Staff writers

Esplanade Avenue, one of New Orleans' historic high grounds, was submerged for most of its length Wednesday afternoon in 2 to 3 feet of murky water. It was impasswable to most vehicles between North Rampart Street at the edge of the French Quarter to Moss Street beside Bayou St. John.

A few small boats navigated downed power lines, large tree branches and other jetsam, including a memorial wreath for a recent murder vicitim. Meanwhile, desperate staff at homes for elderly people alongside Esplanade sought medical help for their charges.

The scene there -- and in the areas of Mid-City near City Park -- suggested an eerie, post-cataclysmic urban version of a swamp tour.

At Esplanade and North Claiborne Avenue, an agitated woman tried to hail a boat to carry off patients from nearby St. Martin's Home. Patients had fled up floor to floor as waters rose. The woman was especially fearful for a wheelchar-bound womanb patient with a stent in her stomach. This patient could not even have her dressing changed without clean water, which was in short supply.

Near Esplanade and Broad Street, attendants sat on the porch of the Bethany Home. The 30 patients, attendants said, were incapable of traveling out of New Orleans before the storm. The home's supply of drinking water was almost exhausted, and two patients had died.

Hanging from the roofline was a banner spellling out the facility's predicament: "HELP. THIS IS A HEALTH-CARE FACILITY. NEED MEDICINE. NO FOOD."

Others in Mid-City tried to make the best of the situation. A man sat on his front steps on North Carrollton Avenue, lathering his hair and face and rinsing away the soap suds with the passing floodwater.

Some stranded residents got relief from a National Guard helicopter that hovered low near Dumaine Street and North Carrollton. The Black Hawk chopper dropped bottles water in front of one woman's home. She couldn't get to it because it fell in the floodwaters, however, and she couldn't enter the water because of her chemotherapy.

A neighbor soon waded to her assistance.

Joe Horn wants to make a difference

Wednesday, 10:10 p.m.

By Mike Triplett

Staff writer

FREMONT, CALIF - An obviously distraught Joe Horn said he feels impassioned to do something that can make a difference in New Orleans.

Few Saints players are as tied to the community as the veteran wide receiver, who is in his sixth season with the team. He said when the players get three days off this weekend, he plans to head in to the city.

“I’m going to try to get in there. I’m going to try to do something,” Horn said. “I’m going to try to help, donate money and try to feed the families. I’m going to do whatever I can, because I feel like that’s a part of my family that’s starving.

“If I have to spend a million dollars in getting food, trying to help people get food, whatever I have to do to help people, help monetarily, help all I can, I’m going to do it.”

Horn is a North Carolina native, but he considers New Orleans a second home. His wife and six children have taken up temporary residence in Tupelo, Miss., he said.

Horn touched upon a variety of subjects during a brief chat with the media, saying he has been glued to the television set and the images he sees are “sad, very sad.”

“Just to see kids like that, it’s horrible, it’s sad. Just to sit back and watch babies that can’t even eat, that are suffering,” Horn said. “I’m just hoping that the government goes in, sends ships in and gets people out as quickly as possible and tries to rebound from this catastrophe.”

Horn said he hopes people learned that they have to evacuate when a hurricane approaches.
“The people that couldn’t make it out or couldn’t afford to make it out or just were too ill or not financially able, I understand," he said. "But the people who rode through hurricanes before, to take it as a joke, as if it were a movie or something … my heart goes out to them. When something like that magnitude comes through and they give you warning to leave, you have to go.

“I talked to one lady at Denny’s before I left, and I said, ‘You have to get out of here.’ She said, ‘Well, I’ve been through three before.’ You have to understand, some people love New Orleans that much, just to stay and risk their lives. She said, ‘I’ll be on top of my house trying to survive.’ You have people who love New Orleans enough to die for New Orleans, you have people who thought it was a game. And you have people who just couldn’t afford to get out.”
Horn also said he understands the actions of some of the looters.
“If people are there trying to survive, I have no problem with that, because I would be doing the same thing. If I was in New Orleans and my children needed to eat, and they were on top of a building, or I can take a boat and try to go to a Winn-Dixie, or a Target or the mall to get something to wear for my kids or eat, guess what? You’d be calling Joe Horn a looter.

“Right now it’s a catastrophe. Police officers with guns, trying to make people drop stuff, they should put their guns up and throw them in the water and try to get people out of there. That’s the most disappointing part to me, people trying to make it out like looters, it’s terrible. So what? It’s people whose lives have to be saved here. You think I give a damn about a TV or something like that? It’s just a sad situation right now.”


GAME NOTE: Rookie quarterback Adrian McPherson said he expects to play the entire second half against Oakland tonight. McPherson became the undisputed No. 3 quarterback when the team released Kliff Kingsbury on Saturday, but he said, “That’s great, it’s a great opportunity, but if I don’t get the job done, they’ll bring somebody else in to replace me.”






Scenes from the Wild West Bank

Wednesday, 10:21 p.m.

-- The underpass beneath the elevated West Bank Expressway near the Gen. de Gaulle Drive entrance ramps to the Crescent City Connection became a refuge from the heat Wednesday for frustrated New Orleans evacuees.

About 100 adults and children had been allowed to walk over the bridge after being turned away at the Superdome, which had stopped taking in people for shelter. They headed to the West Bank in hopes of finding transportation to a state shelter. The evacuees expressed frustration with drivers of empty vans, buses and cars that passed them by during the long, hot trek.

June Brown and her neighbors in the Melpomene public housing complex walked from Clio Street at Earhart Boulevard. Janice Pierre and her son, Shelton Bruno, left their apartment in the B.W. Cooper housing development due to six feet of water and headed over the bridge to relatives' houses.

-- As she sat on a cot nearby Ferdinand, her husband of 51 years, Marjorie Summers of the Plaquemines Parish town of Phoenix struggled to keep her emotions in check on her second day at the emergency evacuation center at Belle Chasse Auditorium.

"Phoenix is completely lost, completely immersed in water," said Summers, who lost her home and two vehicles Monday to quickly rising flood waters from Hurricane Katrina. "It doesn't do any good to cry.We saw the water coming
over the levee and also water came in from the back,"said Summers, one of about 200 evacuees at the shelter.

She, her husband and other relatives fled to Phoenix High School when water started to come in their home Monday at 7 a.m. That night, the water there chased them to Woodlawn Center, then to Belle Chasse Auditorium on Tuesday
night.

-- George Primo of Buras and three others survived Katrina by clinging to the top of a roof after his friends' house floated loose from its pilings.

Life preservers and a strong personal sense of preservation helped them
weather the night and strong winds. They floated to the roof as the water rose. When the eye of the storm came over and brought temporary calm, they broke into the attic for shelter. They were even joined for a while by a nutria.

A Coast Guard helicopter rescued them Monday at 5 p.m.

"This hurricane has changed everything", said Primo as he contemplated the high water and loss of lives and land. "We didn't have a chance. In 15 minutes the water rose 16 feet."

NOMA survives intact

By Dante Ramos
and Doug MacCash
Staff Writers

The New Orleans Museum of Art survived Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath without significant damage.

But when Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives arrived in the area Wednesday, NOMA employees holed up inside the museum were left in a quandary:
FEMA wanted those evacuees to move to a safer location, but there was no way to secure the artwork inside.

Six security and maintenance employees remained on duty during the hurricane and were joined by 30 evacuees, including the families of some employees.

Harold Lyons, a security console operator who stayed on at the museum, said FEMA representatives were the first outsiders to show up at the museum in days.

They immediately tried to persuade staffers to leave the building. That would have left no one to protect the museum’s contents and no one inside the museum had the authority to give that order, Lyons said as he inspected the grounds.

Museum Director John Bullard was on vacation and assistant Director Jacquie Sullivan had taken a disabled brother to Gonzales.

“We can’t just leave and turn out the lights on the say-so of someone we don’t know,’’ Lyons said.

The phones inside the museum had failed. Lyons asked a reporter to pass a message to Sullivan as soon as possible.

Interviewed by telephone, Sullivan said she had been in close contact with emergency management officials all day Wednesday. State Police had promised to take her back to the museum at 7 a.m. Thursday, she said.

City Park was littered with fallen trees, but evacuees’ cars, clustered around the museum’s walls, were mostly unscathed. The museum itself was spared any wind damage and floodwaters had not reached the building.

Inside, the museum’s generators whirred away, providing air conditioning to preserve the priceless artworks inside.

Sullivan said museum workers had taken down some pieces in the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden before the storm.

But a towering modernist sculpture by Kenneth Snelson was reduced to a twisted mess in the lagoon.

Alert in Algiers

Wednesday, 10:05 p.m

Several residents of Algiers Point have posted door signs telling would-be trespassers that they are home and have guns to defend themselves. Resident Vnnie Pervel, former Algiers Point Association president, said he and a few other residents had been trying to sleep by day and patrol the streets at night.

Saints want to make 'Louisiana look good'

Wednesday, 9:40 p.m.

By Mike Triplett

Staff writer

FREMONT, CALIF. – Life has been surreal for the Saints these past few days. They go about business as usual in a place mostly unaffected by Hurricane Katrina, then return to the team hotel and see their home being destroyed on television.

But tonight’s game will go on – the preseason finale against the Oakland Raiders at 8 p.m. – and the Saints say they will play it proudly.

“We’ve got to be ready. This is our job, this is something we’ve got to do, something we get paid to do,” defensive end Charles Grant said following a brief pregame walkthrough Wednesday. “Us going out and winning and playing hard would probably uplift the people who can see the game, make them feel a little bit better, let them know we’re rooting behind them.

“And I think our overall situation, we’ve got to dedicate this whole season to people that’s back home, that’s struggling or people that were able to get out of there. We’ve got to show them that we’re still willing to make Louisiana look good.”

Center LeCharles Bentley echoed those sentiments.

“Honestly, we should kind of feel proud to be able to be out here and really represent the city,” Bentley said. “Honestly, I think that we’re the last true representation of what New Orleans is and what it stands for.”

Tight end Shad Meier said that earlier in the week, players discussed whether or not it was right to be playing this game. And the prevailing sentiment was that they were safe, their families were safe and they were able to do their jobs and maybe do some good.

Meier said a few players got up and spoke, and the most moving words came from veteran offensive tackle Wayne Gandy, who reminded them that they got a police escort on the way to the airport and were given the chance to make arrangements for their family and loved ones.

“He said, ‘Look at the respect the Saints get. We are very fortunate,’” Meier said. “‘So try to make this season a dedication and maybe be a ray of light for the people.’

“And it would be such an awesome, awesome story, as (coach Jim) Haslett put it, to weather the storm and come out champions. That would be one of the best turnarounds – it would be the best turnaround in history.”

Players said the first practice was a bit sluggish with everything going on. But it has gotten crisper and more business-like with each passing day.

Receiver/return specialist Michael Lewis said he struggled, in particular, during those early practices, because he had not heard from all of his family members, some of whom stayed in New Orleans.

But Lewis, who was born and raised in New Orleans, finally received word Tuesday afternoon that his grandparents were OK at home in River Ridge. His father is the only person he has not heard from, he said.

Lewis said receiver Talman Gardner, who is also from New Orleans, had not heard news about all of his family members as of Wednesday morning.

“In the beginning, things weren’t working for me. I couldn’t say my practice was going too well. I had too much on my mind,” Lewis said. “But after I heard from my grandparents and stuff, I got a little bit better. I started to feel a little bit happier.

“There is a fog hanging over everyone’s heads. Some of the guys aren’t from there, but they’ve still got things there, or they don’t know what they’re going to go back to, if they’ve got a home to go to or what’s going to go on as far as the team goes. So there’s a lot of stuff up in the air right now.

“I can’t really sit down and say about everyone else. But this is my job and I have to go out and do it. Sometimes you’ve got to separate the two. When you’re on the field, you’re going to play ball because if not, you can be thinking about something else and you can wind up getting yourself hurt or something.”

Players have been gathering for a team breakfast at their hotel, followed by meetings at the hotel and a bus ride to practice at San Jose State University. After practice, around 3 p.m., players have been on their own, free to get dinner or go shopping or whatever else they choose.

“It’s brought us closer together,” Bentley said. “Guys are hanging out together a lot.”

Many of them have been glued to the TV sets.

Lewis, who said he only slept for one hour Sunday night, said he has been sleeping a little more since, but not much.

“I’m resting. I’m laying down or whatever, but my TV stays on, on the Weather Channel,” he said. “And I still hear a lot of things. All through the night, I’m popping up and watching TV. So it’s still hard right now, not knowing what’s going on.”

Stranded vacationers

Some of those trying to get out of the downtown area Wednesday were unlucky tourists who had few viable options for escape.

Dawn and Alan Hooley, of Cocoa Beach, Fla., were vacationing in New Orleans when Katrina approached. Ironically, they were taking a break before starting to rebuild their Dairy Queen restaurant, which was destroyed by Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne last year.

The Hooleys were hoping to find a taxi driver – or anyone, really – who would be willing to drive them to Baton Rouge, where they could to catch a plane home.

Asked how much they’d pay a willing cabbie, Dawn Hooley said: "I don’t know. $500? $750?"

Evacuees arrive in Natchez

NATCHEZ, Miss.--Some 250 refugees from Hurricane Katrina, most from the New Orleans region, awoke Wednesday on the floors of meeting rooms at Parkway Baptist Church, one of many evacuation centers set up across the region with financial support and training from the American Red Cross.

Their experience was one of extremes, mirroring that of so many since Sunday: Gratitude for the hospitality of strangers; gestures sure to never be forgotten mixed with a bleary sense of doom, an uncertainty about what the killer storm had done to their homes, neighbors, jobs. Worst of all, they didn’t know when they would go home.

“We were unable to find hotels, anything, so we were blessed to just find this shelter,” said Yolanda McKenzie, 41, a resident of New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward and supply technician at the Veterans Administration Medical Center, who arrived at the sprawling Baptist church beside U.S. 61 with three family members.

McKenzie was restless. She could barely sleep.

“I’m just thinking that I’m going back to nothing, so it’s just stress, thinking about how I’m going to start over.”

Marco Tabora, 51, owner of an automobile repair shop and a Kenner resident, also came Sunday with three relatives.

Tabora said he knew nothing about the fate of his business or home, and was unnerved by extreme tales he had heard about Katrina’s wrath.

“We hear too many stories,” he said. “We just worry about it.”

An associate pastor at the church, Jason Cole, said Parkway had not yet finished its Red Cross training when it was called upon to help shelter storm victims who flooded into the riverside city in the past few days.

A few church members may grumble about New Orleans strangers taking over portions of the church building, but most are enthusiastic about the novel type of ministry, he said. Members are even preparing to covert the shelter from a short-term to a long-term role, meaning it could provide a home for Katrina victims for several weeks or longer.

“We’re getting people that have been up in Memphis and they’re trying to get home. They can’t get home. Natchez now has a couple of thousand homeless people,” said the 34-year-old minister, a Slidell native. “We’re telling everybody, as long as they need us to be here, we’ll be here. We’re their servants.”




Tennessee tales

Times-Picayune sportswriter Ted Lewis has evacuated to his hometown of Lexington, Tenn. On Wednesday, after reading about persons from the New Orleans area staying at a Red Cross shelter at West Jackson Baptist Church in nearby Jackson, Tenn., he decided to seek them out.

These are some of their stories:

Melvin Richard, 43, of St. Bernard, is an operating engineer at Tulane Medical Center. He is one of 38 members of Richard and Cole families that wound in Jackson after evacuating their homes on Sunday.

They are staying at a motel, but will move to the Red Cross shelter on Saturday. They are already eating there, dining on barbeque and pizza Wednesday night.

"People are truly looking out for us. They just extended our time in the motel for a couple more days, and after that we'll see what happens. I feel blessed.
I know we haven't got much to go home to, but I have my family around me right now. When I get to go home, I will deal with it when I get there. Whatever it takes to rebuild, we will. I have faith it will work out.

"We've got a lot of kids here, and that keeps us busy. We don't have a lot of time to mope and moan. We sat out by the pool and watch them swim. And we console one another.

"I try not to watch TV because I want to keep my mind off what's going on and if I look at it too long I get depressed. But you can't help it.

"The worst thing to see is all of the people who are trapped. I know they told everybody to get out, but we've had all of these scares and near-misses. And a lot of people maybe couldn't have afforded to go.

"But we put all of our resources together and said, 'We've got to do what we've got to do.' There were eight carloads of us.

"They're not saying much about what's going on in St. Bernard, but we know it's under water. But if we've got a frame, that's a start toward making it livable again.

"I know a lot of people are worried about not having jobs, but I work for Tulane University. They're going to be good to me.

"Things are going to turn out OK. This is America. We've had tragedies before. Now it's New Orleans' turn.

"We're already coming together. The people up here have been beautiful. I've never heard of Jackson, Tenn., before but I love it here.

"I have confidence that help will be there. But families and neighbors are going to have to pull together.

"All of South Louisiana is going to have to pull together. We're all in the same boat. Some of us might be a little worse off than others, but we're all together.

"I am so glad we got out. If we had stayed, we'd probably be dead. That's why I feel so blessed."


Ann Watson McDonald, 45, of St. Bernard, is a security guard at the Hyatt. She and her husband, Arthur, and daughter Althile Watson spent Sunday and Monday nights in the hotel but left at midday Tuesday when the water started rising.

They were able to get across the Crescent City Connection, back onto I-10 at Luling and then up I-55, to Tennessee where they joined members of the Richard and Cole families who had been communicating with them by text message. She is the sister-in-law of Melvin Richard.

"I was 5 years old when Betsy hit, and it's my first memory. I remember that water, and having to get on by brother's shoulder until a boat came. Then they told us to put our heads down between our legs and close our eyes.

"I was told I was considered essential personnel at the Hyatt because the mayor was staying there. So my husband, my daughter and I stayed at the hotel.

"It was horrible during the storm. It sounded like freight trains coming at you and you could hear the big booms from the glass breaking.

"But after the hurricane hit, my husband insisted we leave. The water was rising. He said you're going if I have to drag out of here.

"We were lucky. There were 1,200 people in the Hyatt and I don't know how many of them are still there or in the Superdome.

"We hated leaving those people behind, but we had to survive. There were too many people to try to help. That's not being selfish. It's just the way it was."

"I don't know what we're coming back to, but we're blessed to have our families and know that we're OK. We know we can survive anything. Whatever we have to go through, whatever we have to deal with, by the grace of God, we're going to survive. And we'll do it together.

"We understand and accept that our homes aren't there, but whatever we have to do to get our lives back to normal, we'll do it.

"New Orleans is going to recover. This is America. We will rebuild, and it will be better.

"They kept telling us we were living in a bowl, and now we know it doesn't work the way they had it. We have to change things.

"You try to watch something besides the news, but when you change the channel, you keep going back to the news.

"We listen to WWL at night and watch Channel 4 on the Internet. They show different things from the ones on TV. You can't look away.

"The kids ask a lot of questions, but they can't grasp the magnitude of the situation. That's probably good right now."

"We can't go home, so we'll stay here until we can. We're just refugees.

"But this is America. In another country, you wouldn't see people pulling together like this. We're not fighting over food and shelter. We are blessed people.

"Whatever happens, we want to stay in New Orleans. It's home. Unless we have to, we're staying there and putting our lives back together.

"One more thing. I'm a security guard. My husband delivers medical supplies and can drive an 18-wheeler. Put us to work. Let us do what we do best."

David Raicstien of Harvey is one of 10 family members at the shelter. They started out in a hotel, but are in the process of renting a small home.

"It took us 18 hours to get here, but we knew we couldn't stay. My other brother lives in Metairie, and he decided to sit it out. Now he's text messaging us that he has no water or food and doesn't know what he's going to do.

"I feel bad. There's a lot of crying. My wife's crying. The kids are crying. I've got three pairs of shorts to my name. Where do we go from here?

"They never show the West Bank on TV, so we don't know what the conditions are like. We're pretty sure we've been flooded. We live right next to Stonebridge, and if they're flooded, I'm pretty sure we are, too.

"I can't believe people are stealing TVs and stuff like that. Where do they think they're going to plug them in?

"People here are extremely generous. We've got offers for jobs and they will set the kids up in school for as long as we're here. It's more than I expected.

"I don't know if we will go back to New Orleans. We immigrated from Honduras 20-something years ago. I love the city. But there may not be anything to go back to."

Walter Beachem of Metairie is one of 14 family members at the shelter.
But he is worried about the whereabouts of his daughters, Talia Beachem, 3 and Shania Haganis, five months who stayed behind with his ex-wife, Tia Beachem. He has both of their names tattooed on his chest.

"They were supposed to going to a hotel out on Loyola, but I don't know if they got out or what.

"This is hell for me. I am trying to figure out what's going on and there's nothing I can do.

"I tried to tell my ex-wife to give me the girls to take with me, but she wouldn't let them go.

"I watch TV all day just hoping I can see something. But I do see them rescuing people, and that makes my faith stronger that they're OK. But I don't know. It gets harder day-by-day.

"The minute they say we can go back, I'll be volunteering to search for people. Whatever it takes.

"If anyone knows anything about them, please call me at 504-813-1535 or 731-427-5543."



Saints have options for home games

Wednesday, 9 p.m.

By Mike Triplett

Staff writer

FREMONT, CALIF. – The Saints have not yet decided where they will play their scheduled home games this year, beginning with a Sept. 18 date against the New York Giants. But they have no shortage of options to consider.

According to different reports, early sites being considered or that have been offered up include Baton Rouge, Shreveport, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and Tuscaloosa, Ala., among others. Also, one league source told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the NFL is looking into the idea of the Saints playing all 16 games on the road, with the home-team share of the revenue going to the Saints during their eight “home” games.

That possibility could provide the most revenue to the Saints, although it would be the least attractive option from a competitive standpoint.

Saints general manager Mickey Loomis declined to discuss specific options but said, “Obviously, from an emotional standpoint, we’d prefer to play in Louisiana. That’s emotion talking. But we don’t know if that’s possible.”

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league would prefer that the Saints play as close to their fan base as possible.

“That’s just common sense,” Aiello said. “That is definitely one of the working principals in guiding us.”

Baton Rouge would be a natural front-runner, but with the evacuation efforts going on there, it might be too much to take on right now. The Tigers postponed their own home opener against North Texas, scheduled for Saturday.

San Antonio is another strong possibility, and that city is making efforts to bring the Saints’ games to town.

The Saints will relocate to San Antonio following tonight’s preseason game with the Oakland Raiders. Players will be given Friday, Saturday and Sunday off to get their lives in order and either visit their families or help transport them to San Antonio, if they so choose.

Practice will begin Monday at the San Antonio School District Spring Sports Complex, where the Saints will prepare for their regular-season opener at Carolina on Sept. 11.

The Saints also practiced in San Antonio for three days last September when Hurricane Ivan approached the Southeast. Owner Tom Benson has strong business and personal ties to the city.

San Antonio’s Alamodome has an estimated three dates that conflict with the Saints’ home schedule this year, but the facility is available on Sept. 18.

“What we’re going to do,” Loomis said, “is get (Thursday’s) game taken care of, we’re going to get to San Antonio and we’ll convene all of our people and get together with the league office and make some kind of determination as to, ‘What are the sites that are available? What are the sites that make sense?’

“We’ve got a lot of professional and personal issues to take care of. And as soon as we get a few of those resolved, as soon as we get into somewhat of a base of operations in San Antonio, then we can decide all these other questions.”

-- The San Antonio Express-News contributed to this report.

LSU Health Sciences Center classes

Classes at the School of Medicine at LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans will resume within the next few weeks -- at the Pennington Biomedial Research Center in Baton Rouge.

LSU Health Sciences Center at New Orleans has set up an office at the LSU System Office on the LSU Baton Rouge campus, 225-578-7269.

Details for resumption of other classes of LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans have not been finalized.

More information is available at www.lsuhsc.edu or www.lsusystem.lsu.edu.

St. Tammany announcements

A 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. parishwide curfew remains in effect for St. Tammany Parish.

Although water service in Covington has been restored, there have been problems with water pressure in some areas, city officials said. Residents should not drink the water unless it's boiled for at least 10 minutes.

More than 20 Red Cross disaster relief vehicles have arrived in St. Tammany and are dispersing bottled water and commodities in neighborhoods throughout the parish, officials said.

St. Tammany Parish officials are asking the heads of homeowners groups throughout the parish to contact the parish via the internet so officials can coordinate recovery efforts with the associations. The e-mail contact is Suzanne Parsons-Stymiest at sparsons@stpgov.org

Some 1,500 St. Tammany residents remain in shelters throughout the parish.



Powerless still

Wednesday, 7:55 p.m.

By Keith Darce
Business writer

The 6,000 power line workers currently assembled in southeastern Louisiana won’t be nearly enough to restore electricity to the 990,000 customers still without power in metropolitan New Orleans, the region’s suppliers said Wednesday.

But getting more workers to the area might be impossible until late this week. That’s because many utility crews from neighboring states are still restoring power to southern Florida, which was hit surprisingly hard by Katrina when she crossed the state nearly a week ago, said Chanel Lagarde, spokesman for Entergy Corp., Louisiana’s power supplier.

“There are severe limits on resources at this point,” he said. “We are told that the utilities in Florida are expected to wrap up later this week. Many of those (workers) will come directly here or to the east” in coastal Mississippi and Alabama.

The atmosphere of near-anarchy in New Orleans is another major concern, said Arthur Wiese Jr., vice president of corporate communications for Entergy.

“We can’t send workers out and put their lives in jeopardy,” he said late Wednesday afternoon from the one of the company’s storm command centers in Jackson, Miss. “Once we have facilities back operating, we have to know that our workers can get to work safely.

“We are as alarmed as anyone over the chaos in the city. It is a very serious question,” Wiese said.

Those problems further validated earlier predictions by Entergy managers that many people in the hardest-hit parts of the state could be without electricity for a month or more.

Flooding and road blockage from debris remained the most immediate barriers to repair crews moving into the most damaged parts of the region.

A main transmission line running 25 miles between Madisonville and Bogalusa suffered catastrophic damage, with at least 18 miles requiring repairs, said Mark Segura, vice president of transmission and distribution services for Pineville-based Cleco Corp.

Transmission lines connect power plants to community substations and supply electricity to large numbers of customers.

Despite the difficulties, by Wednesday night Entergy had restored power to 181,829 customers in Louisiana and Mississippi, mostly in areas not affected by flooding, Wiese said.

“We are making good progress where we can get access,” he said.

All of the region’s power and telephone companies were struggling to restore services in the wake of Katrina.

Almost every Entergy and Cleco customer in metropolitan New Orleans remained without power Wednesday night, 48 hours since the storm ripped through the region.

Communication was another problem, for utility workers as well as everyone else in southeastern Louisiana. Telephone services, both over wired and wireless networks, remained sporadic and, in some cases in Orleans, Jefferson and St. Bernard, completely dead.

Almost 81,000 wired phone lines were silent in southeastern Louisiana, said BellSouth Corp., the state’s largest phone service provider. And more phone lines were expected to fail as backup generators ran out of fuel at communications terminals that initially survived the storm.

BellSouth reported several “key” breaks in the company’s fiber optic line system, which serves as the backbone of its communications network.

Work crews focused on repairing major cables, firming back-up power to switching centers and restoring phone service to emergency personnel, local officials and hospitals, the Atlanta-based company said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

“We are doing everything possible to assess the extensive damage this destructive storm has caused,” said Bill Oliver, president of BellSouth’s Louisiana operations.

Call volumes created their own problems over parts of the network that were working. Many people trying to make calls to and from the region were met by busy signals or messages saying that circuits were busy.

Wireless phone networks experienced similar troubles.

Cingular Wireless lost at least 700 antennas, or cell sites, throughout the region, a company operator said.

Verizon Wireless also lost portions of its network, but spokesman Patrick Kimball couldn’t say how many towers were down in the region.

“Strangely enough, some cell sites are still operating on roof tops,” he said.

Wireless services were improving in Baton Rouge, Mobile, Ala., and Pensacola, Fla., where crews had easier access to damaged facilities, Kimball said. But networks in much of metropolitan New Orleans remained unreachable, he said.

“The situation could improve in certain cases and it could worsen in others. It’s such a fluid situation, it’s hard to tell,” he said.

Most of the electricity and phone companies were running storm operations centers outside of the New Orleans metropolitan area.

Managers with Entergy, the New Orleans-based power company that supplies electricity to 1.2 million customers in Louisiana, are mainly orchestrating their historically massive power grid restoration effort from command centers in Baton Rouge and Jackson, Miss.

Almost all of the company’s employees who rode out the storm in the Hyatt Regency Hotel next to the Superdome in downtown New Orleans evacuated Tuesday when flood waters began rising dangerously high in the Central Business District and other conditions in the city deteriorated. The hotel, which also served as the command center for City Hall, suffered major damage during the storm.

Dan Packer, chief executive officer of Entergy’s utility in New Orleans, remained at the hotel with Mayor Ray Nagin and a handful of city officials.

Wednesdsay at 5 p.m.., 693,156 Entergy customers in southeastern Louisiana, or more than half of its customer base in the state, were in the dark. Another 21,636 were without power in central Mississippi.

With 1.1 million Entergy customers losing electricity services at the peak of the storm, Lagarde said the outage more than quadrupled the severity of the previous high for the company: during Tropical Sorm Cincy in June.

All 88,000 Cleco customers in the parishes of St. Tammany and Washington north of Lake Pontchartrain remained without power, Cleco spokeswoman Fran Phoenix said.

(E-mail Keith Darcé at nolapaperboy@cox.net)

No shelters in St. John Parish

Wednesday, 7:40 p.m.

St. John the Baptist Parish officials had initially talked about opening a shelter for evacuees, but Natalie Robottom, the parish's Chief Administrative Officer, said the parish has been unable to move forward with plans because it does not have the resources to supply and staff shelters.

She said the parish is struggling to provide food and gas for its own workers and really can’t help travelers in need.

“We do not have the personnel or supplies to open a shelter, or the manpower to man it,” Robottom said. “So far we haven’t gotten a commitment from (the state) to provide it.”

Robottom said the parish has already received power for most of its utility plants and along Airline Highway. Initially, plants were operating using generators, but there have been problems supplying those facilities with fuel.

Federal public health emergency declared

The following is a news release from Health and Human Services discussing response to hurricane.

HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt Wednesday declared a federal public health emergency and accelerated efforts to create up to 40 emergency medical shelters to provide care for evacuees and victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Working with its federal partners, HHS is helping provide and staff 250 beds in each shelter for a total of 10,000 beds for the region. Ten of these facilities will be staged within the next 72 hours and another 10 will be deployed within the next 100 hours after that. In addition, HHS is deploying up to 4,000 medically-qualified personnel to staff these facilities and to meet other health care needs in this region.

Already, HHS has helped set up a medical shelter with up to 250 beds at Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge to help provide health care for those fleeing New Orleans in Katrina's wake. As of late this morning, the facility had already screened 300 patients and admitting 45 for in-patient care.

HHS and its Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also are providing the region with public health personnel and expertise to address the potential for disease outbreak in the aftermath of Katrina.

"We're delivering medical supplies, facilities and professionals into the Gulf Region to provide health care to those evacuating from New Orleans as well as victims of the hurricane throughout the region," Secretary Leavitt said. "We're focused on the immediate health care needs of people in the region, augmenting state and local efforts. And we're also preparing for public health challenges that may emerge such as disease and contamination.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to all our fellow Americans who have been affected by this hurricane," Secretary Leavitt added. "Recovery will take time, and the road ahead will not be easy. But all of us at the Department of Health and Human Services - with our health partners - will do everything we can for as long as it takes to help protect the health and well-being of those impacted."

An order was signed by the Secretary today to declare a public health emergency for the states of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. This action will allow the Department to waive certain Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP and HIPAA requirements as well as make grants and enter into contracts more expeditiously during this emergency.

Secretary Leavitt emphasized that HHS is making available all its public health and emergency response capabilities to help state and local officials provide care and assistance to victims of this hurricane.

"We all need to come together and help our neighbors in this time of need. We are asking Americans to help spread the word to both neighbors and strangers about public health warnings or directives from emergency response officials so we can reach as many people as possible. Together, we will get through this and help the people of the Gulf region rebuild their lives and their communities," Secretary Leavitt added.

HHS has delivered to Louisiana 27 pallets of medical supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile. These pallets include basic first-aid material (such as bandages, pads, ice packs, etc.), blankets and patient clothing, suture kits, sterile gloves, stethoscopes, blood pressure measuring kits and portable oxygen tanks. These supplies are primarily being used to set up the medical shelter at LSU in Baton Rouge.

More medical supplies will be shipped into Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi as needed to meet any growing demands for health care equipment and supplies.

HHS has identified available hospital beds and provided health care professional

HHS is using the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) to identify available hospital beds. HHS is working with DOD, the Veterans Administration and others to move patients to these facilities. At last count, there were 2,600 beds available in a 12-state area around the affected area. Nationwide, the NDMS has identified 40,000 available beds in participating hospitals.

Right now, 38 US Public Health Service officers are in the region providing health care and assistance, particularly at the Baton Rouge facility. HHS has hundreds of additional public health and medical officers ready for deployment in a moment's notice to further meet any growing needs of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

The Department is reaching out to neighboring states, such as Texas, that are providing refuge for those evacuating the Gulf Region to make sure their needs are being met through any resources HHS can provide.

HHS has public health experts working with states in the Gulf Region to help assess threats to public health and develop pro-active responses to prevent the spread of disease and illness.

The full resources and expertise of CDC and FDA are available to augment state and local public health resources - including chemical and toxicology teams, sanitation and public health teams, epidemiology teams and food safety teams.

CDC experts are now working with Louisiana officials to implement a mosquito abatement program that will help prevent or mitigate an outbreak of West Nile Virus.

Department agencies are helping states evaluate their sanitation and water systems.

Epidemiology teams, known as disease detectives, are reaching out to state and local officials to augment efforts to monitor potential outbreaks of disease or illness.

Public health messages (PSAs) warning about the safe consumption of food and water are being disseminated. HHS is issuing strong warnings to the public to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning from the use of generators.

HHS is making mental health resources available to the region through its Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Blood supplies and inventory levels in the affected Gulf Coast states meeting current medical needs. The need for blood will be ongoing, especially over the next few weeks, as disaster victims require additional care, as deferred elective surgeries are rescheduled or if there should be any further emergencies. In order to maintain a healthy and adequate blood supply level, people who would like to help should call their blood banks to schedule an appointment.

Lolis Eric Elie

By Lolis Eric Elie
Columnist

JoNell Kennedy's grandmother is one of those old women who is still proudly and defiantly in command of her faculties. You aren't going to tell her what to do or what to think.

There's something endearing about seeing such a spirit in someone whose body nonetheless has lost much of its strength and whose gait has lost much of its pep.

Until Monday, I had hoped one day to be one of those people. I wanted to be like Clothilde Martha Crowley Nicholas. But so much has changed since then.

Nichols lives in the flood-prone area near Dillard University. She refused to evacuate for Katrina, even after hearing of all the devastation that the hurricane was expected to bring about.

I can hear her words in my imagination, though I wasn't there on the front porch to hear her actually say them.

"I have seen more hurricanes than you will ever see. I'm not leaving my house. That's that. If you want to go, go!"

“That is what I treasure about her and what angers me most," Kennedy wrote me in an e-mail. "By being the matriarch of our family, things have always gone her way, and this Sunday past it was no different. After being urged by my aunts, mother and neighbors, who were all packed and ready to move to higher ground, she refused."

"JoNell, I'm not running from God. I'm going to sit right here and let King Jesus ride on," Nichols told her granddaughter.

What do you do in a circumstance like that? Do you leave a person behind and save your own life? Do you walk to your car and drive off as much out of spite as out of an instinct for self-preservation?

Do you pray for forgiveness, club them over the head, knock them out cold and kidnap them to safety?

That was neither an issue nor an option for Kennedy. She lives in California and couldn't have interceded from such a distance.

"The last time I talked to her was Monday," Kennedy said. "I called early at around 8 a.m. and she hurriedly answered the phone, explaining that she could not talk long. Uncle George and she had tried to close a window that had blown open on the side of the house. One of the panes had broken and she was bandaging a cut that he received over his eye.
"Grandmother, would you consider going down the street to St. John, the old orphanage? I would feel a lot better knowing you were with more people and on higher ground," JoNell pleaded.

“She just snapped at me: 'I wish you people would just leave me alone! I am not going anywhere! Now I've got to go. I have things to do,’ " Kennedy recalls her saying.

"I told her I loved her, and that was the last we spoke," Kennedy said.

My cousin George Thompson, didn't want to leave either.

He helped me board up my house Sunday and, for the third time in as many days, told me that he wasn't going anywhere.

I had learned the hard way that arguing with him only frustrated me and agitated him. All of my newly acquired information about coastal erosion and the so-called "bowl effect," which can keep flood waters in the city for weeks or months, meant nothing to him. He would be safe uptown on Hillary Street. Or, if it got really bad, he would go to the Superdome.

Well, I told him, suppose you're right. Suppose you survive on Hillary Street. How are you going to survive with no electricity, no food, no water and no access to assistance?

Uptown, is not going to flood, he said.

The fallacies in his logic were too numerous to itemize. Recently I had spent a day with a coastal oceanographer learning about the potential devastation of hurricanes in this new era of coastal erosion and global warming. But who were my experts to do battle with my cousin’s experience? He knew he'd be OK.

Frustrated, I left him and his logic in place, waving goodbye on the corner as I drove off.

Neither my cousin, nor my friend's grandmother has been heard from in all of this devastation. So we have been condemned to imagine the worst.

We have been condemned to repeat those final conversations in our minds over and over again and pray that they were not, in fact, final.

(Lolis Eric Elie may be reached at elietp@gmail.com)

Post-hurricane health hazards

Wednesday, 6:05 p.m.

The biggest hurricane-related health problems so far have been stomach
ailments caused by eating spoiled food and drinking contaminated water, state
epidemiologist Raoult Ratard said Wednsday.

People should throw out food that they suspect of being spoiled, he
said, and they should disinfect water before drinking it.

Boiling it is the best way, Ratard said, but people who don't have
power for cooking should purify water by adding chlorine bleach -- one-eighth of a teaspoon per gallon if the water is clear, and twice that amount if it is cloudy.

The potential for much more serious hurricane-related health
complications such as a spurt in West Nile fever infections, exists, but it is too early after the storm to expect reports of such information, Department of Health and Hospitals spokesman Bob Johannessen said.

"We're still in the search-and-rescue mode," he said. "Hospital staffs
have a big workload treating people with injuries related to the
initial incident.''

Looting on Tchoupitoulas Street

By Michael Perlstein
Staff writer

Looting in New Orleans was so widespread Wednesday that police were forced to prioritize their overwhelmed enforcement effort.

Winn-Dixie's Riverside Market Place on Tchoupitoulas Street was breached in the morning by foragers who broke through a metal security door. Eight police officers in marked cruisers made it to the parking lot by noon, but they had a more pressing problem than people walking off with food and liquor.

The officers were rushing to a break-in next door at the Sports Authority, desperate to secure the store's stockpile of guns and ammunition.

"I think we ran them off before they got any of it," said the commanding officer at the scene. The cops secured the store with heavy plywood before moving on to other emergencies.

At about 2 p.m., the officers rushed back to disrupt a second break-in at the sporting goods store. An officer in a squad car tried to chase a Bell South utility truck that fled the scene, but he lost the truck amid fallen trees.

Upon surveying the thefts, the officer said the most conspicuous missing items were all the weapons from the store's knife case.

Before boarding up again, the officers took some essential supplies for themselves: socks, T-shirts and Power Bars. As officers were pounding the last nails the commander yelled: "Let's roll it, someone's driving around in a mail truck."


In St. Tammany: Shock and awe

Wednesday, 6:34 p.m.

By Meghan Gordon
and Richard Boyd
St. Tammany bureau

With major roadways in St. Tammany Parish dramatically clearer Wednesday, returning evacuees got their first awful look at the devastation caused by Katrinia’s high winds and flooding.

As homeowners walked and biked into their lakefront neighborhoods from the cleared roads, they saw much of the same wreckage whether they were in Lacombe, Mandeville or Madisonville. Enormous trees rested on crushed roofs and cars, and putrid sludge covered the once-flooded ground.

And except for those people with generators, no one had power.

Central Louisiana Electric Co. officials said they had no firm estimate of when they would restore electricity to parts of St. Tammany and Washington parishes. They said they found serious damage to the equipment that connects power plants with distribution lines.

“Every circuit that we have has damage,” said spokeswoman Robbyn Cooper. “It’s going to take us weeks, an extended period of time. We would like to have a better assessment before we give a more specific time.”

In Lacombe, most streets off Lake Road showed the remains of Katrina’s flooding. Evacuees trudged through inches of muck or rode four-wheelers through standing water to confirm what they expected: flooded homes and
wind-damaged roofs.

“It’s a mess, but thank God we still have our life,” said Wilhelmina Batiste, 70, who lives in Napoleon Avenue. “Katrina was a terrible girl.”

“Lord, I know,” said neighborhood Dianne Ducre, 68, as the reality set in that she had nothing left but a mildewing house with its soaked and toppled contents.

Lacombe’s most vulnerable houses on Elenore Drive weathered the storm fairly well, because most are raised on piers. But Jimmy Impastato learned different news when he drove through the neighborhood and found his wooden A-frame house relocated to the middle of the road.

Although Jeffrey Fontenette’s Elenore Drive house fared well, the storm left him with bad memories of the screaming winds and rising waters. But he said the toughest part of the storm’s aftermath has been the virtual absence of communication between those who stayed and their families across the country.

“It’s nauseating,” Fontenette said. “I’ve got a mama. My son’s got a mama. That’s all we want to do: Call our mommies and tell them we’re living.”

Though Madisonville’s flood damage was more limited than Lacombe’s, the signs of Katrina’s high winds were just as apparent in the riverfront town. The tin roofs of Salty’s Marina were peeled back like soup cans. The banks of Bayou DeZare were a mess of sludge.

Perhaps most dramatically, enormous trees, which just days ago added to the town’s charm, now lay across houses, beside roads and at odd angles. A 5-foot-wide tree on Main Street was tilted to a 45-degree angle.

“Just about every old tree in town is down,” Madisonville police spokesman Dave Smith said. “The town just will never look the same in our lifetime. It breaks my heart. I’m so disgusted. Just about every ancient pecan and a lot of the oaks are gone.”

Some residents labored through the day clearing their yards, while others found shade and tried to push aside the countless questions they had about the coming days.

Susie Derks, 40, tapped into the little remaining food at Badeaux’s Drive In near the Tchefuncte River. Spreading warm mayonnaise on a bun, she recounted the terror she and six relatives and friends experienced as the storm passed her house at 804 Main St.

Winds blew off large sections of her tin roof off, leaving them exposed for hours in the rain. Then water from the lake a few blocks away rose high enough to soak all of her belongings.

“It was coming up from the floor. It was coming down from the ceiling,” Derks said. “We didn’t know what to do.”

The group was pulled out after a sheriff’s deputy alerted fire department officials, who sent a 5-ton truck to the house.

Police cruising through Madisonville could help clear trees and patch up homes, but they didn’t have many answers for those left homeless by the storm. Plans for distributing food, water and building supplies had yet to circulate across the parish.

“There’s no ice, no food, no fuel,” Smith said. “People are asking everywhere, ‘Where can I find it?’”

Smith said at least one person was apparently desperate enough for fresh meat that he shot a deer.

The damage to historic buildings along Mandeville’s lakefront became clearer Wednesday, a day after police cleared one route to Lakeshore Drive.

Mayor Eddie Price raised his estimate of seriously damaged homes to more than 100 in Mandeville. On the lakefront, six homes were leveled and most of the others had serious structural damage. Mandeville building inspector Bill Wohler said every home not raised in Old Mandeville was seriously damaged.

Many landmark buildings were all but shells, including the Pontchartrain Yacht Club, Rips on the Lake, Java Grotto, Juniper Restaurant, Rest-A-While church summer camp and the Down on the Lake bar. Le Petit Fluer, one of the city’s most historic homes, was gutted but still stood.

In Abita Springs, some water remained on the ground in low areas. Large pine and oak trees spliced roofs and made driving through most streets impossible. Winds ripped the face off a yellow house on Level Street, and fallen trees left a white house nearby demolished. The Tammany Trace was covered with debris, and the Abita Springs Cafe's roof was torn off.

CLECO’s Cooper said the company’s power transmission system sustained severe damage. Thus the effort to restore power is larger than just righting electricity poles and re-stringing lines.

“They’re the backbone of our system,” Cooper said of the transmission equipment. “They actually carry the electricity from the power plant to us.”

She said crews were working simultaneously on the transmission system and the distribution lines that power 78,940 homes in St. Tammany and 709 in Washington Parish. The distribution system has about 65 percent overhead lines, with the rest buried underground. In every corner of the parish, the lines and poles hang precariously over roads and tangled with fallen trees.

Like parish officials, CLECO officials are urging residents not to return to St. Tammany. Cooper said darkened street lamps and traffic lights make driving incredibly dangerous, especially as more evacuees return.

Displaced students

Texas Southern University will open its doors to any student currently enrolled at colleges affected by hurricane Katrina.

Application fees for the fall 2005 semester will be waived and a meeting for interested students will be help Sept. 1 at the Houston university.

Students and faculty at the university have also undertaken several fund-raising activities and has offered free tickets to the Labor Day Classic football game between TSU and Prairie View to college students and their families housed in area shelters.

St. Joseph's Abbey survives the storm

St. Joseph’s Abbey near Covington survived the storm just fine, but
after two days without power, some of those who rode out the storm headed
out to Jeanerette.

Health aide Nancy Robinson, who was ferrying an elderly former co-worker in her pick-up truck, carried a wheelchair in the back for one of two elderly priests elsewhere in her caravan.

It wasn’t like she had a home to go to.

Robinson, who lives in Slidell off Thompson Road, said “all the reports we can get say everything is under
water.” Same for her son, who lives in Eden Isles.

Steve Stevens of Picayune, Miss., waited in a gas station line that
snaked out onto Airline Highway in Baton Rouge Wednesday.

Like many
others, he had made the long trek to stock up on supplies, in his case, a
generator purchased at a nearby Pep Boys. The chemical engineer reported
“lots and lots of trees in houses, lots of roofs down, and several
businesses totally decimated.”

Stevens’ work place, Wink Inc. in badly flooded eastern New Orleans, probably fared far worse, but he doesn’t know for sure.”I haven’t been able to reach anyone,” he said.

Making contact with the outside world

Scott Andrews, a newscast director at WGNO Channel 26 in New Orleans, traveled to Baton Rouge Tuesday afternoon to make contact with those outside the storm area.

He sat at a table in a chain restaurant near Interstate 10 making telephone calls on his cell phone as he ate a hot meal in air-conditioned comfort.

Another purpose of his drive from the Covington area was to pick up ice for family ice chests as homes in the New Orleans area moved into a second day without power and food in refrigerators and freezers began to thaw and spoil.

Ice was in short supply in Baton Rouge, because the state capital on the fringe of the storm was just beginning to see power restored.

Banks attempt a comeback

Wednesday, 5:55 p.m.

By Mary Judice
Business writer

BATON ROUGE -- New Orleans area banks worked Wednesday to bring branches outside New Orleans back into operation and announced financial packages to help customers in the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Chase Bank reopened branches in Baton Rouge and Houma as power was restored and rerouted to other centers its auto financing transactions that had been processed in the New Orleans area.

“We stopped collection efforts in the zip codes affected and set up financial relief packages,’’ said Chris Spencer, Chase spokesperson in Baton Rouge.

The bank will waive automated teller machine fees and offer free check processing as part of the package, he said. Also, Chase will work with customers to post transactions that were made in the days immediately before the storm.

On Wednesday, Chase had 28 of its 34 branches in Baton Rouge open for business, as well as its main branch in Houma, Spencer said

He said the bank's safe deposit banks in the New Orleans area are located on the first floor of branches, and the bank does not know the extent of damages of contents.

“The safe deposit boxes are water-resistant, not waterproof,’’ he said.

Hibernia National Bank said Tuesday that its operations centers in Houston and Shreveport were being used as data back-up sites and for contingency planning for the New Orleans center.

Regions Bank had 25 of its 29 branches in Baton Rouge in operation Wednesday but not all of the branches had functioning ATMs.

Michael Bannister, Regions spokesperson in Baton Rouge, said the branches, which had been operated by Union Planters before Regions acquired it, were connected to a communication line that runs through New Orleans and processes transactions in Jackson, Miss. He said ATMs at 14 branches were not in operation but that the bank is rerouting the affected network lines.

Regions will waive its ATM fees for customers who use machines outside the bank’s network, will defer some loan and credit card payments and increase credit limits. He said special rates will be offered on home equity loans and lines of credit.

Peeling open a store

4:50 p.m.

Looters went to extraordinary means to get into the Rite Aid drug store on Carrollton Avenue and Oak Street in Uptown New Orleans, where metal storm doors were rolled shut on the doors and windows.

Looters commandered a fork lift, which they used to ram into the metal and peel open the protective covering to get inside the store. That allowed a steady stream of looters, many wheeling shopping carts, to stock up, primarily with food, candy, any soft drink or water or alcohol, and cigarettes.

After much of the store had been emptied, a pair of looters carrying handfuls of candy and chips stopped briefly to talk to a newspaper reporter.

"They still have come canned foods in there if you want some."


Wharves damaged

Harbor Police Chief Robert Hecker said Wednesday afternoon that there was "a lot of damage" on port property around the wharves, but life-saving and security duties are taking precedence over a close assessment of how serious the damage might be.

“There is obviously a lot of damage -- light poles and trees down -- but
hopefully none that can’t be repaired,” Hecker said.

He said two ships were in port when the storm hit and neither reported damage.

Some of his officers have been operating the department’s two boats
the past two days, helping New Orleans police in life-saving efforts,
particularly in the 9th Ward, Hecker said.

Others are guarding the port against looting, none of which has been reported so far, Hecker said. Some administrative personnel have been allowed to go check on their own homes, he said.

As far as damage to the port, he said, The port of New Orleans is closed for at least the rest of this week. “I don’t know how far into next week” it will be closed, he said. “It depends on the flood-waters.”

Floating body Uptown

5 p.m.

Neighbors in the area near Hickory and Short streets Uptown said a body has been floating nearby in five feet of water since the unidentified man was shot five times on Monday.

Neighbors said the shooting was reported, but police and other officials apparently have been unable to respond.

Michoud facility damaged, but space equipment unscathed

The 36 workers and 28 firefighters who rode out Hurricane Katrina in NASA's massive Michoud Assembly Facility in eastern New Orleans made it through the hurricane without any injuries, the space agency's national headquarters said Wednesday.

But the condition of the 58-acre plant, which makes external fuel tanks for the space shuttles, was uncertain.

Some windows and roofs at the Michoud complex of buildings were damaged and debris is blocking some of the plant's roads, but no space vehicle hardware inside the buildings appeared damaged, according to a statement from NASA headquarters.

The agency's Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Miss., just across Louisiana's state line, sustained similar window and roof damage, NASA said. However, the center's space shuttle rocket engine test structure's didn't appear damaged.

Baton Rouge airport ramping up to fill void in New Orleans

Airlines are adding flights to Baton Rouge and bringing larger planes to the city, which will become the state's primary aviation hub for the foreseeable future.

"We're told that some of the airlines that serve New Orleans are trying to come here," said Bill Profita, spokesman for the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport. "We've got enough concrete and ramp spaces to do it. Our airfield is undamaged and everything is operating."

Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport in Kenner closed late Sunday in advance of Hurricane Katrina.

American Airlines began adding additional flights over the weekend before the storm hit, Profita said. Delta Air Lines, the second largest carrier at the New Orleans airport, has begun to put larger planes on its Baton Rrouge routes. And JetBlue Airways, which operates two daily flights between New Orleans and New York's JFK International, is considering moving its route to Baton Rouge, Profita said.

No Children's Hospital Looting

4:35 p.m.

Doug Mittelstaedt, vice-president of Human Resources for Children's Hospital in New Orleans, said one of the biggest issues at the hospital on Wednesday was debunking the prevalent rumor that looters had stormed the hospital.

Mittelstaedt said things actually were operating smoothly at the hospital - the generator was running efficiently and efforts to relocate patients were going well - but fighting the rumor was a major issue.

Officials had to lock the doors of the hospital because people had arrived, apparently thinking there was a mob scene and they could get in on looting.

He said the hospital has been flooded with calls offering assistance from other Children's Hospitals in Louisiana and Texas. "The amount of calls we have gotten for support have been overwhelming," Mittelstaedt said. "The phones literally have been ringing off the hook."

With so many calls, Mittelstaedt said officials have been able to match up the 100 patients with hospitals that specialize in the particular treatments for each.

Fuel shortages, security worry hospitals

Wednesday, 4:38 p.m.

By Jan Moller
Capital bureau

BATON ROUGE - Some 1,600 patients at nine New Orleans-area hospitals hit hard by Hurricane Katrina are awaiting evacuation, health care officials said Wednesday.

Another 8,600 hospital staffers and their families, along with healthy people who sought refuge in the hospitals during Katrina, also are awaiting help, said spokeswoman Coletta Barrett of the Louisiana Hospital Association.

Barrett said authorities are in the process of evacuating patients by helicopter from Tulane University Medical Center near the New Orleans Central Business District, but that evacuations have yet to begin for other hospitals, such as Charity and University hospitals, both nearby.

Donald Smithburg, head of Louisiana State University's Health Care Services Division, said generator fuel is the biggest problem at the New Orleans area hospitals but that other necessities such as food and medicine are also in short supply. Normal electrical service is out and might remain so for weeks.

"We are desperately short of raw materials," he said. "Of course, we have no power, no water, no toilets. We don't have fuel to operate our generators. The generators are our lifeline for patients who are on ventilators."

The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry has bought and delivered 110,000 gallons of fuel to power generators at hospitals and shelters in southeast Louisiana and is expecting delivery of another 70,000 gallons from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a top assistant to Agriculture Secretary Bob Odom said Wednesday.

With at least nine hospitals listed as "priority 1" for evacuation because of a shortage of fuel and other supplies, the agriculture department has been commandeering civilian and military four-wheel-drive vehicles in order to transport gasoline from tankers to hospitals in flooded areas.

Randall Johnson, a top aide to Odom, said hospitals need about 200 gallons of fuel per hour to keep their emergency generators running.

"We're bringing whatever they need," he said, adding that several oil companies have contacted the department to donate fuel.

Security, too, has become an issue at some hospitals as looting continues in New Orleans. But guards are tough to come by as the Louisiana National Guard, New Orleans police and other authorities are busy with search operations.

"We've requested security for all of our facilities, but unfortunately we've almost tapped out our National Guard resources," Smithburg said.

The LSU hospitals chief called on other states and the federal government to help get patients to safety.

"We've almost exhausted local resources," Smithburg said. "We are looking to interstate cooperation on into the next few days to handle this tremendous surge that is exhausting the health care resources and ultimately compromising many hundreds of sick people who are in our hospitals."

Barrett said the hospital association has been unable to make contact with Chalmette Medical Center in hard-hit St. Bernard Parish, which is surrounded by water. But she said the association has received accounts from citizens that emergency workers have been depositing people on the roof of the hospital who have been rescued from their homes.

Most evacuated patients have been taken to facilities in Baton Rouge or Lafayette. But some patients might get transferred to other states under the National Disaster Management System. That's so that Louisiana hospitals may take care of the new patients who are expected to flood local facilities as search and rescue teams find more sick and injured people, Barrett said.

"Our hospitals need to be able to take care of the incoming sick," Barrett said. "With the NDMS system you can take care of what you currently have outside of the state."

Smithburg said the health-care system expects injuries and infection control to become an increasingly serious problem in the days ahead.

The nine hospitals designated as "priority 1," because they either have no regular electricity or are rapidly running out of fuel to power emergency generators, are: Lindy Boggs Medical Center, University Hospital, Charity Hospital, Memorial Medical Center, Tulane University Medical Center, Veterans Administration Medical Center, Chalmette Medical Center and Touro Infirmary.

Barrett said she could not give an estimate of how many people have died as a result of conditions created by the storm.

"It's a very very difficult question," she said. "Patients are in hospitals because they're extremely ill. That's why our priority was to get the critical care patients out."

The college coaches' view

Wednesday, 4:34 p.m.

By Ted Lewis
Staff writer

Tommy Tuberville's last memories of the Superdome are happy ones. His Auburn Tigers capped a 13-0 season in January with a 16-13 victory against Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.

That, he said, is what has made it so difficult in the past few days to watch the developments in and around the stadium in the post-Katrina landscape of the New Orleans area.

"You never forget playing a game in the Superdome," Tuberville said Wednesday during the Southeastern Conference's weekly coaches conference call. "It is one of the icons of our sport.

"To me there is no better venue for a football game. And then to see and hear what is happening to it is just sad, sad, sad."

Tuberville also has to handle the effects of Katrina on a more personal level. One of his players, freshman defensive end Alonzo Horton from Abramson, lost an aunt during the hurricane's passage through New Orleans on Monday. Several other of his players from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama were fearful over missing relatives.

Besides Horton, Patrick Trahan from St. Augustine, Patrick Martyn from Jesuit and Rudy Odom from Fontainebleau are on the Auburn roster. All had relatives unaccounted for.

"It's very tough to deal with," said Tuberville, whose team opens Saturday against Georgia Tech. "We're trying to go about our business, but we start practice each day praying for all of those involved.

"It's horrifying to have to watch what's going on. Those people are going to be hurting for a long, long time."

First-year Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron, a native of LaRose, has many players from Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast on his roster. Addressing their concerns about relatives and the conditions of their homes has been difficult, he said, while he prepares his team for its opener Monday at Memphis.

"We've got so many families involved," Orgeron said. "And with our program family comes first."

"We're going to take care of these young men the best way we can because some of them have not been able to reach their families. One way to help them is to keep them focused on getting ready for the game."

Even the approach of the remnants of Katrina on Tuesday did not cause the Rebels to miss any practice time.

"That's the amazing thing," Orgeron said. "We've had some of our best practices this week.

"We are hoping that some of the families who have evacuated to our area will be at the game Monday. So it may turn out to be a positive for us."

Others were not so upbeat.

Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom said he had several players from both Louisiana and from the Mississippi Coast awaiting word from loved ones.

"Most of them have learned their families are safe, but we are doing counseling services for them," he said. "But we know we've got kids who may have lost everything."

Croom also said he did not know the status of the Bulldogs' scheduled Sept. 17 game at Tulane.

"We haven't heard anything from Tulane yet," he said. "I'm sure we will have something decided very soon."

Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer said Volunteers sophomore tight end Chris Brown, who prepped at Jesuit, had heard only Wednesday from his father, a U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration who had stayed behind. Brown's mother and siblings, who live in Destrehan, had evacuated safely.

"Chris is doing much better now," Fulmer said. "Everybody was obviously very concerned."

Brown will be starting Saturday when Tennessee opens against UAB.

Fulmer said another Louisiana player, freshman tailback Ja' Kouri Williams of Plaquemine, had not been able to get word about his daughter.

Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said his two players from New Orleans, Jason Burns from St. Augustine and Ron Bullock from Brother Martin, knew only that their families had evacuated, but had not heard from them since.

"We're trying to give them all of the moral support we can," Johnson said. "We're trying to give them as much moral support as we can, but we're all on pins and needles.

"It's hard to imagine what's going on in their minds. It's very, very tough."

Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said two of his players, Dickie Lyons from Holy Cross and Lamar Mills from Rummel, had heard from their families but that it appeared that Mills had lost his home in Slidell.

Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said the parents of junior guard Stephen Parker from St. Paul, had evacuated all the way from Mandeville to Fayetteville in northwest Arkansas.

Others were reminded of better times in the Superdome.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier won his only national championship at Florida when the Gators defeated Florida State in the 1997 Sugar Bowl. Danny Wuerrfel, who won the Heisman Trophy that season, operates the Desire Street Academy in the Ninth Ward.

"We've been talking about the fact that the biggest victory in the history of the University of Florida happened right there in the Superdome," he said. ""Hopefully it will be repaired and rebuilt."

Spurrier also appealed to football fans to support the recovery effort.

"As soon as we find out where to send our money, we all need to do that from all over the country," he said. "Certainly I know I will be one of them."

Georgia coach Mark Richt recalled the Bulldogs defeating Florida State in the 2003 Sugar Bowl to cap the school's first SEC championship season in 20 years. He also remembered being offensive coordinator at Florida State when the Seminoles defeated Virginia Tech in the 2000 game to claim the national championship.

"That night we played Virginia Tech with Michael Vick is a great memory for me," he said. "But that night we beat Florida State tops it because I was the head coach in that game and it had been such a long time for Georgia fans, and they had a super time in New Orleans.

"It's hard to even comprehend that the Superdome will not be rebuilt and ready to go again. But there's a lot more important things going on than football."

Tuberville talked about the hospitality his team enjoyed during its week in New Orleans.

"I know you hear a lot of negative things about New Orleans, but it couldn't have been a more positive experience for our players and fans," he said. "Everyone treated us with first-class hospitality.

"We're looking forward to playing there again soon."

Forget about flying

Wednesday, 3:35 p.m.

Louis Armstrong International Airport remains closed due to power outages throughout the New Orleans region. There is no timeline for the resumption of air service, which ended Sunday, the day before Katrina struck.

Some local residents parked their cars on elevated floors of the airport parking garage before evacuating. The airport said these people are not being allowed to retrieve cars until further notice, because Jefferson Parish remains under a curfew with many streets closed.

Tammany residents searching for fuel talk about conditions there..

3:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 31

From staff reports
Ivey Coleman III, owner of Coleman's Pest Control and a volunteer with the Red Cross, left New Orleans Sunday morning. Wednesday, he was at the B-Quik on Airline Highway in Baton Rouge.

The majority of his family evacuated, but, he said, "We're concerned
about a niece and nephew who didn't leave. They were in Mid New Orleans, and we haven't heard from them."

Coleman lives in Gentilly in the 8th Ward. He hasn't heard from any
neighbors, but "As far as I’m concerned, we've lost everything…I've never heard of anything like this in true reality. I've seen stuff like this on TV, in other parts of the world, but never anything of this magnitude in the city I live in."

Mark Hosch and Richard Groce, from Abita Springs, drove to Baton Rouge
to buy 100 gallons of gas for the generators powering their homes.
Hosch said his neighborhood in Oak Knoll had little water, but a lot of
downed trees. "The tree damage is so bad we haven't been able to drive
into other neighborhoods," he said.

Robert Thurmond from Buras and his son Harry Cormany of Covington were
both at the B-Quik getting gas. Cormany, 37, said the service station
on Airline Highway was the first place he saw that had gas for sale.

Cormandy said he had been part of a group of people using their
chainsaws to cut through fallen trees on Million Road and Lee Road. That group had also used large wire cutters to snap through power lines.

When asked if he had the experience for electrical work, Cormany, who
works at Universal Compression, said he does a little bit of everything.

One of his friends said, "I hope the parish doesn't get mad we're
cutting power lines," Cormany said. But he and his father said if they hadn't done that, they'd still be stuck back in St. Tammany Parish.

Folks trying to cut through limbs in Covington were running out of gas
for their chainsaws, which necessitated the trips to Baton Rouge
necessary.

Jim Kubik, 46, was filling his tank in Baton Rouge, too. There were
downed trees on his property on Highway 437 (north of Folsom) He had a little roof damage, but no flooding.

Kubik was part of team that took chainsaws to the trees blocking the
road, he said. He was in Baton Rouge not only for gas for his truck;
he was also looking for propane. And fuel for his generator.

Thousands dead

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said Wednesday there are likely thousands dead in the city from Hurricane Katrina and the resulting flood.

If accurate, the estimate would make Katrina the deadliest hurricane in more than a century.

"We know there is a significant number of dead bodies in the water," and other people dead in attics, Nagin said. Asked how many, he said: "Minimum, hundreds. Most likely, thousands."

City officials have not issued a casualty county, saying resources are being concentrated on rescuing those still stranded by the storm, repairing broken levees and moving the 15,000 to 20,000 people shelted in the Superdome to better facilities outside the city.

Nagin estimated 50,000 to 100,000 people remained in New Orleans, a city of nearly half a million people. He said 14,000 to 15,000 a day could be evacuated.

The death toll from Hurricane Katrina has reached at least 110 in Mississippi alone.

If the mayor's estimate holds true, it would make Katrina the nation's deadliest hurricane since 1900, when a storm in Galveston, Texas, killed between 6,000 and 12,000 people.

Nagin said dead bodies in the floodwaters, at some point in time, are going to start to create a serious disease issue."

You can help....

3 p.m.
August 31

Medical personnel and volunteers working at the Hurricane Katrina medical triage headquarters at LSU’s Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge are expecting to handle about 30,000 people each day. To help, drop off the following items: liquid canned baby formula, Pedialyte, infant diapers, feminine products, toothpaste, toothbrushes and other toiletries.

Do not bring clothes, shoes and toys to the Assembly Center. Drop off those items at one of the hurricane shelters. Some of the things that are especially needed are clothes, especially underwear and infant wear; children’s shoes, toys in good condition, bed linens, pillows, blankets, said Tommy Moffitt, 42, a Baton Rouge volunteer. Members of Moffitt’s family were left homeless by Hurricane Katrina and he has been volunteering at the Assembly Center.

Also, medical personnel are needed at the Chateau Living Center in Kenner, 716 Village Road. Call 464-0604.

Volunteers, relatives flock to Maravich Center at LSU

By Johanna Schindler
Staff writer

BATON ROUGE --Calli Dennis, 9, of Kenner, is among the youngest volunteers at Maravich Assembly Center, headquarters for medical triage, and she’s fighting back tears.

“I lost everything,” she said.

Calli, accompanied by volunteer Melinda Riso, 43, of Baton Rouge is there to do what she can to help. That is what her family does. Calli’s father, Jimmy Denis, a Kenner firefighter, is still at work. “He’s helping to feed people,” Calli said.

Da’Anne Lipscomb, Ginger Kent, Darlene Hunt, sisters and sisters-in-law from Zachary, are there to help. “Our sister and brother-in-law are EMS paramedics. They said we needed to be here to help, so we came. We’re going to do whatever we can.”

People are showing up in hopes of learning the fate of their loved ones. Jurann Singleton is looking for her sister, Shelita Newman, who planned to meet with up her in Baton Rouge. Singleton is at the skilled nursing facility at LSU’s Carl Maddox Fieldhouse with a relative, Michael Singleton, 15, who has special needs.

Frances Alexander and Nina Hicks of Baton Rouge, are there, accompanied by Hicks’ grandson, Shamar Hicks, 6. They hope to learn the fate of a family member, Morris Jarvers, in his ‘50s, a resident of Central City near the Superdome. People have told Alexander and Hicks that they saw Jarvers on television atop a roof talking with a paramedic.

Lawrence R. Gabriel, 55, of Gentilly, a refrigerator technician at Tulane University and a member of Tulane’s hurricane crew, is among the more fortunate. His family is safe and accounted for. He rode out the storm at the Superdome with his father, Lawrence H. Gabriel, 81, a recovering lung cancer patient who was not up to making the trip west to Houston with the rest of the family.

The elder Gabriel requires oxygen, and after Katrina went through New Orleans, the father and son were transported to Metairie, where Acadian Ambulance brought them to the Assembly Center for medical triage. Soon, the two were inside the fieldhouse where the elder Gabriel is receiving excellent care, his son said.

“The doctors and nurses are great. As a matter of fact, they’re some coming in from Tulane to help.”

The patient’s oxygen had been supplied by a Gulfport firm, and Gulfport was also devastated by Katrina. Alternate arrangements have been made, and the elder Gabriel was expected to be transferred to another skilled nursing facility today. Another relative is on his way to pick up Gabriel and they will join the rest of family. This is until Gabriel is sent back to Tulane to help rebuild the city. “They’re going to need refrigeration,” he said.

Erin Berryhill, 19, of Baton Rouge, is among the many student volunteers. “I’m just talking to people. They seem to just want to talk. I can’t say ‘I know how you feel’ because I don’t.”

This morning, Berryhill was taking her turn caring for Spirit, a black Labrador mix who belongs to someone inside the Carl Maddox Fieldhouse “I don’t think she’s doing very well,” Berryhill said of Spirit’s owner.

Animals that were evacuated have places of there own to go. Berryhill’s father is a local veterinarian and Erin and her three siblings have been helping to care for the animals that were moved to his clinic from Slidell. About 19 animals from Military Road Veterinary Hospital were evacuated to Brett Berryhill’s Staring Plaza Veterinary Center. Brett Berryhill and Military Road owner Terry Ettinger were classmates at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine.

Bush views devastation

Washington bureau

WASHINGTON — President Bush got a close-up look Wednesday at Hurricane Katrina's path of devastation, as Air Force One dipped below the clouds down to 2,500 feet over New Orleans with a view of the Superdome and other flooded neighborhoods.

The president looked grim and his fists were clenched as he surveyed the damage along with top aides, according to a pool report.

"It's devastating; it's got to be doubly devastating on the ground," Bush said, according to White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

Air Force Col. Mark Tillman, the chief pilot for Air Force One, routed the giant plane from its Waco, Texas, to Andrews Air Force Base trip so that the Bush could see the destruction firsthand.

"There wasn't a lot of conversation going on," McClellan said. "I think it's very sobering to see from the air. And I think at some points, you're just kind of shaking your head in disbelief to see the destruction that has been done by the hurricane."

The trip took Bush and Air Force One over New Orleans, Slidell, Waveland, Pass Christian, Gulfport, Biloxi and Pascagoula before the plane returned to normal flying attitude to complete the trip to the White House. Bush cut short his Texas vacation so he could personally direct the federal rescue effort, McClellan said.

According to the pool report, reporters and staff on Air Force One could see whole sections of New Orleans under water, few cars on the road and apparent roof damage, not only on the Superdome, but many high-rise office buildings.

"Oh man, that's the whole city," one Air Force officer said as the plane passed above New Orleans around 11:30 a.m. central time.

In Mississippi, Bush saw miles of towns around Waveland and Pass Christian with wooden houses destroyed, with debris the only sign that people once lived there.

"I think it's becoming clear to everyone that this could well be the worst natural disaster in our nation's history," McClellan said.

Tidal shift

Maj. Gen. Don Reily, head of the U.S. Corps of Engineers' storm recovery operation, said at midday Wednesday that Lake Pontchartrain water level has dropped and has “equalized” with flood-waters in the city. That means water has begun to recede, flowing back into the lake, at a rate of approximately a half-inch an hour.

The general said this should continue, except during a high tide “later in the evening.”

“As it (the water) recedes this will help” the attempt by the Corps and the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board to temporarily plug the breach in the 17th Street Canal and drive sheet-pilings and also possibly rock into the junction of the canal at Lake Pontchartain,” the general said.

In the two-pronged operation, the huge sandbags and “concrete jersey-barriers are being dumped into the flood-wall breach,” by the Corps, the general said at a press conference in Baton Rouge early Wednesday afternoon where a New Orleans Sewer and Water official and U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu and David Vitter also spoke.

“We’ll certainly have to build it up quite a bit just to restore temporary integrity,” the general said.

If these two attempts are successful, and the lake recedes more, the next step will start as soon as the city gets power to their pumps, he said. The temporary plug at the lakeshore will then be removed so that pumping station Number 6, which he said handles about 10,000 cubic feet of water per second, can began pushing water out of that canal into the lake, he said.

“It should take a minimum of 30 days to get the water out of the system,” he said. “Then of course after that there’s quite a lot of sediment and debris and a lot of material to be removed, and it will take much longer to get that,” he said.

“We have a contractor with three barges of rock that’s out on the lake now,” he said. “The challenge is getting access to the site –- inside the canal to the flood-wall, but it possibly can be used at the entrance to the lake although we prefer to use something more temporary that we can remove quickly.”

Looters update

Wednesday, 2:20 p.m.

By James Varney
Staff writer

Reports from throughout New Orleans indicate that widespread looting is
continuing.

At an empty lot on Elysian Fields, people are driving in used cars,
removing the stickers and selling them themselves.

At a Winn Dixie grocery store on St. Louis Street near the Municipal
Auditorium, looters have stripped the shelves bare.

“I had to get some food and it was pretty wild in there,” said Ross
Troggio, 25, a Jackson Squre artist who lives in the French Quarter. I
was scared, but I had to get some food.

“The floor was real slippery and slushy and they were running around
screaming and really trashing the place,” he said.

Police are trying to set up command posts at several locations in the
city.

At one set up at the limousine entrance to the Harrah’s Casino,
officers said they fed more than 400 police on Tuesday, and they have enough
supplies to keep police fed for only another four or five days.

Johnny White’s Sport Bar on Bourbon Street at Orleans Avenue didn’t
close Tuesday night, and had six patrons at 8 a.m. drinking at the bar.

“Monday night, they came by after curfew and wanted us to close,”
bartender Perry Bailey, 60, said of officers then patrolling the French
Quarter. But all we did was shut the doors and stayed open.”

Access to the edge of the lower 9th Ward from the French Quarter is
still possible along Royal and Chartres streets.

At one of the rare high spots in the lower 9th Ward-Bywater area, the
approach to the St. Claude Bridge over the Industrial Canal at Poland
Avenue, several hundred residents stood in the street amidst shattered
glass and plastic bags containing their belongings Wednesday morning,
waiting for transportation to the Superdome or elsewhere.

All had been plucked from rooftops and balconies the night before after
water had risen to the eaves of their roofs.

For the past two days, a flotilla of small boats commanded by officers
with the New Orleans Police Department, Coast Guard, Department of
Wildlife and Fisheries, and a smattering of private boats, had been
plucking people from oases of safety in what looks like an ocean of
water-surrounded rooftops, and brought them to the bridge.

The last of the group arrived around dusk on Tuesday, when the
flotilla ceased operations for safety reasons, but the last National Guard
truck left at about that same time, and as of 10:30 a.m., no more had
arrived.

And that’s got people concerned. When someone drove through the area
in a truck towing a boat, a group of people surged around it, screaming
at the driver.

At 11 a.m., handfuls of stragglers started walking towards the French Quarter, prompted by reports that the water was continuing to rise. Dan Halley, 53, lived in the 1400 block of France Street.

“We done lost everfything and I’m headed for a shelter,” Halley said. “I’ve got to move, keep going. I don’t think anyone else is going to come here for
people.”

He and other residents said they heard sporadic gunfire throughout the
night.

Along the streets on the way to the Quarter, many storefronts are smashed in, interior shelves empty.

On the walls of some Faubourg-Marigny warehouses, someone has spray-painted on the walls, “Looters will be shot on sight.”

Fearing they would lose everything to looters, several store and bar owners made their way to their French Quarter businesses just as Katrina’s winds were picking up.

At the Royal Street Grocery, a customer asked the owner, “Robert, do you have any cigs?”

Robert Buras, whose family has owned the business at Royal and St. Anne
for 41 years, smiled.

“I put the smokes up high, so let the water recede and then come by and yell up to that top window,” he said, pointing up to an apartment above and behind the store. “ And I’ll throw you down some smokes. But if they’re talking a month before people can come back, it might only be four.”

He then turned to another person and said, “I’ve got to ration stuff, you know. All the National Guard that knows how to fight hurricanes is over in Iraq. They took my cavalry, man.”

Meanwhile, water was still spreading through Uptown Wednesday morning,
and was making its way over St. Charles Avenue towards the river.

On Marengo Street, water was 3 to 10 feet high in stretches between Claiborne and St. Charles avenues and between Napoleon Avenue and Louisiana.

Water lapped into the bottom floors of houses, and residents were being evacuated by boat on Marengo and surrounding streets.

Along Prytania Street, the water was a foot high and still rising at 10:30 a.m.

And while water was still running in Uptown faucets Tuesday night, the flow stopped Wednesday.

- Staff writer Terri Troncale contributed to this report

Searching for Jesus' finger

Wednesday, 2:10 p.m.

By James Varney
Staff Writer

In the garden behind St. Louis Cathedral on Royal Street lies an
incredible tangle of zig-zagging broken tree trunks and branches, mixed with
smashed wrought iron fences.

But right in the middle, a statue of Jesus is still standing, unscathed by the storm, save for the left thumb and index finger, which are missing.

The missing digits immediately set off speculation of divine intervention.

New Orleans has a long history praying to saints for guidance and protection in times of great peril. In fact it was Our Lady of Prompt Succor who was said to be responsible for saving the Ursulines Convent in the French Quarter from a raging fire that consumed the rest of the city centuries ago.

Since then, New Orlenians have prayed to the saint for protection from natural disasters. On Saturday, Archbishop Alfred Hughes read a prayer over the radio asking for Our Lady's intervention to spare the city a direct hit by Hurricane Katrina.

Many in the Quarter are now saying it was the hand of Jesus, the missing digits to be precise, that flicked the hurricane east just a little to keep the city from suffering a direct blow.

And the search is one for those missing fingers.

Shortly after Katrina passed, several men went to Robert Buras, who owns the Royal Street Grocery and told him they know who has the finger. Buras said he'd give them all the water and beer they need if they bring him the finger.

They told him they'd find it and asked to be paid upfront. But Buras told them he wouldn't take it on credit

"I'm going to find Jesus' finger,'' Buras said. ''I've got a lead on it.''


Homeowners using generators urged to use caution


People in metropolitan New Orleans could kill utility line workers if they
connect personal power generators to their homes and businesses improperly,
warned Chanel Lagarde, spokesman for New Orleans-based electricity utility
Entergy Corp.

“They should never connect a generator directly to a building’s wiring by
disconnecting the wiring from Entergy’s services without a licensed
electrician,” he said. “It could create a hazard for the customer and the
lineman restoring power.”

The problem is that power from an improperly connected generator could “back
feed,” or surge back through the power line connecting the building to the rest
of the electricity grid, he said.

Expecting alone

Letrice Whitley sat on a folding chair outside the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Wednesday morning, waiting to give birth alone.

Whitley had been sheltered at the Superdome with her family since Sunday, but when she began having contractions, officials decided she needed to be moved. Wading through the floodwaters, Whitley piled into a ambulance with three other people who needed to be removed from the Dome earlier because of medical complications.

When she got to Baton Rouge, doctors determined that Whitley was not in active labor, but they will likely induce labor soon because she is 38-weeks pregnant, she said.

"I'm here alone. I don't want to have my baby like this," said Whitley, who lives in Gretna. She has been focusing on an ultrasound they took of her baby, who
doctors have said is doing well.

Whitley's family members at the Superdome, who she has not been able to reach by cell phone, will likely be sent to other shelters, possibly as far away as the Astrodome in Houston.

The Maravich building is one of the triage centers the state has set up to evaluate people who are being pulled out of New Orleans. Evacuees without medical problems are sent to regular shelters.

Evacuees who were waiting for family to pick them up or to be sent elsewhere said that busloads of people came in Tuesday night, although many had dispersed by the morning.

Jessica Fremarek said the water from the levee breach at the 17th Street Canal filled up her Lakeview apartment on Tuesday morning in about 10 minutes.
Fremarek and her boyfriend, Donny Le, grabbed six of their seven cats and headed up to the second floor, where they were able to break into a neighbor's
apartment.

The water rose so fast they were unable to put on shoes, although they were both able to fish pairs out of the deluge. After flagging a U.S. Coast Guard
helicopter, a police boat later that day rescued them from the second-floor window.

Louis McMillion spent the night outside the Maravich center with his 90-year-old father, after nearly two harrowing days in the attic of their New Orleans East home. Like many people trapped by the flood waters,he broke through the attic roof with an axe, where he could see many of his neighbors in similar plights.

After being picked up by a boat on Tuesday afternoon, they were eventually sent up to Baton Rouge, where doctors could evaluate McMillion's father, who hadn't eaten in two days. They were waiting on Wednesday morning for his wife, who had evacuated to Texas over the weekend, to pick them up, McMillion said.

A busload of 11 people who had been trapped on the roof of the London Lodge Motel on Airline Drive arrived at the center on Wednesday morning. Amekia
Campbell, who lived at the motel, said the flood waters had swamped even the second floor of the building, forcing them up to the roof on Monday. They
eventually were rescued by boat then bused up to Baton Rouge.

Flotilla stages at Loyola and Poydras


Wednesday, 1:55 p.m.

Rescuers in boats with outboard motors, some from as far away as Texas, staged at the intersection of Poydras and Loyola in New Orleans' central business district Wednesday, then motored their way to Tulane Avenue and the flooded area around University Hospital.

The boats took patients to a triage area, where the patients were assessed and then sent to various other hospitals and places.

Medical patients evacuated through floods outside Superdome


By Laura Maggi
Capital bureau

Letrice Whitley sat on a folding chair outside the
Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Wednesday morning,
waiting to give birth alone, without her loved ones.

Whitley had been cooped up at the Superdome with her
family since Sunday, but when she began having
contractions, officials decided she needed to be moved
out. Wading through the floodwaters, Whitley piled
into a ambulance with three other people who needed to
be removed from the Dome because of medical
complications.

When she got to Baton Rouge, doctors determined that
Whitley was not in active labor, but will likely
induce labor soon because she is 38
weeks pregnant,
she said.

"I'm here alone. I don't want to have my baby like
this," said Whitley, who lives in Gretna. She has been
focusing on an ultrasound they took of her baby, who
doctors have said is doing well.

Whitley's family members at the Superdome, who she has
not been able to reach by cell phone, will likely be
sent to other shelters, possibly including as far away
as the Astrodome in Houston.

The Maravich building is one of the triage centers the
state has set up to evaluate people who are being
pulled out of New Orleans. Evacuees without medical
problems are sent along to regular shelters.

Evacuees who were waiting for family to pick them up
or to be sent elsewhere said that busloads of people
came in Tuesday night, although many had dispersed by
the morning.

Jessica Fremarek said the water from the levee breach
at the 17th Street Canal filled up her Lakeview
apartment on Tuesday morning in about 10 minutes.
Fremarek and her boyfriend, Donny Le, grabbed six of
their seven cats and headed up to the second floor,
where they were able to break into a neighbor's
apartment.

The water rose so fast they were unable to put on
shoes, although they were both able to fish pairs out
of the deluge. After flagging down a U.S. Coast Guard
helicopter, a police boat later that day rescued them
from the second-floor window.

Louis McMillion spent the night outside the Maravich
center with his 90-year-old father, after both spent
almost two harrowing days in the attic of their New
Orleans East home. Like many people trapped by the
flood waters he broke through the attic roof with an
axe, where he could see many of his neighbors in
similar plights.

After being picked up by a boat on Tuesday afternoon,
they were eventually sent up to Baton Rouge, where
doctors could evaluate McMillion's father, who hadn't
eaten in two days. They were waiting on Wednesday
morning for his wife, who had evacuated to Texas over
the weekend, to pick them up, McMillion said.

A busload of 11 people who had been trapped on the
roof of the London Lodge Motel on Airline Highway
arrived at the center on Wednesday morning. Amekia
Campbell, who lived at the motel, said the flood
waters had swamped even the second floor of the
building, forcing them up to the roof on Monday. They
eventually were rescued by boat then bused up to Baton
Rouge.

Canal breach update

Wednesday, 1:40 p.m.

By Jan Moller

BATON ROUGE -  Water levels in Orleans Parish have crested and are beginning to slowly recede as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prepares to begin an unprecedented effort to fix a 200-foot breach in the 17th Street Canal that has inundated the city, state and federal officials said Wednesday.

State Secrertary of Transportation and Development Johnny Bradberry said Lake Pontchatrain has receded by two feet since yesterday as water levels equalized between the lake and the flooded city interior.

"The good news here is that we've stabilized. Water is not rising in the city," Bradberry said.

Maj. Gen. Don Reily of the Corps of Engineers said flood levels are now receding at a rate of one inch per hour, but that it's likely to take at least 30 days before all the water is gone from New Orleans. "Lake level has equalized with interior water inside the city,. which means that it won't be any more flowing into the city except for a high tide," Reily said.

The Corps and the Louisiana National Guard are planning to use Chinook helicopters to drop 1,200 bags of sand into the breach weighing 20,000 pounds each, and 250 concrete highway construction barriers. In the meantime, they are using smaller bags of sand, weighing 3,000 pounds apiece, to try to stem the deluge.

Fixing the levee breach has been the Corps' top priority, as the lengthy process of pumping water out of Orleans cannot begin until the canal walls are secure.

State officials announced the operation Tuesday and spent the night getting equipment into place, a process that was complicated when officials could not get enough slings that are needed to drop the material into the breach.

"The issue that we had was not enough slings," Bradberry said. "When you release a 3,000 bag of sand the sling goes with it."

Reily said the corps is also working with the Orleans Sewerage and Water Board and the Orleans Levee Board on efforts to close the entrance to the canal from Lake Pontchrartrain. In the last day three barges of rock have been brought into the lake to help with that effort.

Also, U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said he has spoken with President Bush, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., about putting together a "major" financial relief package for Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama when Congress returns from its August recess next week.

"Everyone gets it. This isn't simply a bad hurricane," Vitter said. "This is an ongoing challenge and an ongoing situation which takes enormous response, including enormous federal response."

Text message

Cellphone users who share the 504 area code have had difficulty contacting each other in the aftermath of the hurricane. Here's a solution: Text message family and friends to stay in touch.

St. Bernard Rescue

About 2,000 people have been rescued in St. Bernard Parish, but there are still people on rooftops, State Sen. Walter Boasso said Wednesday morning.
Some of them have been moved to evacuation shelters by ferry, he said. "There have been no mass casualties at this time, Boasso said.

Utility workers are in short supply

The 4,000 utility workers currently in southeastern Louisiana won't be nearly enough to restore power to the 703,000 Entergy customers still without power in metropolitan New Orleans, Entergy spokesman Chanel Lagarde said.

But getting more workers to the area might be impossible until late this week because many utility crews from neighboring states are still restoring power to southern Florida, which was hit surprisingly hard by Katrina when she crossed the state nearly a week ago, Lagarde said.

"There are severe limits on resources at this point," he said.

"We are told that utilities in Florida are expected to wrap up later this week. Many of those (workers) will come directly here or to the east" in coastal Mississippi and Alabama, Lagarde said.

The delay getting more restoration crews to the area further validated previous predictions by Entergy managers that many in the hardest hit parts of the state could be without electricity for a month or more.

Miller Beer sending water

Wednesday, 12:40 p.m.

WWL-TV reported that the Miller Brewing Co. was sending several truck loads of water to the region from its Albany, Ga., plant.

Oil refineries still shut down

Oil refineries still shut down.

(AP) - Eight Gulf of Mexico refineries remain shut and one is
operating
at a reduced rate while damage from Hurricane Katrina continues to be
assessed by oil and gas companies.

Access to some of the refineries is difficult. Conditions at those
locations
are as follows:

_ Baton Rouge, La. - At nearly 394,000 barrels a day, one of the gulf's
largest refinery owned by Exxon Mobil Corp. is running at a reduced
capacity.

_ Pascagoula, Miss. - Chevron Corp.'s 325,000 barrel a day refinery
remains shut. The company says access to the refinery remains
difficult.

_ Norco, La. - Valero Energy Corp.'s St. Charles refinery is not likely
to resume its 260,000 barrel a day operations for up to two weeks.

_ Garyville, La. - Marathon Oil Corp.'s 245,000 barrel a day refinery
remains shut. Access is limited.

_ Belle Chasse, La. - ConocoPhillips' Alliance refinery remains shut
while the company continues to assess damage to the 255,000 barrel a day
facility.

_ Convent, La. -- Motiva Enterprises's 255,000 barrel a day facility
sustained minimal damage.

_ Norco, La. - Access to Motiva Enterprises's 242,000 barrel a day
refinery is limited, so damage still is being assessed.

_ Chalmette, La. - Exxon Mobil has not been able to visit the 183,000
barrel a day refinery, which shut down on Sunday.

_ Meraux, La. - The 125,000 barrel a day facility by Murphy Oil Corp.
remains shut down as access remains limited.



Update on Superdome evacuation

Wednesay, 12:05 p.m.

BATON ROUGE - The 23,000 New Orleans evacuees who have been holed up at the Superdome with little air conditioning, food and water, will be bused 12 hours to Houston to be housed for an indefinite period at the Houston Astrodome, Gov,. Kathleen Blanco said Wednesday.

Department of Social Services Secretary Ann Williamson said the buses should start rolling later Wednesday. About 475 vehicles have been arranged to ferry the evacuees to Houston.

State National Guard officials said the re-location should take two days or less.

"We can use the Astrodome for a place for our folks to begin to normalize their lives," Blanco said. "This will help us immensely."

Blanco said Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and Houston officials agreed to make the Astrodome available.

As people who have sheltered at the Superdome for several days are moved onto Houston-bound buses, new evacuees who've been stuck in their homes will continue to be brought to the Superdome for triage before moving elsewhere.

Blanco said President Bush authorized the use of military troops as well as military ships to help in the evacuation operations, said .Army Col. Anthony Daskevich He said Army, Navy and Air Force troops will be involved in the operation but could not pinpoint numbers.

He said the USS Bataan, a troop carrier, was within 80 miles of New Orleans by midday Wednesday.
 
The ship will be used as a communications command post and for medical supplies, but could be used to ferry evacuees if needed, officials said. Other ships may also be sent to the state for relief efforts, Daskevich said, declining further comment.

State officials said they hope that bringing in the Army to help with search, rescue and relief efforts will allow National Guard troops to redirect their efforts to restoring order and curtail the widespread looting taking place in New Orleans and elsewhere. "We're trying to shift our resources," said Denise Bottcher, a Blanco spokeswoman.

Moving the New Orleans evacuees from one dome stadium to another "will be in the best safety interests of  citizens," Blanco said. There have been reports of fights and shootings at the Dome in recent days and conditions have worsened for the evacuees in the Superdome.

"This is one of the largest, if not the largest evacuations in this country," said Col. Jeff Smith, deputy director of the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

Officials said they hope to keep ill evacuaees in Louisiana  by taking them to hospitals  in the state but if they have to be flown to the hospitals out of state, military aircraft may be pressed into service.

"This (plan) buys us some time so we can figure things out," said FEMA spokesman Bill Lokey.

- Ed Anderson and Jan Moller, capital bureau.  

Lower 9th Ward evacuees

Wednesday, noon

Deotis Washington, 38, and Nicole Rayford, 32, fled their Lower 9th Ward neighborhood in New Orleans on Saturday in Rayford's truck, and landed safely in Baton Rouge. By Tuesday night, Rayford cried outside a Baton Rouge drug store for the families they left behind.

"My mother, she was ready to go but she didn't have a ride," Rayford said, through tears as she stood beside her best friend Washington. "She was going to wait on my brother's old lady. My brother called and said, 'How could you leave mama?" I told him I didn't, she was waiting on both of them."

Her mother, Shirley Raiford (a birth certificate mistake, her daughter said, gave her the "y" instead of an "i") is 48 and lives in the 2800 block of Feliciana Street in the Lower 9th Ward.

Raiford didn't know where her mother, two brothers, her grandfather, or nieces in New Orleans were. She didn't know if they had they made it out. Her mother cares for her sister's children, ages 4, 10 and 9, all girls. 

Washington left her 60-year-old mother and 61-year-old father in the family's Clouet Street home, a first-floor single house. There were five of them on Clouet, Washington said, including an 18-year old man, a 29-year-old man and another person in his 60s. The last time she had talked to her mother, the family was in the attic.

"They were still in the attic," Washington said. "Her home was plain destroyed."

"New Orleans is getting worse," Washington said, of the flooding. "It won't be New Orleans. It looks like it's ruined."

Washington and Raiford were staying with Washington's sister in Baton Rouge. Raiford, who is diabetic, went to a Walgreens in search of insulin. "I left my insulin," she said. She didn't have the $30 to pay for it, though, so she left empty-handed. The pharmacist told her she needed a doctor in order to get it for free. A doctor's visit, she said, seemed as impossible as returning to New Orleans.

Jeff officials plead for 'necessities of life'

11:40 a.m.

The normally unflappable Jefferson Parish Emergency Management Director Walter Maestri broke into tears as he broadcast a call to help for anyone who could offer food or water to officials at the parish's emergency operations center in Marrero.

Maestri said anyone who can help with the necessities of life for workers at the center can call (504) 349-5360.

Maestri said the water situation is so dire that like many people in the parish and the area, they are trapped in the center.

Help for businesses

The Louisiana Department of Economic Development has initiated efforts to aid New Orleans businesses.

Mary Jo Hanover, economic development analyst, said Wednesday the department is looking for sites to relocate New Orleans businesses outside the affected metropolitan area.

The department also has been in contact with an expert on economic incentives who is familiar with federal assistance programs.






Half of Slidell-area homes swamped

Wednesday, 11:20 a.m.

The number of people in evacuation shelters in St. Tammany Parish rose to 2,168 Wednesday morning, according to Mayor Ben Morris.

Although western St. Tammany was largely spared devastating flooding, offficals estimate that at least half the homes in Slidell and the surrounding areas were inundated with water.

Morris said restoring electricty to Slidell and the surrounding areas won't be restored for 6 to 12 weeks.

Airport to allow humanitarian flights

Wednesday 11:10 a.m.

KENNER (AP) - The New Orleans International Airport has reopened
to allow humanitarian flights in and out, officials said Wednesday.

The flights at Louis Armstrong International Airport will take place only during daylight hours. The airport gave no indication of when commercial flights might resume.

Officials said the airport has no significant airfield damage and had
no standing water in aircraft movement areas. The airport sustained
damage to its roofs, hangars and fencing, officials said.

East Jeff flooding worsening; west bank deluged with evacuees

Wednesday, 11:05 a.m.

By Matt Brown
West Bank bureau

Jefferson Parish Director of Emergency Management Walter Maestri said Wednesday morning that the flooding situation in East Jefferson was worsening.

Officials said water from the breach in the 17th Street Canal levee was flowing across I-10 at the Orleans-Jefferson parish line and flowing into East Jefferson.

Maestri said the parish was scrambling to build temporary levees at various Metairie locations to try to stop the flow.

On the West Bank, where flooding was less prevalent, Jefferson Parish officials were grappling with a different crisis: Refugees from New Orleans were streaming over the Crescent City Connection in search of food, shelter and water.

Maestri said the population at three west bank shelters was increasing by 200 people per hour. He put out a call for large food distributors that might be interested in donating food to the shelters to call the Emergency Management Center at (504) 349-5360.

Emergency generators at Charity and University hospitals out of fuel


By Jan M oller
Staff writer

The emergency generators at Charity and University hospitals in downtown New Orleans ran out of fuel and shut down at 8 a.m. today, worsening an already intolerable situation for about 350 patients and more than 1,000 doctors, nurses and evacuees who sought shelter there.

Donald Smithburg, who heads Louisiana State University's Health Care Services Division, said he's been told that fuel is available a few blocks from the hospitals' downtown New Orleans campus, but that authorities have not yet figured out how to transport it through the flooded streets to the hospitals.


"It's my understanding that the fuel is nearby, it's just a problem of getting to it,'' Smithburg said. "I think the state is as frustrated as we are in findings ways to get it transported just a few blocks.''

The hospitals, which host the only Level 1 trauma center in southeast Louisiana and also serve as teaching hospitals for LSU's medical school, lost power during Katrina and lost use of their main emergency generator due to flooding. Since then, they had been receiving power from a number of smaller generators that have been used to support essential medical equipment.

It has no water, sewerage or air conditioning and the lights have not been used in an effort to conserve electricity, Smithburg said.

Although the trauma center was moved from ground level to a higher floor at Charity before the floodwaters set in, the waters are too high for the hospitals to admit any new patients, Smithburg said. Instead, the hospital is hoping to evacuate its patients to public hospitals in Alexandria, Lafayette, Shreveport, Lake Charles and Monroe.

Smithburg said disaster medical teams are en route to Louisiana from Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, and that the charity system has enough physicians and other staff to handle the job. "I think it's not a question of having enough doctors and medics (in New Orleans). It's a question of getting the patients out of New Orleans,'' Smithburg said.

About 20 patients on ventilators were evacuated Tuesday around nightfall, Smithburg said.

Office of Homeland Security spokesman Mark Smith said Wednesday morning that Coast Guard and Department of Wildlife and Fisheries rescue workers are also focused on evacuating about 1,000 patients from Methodist Hospital.

The LSU hospitals in Bogalusa and Houma also suffered storm damage and will not be receiving evacuees, Smithburg said.

-Jan Moller

Floating the city's dead

Wednesday, 10:46 p.m.

WWL-TV reporter Karen Swensen related a particularly sad tale from a region overflowing with sad tales.

One New Orleans woman waded through the streets of the city, trying to get her husband to Charity Hospital. He had died earlier and she floated his body through the inundated streets on a door that dome off their home.

N.O.-booked conventions look to Atlanta

Wednesday, 10:40 a.m.

ATLANTA (AP) - Organizers with a number of conventions that had been
planned for New Orleans are now looking to Atlanta as a possible
backup after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Big Easy.


Representatives from at least five groups have called the Georgia World
Congress Center and the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau over the
last few days to see if the city could handle their business on short
notice if needed, said Pattsie Rand, director of sales and marketing at
the Georgia World Congress Center.


"The calls we are getting are not that they want to move the
conventions,
but what are the possibilities of us accommodating them if they have
to," Rand said Tuesday without specifying which conventions have
contacted them. "Right now they are in the investigative stage."


Some Port Fourchon docks to reopen today

By Mark Schleifstein
Staff writer

At Port Fourchon, Louisiana’s sprawling oilfield service port just west
of Grand Isle, storm surge pushed water 10 feet high through the docks
and warehouses, according to Port Director Ted Falgout.

He said some docks will reopen today, as oil companies attempt to
begin re-staffing offshore facilities, but the supply line to the coast for
truck traffic has been severed.

“Vessels are now moving in and out of the port, but our inland supply chain through Bayou Lafourche is blocked by several sunken vessels and
powerlines and bridges that can’t function without electricity,”
Falgout said.

“I camped out in our administrative offices and it was quite a ride,”
he said. “We are utilizing our airport in Galliano as a heliport for
impacted companies.

Staff writer Mark Schleifstein can be reached at mersmia@cox.net

Mississippi damages detailed


(AP) - Town-by-town report of Mississippi coastal damage from
Hurricane Katrina.

Overall: U.S. 90 buried under several feet of sand ...
communications down, transportation systems demolished ... medical
services crippled ... high-water marks set by Camille shattered.

Bay St. Louis: Whole neighborhoods washed away ... highway and
railroad bridges to Biloxi demolished.

Biloxi: Legacy Towers condos survive ... Ryans, Red Lobster, Olive
Garden washed away along U.S. 90 ... Lighthouse still standing....

Ocean Springs Bridge gone ... bottom floor of the library and the home
of Jefferson Davis home, Beauvoir, destroyed ... . Sharkshead Souvenir
City gone ... Edgewater Village strip shopping center gutted ... Also
gone: the steeple of historic Hansboro Presbyterian Church; Waters Edge
II apartments; Diamondhead Yacht Club, the old neon McDonald's sign
on Pass Road ... Massive damage in east end of city ... almost total
devastation primarily south of the railroad tracks near Lee Street,
Point
Cadet and Casino Row

Beau Rivage still stands ... Hard Rock Casino,
originally scheduled to open this week, suffered 50 percent damages ...
At least five casinos out of commission ... St. Thomas the Apostlic
Catholic Church, which sits on U.S. 90, is gone.

D'Iberville: New addition to Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church of
D'Iberville destroyed; damage to sanctuary ... structural damage to
D'Iberville High School ... hundreds of homes destroyed.

Gulfport: Gulf Coast Medical Center lost power and evacuated patients
to Alabama hospitals ... Mississippi State Port lost its lifting
facilities and cranes ... Historical Grass Lawn building destroyed ... Fun Time USA
left with only bumper boats, pool and go-cart track ... numerous businesses
and homes on Pass Road damaged or destroyed ... dozens of homes
missing on Beach Boulevard ... fire chief estimates 75 percent of
buildings have major roof damage, "if they have a roof left at all" ...
the storm surge crossed the CSX railroad tracks ... heavy damage to
Memorial Hospital ... first floor of the Armed Forces Retirement Home
flooded ... 3 of 4 walls have collapsed at Harrison Central 9th Grade
School in North Gulfport ... at least three firehouses with significant
damage.

Hancock County: Emergency Operations Center swamped ... back of the
county courthouse gave way.

Harrison County: Old courthouse building destroyed ... damage to
virtually all shelters ... Lyman Elementary lost two buildings ...
Woolmarket Elementary lost its roof ... West Wortham Elementary has
significant roof damage.

Hattiesburg: A number of businesses and homes damaged in the area ...
U.S. 49 and Highway 11 shut down ... Wind speeds of 95 mph.

Jackson County: Open Springs Hospital remained open for emergency
treatment ... Roof peeled off Emergency Operations Center.

Long Beach: Most buildings within 200 yards of U.S. 90 disappeared ...
Stately homes and apartment complexes that lined the shore are gone ...
First Baptist Church is leveled.

Moss Point: Floodwater surrounded two hotels full of guests ... Much of
downtown destroyed ... 20 feet of water flooded most of the city.

Pascagoula: Six blocks of Market Street destroyed ... Jackson County
Emergency Management Agency had to relocate to the courthouse after
the roof came off their building downtown ... roof came off the gym at
St. Martin High School ... reports of flooding in the Chipley area.

Pass Christian: Bridge to Bay St. Louis destroyed, along with several
other bridges ... Harbor and beachfront community gone ... in eastern
part of city, water rose to more than 20 feet above ground level ...
flooding on Beatline Road at the 90-degree turn ... . House in the
middle of the road on Second Street.




Oil reserves to be released

Wednesday, 10:15

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Bush administration will release oil from federal
petroleum reserves to help refiners affected by Hurricane Katrina,
Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said Wednesday.

The move, which was expected later in the day, is designed to give
refineries a temporary supply of crude oil to take the place of
interrupted shipments from tankers or offshore oil platforms affected
by the storm.

The U.S. Minerals Management Service said Tuesday that 95 percent of
the Gulf of Mexico's oil output was out of service. Oil prices surged
back above $70 in European markets on Wednesday but slipped quickly to
$69.56 after disclosure of the decision involving the release of
supplies from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Eight refineries were shut down
because of Katrina - half of them producing gasoline.

The government's emergency petroleum stockpile - nearly 700 million
barrels of oil stored in underground salt caverns along the Texas and
Louisiana Gulf Coast - was established to cushion oil markets during
energy disruptions.

The production and distribution of oil and gas remained severely
disrupted by the shutdown of a key oil import terminal off the coast of
Louisiana and by the Gulf region's widespread loss of electricity,
which is needed to power pipelines and refineries.

President Bush was returning to Washington on Wednesday
to oversee the federal response to Katrina. He planned to chair a
meeting of a White House task force set up to coordinate federal
efforts, across more than a dozen agencies, to assist hurricane victims.

Bush also was expected to visit the ravaged region by week's end, but
details on that trip were in flux as the White House worked to make
sure a presidential tour would not disrupt the relief and response efforts.


Pope issues statement

Tuesday, 10:15 a.m.

Pope Benedict the XVI said he was praying for victims of Hurricane Katrina and urged rescue workers to perservere in bringing comfort to survivors.

In a telegram to the world, the Pope said he was "deeply saddened to learn of the catastrophe caused by the storm.''

The telegram, sent by the Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, said Benedict was praying for the victims and their families.

"His Holiness, likewise, prays for the rescue workers and all involved in providing assistance to victims of this disaster, encouraging them to perservere in their efforts to ring relieve and support,'' the telegram said.

Lake level falling, official says


State Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Johnny Bradberry said crews Wednesday were in the process of trying to close a 200-foot-long, 25-foot deep hole in a levee on the 17th Street Canal.

Bradberrry said that helicopters could not work on the project Tuesday night because the helicopters that were supposed to maneuver the barriers in place were lacking the proper slings. But, Bradberry said the level of the lake is falling at a rate of a half-foot per hour and is likely to continue to that for the next two days.

"That makes it better for us to work,'' he said.

Meanwhile, as search and rescue operations continue in flood-ravaged New Orleans, state emergency officials Wednesday asked citizens with boats to stay away from the area.


"We're being inundated with calls from citizens who want to help the rescue effort and (are) bringing boats,'' said Lt. Lawrence McLeary, a Louisiana State Police Spokesman. ''We're asking you not to do this at this time. There's just no place for you to be staged safely. At some point we may ask for your help.''

Mark Smith, a Department of Homeland Security spokesman, said 3,000 Louisiana National Guard members are helping with the rescue effort and that more guard troops are on their way from other states. The main focus Wednesday morning is to evacuate patients from hospitals and to evacuate the Superdome, where conditions are deteriorating for the estimated 15,000 people sheltered there.

Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu confirmed that the state is "seriously considering'' busing people from the Superdome to the Houston Astrodome. Some 10,000 evacuees are now housed in the Dome.

-Jan Moller and Ed Anderson, staff writers

Terrebonne update

Wednesday, 10:04 a.m.

Terrebonne Parish has apparently experienced only minor damage from
Hurricane Katrina, according to Terrebonne Parish Public Works Director Al
Levron.

Levron said there have been some fallen trees in drainage collection
canals that parish crews will begin clearing today.

However, the loss of electricity in some locations has reduced pumping capacity in some drainage basins, he said.

“Portable pumps are being mobilized at those limited locations,”
Levron said.

A debris-removal contractor was mobilizing on Wednesday morning and will begin removing trees and limbs later today.

Levron asked residents to clean storm drains near their homes.

A heavy sigh

Wednesday, 10:03 a.m.

It's an emotional time for everyone in south Lousiana - the media included.

During a reading of odds and ends on WWL-TV this morning, Eric Paulson noted that St. Bernard Parish is entirely "gone.''

It brought a moment of almost stunned silence among him, Meg Farris, and Sally Ann Roberts - followed by a heavy, aubible sigh.

Evacuees to be sent to Astrodome

Wednesday, 10 a.m.

Some 25,000 evacuees from the New Orleans area, most of whom are being forced out of the Superdome due to rising floodwaters, will be bused in convoys to the Astrodome in Houston, officials said.

FEMA is providing 475 buses for the convoy and the Astrodome's schedule has been cleared through December for housing evacuees, a spokeswoman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry said.

Other evacuees might be put up in the Ford Center in Beaumont, Texas, the Associated Press said.

Although the number of people said to be gathered in the Superdome has fluctuated over the past three days, Gov. Kathleen Blanco said Wednesday the number is 9,000 to 10,000.

T-P teams continue reporting, taking pictures

Wednesday, 9:05 a.m.

Although The Times-Picayune has evacuated its newsroom, teams of reporters are still combing the metropolitan area gathering news and information.

One team was stationed uptown and was preparing to fan out again this morning.

Sports Editor David Meeks is one of those working in region right now and said team members will attempt to get deeper into the West End and Lakeview areas today.

The Times-Picayune will continue adding entires to the newsblogs of www.nola.com. A copy of today's newspaper is also available here:
Wednesday Edition - text and PDF.

Blanco says evacuation buses on the way to N.O.

Tuesday, 8:55 a.m.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The governor of Louisiana says everyone needs to leave New Orleans due to flooding from Hurricane Katrina. "We've sent buses in. We will be either loading them by boat, helicopter, anything that is necessary," Gov. Kathleen Blanco said. Army engineers struggled without success to plug New Orleans' breached levees with giant sandbags, and the governor said Wednesday the situation was worsening and there was no choice but to abandon the flooded city.


"The challenge is an engineering nightmare," Gov. Kathleen Blanco said on ABC's "Good Morning America." "The National Guard has been dropping sandbags into it, but it's like dropping it into a black hole."

As the waters continued to rise in New Orleans, four Navy ships raced toward the Gulf Coast with drinking water and other emergency supplies, and Red Cross workers from across the country converged on the devastated region. The Red Cross reported it had about 40,000 people in 200 shelters across the area in one of the biggest urban disasters the nation has ever seen.

The death toll from Hurricane Katrina reached at least 110 in Mississippi alone, while Louisiana put aside the counting of the dead to concentrate on rescuing the living, many of whom were still trapped on rooftops and in attics.

A full day after the Big Easy thought it had escaped Katrina's full fury, two levees broke and spilled water into the streets on Tuesday, swamping an estimated 80 percent of the bowl-shaped, below-sea-level city, inundating miles and miles of homes and rendering much of New Orleans uninhabitable for weeks or months.

"We are looking at 12 to 16 weeks before people can come in," Mayor Ray Nagin said on ABC's "Good Morning America, "and the other issue that's concerning me is have dead bodies in the water. At some point in time the dead bodies are going to start to create a serious disease issue."

Blanco acknowledged that looting was a severe problem but said that officials had to focus on survivors. "We don't like looters one bit, but first and foremost is search and rescue," she said.

To repair one of the levees holding back Lake Pontchartrain, officials late Tuesday dropped 3,000-pound sandbags from helicopters and hauled dozens of 15-foot concrete barriers into the breach. Maj. Gen. Don Riley of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said officials also had a more audacious plan: finding a barge to plug the 500-foot hole.

Riley said it could take close to a month to get the water out of the city. If the water rises a few feet higher, it could also wipe out the water system for the whole city, said New Orleans' homeland security chief, Terry Ebbert.

Blanco said she wanted the Superdome — which had become a shelter of last resort for about 20,000 people — evacuated within two days, along with other gathering points for storm refugees. The situation inside the dank and sweltering Superdome was becoming desperate: The water was rising, the air conditioning was out, toilets were broken, and tempers were rising.

At the same time, sections of Interstate 10, the only major freeway leading into New Orleans from the east, lay shattered, dozens of huge slabs of concrete floating in the floodwaters. I-10 is the only route for commercial trucking across southern Louisiana.

The sweltering city of 480,000 people — an estimated 80 percent of whom obeyed orders to evacuate as Katrina closed in over the weekend — also had no drinkable water, and the electricity could be out for weeks.

"The logistical problems are impossible and we have to evacuate people in shelters," the governor said. "It's becoming untenable. There's no power. It's getting more difficult to get food and water supplies in, just basic essentials."

She said arrangements were being made to shelter refugees across the state, and buses were being sent in to take them from New Orleans.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency was considering putting people on cruise ships, in tent cities, mobile home parks, and so-called floating dormitories — boats the agency uses to house its own employees.

A helicopter view of the devastation over Louisiana and Mississippi revealed people standing on black rooftops, baking in the sunshine while waiting for rescue boats.

"I can only imagine that this is what Hiroshima looked like 60 years ago," said Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour after touring the destruction by air Tuesday.

All day long, rescuers in boats and helicopters plucked bedraggled flood refugees from rooftops and attics. Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu said 3,000 people have been rescued by boat and air, some placed shivering and wet into helicopter baskets. They were brought by the truckload into shelters, some in wheelchairs and some carrying babies, with stories of survival and of those who didn't make it.

"Oh my God, it was hell," said Kioka Williams, who had to hack through the ceiling of the beauty shop where she worked as floodwaters rose in New Orleans' low-lying Ninth Ward. "We were screaming, hollering, flashing lights. It was complete chaos."

Looting broke out in some New Orleans neighborhoods, prompting authorities to send more than 70 additional officers and an armed personnel carrier into the city. One police officer was shot in the head by a looter but was expected to recover, authorities said.

A giant new Wal-Mart in New Orleans was looted, and the entire gun collection was taken, The Times-Picayune reported. "There are gangs of armed men in the city moving around the city," said Ebbert, the city's homeland security chief. Also, looters tried to break into Children's Hospital, the governor's office said.

On New Orleans' Canal Street, dozens of looters ripped open the steel gates on clothing and jewelry stores and grabbed merchandise. In Biloxi, Miss., people picked through casino slot machines for coins and ransacked other businesses. In some cases, the looting was in full view of police and National Guardsmen.

Officials said it was simply too early to estimate a death toll. One Mississippi county alone said it had suffered at least 100 deaths, and officials are "very, very worried that this is going to go a lot higher," said Joe Spraggins, civil defense director for Harrison County, home to Biloxi and Gulfport. In neighboring Jackson County, officials said at least 10 deaths were blamed on the storm.

Several of the dead in Harrison County were from a beachfront apartment building that collapsed under a 25-foot wall of water as Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast with 145-mph winds Monday. Louisiana officials said many were feared dead there, too, making Katrina one of the most punishing storms to hit the United States in decades.

Blanco asked residents to spend Wednesday in prayer.

"That would be the best thing to calm our spirits and thank our Lord that we are survivors," she said. "Slowly, gradually, we will recover; we will survive; we will rebuild."

Across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, more than 1 million residents remained without electricity, some without clean drinking water. Officials said it could be weeks, if not months, before most evacuees will be able to return.

Emergency medical teams from across the country were sent into the region and President Bush cut short his Texas vacation Tuesday to return to Washington to focus on the storm damage.

Federal Emergency Management Agency director Mike Brown warned that structural damage to homes, diseases from animal carcasses and chemicals in floodwaters made it unsafe for residents to come home anytime soon.

Katrina, which was downgraded to a tropical depression, packed winds around 30 mph as it moved through the Ohio Valley early Wednesday, with the potential to dump 8 inches of rain and spin off deadly tornadoes.

The remnants of Katrina spawned bands of storms and tornadoes across Georgia that caused at least two deaths, multiple injuries and leveled dozens of buildings. A tornado damaged 13 homes near Marshall, Va.

___

Associated Press reporters Holbrook Mohr, Mary Foster, Allen G. Breed, Adam Nossiter and Jay Reeves contributed to this report.

___

Blanco: "We need a higher power right now.''

In a morning gathering in Baton Rouge, Gov. Blanco, flanked by a number of religious leaders, asked for peoples' prayers to help Gulf Coast residents cope with the magnitude of the disaster.

"We need a higher power right now,'' Blanco said.

"There are a lot of people to pray for,'' she added.

Archbishop Alfred Hughes was one of the religious leaders at Blanco's side and he offered scripture and prayer.

"We are so overwhelmed, we do not know how to respond,'' Hughes said.

So, he said, we turn to prayer.

Hughes read from a letter from St. Paul to the Romans: "We know that all things work for the good of God . . .

" . . . if God is for us, who can be against us?''

Saints update

Wednesday, 8:20 a.m.

The Saints have spent the past three days in Northern California, escaping on Sunday before Katrina hit. They have been practicing at San Jose State University in preparation for Thursday’s 8 p.m. preseason game against the Oakland Raiders. After the game, they will head to San Antonio and plan to stay there at least until the season opener at Carolina on Sept. 11. So far, no plans have been set for the Saints’ scheduled home opener vs. the New York Giants on Sept. 18.

Times-Picayune writer Mike Triplett arrived in Oakland late Tuesday night. Following are some highlights of coverage from the Northern California media and the Associated Press from the past two days:

- The Saints bought $5,000 worth of tickets to San Jose State's season opener Saturday against Eastern Washington as a reward for being allowed to use the facilities. The tickets will be distributed to disadvantaged children. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said the school did not ask for anything.

- Receiver Michael Lewis, a New Orleans native, said he still had not heard from his grandparents Tuesday afternoon. Lewis said he only got one hour of sleep Sunday night while glued to the TV.

- “If we can deal with this, we’ll be a better a better football team in the long run,” Saints coach Jim Haslett said.

- “I think it’s hard, not because of football, but because there are people inside,” tailback Deuce McAllister said of seeing the damaged Superdome. “You can always play a football game somewhere.”

- “It’s been on everybody’s minds. Some guys (wondering), ‘Where did they leave their car parked when we left?’ It’s probably going to be underwater from the flood. – cornerback Jimmy Williams, a Baton Rouge native.

- More from Haslett: “We know our guys are concerned about their families, the city, their own property, not knowing when we're going back, and when we do, what we're going to see. I know it's hard for them, but there's one thing about the NFL -- there's always adversity in this league. This is probably the highest form of adversity, and if we can handle this, we'll be all right. Our thoughts and our prayers go out to those who are left behind.”

- Haslett’s family originally evacuated to Pensacola, Fla., then evacuated again to Tallahassee.

- Quarterback Aaron Brooks helped his mother and niece make it home to Newport News, Va. Their flight was canceled Saturday, but they flew to Cleveland and got home from there. Brooks’ wife is also with her family in Virginia.

- Williams brought his wife and two Yorkshire terriers on the team flight. They’re staying with his former 49ers teammate Ron Stone (now a Raider) and his family. … Receiver Joe Horn’s wife and children left for Tupelo, Miss., and tailback Deuce McAllister’s family drove to Lena, Miss., on Saturday. … Media relations director Greg Bensel’s wife and daughter flew to stay with family in St. Louis. … Offensive lineman Jamar Nesbit’s wife and son flew to Minnesota with a teammate’s family. Said Nesbit, “I figured there was no way (Katrina) was going to hit up there.”





MANNINGS’ REACTION

New Orleans natives Peyton and Eli Manning have also been tuned into the devastation in their hometown. Their parents, Archie and Olivia, evacuated to Philadelphia, Miss. And brother Cooper left with his family to Oxford, Miss.

“It’s pretty devastating, the pictures you see and the stories you hear,” Peyton said. “It’s hard to watch from a New Orleans standpoint and from a friends-and-family standpoint. … The Superdome is one thing, but I don’t need to see pictures. When I hear about certain areas, I know where they are. I used to play football in Buras and they’re not prepared for anything like a powerful hurricane.”

Said Eli: “I talked to Mom last night, and she’s mad she didn’t put more things upstairs. … I know there’s going to be a whole lot of damage, so I keep it in my prayers and hopefully everybody will be alright.”





SAINTS MAKE CUTS

Before leaving for San Jose, the Saints released 12 players and cut their roster down to a league-mandated 73 players (65 plus NFL Europe exemptions). The most notable names were eight-year veteran offensive lineman Spencer Folau, who missed all of training camp with a shoulder injury; quarterback Kliff Kingsbury, who was battling rookie Adrian McPherson for the No. 3 QB job; third-year linebacker Cie Grant, a third-round draft pick in 2003 who continually battled knee injuries; and rookie defensive tackle Jason Jefferson, a sixth-round draft pick this year.

The Saints also released receiver Thyron Anderson, offensive linemen Brandon Phillips and Nick Steitz, defensive backs Dwight Ellick and Brent Hafford, long snapper/defensive end L.P. Ladouceur, kicker Nate Fikse and punter Rodney Williams.

The team also placed offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb and tight end Boo Williams on injured reserve.

__________________________________________________

Saints to go to San Antonio

Wednesday, 12:50 a.m.

The Saints will fly to San Antonio following their 8 p.m. Thursday game at the Oakland Raiders and will make it their home base for the immediate future, said director of media and public relations Greg Bensel.

Several teams and communities offered assistance, but Saints owner Tom Benson has long-standing ties to San Antonio, his second home. The team evacuated to San Antonio before Hurricane Ivan last year.

The Saints are planning to practice in San Antonio until their season-opener Sept. 11 at the Carolina Panthers.

Where they will play the home opener, against the New York Giants on Sept. 18, is uncertain. General Manager Mickey Loomis and the NFL are looking into potential sites, and that would include college stadiums.

DEQ flyover finds few environmental problems

Wednesday, 12:04 a.m.

Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality officials flew over
flooded southeastern Louisiana on Tuesday, looking for oil and chemical
spills and other environmental threats, said department spokesman Daniel
Mann.

While what looked like a slight oily sheen was found around at least
one refinery in Chalmette, few other problems were spotted in the initial
fly-over, Mann said.

Officials will make a second inspection from the air today.
The environmental agency also has issued an emergency declaration
reducing regulatory requirements resulting from problems caused by Katrina
in southeastern parishes stretching from East Baton Rouge to Plaquemines
and as far west as St. Martin.

“After such a terrible disaster, the No. 1 priority is human health and
emergency response,” said DEQ Secretary Mike McDaniel. “This
authorization will allow areas impacted by the hurricane to recover, cleanup and
rebuild faster because the regulatory process will be reduced.”

The order is intended to expedite repairs to facilities like sewage and
water treatment plants, and to speed clean-up of solid wastes, burning
debris and animal carcasses without DEQ’s oversight.
Meanwhile, the federal Environmental Protection Agency reminded
businesses that they’re required to report any spills of hazardous chemicals
at (800) 424-8802 or (202) 267-2675.