JP's Maestri said FEMA didn't keep its word

Mark Schleifstein
Staff writer

Jefferson Parish Emergency Preparedness Director Walter Maestri said Friday night that the Federal Emergency Management Agency reneged on a promise to begin relieving county emergency preparedness staffers 48 hours after Hurricane Katrina hit the New Orleans metropolitan area.

Maestri’s staff has been working almost around the clock since Katrina approached the Louisiana coastline on Sunday. Today, the staff is
expected to finally switch to a 12 hours on/12 hours off schedule, he said,
adding that they’re both tired and demoralized by the lack of assistance from federal officials.

“We had been told we would be on our own for 48 hours,” Maestri said.
“Prepare to survive and in 48 hours the cavalry would arrive.

“Well, where are they?” he said.
Maestri said the agreement was signed by officials with the Southeastern Louisiana Emergency Preparedness Officials Association, the state and
the Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of this year’s Hurricane Pam tabletop exercise. That exercise began the process of writing a series of manuals explaining how to respond to a catastrophic disaster. Financed by FEMA, it included a variety of federal, state and local officials.


A FEMA spokesman late Friday said they couldn’t confirm or deny that
the agency signed the agreement Maestri referred to.

FEMA Director Michael Brown also raised Maestri’s ire when he said in a television interview Friday that he waited so long to respond because he didn’t want to interfere with local aid attempts, and that local officials hadn’t asked FEMA to come in.

“My response is very simple,” Maestri said in an interview on a cell phone after repeated attempts to reach his office. “We didn’t have any communications. We still don’t have outside communications.”

He said FEMA officials have now informed him the first members of a liaison team might arrive at the Emergency Operations Center this morning or Sunday.

Staffers also are upset by Thursday comments by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. that suggested he felt the city shouldn’t be rebuilt. Asked in the interview whether it made sense to spend billions rebuilding a city that lies below sea level, he replied, ``I don't know. That doesn't make sense to me.''

He said several of Hastert’s comments are posted on the center’s wall, “like the comments of opposing coaches are pinned on the wall of the Saints locker room.”

Hastert's office later issued a statement insisting he was not calling for the city to be abandoned or relocated.

Maestri admitted he and his staff were tired and frustrated, and that that helped fuel his criticism. Also on his list for criticism was new Louisiana Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Assistant Director Jeff Smith, who he talked to for the first time only on Thursday.

Maestri said the communications problem has occurred despite the funneling of millions of dollars of Homeland Security grant money into parishes and state coffers, much to upgrade communications equipment. Jefferson Parish used that money successfully for an internal radio system that worked well during the storm, he said. But the state assigned those dollars to the Louisiana State Police, which he said hadn’t completed connecting it to the parish communications system.

Maestri also was upset with American Red Cross officials for delaying the staffing of shelters in the parish. He said a Red Cross official said he should send a staffer to Mount Olive, La., with a request for personnel. When the staffer arrived, he was handed a note saying help would not be coming until it was safe for Red Cross workers.

“They can go to Iraq and Afghanistan and tell us it’s too dangerous to
New Orleans,” he said. “I’ve got that note and will frame it with a copy of my resignation letter for the board of directors” of the southeastern Louisiana Red Cross.

Maestri said some of his frustration is fueled by conversations with several parish business owners who donated goods to the parish for use in the recovery.

“They’re saying, ‘Come. Please get it because we’re relocating. We can no longer work here,’” Maestri said. Mark Schleifstein can be reached at mersmia@cox.net .

SPCA help for animals

Friday, 9:50 p.m.

There's hope for stranded pets in the New Orleans area. The Louisiana SPCA, New Orleans' animal control agency, has begun rescuing pets from owners houses.

Louisiana SPCA director Laura Maloney said shelter workers follow other agencies and crews through neighborhoods and rescue pets, some that are locked in houses. At the owners' request, "we break in," she said.

Owners have to call or email the operation and give their name and address and information about where the pet is confined.

The hotline number is: 1-225-578-6111. E-mail should be sent to Katrinaanimalrescue@yahoo.com.

The hotline already is in effect, Maloney said. "It's busy an awful lot. We are trying to get a bank of telephones"

Orleans Parish inspection could come in 'the next week or so'

9:30 p.m.

“I am not going to lose my home, it is just under
water right now,” said state Rep. Peppi Bruneau, R-New
Orleans, at a brief news conference at the state
Office of Emergency Preparedness.

Bruneau and state Sen. Edwin Murray, D-New Orleans,
both represent the Lakeview area that has been
inundated by water from the breach in the 17th Street
Canal.

Murray said they have been told that once order
is restored in the city, people might be able to
briefly return to examine what has happened to their
property. He wasn’t sure when this would happen, but
said that it could be “sometime in the next week or
so.”

Although people are not able to check the actual
damage to their homes, people can begin the process of
registering with the Federal Management Agency and the
Small Business Administration, Murray said.

Both Murray and Bruneau said they wanted to encourage
business owners and people to remain in New Orleans.
“We are going to rebuild. We are not going to leave,”
he said.

Hospital evacuation update

Friday 9:30 p.m.

The total evacuation of the 2,200 storm-stranded patients and staff at Charity and University hospitals is now complete, a top hospital official said Friday night.

About 150 staff and students at the affiliated Medical Education Building downtown are still holed up in their facility but should be moved out soon, said Don Smith Burg, chief executive officer of the Louisiana State University Hospital System, which oversees the medical institutions.

“The buildings are empty,” Burg said, marking the end of an exhausting week of privation at the public hospitals, where supplies of basic provisions ran so low that some staff inserted IV solutions in their arms to stay hydrated.

Some staff members abstained from food and water for days so that the 363 patients would have sufficient nutrition, Burg said. The patients included 28 babies.

Three of the patients died as rescuers were evacuating them, Burg said.

The Charity morgue was left underwater, with a dozen bodies in the morgue and five more on the steps, Burg said. He did not know how many of the bodies were there before the storm.

FEMA evacuated the patients to hospitals across the region, and staff were taken to shelters and other locations.



Lights in the darkness

Friday, 9:10 p.m.

A drive through parts of East Jefferson Thursday night revealed an eerie, virtually total darkness.

But on a few blocks of Giuffrias Avenue and elsewhere in Metairie just south of Interstate 10, came an inexplicable sight: street lights.

Street lights were on in the 1500 to 2000 blocks of Giuffrias, between West Metairie and West Napoleon avenues, and a few lights were even on in some homes on the block.

Nearby, a few street lights also could be seen on Houma Boulevard, illuminating the many downed trees and power lines.

Forest Service offers planes to help fight fires

The Forest Service has offered fixed plane aircraft used to fight forest fires to help extinguish blazes in New Orleans, according to two congressional sources. But the sources said the planes, which can pour large amounts of water on fires, remained grounded in Missouri Friday because the Department of Homeland Security hasn’t authorized their use.

The department is overseeing federal hurricane relief and rescue operations.

"We’ve been asking them to request that the planes be used, but nothing has happened,” said one of the two congressional sources, both of whom asked to remain anonymous. The planes were offered by the Forest Service because of news reports that firefighters in New Orleans lacked adequate water pressure to fight a number of fires in the city.

There was no immediate comment from the Forest Service, which is part of the Agriculture Department, or the Department of Homeland Security.

Gambler dealt lucky hand

By Joan Treadway
Staff writer

Steve Huff, a resident of Oklahoma who arrived in New Orleans last weekend for a blackjack tournament at Harrah's Casino, said Friday that he was eliminated from the competition, but had returned home with something better than money--his life.

Huff, 53, an independent oil producer who lives near Tulsa, said there were several times during his stay in the city, which was prolonged by Hurricane Katrina, when he thought he might not survive one ordeal or another. But each time people or circumstances intervened to save him.

"I was just a coin flip away from becoming one of those people in the shelters, or from dying," he said.

He rode out the hurricane Monday in the high rise Loews Hotel downtown, worried that the window of his 19th floor room might blow out. Several windows did shatter in the height of the storm and guests had to be moved to other areas of the hotel. But Huff's windows just leaked a little.

When the storm ended, he felt a short-lived relief. Then he realized that he might run out of the medicine he needs to prevent seizures before he could fly out of town and before any drugstores in the storm-ravaged city would open.

A chance encounter with another guest, a Vietnam veteran with medical problems of his own, solved Huff's dilemma. The local man gave him a few days worth of neurotin from his own supply. Huff only knew his first name, Billy.

But Tuesday brought another crisis. That morning, the hotel's managers announced that the Loews had to be evacuated, because of the threat of fire -- the city's water system had been shut down -- and because flood waters were starting to rise downtown.

The hotel had nearly 200 guests and only one working elevator, powered by a back up generator. So there was a rush to leave, he said.

Managers told New Orleans residents, who had taken shelter there, to leave the city quickly by way of the Crescent City Connection. Many of them had cars parked in the adjoining garage, he said.

The out of towners were told that they would be driven by hotel employees in their own cars, although no one knew where they would end up.

As Huff fled down the stairs, carrying only a pillow case containing his medicine and a few other possessions, he met a woman with a bunch of keys whom he mistakenly thought was a Loews employee. He asked if she could take him out in her car and she agreed.

She loaded him, a couple and their two babies in her SUV and they took off, crossed the bridge heading west.

Along the way, Huff learned that the woman driver whom he knew only as Elizabeth, had a teenage son, a double amputee, who lived in a health care center. The 14-year-old had refused to evacuate with her, and she was afraid that he wouldn't survive the storm and its aftermath.

When the little group eventually reached Jennings, later Tuesday, there was only one hotel room with two beds available and they all squeezed in. Wednesday morning, "we split up and went our separate ways," he said.

Huff was able to rent a car and drive to Houston's George Bush Airport where he booked a flight and returned home to his wife late Wednesday night.

That night he had a nightmare about his experiences. "I dreamed I was still in New Orleans and couldn't get out," he said.

And even later during the day Friday, as he watched the news, he said that he had the feeling that he was still back there: "I'm traumatized and shell-shocked."

He is grateful he was able to escape, and is empathetic to the suffereing people he sees on television. And he said he wil never forget "the angels."

Blanco asks for quick return of National Guard in Iraq

Gov. Kathleen Blanco Friday night called on President Bush to order the expeditious return to the state of the 256th Brigade Combat team of the National Guard which is now serving in Iraq because they are needed in Hurricane Katrina cleanup and rescue efforts.

The unit, based in Lafayette, is expected to be phased out of Iraq and return to the state in the coming weeks.

“They are urgently needed needed here at home,’’ Blanco said. She told Bush that the unit is needed to become “part of the recovery efforts in their home state.’’

Blanco also called on Bush to have military officials set up another base for humanitarian relief in Baton Rouge. The only one that is now in operation is in Pineville in central Louisiana.

She also asked for communications assistance for governmental agencies, including radios with higher capacity, 25 more frequencies and 1,000 additional portable radios.

“I want aerial and ground firefighting support to address the growing danger of fire,’’ Blanco told Bush in the two-page letter. She also asked for a more military trucks and other vehicles as well as 175 generators and additional fuel.



College students whose campuses are swamped can transfer without charge

By Laura Maggi
Staff writer

Students at the nine public universities or colleges that will not be able to start school because their campuses are flooded out after Hurricane Katrina will be allowed to enroll at other state institutions without paying addition tuition or other expenses, officials said Friday.

Higher Education Commissioner Joseph Savoie said that about 41,000 students will not be able to attend their schools “for the foreseeable future.” Savoie said he could not say when the universities would re-open or whether some could be shuttered for the entire fall semester.

“It just depends,” he said, adding the damage varies at each institution. Nunez Community College in Chalmette remains under about 10 feet of water, while only 25 percent of the campus at the University of New Orleans experienced water damage.

Because many students at the public universities live nearby, the ability to re-open schools will largely depend on when people move back, Savoie said.

Students who need to find out about enrolling at other public universities in Louisiana should call 1-866-415-2269. They will be able to keep all state
financial aid, including the TOPS scholarship program.

Questions about aid can be directed to 1-800-253-5626 ext. 1012. The state has also established a web clearinghouse for this information at www.regents.state.la.us

The schools that will not be opening up sometime next week are: Southern University at New Orleans, the University of New Orleans, Delgado Community College, Nunez Community College, the LSU Health Sciences Center, and four technical colleges: Jefferson, West Jefferson, Sullivan and Sidney Collier.

Hastert seeks to mend fences

By Bill Walsh
Washington bureau

WASHINGTON -- House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who infuriated Louisiana officials by raising questions about rebuilding New Orleans, plans to call Gov. Kathleen Blanco to mend some fences, his spokesman said Friday night.
"He's reaching out to her," spokesman Ron Bonjean said.
The Illinois Republican was quoted in a Chicago-area newspaper Wednesday questioning the wisdom of spending billions of dollars rebuilding a city below sea level that will continue to be in the path of deadly hurricanes.
Louisiana elected officials quickly assailed the powerful lawmaker and Blanco demanded an apology.
Hastert's office quickly issued a clarification of his comments, saying that he supports the rebuilding of the 297-year-old city, only in a way that makes it more resistant to hurricanes. According to a transcript of the interview with the editorial board of the Daily Herald, Hastert said, "It looks like a lot of that place will have to be bulldozed."
"His comments were misinterpreted," Bonjean said. "He believes New Orleans should be rebuilt."
Hastert was in Washington Friday to oversee the passage of a $10.5 billion emergency aid package for the Gulf Coast states. He also plans to send along some of his own money. He auctioned off a 1970s vintage Lincoln Mark II Continental and, Bonjean said, plans to donate tens of thousands of dollars to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.





Melancon statement

U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville, made the following comments on President Bush's visit to hurricane-ravished Louisiana:

"I thank the President for his visit today, but it was more show than substance. Frankly, we needed action days ago."

"Louisianans are starving, dying and fearing for their safety. Police personnel are tired, getting sick and they need tetanus shots. Outside of New Orleans, the influx of military troops is not being felt. When I am able to find food and get it to other areas, there are unnecessary road blocks and bureaucracy every step of the way. How many more lives will be lost before people understand that there are problems here the TV cameras can't see?"

"The supplemental appropriation the House passed today was also overdue progress, but it is a drop in the bucket. When hurricanes struck Florida last year, Congress authorized over $16 billion. This disaster will cost much, much more as witnessed on TV and reflected by the declaration of emergency before Katrina's landfall."

"When the President's travel details stop us from putting the helicopters in the air that will deliver help, we've got problems. When, after an hour and a half of waiting at the instructed location without information to greet the President today in New Orleans, logistical and communications problems prevented me from reaching the meeting - we've got problems. The poor communication here is indicative of the larger communication problems that are hindering all of the life saving efforts."

"I'm tired of empty promises, delayed promises. I'm on the ground in St. Bernard Parish, Plaquemines Parish, and other parishes I represent...today, we may have seen progress in New Orleans but one thing is for sure -- tomorrow we needs tons more in the rest of the affected areas."

"We must work immediately to create a permanent cabinet level position - just like the Homeland Security post - to make sure these inefficiencies and logistical failures never again prevent desperately needed relief."

AG's office investigates price gouging

The Louisiana attorney general’s office is investigating hundreds of
complaints of price gouging, primarily related to gasoline purchases in
the state.

Isabel Wingerter, director of public protection in the attorney general’s office, said Friday the attorney general is concerned primarily with the gasoline complaints, which have come from motorists statewide in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Consumers can report problems to the attorney general’s office at 800-488-2770.

Disaster secretary

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said she asked President Bush today to appoint a Cabinet level official to oversee the rescue and recovery efforts for Hurricane Katrina.

Michael Chertoff, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, is coordinating the federal government’s disaster response, but he retains responsibility over anti-terrorism efforts.

“For the past week, the people of Southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast have suffered in a desperate and unprecedented way, waiting for the Administration to employ the full resources of the United States government – resources which, for whatever reason, have yet to arrive,” Landrieu said. “Hopefully, after today’s visit, President Bush understands the enormity of our situation here on the ground and will put the full weight of his office behind our recovery efforts.

Landrieu said she asked Bush to make the appointment during his visit to Louisiana Friday to review hurricane relief and rescue operations. U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., Friday called on Bush to separate the Federal Emergency Management Agency from Homeland Security and make the agency and its director directly answerable to President Bush.

Landrieu said FEMA isn’t doing as good job as it has in the past before it became part of the Department of Homeland Security, which was created after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

“The American people have continued to look to FEMA to operate as it did in years past. There was a time when FEMA understood that the correct approach to a crisis was to deploy to the affected area as many resources as possible as fast as possible. Unfortunately, that no longer seems to be their approach. In order to resolve this dire situation, we must return to the successful tactics of the past.

“The suffering has gone on long enough. Now is the time for action.”

Operation Air Care

The Department of Homeland Security, the Air Transport Association and the Department of Transportation today announced that the airline industry has launched “Operation Air Care” to provide emergency airlift to more than 25,000 New Orleans residents stranded in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

“DHS is truly grateful to the airlines for their immediate and generous contribution to help us to bring hurricane victims to safety,” said Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Jackson.

“This extraordinary civilian airlift is unprecedented in U.S. history, and is a shining example of how America can come together to help those in need,” said ATA President and CEO James C. May. “Our member airlines have willingly offered to help the federal government get the job done and we will continue these efforts until they are no longer needed.”

"We've cleared the runways and are watching the skies to make sure these humanitarian flights get in and out safely," said U.S. Secretary of transportation Norman Y. Mineta. "From the moment Hurricane Katrina passed, the DOT has been working around the clock to put the people and equipment in place to sustain a massive airlift operation."

The plan, which was crafted late in the evening Thursday, allowed the first flight to New Orleans at 8 a.m. today. Participating airlines will provide aircrafts and service to airlift evacuees. Flights will depart from Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport to sites designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, such as Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.

Passenger carriers participating in this effort include Alaska, America West, American, ATA, Continental, Delta, Jet Blue, Northwest, Southwest, United, US Airways, and Air Canada. Cargo carriers also are providing support, including ASTAR Air Cargo, Federal Express and UPS Airlines.

This all-volunteer effort is being coordinated by the Air Transport Association and its member carriers, who are providing aircraft and crews who have volunteered their time to this incredible effort.

The Air Transport Association is the trade group representing the nation’s leading airlines. ATA members transport more than 90 percent of all passengers and cargo in the United States.



Disaster secretary

U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville, today issued the following statement:

"I join with Senator Many Landrieu in calling for the President to immediately create and appoint a Cabinet level official to oversee the national response to tragedies like the one we're experiencing right now in South Louisiana."

"I can't say this too many times or too loudly - people are dying, desperately needed relief isn't getting to all the places it is needed, the current system is not working - what more proof do we need?"

"I will lead the effort in the U.S. House to see that this gets done, and I will do all I can to support Senator Landrieu's efforts in the U.S. Senate."

Rail service

The Department of Homeland Security, in a news release today, reported that
"Amtrak will be sending a train to New Orleans today to assist in the
evacuation of citizens to safe areas."

Amtrak is moving to restore some service that was curtailed this week due to
the hurricane tragedy. Amtrak will extend its City of New Orleans and
Crescent trains as explained below.

The City of New Orleans, now running only Chicago-Memphis, will be
extended to Jackson starting with the Chicago departure on Labor Day, and the
Jackson departure Tuesday. The following week, service will be extended
further south to Hammond, La., starting with departures from Chicago
on Sept. 12 and from Hammond on Sept. 14.

The Crescent, now running New York-Atlanta only, will be extended to
Meridian, Miss., starting with departures from New York on Sept. 12,
and from Meridian on Wednesday, Sept. 14.

The tri-weekly Sunset Limited continues to run only between San Antonio
and Los Angeles (carrying Texas Eagle through cars to and from Chicago, St.
Louis, Little Rock, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and intermediate
points).

Thus, the only regular Amtrak service at Houston is a Thruway bus
connection to the Texas Eagle at Longview (for travel to and from the Midwest).

Amtrak ridership was strong this summer even before the late-July start
of major gasoline price increases. In July, most routes had double-digit
percentage ridership growth compared with July 2004 levels. The
handful of exceptions were explained by severe on-time performance issues, or
reductions in capacity.


Utility slowly being restored

Friday, 6:40 p.m.

More than 250,000 homes and businesses have had electric power restored since Hurricane Katrina struck southeast Louisiana on Monday, Public Service Commissioner Jimmy Field said Friday.

But an estimated 731,000 homes still lack power, and it likely will be several weeks or months before power is fully restored. Field said utility companies have restored power to about 50 percent of the homes and businesses they can access, with the rest being too flooded for power companies to begin work.

The news isn't quite as good for those who have lost telephone service, Field said, as 939,000 lines remain out of service four days after Katrina. The reason it's taking longer to reconnect telephones is because several phone companies have suffered severe flooding to their main offices, Field said.

Retired Archbishop Hannan safe after the storm

Friday, 6:27 p.m.

Retired Archbishop Phillip Hannan, who rode out Hurricane Katrina in
Metairie but became trapped in a building with several others as floodwaters rose, is safe, family members and the Archdiocese of New Orleans said.

Although not sure of his exact whereabouts,
Archbishop Alfred Hughes confirmed Friday that someone with the
Archdiocese spoke to Hannan and that he is OK.

Hannan's niece, Peggy Laramie, contacted The Times-Picayune Thursday after receiving a message that Hannan and others were trapped in the building. She said her uncle was in good shape and good spirits, but that he wanted to make sure he "got on a list of those awaiting rescue.''

Laramie said she got word Friday morning that rescuers made it to the building, but found only food and water - no people.

"So the good news is that they got out,'' she said. "We know he's in good hands. We're just waiting to hear from him.''

Virginians get a chance to go home

Virginia students enrolled in New Orleans colleges and universities are being given the opportunity to return home and attend classes there during the fall semester.

University of Virginia President John T. Casteen III said academically qualified Virginians can enroll in the institution as visiting, non-degree students for the fall semester. UVA will transfer the credits earned by participating students back to their home institutions when they reopen.

If students' programs are not compatible with the UVA's, administrators will help them find places in Virginia's community college system.

Old Metairie flooding

6:10 p.m.

Jefferson Parish officials said residents from two areas in Old Metairie may not be able to get into their homes next week because of street flooding.

The first is bordered by Airline Drive to the south, Severn Avenue to the west, Metairie Road to the north and the Orleans/Jefferson Parish line to the east.

The second is bordered by Jefferson Highway to the south, Causeway Boulevard to the west, Airline Drive to the north and the Orleans/Jefferson Parish line to the east.

Water in those areas is as deep as six feet, officials said.

FEMA food distribution centers in Jefferson

6:05 p.m.

FEMA has established two food distribution centers in Jefferson Parish for residents running low on supplies following Hurricane Katrina.

The Alario Center, at 2000 Segnette Blvd. in Westwego.

Zephyr Field, 3000 Airline Drive in Metairie.

Relighting effort underway

By KEITH DARCÉ
Business writer

The mammoth job of relighting metropolitan New Orleans was being
accomplished one utility pole at a time Friday afternoon.
A crew of about 30 power utility workers from Kentucky spent the day
restoring power to parts of Norco. They were among the more than 6,000
local and out-of-state utility workers spreading out across southeastern
Louisiana in the wake of hurricane Katrina.
Electricity was flowing again to some Jefferson Parish emergency
facilities, Louis Armstrong International Airport in Kenner and to five oil
refineries in the region, an important step toward restoring gasoline
production at the plants that supply nearly 16 percent of the national
fuel supply.
Most homes and businesses in New Orleans and surrounding suburbs don’t
have electricity services and won’t for weeks, utility managers said.
Public officials and utility managers continued to urge evacuees to stay
away from the area.
“People who left don’t need to come here now,” said Cleco Corp.
spokeswoman Francesca Phoenix.
The Kentucky crew, on contract with Entergy Corp., began repairing a
string of five utility poles along Apple Street holding a main power
distribution line that feeds about 600 homes and businesses in Norco.
Several Entergy line workers assisted the crew.
Norco resident Lionel Perret served the workers a lunch of shrimp
pasta and jambalaya in Styrofoam bowls from his home on Apple. Inside, his
wife and daughter cooked more food from taken from their powerless
freezer before it spoiled.
The Kentucky workers said they were glad to be working in St. Charles
and afraid of going into New Orleans without assurances that the
lawless atmosphere that has reigned there for days has been stemmed.
With most telephone service still out in the area, the workers were
isolated from their families back home who have been watching news
reports about violence in the city.
“Our families want us to come home,” said Shannon Gilbert of Corbin,
Ken.
But the workers said they will stay until the restoration effort is
completed.
Crew members are working 16 to 17 hours a day and spending nights
without electricity at an Airline Highway motel. They couldn’t say when
power would be restored to their motel.
“We go day by day,” said Cody Mason, of Poplar Grove, Ken. “Hopefully
we will have power today, at least for a hot shower.”
A few blocks down Apple Street, Bobby Lodge was running a toaster,
refrigerator and fan off an extension cord connected his neighbor’s
generator across the street.
“We’re getting by,” he said.
Lodge said he rode out the storm in his home after evacuating his
family to Baton Rouge. He had stayed home for several other hurricanes, but
next time he will evacuate. “I stayed for Andrew and some little ones.
(Katrina) will be the last one,” he said.
Katrina’s power was frightening, Lodge said. “I could stand on my back
porch and scream at the top of my lungs, and not hear myself.”
Living without electricity service is uncomfortable, Lodge said, but
he was more bothered by soaring gasoline prices that had hit some gas
stations in the area.
Lodge said he paid $4 a gallon for gas at a Shell gas station on
Airline Highway between LaPlace and Reserve to fill his neighbor’s
generator.
His complaints to the store clerk about the high price were shrugged
off, he said.
“I asked her how she felt about stealing from people, and she said she
had no problem because they were only accepting cash,” Lodge said.
Contact Keith Darcé at nolapaperboy@cox.net.

Robinette interview with Nagin was unforgettable radio

By Dave Walker
TV columnist

Exasperated with the pace of relief response to his
dying city’s escalating crisis, New Orleans Mayor Ray
Nagin hit bottom during a Thursday afternoon interview
on New Orleans news-talk station WWL 870 AM.

Sounding royally pissed -- to borrow a descriptive he
deployed on the air during the interview – Nagin
unloaded to host Garland Robinette.

Other language Nagin used wouldn’t be normal fare for
conservative WWL, but normal blew out of town on
Monday.

To set the scene:

The naval support promised to save the city hadn’t
materialized.

Thousands of citizens were stranded at the Louisiana
Superdome and Ernest N. Morial Convention Center,
desperate for food and water and a ride out.

Outlaws had apparently taken control of the streets.

“You know the reason why the looters got out of
control?” Nagin said. “We have most of our resources
saving people. They were stuck in attics, man, old
ladies. You pull off the doggone ventilator and look
down and they’re standing there in water up to their
fricking neck.”

Relief managers, starting with the U.S president and
his flyover inspection of the Hurricane Katrina
damage, had let the city and its citizens down.

“They don’t have a clue what’s going on down here,”
he said. “They flew down here one time two days after
the doggone event was over, with TV cameras and AP
reporters, with all kinds of goddamn excuses.

“Excuse my French, everybody in America, but I am
pissed.”

Robinette asked: “What do you need?”

“I need reinforcements,” he said. “I need troops, man.
I need 500 buses.”

The relief efforts made so far had been pathetically
insufficient, Nagin said.

“They’re thinking small, man, and this is a major,
MAJOR deal,” Nagin said. “God is looking down on this and if they are not doing everything in their power to save people, they are
going to pay the price. Every day that we delay,
people are dying, and they’re dying by the hundreds,
I’m willing to bet you.”

Rolling now, Nagin described distress calls he’d
heard. Nagin mocked the efforts to block the 17th Street
Canal breach.

“I flew over that thing yesterday and it was in the
same shape it was in after the storm hit,” he said.
“There is nothing happening there. They’re feeding the
public a line of bull and they’re spinning and people
are dying down here.”

With the national media obsessing at that exact
moment on the lawlessness in the streets of New
Orleans, Nagin seemed to say that the reports seemed
exaggerated and misleading (the looters were
desperate people “trying to find food and water, the
majority of them,” he said) and speculated that most
of the worst offenses were being committed by the
city’s junkie population.

Before Katrina, “drugs flowed in and out of New
Orleans and the surrounding area so freely it was
scary to me,” he said. “Now (the users) are walking
around this city looking for a fix and that’s the
reason why they’re breaking into hospitals and
drugstores looking for something to take the edge off.

“It’s drug-starving crazy addicts that are wreaking
havoc, and we don’t have the manpower to adequately
deal with it.”

Nagin then lashed out at the federal government’s
priorities.

In this case, it hadn’t been able to mobilize when its
citizens when were in peril.

“We authorized $8 billion to go to Iraq,
lickity-quick,” he said. “After 9/11 we gave the
President unprecedented powers, lickity-quick, to take
care of New York and other places.”

New Orleans is just as special and just as wounded, if not more so.
Idea: In addition to 500 buses, let’s get 500,000
bumper stickers that say, “Screw Fallujah. Save New
Orleans.”

Nagin didn’t say that.

“You mention New Orleans anywhere in the world and
everybody lights up,” Nagin continued. “You mean to
tell me that (a place) where 1,000 people died and
1,000 more are dying every day, we can’t figure out a
way to authorize the resources that we need?

“Come on man, I’m not one of those drug addicts.”

Nagin called for a moratorium on all press conferences
until the resources to save New Orleans begin to
materialize.

“Don’t tell me 40,000 people are coming here,” he
said. “They’re not here. It’s too doggone late. Get
off your asses and let’s do something and let’s fix
the biggest goddamn crisis in the history of this
country.”

Nagin sounded depleted. Robinette, too.

It had been an exchange of only about a dozen minutes,
but nobody who heard it will ever forget it.

“I’m at the point now, where it don’t matter,”
Nagin said. “People are dying. They don’t have homes. They
don’t have jobs.

“The city of New Orleans will never be the same.”

After sixteen seconds of dead air, Robinette broke the
silence, anguish filling his voice.

“We’re both pretty speechless here,” Robinette said.
“I don’t know what to say.”

“I’ve got to go,” Nagin said.

“Keep in touch,” Robinette said. “Keep in touch.”

Note: The Nagin interview can be heard in its entirety at http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/09/02/katrina.nagin/index.html.

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

Storm ruins legal documents

By Greg Thomas
Real Estate writer

Thousands of lawyers in the metropolitan area have lost their files, their clients and their offices, but one of the biggest legal ramifications of Hurricane Katrina’s flooding waters is the probable loss of real estate records dating back to the early 1800s.

The records, which include titles, mortgages, conveyances and liens, were stored in the now-flooded basement of City Hall on Poydras Street.

In 2002, employees of Register of Conveyances Gasper Schiro began the tedious process of hand entering the records into computers, a $700,000 process that could have been contracted out and accomplished quickly but was instead done slowly by his staff to save money.

It’s unclear how much of the information has been digitized and or if the computerized information is stored safely.

If either the original records or the digitalization process is lost, it will be a major mess, said Southern University Law Center Professor Winston Riddick, who teaches real estate law. While it will be a tedious process to fix, and it can be fixed, it will be a major headache that could potentially take years.
The records involved date back to 1827, with the earliest recorded by hand in Spanish and French.

According to the American Center of Real Estate Lawyers, or ACREL, the potential loss of the records could be devastating to the local real estate industry.

The process of restoring the information could be incredibly tedious and create havoc for homeowners who will be filing insurance claims, said Professor Riddick. While he expects insurance companies to honor claims by owners who have copies of their insurance policies, the potential for delays and other hassles is very real.

New Orleans local real estate attorney Marx Sterbcow of Marx Sterbcow Law Group said Friday the loss of the records, stored in the musty, moldy basement of City Hall, may be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to storm-related problems for Louisiana attorneys, citing a memo e-mailed to Louisiana lawyers by Southern University Law Professor Michelle Ghetti.

“Many ACREL members have been in touch with us to express concerns for colleagues in the region. Members have been generous with offers of office space housing and other support,” Ghetti said.

Real estate records aren’t the only ones affected. Ghetti estimates that as many as 6,000, or two-thirds of the state’s attorneys, have lost offices, files and other documents critical to civil and criminal legal cases.

Several court buildings were flooded by Hurricane Katrina, including the basement in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Louisiana Supreme Court building.

For City Hall records, Sterbcow said “it’s the mortgages that’s going to be ugly. To put it mildly, how are you going to be able to prove if you own a piece of property if your records are gone? How are you going to be able to prove you have a mortgage, or one is paid off?”

Records for the 24th Judicial District in Jefferson Parish are probably in much better shape than the records in Orleans Parish, Sterbcow said.

“Jefferson Parish sounds like they’re going to be ok for mortgages and conveyances,’’ he said.

Unemployment numbers listed

Friday, 5:35 p.m.

Louisianians seeking to file for unemployment benefits should contact
the state Labor Department's Web site, www.laworks.net, or call (225)
342-3111. The toll-free number for people with hearing problems is
1-800-259-5154.

The dpeartment's address is 1001 N. 23rd St.; Baton Rouge, La.
70804-9094.

Former presidents lead effort

By Bruce Alpert
Washington bureau

WASHINGTON -- Former U.S. Rep. Billy Tauzin, and former U.S. Sen. John Breaux helped bring former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton on board to head the massive fund-raising effort to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Tauzin, R-Chackbay, said after watching the devastation in his native state he realized that the cost of helping residents recover would be astronomical and figured that the two former presidents were well positioned to raise a "a lot of money quickly." The two ex-presidents, Republican Bush and Democrat Clinton, raised over $1 billion for victims of last December's Asian tsunami.

Tauzin, who now heads the pharmaceutical lobby after over two decades in the House, said he contacted Bush, while Breaux, a Democrat who served more than 30 years in the House and Senate, contacted Clinton. Both agreed to sign on, provided that the current president, George W. Bush, wanted them.

Tauzin and Breaux said that the current president agreed and introduced the two as the fund-raisers in chief during a Wednesday news conference.

"Both former presidents were very enthusiastic about doing this," Breaux said.

Said Tauzin: "We got a lot of suffering in Louisiana and a lot of needs and I'm glad the two former presidents are ready to help."

Tauzin and Breaux are part of a group of seven former Louisiana congressional members, including former Rep. Bob Livingston, R-Metairie, who are listed as sponsors of a fund-raiser next week in Washington to raise money for hurricane victims. The suggested donations are $1,000 for individuals and $5,000 for corporations.

Clinton, who defeated George H.W. Bush in the 1992 presidential race, has become close to his former adversary over the past couple of years. In an interview, Clinton defended Bush's son, President George W. Bush, from criticism that he and his administration have mishandled rescue and relief operations in New Orleans.

Clinton told CNN that he understands why victims who lived for more than three days in “hellacious conditions” in the New Orleans Superdome are angry, “but the people that put them there did it because they thought they were saving their lives and then when the problems showed up, they had a lot of other people to save.”



STATEMENT FROM ASHTON PHELPS, JR., TIMES-PICAYUNE PUBLISHER

2 p.m.

An NABJ forum appears to be the source of a rumor that The Times-Picayune is
going to cease publication.

"We just resumed publication so thoughts on ceasing publication at some later
date are ridiculous," said Ashton Phelps Jr., the paper's publisher. "The
Times-Picayune will continue to publish. Period."

Jeff residents should not return home Monday

Friday, 5:05 p.m.

Jefferson Parish residents should not plan to return to their homes at 6 a.m. Monday, as Parish President Aaron Broussard announced earlier this week.

Parish Council Chairman Tom Capella said officials still were trying to decide Friday when parish roads would be safe enough for people to visit their neighborhoods to assess damage. A lack of gasoline in Jefferson also was a factor in the decision possibly to delay the reopening of Jefferson.

"Do not cancel your (hotel) reservations. Do not cancel your plans. Do not give up where you're staying," he said. "We will let you know when you can get back. We're working. It's positive. But do not give up your reservations."

When Jefferson does open to residents, it is expected to be for short visits only, Capella said. Residents will have to show ID to cross into Jefferson at a designated checkpoint and will required to leave by nightfall.

Student help sought

Friday, 4:50 p.m.

Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans is looking for students, faculty and staff to take care of evacuees and resume classes.

People in these groups may contact the center by going to www.lsuhsc.edu or calling (225) 334-2283

Disaster standards needed

WASHINGTON -- Federal officials may be coming to grips with the humanitarian crisis in New Orleans, but the nation soon must begin asking hard questions about how and how much to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., said Friday.

New Orleans "is not going away, but it can't be restored in exactly the same way," said Blumenauer, a leading critic of federal disaster reconstruction policy. "We've got to be smarter about how we spend the money that we give to people."

Too often, the federal government lets victims spend relief money to build homes and businesses no better designed to withstand nature's fury than those lost in a storm, he said. For instance, hog farmers in eastern North Carolina used federal funds to reconstruct waste-water lagoons that overflowed during big storms in the late 1990s.

The unprecedented scale of disaster in New Orleans presents a historic opportunity to set new standards, Blumenauer said.

"This isn't just a conversation that is limited to New Orleans and Louisiana," he said. "We have situations throughout the country where we need to take a hard look at how we are using the land and the infrastructure."

In the West, he said, that could mean limits on rebuilding homes in or near forests that are likely to be struck by wildfire, he added.

-- Jim Barnett

Musicans lend a hand

Friday, 4:15 p.m.

Joining a growing list of musicians eager to lend a hand, the Dave Matthews Band announced today that it will donate all proceeds from a Sept. 12 concert at Denver's Red Rocks Amphitheater to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. The band was previously scheduled to play at the venue Sept. 9-11, then added the benefit show. Matthews hails from Virginia, but is a longtime friend and fan of New Orleans musicians. The Dave Matthews Band performed at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival this spring.

Usher, Green Day, Ludacris and Alicia Keys are among the artists slated to particpate in a multi-city telethon on Sept. 10. Performances in Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta and Nashville will air simultaneously on MTV, VH1 and CMT, with proceeds going to the American Red Cross. Viacom, MTV's parent corporation, donated $1 million to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Effort.

Tonight at 7 p.m. Central Time, NBC, MSNBC and CNBC air "A Concert for Hurricane Relief," starring New Orleans natives Harry Connick Jr. and Wynton Marsalis, plus country star Tim McGraw, who grew up in north Louisiana. Viewers will be asked to make donations to the Red Cross at 1-800-HELP-NOW or www.redcross.org.



Hurricane deja vu

Margret Miller of D'Iberville, Miss. lost every brick and board to Hurricane Camille in 73. The only item she ever found was her silver platter she found lying in a field. She rebuilt. Hurricane Katrina has now taken every brick and board of her home again. Nothing left at all...except the same silver platter which she again found lying in a field. She plans to rebuild again.
Eliot Kamenitz

Evacuees overwhelm Houston

By Josh Peter
Staff writer

HOUSTON -- About 100,000 Louisiana residents have fled to this city in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Houston mayor Bill White estimated Friday, and thousands of refugees seeking shelter began to stretch this city’s resources.

After locking the gates to the site of the Astrodome Thursday night, a move that left busloads of evacuees on the street, officials reopened the Reliant Park and made plans to house a total of some 30,000 evacuees at the site of the Astrodome, an arena and an exhibition hall and a football stadium.

More than 50,000 of the evacuees are staying in hotels and thousands of others are staying with friends in the Houston area, and some New Orleans children already have enrolled in local schools, city officials said. But the refugees in need of public shelter, basic necessities and medical care after the hurricane flooded 80 percent of New Orleans and triggered a wave of lawlessness across the city forced Houston officials to scramble.

After 15,000 evacuees filled the Astrodome late Thursday night, the mayor and fire marshal agreed that all of the available sleeping space on he floor of the indoor arena had been occupied. By Friday morning, 3,000 evacuees were in the arena and the exhibition hall was being prepared to accommodate 11,000 more evacuees at Reliant Park.

With thousands of more Louisiana residents apparently en route, White said city officials were preparing more shelters across Houston, including the George R. Brown Convention Center downtown. But as Houstonians scrambled to absorb the exodus of Louisiana residents, White called on other cities to help with the effort he termed “a national tragedy.’’

Dallas will provide shelter for 20,000 evacuees and San Antonio will provide shelter for 12,500 evacuees, officials in those cities announced.

Meanwhile, Reliant Park took on the look of a growing village Friday as medical personnel in white coats and blue scrubs and hordes of volunteers marched across the grounds. Evacuees lined up outside the Astrodome to be processed and hundreds of others picked up donated goods at nearby stores or sprawled out on the grassy area within the complex. Many were drinking water and eating warm food for the first time in days.

Originally, Houston officials said they would house 23,000 evacuees in the Astrodome, the indoor stadium once home to the city’s professional football and baseball teams. But by late Thursday night, officials closed off the facility to new arrivals because of additional concerns about the safety, health and welfare of those already inside the building.

When reporters pressed White about evacuees who’d been sleeping in buses outside Reliant Park, he said the city was mobilizing as fast as possible and doing everything possible.

"Houston is rising to the challenge,’’ he said.



He also called on locals to open their own homes or garage apartments to evacuees “so people can live with dignity.’’



Airlines detail Baton Rouge expansion plans

Four airlines announced specific plans to expand their service out of Baton Rouge Friday.

American Airlines will bring 142 MD 80 aircraft into the market.

Continental Airlines will replace all of the regional jets it operates out of Baton Rouge with larger aircraft and add nonstop service to Newark, NJ.

Delta will add three large aircraft in Baton Rouge.

And Northwest Airlines will replace 98 smaller planes operating out of the state's capital with 121 larger planes. Northwest also plans to add flights to Minneapolis and Detroit.

Lake Pontchartrain Causeway is OK

By Meghan Gordon
St. Tammany bureau

Despite reports by local radio and the national press, the Lake
Pontchartrain Causeway sustained no major damage from Katrina’s storm
surge, the bridge’s general manager said in the first official report of its
condition.

An extensive inspection of the 24-mile bridge between Metairie and
Mandeville found two areas of erosion that are expected to be refurbished
within days, General Manager Robert Lambert said.

With the Interstate 10 twin spans in shambles, the news of
the Causeway’s integrity provides a bright spot to the north shore, where
much of the population depends on the sole remaining link to Jefferson and
Orleans parishes.

The bridge’s northbound lanes have been used since Tuesday for
emergency vehicles shuttling rescuers and critical supplies to the south shore.
The southbound lanes remained closed while Boh Bros. contractors repair two
small segments of limestone and concrete that connect the ends of the bridge to the shoreline.

Lambert said the contractors had the materials
available immediately after inspections, and that work should be
completed at least by Tuesday.

Lambert said multiple teams of engineers, including federal and state
officials inspected the bridge from boats and from the roadway. They
found
that several of the massive concrete slabs had shifted up to an inch on
the crossbeams that connect to underwater pilings. Lambert said the spans’
slight movement pose no threat to the bridge’s structural integrity.

“They stopped and checked every inch of this bridge,” he said. “There’s
no
questions about the safety, the integrity of the Causeway.”

Divers also began inspecting the hundreds of underwater pilings
Thursday to
confirm engineers’ conclusion that no large objects slammed into them
during
the storm.

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

“For people to come here right now just would be insane,” he said.

Lambert’s announcement will likely buoy out-of-state evacuees from the
north shore, who have been starved for information since most telephone
communication came to a halt Monday. It also contradicts
loosely-attributed
statements on local radio and national newspapers, such as The New York
Times that reported that parts of the 24-mile bridge were missing.

“Supposedly this one was the big one,” Lambert said. “This bridge took
it.”

Westwego on the mend, mayor says

4:10 p.m.

By Joe Darby
Staff writer

Most of Westwego stayed dry, although at least 75 percent of the buildings and homes have some type of wind damage, Mayor Robert Billiot said, declaring himself and city residents lucky.

Billiot said in a telephone interview from City Hall on Friday that only the southern part of the city suffered water damage, including some of the 1100 and 1200 blocks of "the Avenues" but that the water has long receded.

"If the storm had been 20 to 40 miles further west, we would have been underwater but it would have been (like) the Gulf of Mexico, not Lake Pontchartrain," he said.

Billiot referred questions about looters to Police Chief Dwayne "Poncho" Munch, who could not be reached, but the mayor said the Westwego Police Department had done "a great job" in containing the problem.

While Billiot said he's sure Westwego will fully recover, residents shouldn't plan to return soon.

"Our water plant is up and running but the sewerage plant is not. We can't flush,'' Billiot said. "The health department may eventually say we have to shut the water down because of the danger of contaminated sewerage getting in the drainage system."

The city is awaiting diesel fuel to get the generators going at the sewerage treatment plant and that could help, he said.

Lots of vegetation is down, including oak trees that have survived 200 years or more, the mayor said.

City Hall is operating on generator power, its phones are working and Billiot said he is trying to return calls from as many Westwego residents as he can. "I may return their call at 2 or 3 a.m., but I'll get back to everybody as soon as I can," he said.

LSU to resume classes Tuesday

Louisiana State University plans to resume classes Tuesday, chancellor Sean O'Keefe said this afternoon.

"The ER operation is paramount and we have to be mindful that that is going on around us," O'Keefe said of the massive rescue and relief effort on the Baton Rouge campus. "But the show goes on."

Some bill payment deadlines extended for storm victims

By Mary Judice
and Gwen Filosa

Banks and financial institutions this week began announcing packages that allow customers in storm-affected areas to delay a variety of payments without penalty.

Lenders are offering moratoriums on house notes. Credit card companies are pledging to allow customers to postpone payments for two months or more without penalty, and the country’s big three automakers said they will allow consumers to postpone car payments.

Fannie Mae, the federally chartered company that has helped millions of first-time home buyers acquire loans, is giving "mortgage relief" to borrowers in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and other states facing hardship as a result of Hurricane Katrina. The agency will suspend mortgage payments for up to three months, reduce payments for up to 18 months or – in the most severe cases - create longer loan payback plans.

"What matters most to hurricane victims in those first few days after a storm hits is basic safety and survival, not concerns about making their next mortgage payment," said Pam Johnson, senior vice president at Fannie Mae.

The help comes as thousands of New Orleans area customers displaced by Hurricane Katrina struggle with questions about which bills to pay – and how to pay them – in a city where all financial institutions are shut down for the foreseeable future.

For some, the question is whether to continue making rent or mortgage payments on an uninhabitable dwelling. For others the issue is how to send payments when there is no postal service.
Freddie Mac also offered mortgage relief in locations declared "Major Disaster Areas" by President Bush. "Our goal is to help families affected by Hurricane Katrina to keep their homes," the company's chairman Richard Syron said.

The state Attorney General’s office is helping nsure that storm victims are protected as well.

The office will contact the three credit reporting bureaus – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion – to inform them that state law prohibits them from reporting nonpayment of rent on the credit report of a storm victim. Nonpayment reports can lower an individual’s credit score.

Other state agencies are also working to protect consumers.

The state Office of Financial Institutions has urged financial institutions to extend repayment terms on loans, restructure debt and reduce late fees on past due loan payments.

The banking department’s web site, www.ofi.state.la.us will provide links to federal regulatory sites which will provide contact information for the affected financial institutions.

Sidney Seymour, chief examiner of the state Office of Financial Institutions, said there is no law providing forebearance on mortgage payments and it will be up to individual institutions to provide relief. There is no law providing protection from the fees and penalties imposed by credit card companies, either.

"There is no immunity for not paying your credit cards," said Alys
Cohen, a staff attorney for the National Consumer Law Center in Washington, D.C. "The rules have always been, if you don't pay you get in trouble."

Consumers should contact their credit card companies to see what relief will be offered.

Chris Spencer, spokesperson for Chase Bank, said consumers who have questions about credit card, mortgage or loan payments should contact a branch bank in the area where they have evacuated to.

“The branches are crowded around Baton Rouge,’’ he said. Chase also has
a branch bank across from the Astrodome in Houston, where busloands of
evacuees have been taken.

He said the bank will soon announce a disaster loan program.

For those financing automobiles, the major automakers are beginning to announce relief programs.

General Motors said it will "work closely on a case-by-case basis with all its impacted customers in auto finance, insurance and mortgage units."

Car insurance company Geico announced it had "catastrophe teams" ready
to help victims file claims. Like the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Geico and other companies offer online claim forms or toll-free numbers for customers to use.

Fats Domino, safe and sound

Friday, 3:38 p.m.

After being rescued from his flooded home in the Lower 9th Ward and evacuated by boat to the St. Claude Avenue bridge late Monday, New Orleans music legend Fats Domino wound up at the triage unit at the Maravich Assembly Center on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge.

But he didn't stay for long.

Domino, 77, and members of his family soon relocated to the apartment of LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell, a friend of the Domino family. The musician and his entourage spent two days with other New Orleans evacuees at Russell's home, then left Friday afternoon for an undisclosed location.

Domino is reluctant to travel outside his hometown for any reason; he famously turned down an invitation from President Clinton to accept an award in Washington, D.C.

But he won't be able to return any time soon to his memorabilia-filled home, which likely sustained heavy flood damage. "Tell the people of New Orleans that I'm safe," Domino reportedly said as he left the Baton Rouge apartment. "I wish I was able to still be there with them, but I hope to see them soon."



Editorial: Faster, faster -- Please

Friday, 3:34 p.m.

On the elevated portion of Interstate 10 near Orleans Avenue, a group of displaced people pushed a wheelchair carrying a dead woman. She wore pink pajama bottoms -- and a white kitchen garbage bag on her head.

People wandered around expressway on-ramps hoping for a ride to... anywhere.

Outside the Superdome, refugees were crowded onto a concrete walkway. The situation inside the Dome was beyond hellish.

Hurricane Katrina has created a humanitarian crisis of unimaginable proportions. And if the main strategy for addressing that crisis is to evacuate the east bank of New Orleans, then local, state and federal officials need to move much faster to get people out.

On streets across the city, people are in agony. And lives are in danger, because of looters, because of dwindling medical supplies, because of conditions that would strain even the healthiest of people.

Security had improved in much of the city late Thursday and Friday. It was a relief to see so many uniformed men bearing machine guns patrolling expressways and major intersections. But in some parts of the city -- particularly those slivers of Uptown New Orleans that suffered relatively little flood damage -- the presence of law enforcement and relief agencies seemed minimal at best.

In those same areas, some residents were still under the dangerous illusion that they could wait out Katrina's aftermath at home, just as they waited out the hurricane itself. Others understood the dangers but had no way to travel and little hope of getting authorities' attention. On Constantinople street near Prytania, a severely sunburned, diabetic 80-year-old had run out of insulin, and the woman who had given her shelter could get no assistance. On Belfast Street near Fontainebleau, two 93-year-olds needed to evacuate but could not.

As more and more people clear out of the city indefinitely, those who remain are at even greater risk. People across the east bank need help in getting out, and lives will be lost if they do not get it.


Memphis welcomes storm victims

2:20 p.m.

By Jeffrey Meitrodt
Staff writer

MEMPHIS -- Local businesses and churches in Memphis have rolled out the welcome mat to Gulf Coast victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Hotels have cut rates by one third, while local churches have provided dinner and an offer of $100 in free groceries each week for those evacuees who show their driver's licenses or indentification cards from the stricken area.

Local restaurants also have slashed meal tabs 50 percent for people from Louisiana. At one restaurant, a waitress refused a tip. She told evacuees if she could do more, she would.

Many apartments have cut their short-term leases from month to month and are offering rents of $150 monthly as well as providing furniture.

St. Charles "paradise"

By Matt Scallan
Staff writer

The roof of the courthouse blew off, there are tree branches everywhere, and people are lining up for handouts of MRE's (meals ready to eat) and ice, but by the current standards of the New Orleans area, St. Charles Parish is paradise.

"Compared what's going on everywhere else, this is just an inconvenience," Destrehan resident Mike Smith said.

Parish officials said St. Charles water supply was certified as drinkable on Thursday, Parish President Albert Laque said, and residents are hopeful that the power will be on next week.

Yet residents say they are worried about their safety. Rumors abound about looters entering the community along the levees or the railroad tracks and preying on homeowners, although those interviewed Friday knew
of no specific incident.

"We're thinking about having our own checkpoints," resident Frank Hernandez said, after watching news accounts about looting troubles in New Orleans.

"It's like it's not even America anymore," said Nicole Kurges of Destrehan.

Parish officials scoffed at the notion that there was any danger, saying the Sheriff's Office has a 75 units on patrol. Many deputies are sleeping off the night shift in a volunteer fire station in Destrehan.

In addition, some National Guard troops are providing security for parish buildings.

Laque said that the greatest problem aside from the power outages are
jammed phone lines and an inaiblity to communicate with residents,
except via the Internet.

"People can sleep safe at home tonight," he said.

Nevertheless, Keith L'Hoste and his neighbors spent the night guarding their homes in Montz with loaded shotguns.

"We drank some beer, but not too much," he said.

A New Orleans Archdiocese presence

3:10 p.m.

The New Orleans Archdiocese has established an administrative presence in Baton Rouge, New Orleans Archbishop Alfred Hughes said Friday in an interview with television station WFAB.

"We had an offer of partnership ... and we've set up a quasi administration in exile, thanks to Bishop (Robert) Munench," said Hughes, who visited refugees in a number of Baton Rouge shelters. Hughes said one of the most harrowing stories was told by a man who said that water from the breeched levee afforded him only two minutes to get he and his wife to the roof.

"His wife was overcome by fear, and he pulled her up," Hughes said, but she ended up falling into the rapidly rising water. "He pulled her, but she slipped out of her shirt."

Hughes encouraged storm victims to hold fast to their faith, to help one another, and to remember that "extraordinary acts of courage" by ordinary people - not scattered acts of violence - is the definitive story of Hurricane Katrina.

Mandeville power is three weeks away

2:50 p.m.

Electrical power in Mandeville may be largely restored in three weeks, authorities said Friday, and Mayor Eddie Price urged residents to wait at least two more weeks before returning to their homes.


Danny Schaus of Cleco said crews Thursday completed an inspection of the city and have compiled a list of all circuits and lines and know where every pole and line and transformer is down.


"We got some lights on Thursday night in Madisonville near one of our substations,'' he said.


Price estimated that as many as 500 homes in the city sustained damage.

"After a visual walking inspection by our building inspector Wayne Berggeron and from what I have also seen, at least 30 homes on the lakefront are unfixable,'' he said.


At least six - three near the west edge of Little Castine Bayou and three east of Wilkinson Street - were reduced to concrete slabs.


Price and City Councilman Jerry Coogan estimated that 40 percent of the homes in Fontainebleau subdivision, the city's largest residential development, sustained minor to severe damage, all caused by huge pine trees being blown onto roofs.


Heavy damage from falling trees was also evident in New Golden Shores subdivision.


A tour Friday with Coogan at the wheel of a police vehicle showed home after home in Fontainebleu with trees protruding into roofs. "From the way so many of these huge pine trees have been twisted I really believe something akin to a tornado swept through parts of the subdivision,'' Coogan said.


Price said all streets would be open to traffic before dark Friday.


Both Mandeville Elementary and Mandeville High schools sustained some damage, according to Coogan. As of Friday, St. Tammany Parish Schools were scheduled to reopen on Oct. 1.


But there were bright spots.


Mandeville did not lose water and on Friday Price said it has been tested and is safe to drink. The sewer system is still working also along with natural gas. But without electricity Price said the sewer system pumping stations are not working and at some point the plant will reach capacity and start backing up.


He said police have responded to one rape since the storm and a couple of incidents of looting.


Gasoline was available in Mandeville Thursday afternoon and Friday at the Shell/Cracker Barrel station/convenience store on U.S. 190 and Girod Street but the wait was approximately three hours with cars lined up on the south shoulder of U.S. 190 east to Coffee Street.


-- Richard Boyd.


EJGH up and running; Ochsner looking for staff

East Jefferson General Hospital is asking its doctors, nurses and other staff to return to work after power was restored today. CEO Mark Peters said hospital staff members need to present their work IDs at checkpoints the Louisiana State Police have set up to control access to the facility.

Speaking to WAFB in Baton Rouge, Peters said those who don’t have their IDs should call the hospital and 504-454-4000 and ask for the command center. The staff there will fax a letter that will serve as an ID for now, Peters said.

Across town, Ochsner Foundation Hospital asked its doctors, nurses and therapists to call 225-761-5552

Man survives three days in attic

By Doug MacCash
Staff writer

HOUMA -- Christopher Palgrave is safe in the Houma Terrebonne Civic Center, with hundreds of other New Orleans refugees. He survived hurricane Katrina -- barely.
That's the message the 78-year-old, English-born, retired ship's engineer wants his wife Dilia Montoya-Palgrave to receive, a message familiar to many survivors hoping to reassure anxious family members.
On Friday morning, fearing the worse of the growing storm's fury, Dilia fled, driving north to Jackson, Miss., and the safety of a highway motel. "She was very upset," Palgrave said, in a lilting Anglo accent, "she had a terrible feeling about it."
Despite his wife's intuition, Christopher refused to go. That morning he'd undergone minor but painful prostate surgery. He preferred facing the onrushing storm than the escape drive. During the last storm, he explained, it had taken 14 hours just to reach Baton Rouge.
"I thought I could ride it out," he said, echoing the optimism of many New Orleanians.
Palgrave had met New Orleans native Delia 40 years ago, during a stop at the port of New Orleans. They settled in her home town, though the world-traveling seaman said that given his experiences with tropical storms, he'd always had misgivings about living in a city so obviously vulnerable.
"I've often said in the past, we should leave, with all the water around. But I never pushed it, never strongly."
On Monday Katrina scoured Palgrave's lakefront neighborhood near the University of New Orleans. As the wind screamed, he feared that the house might be destroyed. But like so many New Orleanians, when the winds subsided, he found he'd gotten by unscathed. Unfortunately, like so many, he didn't know that the worse was yet to come.
Four days after the storm, in the busy refugee center, 6-foot-tall Palgrave, in an ensemble of donated clothing, was still unaware that a substantial part of the Crescent City's all-important levee system had failed, allowing Lake Pontchartrain, which had long coveted the reclaimed low-lying Lakefront, to pour in.
"The water came in so fast it chased me up the steps into the attic. It seemed to take only 15 minutes. The ground floor was full to the top of the 14 foot ceilings."
Echoing cautionary tales from long-ago hurricane Betsy, Palgrave found himself trapped in his attic, high above the flooded neighborhood, with no escape. "All I had was a flashlight and a radio" he said, "and a bottle of water, but that soon went."
He would remain in his water-locked prison for the next 3 days. He'd solved the water problem by tapping into the attic-mounted hot water heater. "It was like manna from heaven," he said of the corrosion laced water. "It tasted terrible, but it saved me."
But there were other troubles. The attic heat was exhausting, and he was further fatigued by lack of food.
"I was starving," he said. "I kind of passed out, and I dreamed of bacon and eggs."
He used a loose louver slat to bang through the ventilation opening in the attic pediment, charging to the portal at the sound of passing helicopters, lacerating his bald scalp repeatedly on the low-slung rafters. But he was fearful of calling for help. Reports of widespread looting made him fearful of signaling passing boats.
"While I was in the attic, I saw my newspaper float by," he said. "I thought if I could reach it, at least I'd have something to read. ... The most terrible thing I saw during that time was these four dogs swimming around, starving. ... During this time I finally realized I'd made a terrible mistake... I think the stress and lack of food got to me. I'm not usually a panicky person, but I panicked."
Palgrave said that by the third day he realized the passing helicopters were unable to see him waving from the vent, but he was too weak to pull himself onto the roof. Finally he summoned the strength to lift himself up enough to sit on the vent's ledge, making himself more conspicuous to rescuers. ... The man hanging from the helicopter was able to pull me out," he said, "I was dizzy. I was really grateful."
"It was terrifying. Until you've experienced it, you can't imagine what it's going to be like. We're all used to high winds -- but this is different."
Palgrave believes that because of his wife's roots, eventually he'll move back to New Orleans, but he allows that there will be changes. "I don't think it's going to be the same again. A lot of people will leave. The people who come back will live differently. I'm definitely going to build a two-story house, with a mansard roof, so you can walk around in the attic and a meta ladder so you can get to he roof.
"The kindness here is overwhelming," said Palgrave of the refugee center, "it really puts your faith in humanity. When I came in here I was on my last legs. I didn't care if I lived or died. I was filthy, black, it tells you should always keep your attic clean."
Palgrave feels he has only one more hurtle to cross. Speaking of his wife, he said: "We'll have big reunion for a few days, then she's going to start saying 'You stupid idiot.' "

First Lady says response to Katrina has not been enough

Speaking at the Cajundome in Lafayette, Laura Bush admitted this afternoon that the response to the disaster in metropolitan New Orleans has not been adequate.

“I think that is a serious, serious problem,” the First Lady said.

But Bush said she was encouraged by the response of communities such as Lafayette, where thousands of evacuees gathered in the arena. There, those left homeless by Hurricane Katrina have been courteous, appreciative and very, very grateful, she said.

“This doesn’t really look like what we’ve seen on televison,” said Bush, in reference to the lawlessness that has gripped New Orleans.

She said she visited the storm’s refugees in Lafayette, her only stop Friday, in part to show another side to the story. Reporters questioned her about television images may be showing the world that only the city’s poor, black residents were left behind.

Bush, though, said as with most natural disasters, the poor are most vulnerable, and often live in the most vulnerable areas. “This is what happens when there is a disaster of this scope,” she said.

Contacting lawmakers

People who need to contact their New Orleans-area state lawmakers should try to reach them at the state Capitol, where many have set up temporary offices.
House members can be reached at 225-342-6945 and Senators can be reached at 225-342-2040.

Rep. Peppi Bruneau and Sen. Edwin Murray said that they want to help people who are trying to reach various state agencies.

Charity evacuation

The last four of 13 "infectious disease" patients on the ninth floor of Charity Hospital are evacuating, said a nurse reached by telephone at 1:30 p.m. Friday.

Julie Smith, a 23-year-old registered nurse from New Orleans, sounded remarkably composed as she spoke briefly while she and about 20 other staff members awaited evacuation.

"I'm fine," she said when asked how she was holding up. She had been working at the hospital since before the storm hit. The National Guard was on site, she said, and the staff was moving downstairs. But she didn't know how she would travel out of the city.

"We don't really know until we get down," Smith said. She said her family had evacuated New Orleans to Texas and were safe.

The patients on the ninth floor have infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis and HIV, that require them to be isolated, Smith said.

-Gwen Filosa


Fires burning in N.O.

Friday, 12:23 p.m.

State environmental officials confirmed that two fires were burning out of control Friday morning in the New Orleans area.

Rodney Mallett, communications director for the Department of Environmental Quality, said a warehouse that is used to store discarded oil products was on fire in the 3500 block of Chartres Street.

The second fire was located on the West Bank of Jefferson Parish, but he could not give a location or details about the blaze.

Mallett said federal Environmental Protection Agency officials have flown over the Chartres Street blaze with monitoring equipment and that first indications are that there are no toxic emissions. He said EPA has taken samples of the air over the fire and that more detailed results should be available later today.

A third fire was reported to be burning, according to the Associated Press, in a building behind the Windsor Court Hotel in downtown New Orleans. But no details are available on that fire either.

-Ed Anderson, Capital bureau

Charity, University hospitals evacuation resumes

Friday, 11:57 a.m.

BATON ROUGE - Twenty-eight infants and young children have been successfully evacuated from Charity and University hospitals and are bound for Baton Rouge, the head of Louisiana State University's public hospital system said Friday.

But an unspecified number of patients at the hospitals are still awaiting evacuation from facilities that have been beset by dwindling supplies of food, medicine, fuel and water since Katrina's floodwaters rose, said Donald Smithburg, head of LSU's Health Care Services Division.

Hospital officials have been calling for their patients to be evacuated since early Tuesday. Helicopters finally began showing up Thursday morning to ferry people to safety, but the exodus was quickly halted because of security concerns, Smithburg said.

"We had to pull back because they were taking shots,'' he said.

Smithburg said the evacuation re-started around 9:30 Friday morning with a mix of private choppers and "heavily armed'' Chinook helicopters operated by the National Guard.

-Jan Moller



Treasury, IRS take steps to make additional diesel fuel available

Friday, 11:55 a.m.

WASHINGTON, DC - The Treasury Department and IRS today announced that "dyed diesel fuel" would be permitted for road use.

Dyed diesel fuel ordinarily is intended for off-road use in farm equipment or in certain government vehicles such as school buses. It is dyed to distinguish it from diesel fuel intended for road use.

"Today's action is a relatively simple and straightforward step that will immediately increase the available supply of diesel fuel nationwide, which is especially needed in Gulf Coast relief efforts," Secretary of the Treasury John Snow stated."

The announcement today will make available additional supplies of diesel fuel that will help alleviate shortages. The relief will remain in effect through September 15, 2005.

Planning to return? Roll up your sleeve.

Friday, 11:45 a.m.

People who are planning to return to Louisiana should consider getting
tetanus shots first, according to the state health department.

Adults need boosters every 10 years, spokeswoman Kristen Meyer said,
but if more than five years have passed since the last tetanus shot,
people should get another inoculation after being cut or injured,
especially while cleaning up after Hurricane Katrina or working in dirty water.

The question about shots has been the dominant query from callers to
the department's emergency center who are planning to come back, Meyer
said.

"It's a good thing that people are trying to find out," she said.

Coast guard has rescued four thousand so far

ST. LOUIS – More than 4,000 people have been rescued from rooftops, flooded neighborhoods and hospitals throughout the Gulf Coast region since rescue operations began Monday, and joint-agency rescue operations are continuing day and night.

The Coast Guard is placing a priority of evacuating patients from hospitals and is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to deliver food and water to stranded survivors. More than 23,000 pounds of water have been delivered thus far.

Coast Guard assets and personnel from all over the country have been deployed to the area. Many were in place before the storm hit, and more are on their way. Forty-eight aircraft from nine air stations are also on scene conducting search, rescue and humanitarian assistance operations.

The 270-foot Coast Guard Cutter Spencer arrived in the New Orleans area last night to provide communications and logistical support to Coast Guard rescue personnel. Twenty-four other cutters are operating in the Gulf of Mexico, with eight more en route.

Waterway surveys continue. The Port of Destin/Panama City is now open to vessels with a 34-foot draft or less. The status of all other ports and waterways has not changed. The Port of Mobile is open to barge traffic only. Surveys of the Mississippi River are continuing.

There are approximately 90 vessels waiting to enter the Port of New Orleans. Coast Guard Sector New Orleans is establishing a task force to work with the maritime industry and the New Orleans Port Authority to prioritize how those vessels will be allowed into port once the river reopens.

The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port offloaded oil Thursday night for the first time since the hurricane; four more vessels are there waiting to offload.

The Minerals Management Service is providing daily updates on the offshore platforms and rigs at http://www.mms.gov.



Rep. Carter makes urgent plea for gas, buses

BATON ROUGE - State Rep. Karen Carter, D-New Orleans, made an urgent plea Friday morning for gasoline and buses to ferry victims to safety who have been stuck in New Orleans under deteriorating conditions since Hurricane Katrina struck the city four days ago.

"If you want to save a life get a bus down here," said Carter, whose district includes the French Quarter. "I'm asking the American people to help save a wonderful American city." Her voice cracking with emotion and her eyes bloodshot from fatigue and distress, Carter said pledges of money and other assistance are of secondary importance right now to the urgent need for transportation.

"Don't give me your money. Don't send me $10 million today. Give me buses and gas. Buses and gas. Buses and gas," she said. "If you have to commandeer Greyhound, commandeer Greyhound. … If you donn't get a bus, if we don't get them out of there, they will die."

Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, who is coordinating federal relief efforts on behalf of the National Guard, could not say when people can expect to be rescued. “If you're human you've got to be affected by it, Blum said. "These people, their heartstrings are torn as are yours. (But) the magnitude of this problem is you cannot help everybody at the same time."

Blum said 7,000 troops from around the country and will be in place by Saturday evening to help restore order.

Col. Pete Schneider, a spokesman for the Louisiana National Guard, said most of the new arriving soldiers are military police or infantry.

Already, the beefed-up police presence is allowing for patrols in area that have essentially been ungoverned since Katrina struck. "We're getting into areas that have been previously inaccessible," said Sgt. Cathy Flinchum of the Louisiana State Police

Asked why the people waiting at the Ernest M. Morial Convention Center and elsewhere have not received airdropped relief supplies of food and water despite reports that corprse are beginning to pile up, Blum said: "I don't know. That's what I'm doing here is assessing the situation. Nobody wants anyone to die."

Carter, who expressed frustration with the slow pace of the federal relief effort and compared it to the speed with which U.S. forces react in times of war and tragedy in other countries, insisted there is one key way for people to help.

"If you own a bus, bring it. We'll find a way to get it in to New Orleans," she said.

-Jan Moller and Ed Anderson.

Ford Offers Payment Deferrals

Ford Motor Credit Company is offering customers affected by Hurricane Katrina the opportunity to defer up to two vehicle payments.

Under the Disaster Relief Program, customers have the opportunity to defer these monthly payments without paying extension fees. The program is open to customers living in counties that FEMA has declared federal disaster areas as a result of the storm.

Ford Motor Credit customers who are eligible for the Disaster Relief Program should receive letters next week with instructions on how to register. Customers must register within 60 days to qualify. Deferred payments are due at the end of the contract term. Customers who have not received a letter, but believe they qualify, may call the toll-free number listed for their brand to register: Ford Credit: 1-800-723-4016; Jaguar Credit: 1-800-945-7000; Land Rover Capital Group: 1-877-507-2264; Mazda American Credit: 1-800-945-4000; PRIMUS Financial Services: 1-800-945-4000; Volvo Car Finance: 1-800-770-8234

Mortgage Loan Relief Available

Fannie Mae has mortgage relief provisions in place for borrowers in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and other states facing hardships as a result of widespread damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.

With Fannie Mae's disaster relief provisions, lenders help borrowers in several ways, including suspending mortgage payments for up to three months, reducing the payments for up to 18 months, or in more severe cases, creating longer loan payback plans. Such assistance is provided on a case-by-case basis, and is designed to meet the individual needs of borrowers.

For information on mortgage relief, homeowners who have experienced hardships should contact the lender to whom they send their monthly mortgage payment.

Crisis Counseling Hotline Available

UnitedHealthcare announced that anyone in the Gulf Coast region affected by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina will have free access to a 24-hour telephone service staffed by UnitedHealthcare's experienced master's-level counselors. Counselors can assist callers with the range of personal concerns that may affect victims of natural disasters: Stress, anxiety and the grieving process. Callers also may receive referrals from a national database of community resources to help them with specific concerns, such as financial and legal issues. Callers who may have suffered physical trauma or symptoms will be transferred to a nurse who will be able to provide health education and decision support regarding the need for medical treatment. In addition, individuals who prefer to use the Internet may access disaster information at www.liveandworkwell.com

The toll-free hotline is 1-866-615-8700. The service will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for as long as necessary. The service is free of charge to anyone affected by the hurricane.

ABA Will Help Hurricane Victims

American Bar Association President Michael S. Greco has announced that he is enlisting the ABA Young Lawyers Division and lawyers from several ABA sections to assist hurricane victims. The lawyers will assist with insurance claims, home repair contracts, wills and other documents, and related issues.

FEMA is now in the process of establishing a hotline staffed by ABA volunteer lawyers to assist victims in each affected state. A complete listing of the FEMA hotlines and other available legal resources will be posted on the ABA Web site, http://www.abanet.org/, in the coming days.

Hotline set up for military families

9:27 a.m.

Authorities have set up a hotline so that families of deployed soldiers can report their whereabouts. That information will be forwarded to military members serving overseas. The number is 1-888-777-7731.

Chase looks for its employees

Chase Bank continued searching for Chase and Bank One employees in the
New Orleans area Thursday. The bank asked any employees in the affected
area who have not been accounted for to call 866-475-7623. The hotline is
open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Temporary Locations for Social Security Check Distribution

The U.S. Postal Service and the Social Security Administration have established temporary locations for the distribution of benefit checks to Louisiana and Mississippi residents unable to receive mail.

These Louisiana distribution sites will operate from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday Sept. 2, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday through Sept. 5:

Des Allemands Post Office, 17242 Highway 90, for residents of Venice (70091), Boothville (70038), Buras (70041), Port Sulphur (70083), Lafitte (70067), Barataria (70036), Belle Chase (70037), Gretna (70053/56), Harvey (70058), Marrero (70072), Westwego (70094) and Algiers (70114/70131).

The La Place Post Office, 190 Belle Terre Blvd. for residents of Point-a-La Hache (70082), St. Bernard (70085), Violet (70092), Meraux (70075), Chalmette (70043), Arabi (70032), Kenner (70062/65), Metairie (70001-70006) and Braithwaite (70040).

The Hamond Post Office, 105 North Railorad Ave., for residents of Mandeville (70471), Madisonville (70447) and Slidell (70458).

In the City of New Orleans:

The La Place Post Office, 190 Belle Terre Blvd. (70068), 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Sept, 2 and Saturday Sept. 3

The Gonzalez Post Office, 1706 S. Burnside Ave. (70737), 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 4 and Monday, Sept. 5

The Baton Rouge Downtown Station, 750 Florida Blvd. (70802), 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 6 and Wednesday, Sept.7.

Beginning Sept. 8, unclaimed checks will be forwarded, if a forwarding address is on file. Those that cannot be forwarded will be returned to the Social Security Administration.

In Mississippi, check distribution sites will operate from 9 to 3 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2 through Sunday, Sept. 4.

The Escatawpa Post Office, 4100 Rabby St., for residents of Hurley (39555), Gautier (39553), Pascagoula (39563 and 39567) and Ocean Springs (39564).

The Biloxi Northbay Post Office, 356 Ginger Drive, for residents of Biloxi (39530, 39531, 39532, 39540), McHenry (39561) and Perkinston (39573).

The Gulfport Larkin Smith Mail Facility, 11110 Highway 49, for residents of Gulfport (39501/03/07), Kiln (39556), Pearlington (39573), Lakeshore (39558), Waveland (39576), Pass Christian (39571), Long Beach (39560) and Bay St. Louis (39520/25).

At all locations, postal employees will be requesting identification.



Fires break out in Bywater, CBD

8:02 a.m.

Three explosions ignited a fire today at a chemical facility in the Bywater neighborhood around 4:35 a.m., WAFB, Channel 9 reported. A Coast Guard boat patrolling the Mississippi River passed near by as smoke billowed over the city. Further details were unavailable.

At 9 a.m., WAFB reported a fire in a five-story building on Poydras Street across from the W Hotel.