Evacuees forced to wait outside bus stationBy Allen Powell II
River Parishes bureau
Several dozen New Orleans residents seeking transportation out of Baton Rouge Saturday were denied entrance to the Greyhound bus station on Florida Street. Instead, the would-be travelers say they were forced to wait outside on the sidewalk for hours.
The travelers, many of them recent evacuees from New Orleans, waited for the chance to buy tickets to Texas, Alabama, Mississippi and northern Louisiana.
Several of them said they had been waiting at the station since the early afternoon and by 7 p.m. hadn’t been allowed to wait inside, use bathroom facilities or get water. Many of the travelers said they only wanted to purchase tickets or pick-up tickets that had already been purchased by family members.
Terrance Pierre, who said he was evacuated from Xavier University on Wednesday, said he had been waiting outside of the station for more than five hours to purchase a ticket to Texas. Pierre said he was just trying to reunite with his family and friends.
“I’m just trying to get a ticket with my own money,” he said.
Through security guards at the station, the bus station’s manager declined to discuss why the people were not allowed inside.
Travelers said they were told that there had been a disturbance at the bus station on Friday, but that could not confirmed with station employees. In addition, they said they were told that the bus station’s booking system was not operating.
Officials from Greyhound’s national office could not be reached for comment on Saturday night.
Although the crowd appeared orderly, six Baton Rouge police cruisers arrived at the station at about 7:20 p.m... A security guard at the door told officers that some people in the crowd had been banging on the station’s doors, a claim all of the travelers vehemently denied.
No one was arrested, and the officers left after instructing travelers to line up along the front of the building. After the officers left, bus station employees began allowing some people to enter the station to use the restroom, but most were forced to remain outside.
Landrieu slams FEMAWASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, D-La., Saturday accused the
Federal Emergency Management Agency of failing to accept offers that
would have eased post-hurricane problems in New Orleans -- including a plan
for the Forest Service to douse fires in the city with aircraft used to fight fire.
On Friday, Landrieu asked President Bush to appoint a cabinet-level official to oversee Hurricane Katrina relief and recovery efforts. She reiterated that request on Saturday.
"Yesterday, I was hoping President Bush would come away from his tour
of the regional devastation triggered by Hurricane Katrina with a new
understanding for the magnitude of the suffering and for the abject
failures of the current Federal Emergency Management Agency,"
Landrieu said. "Twenty-four hours later, the President has yet to answer my
call for a cabinet-level official to lead our efforts. Meanwhile, FEMA,
now a shell of what it once was, continues to be overwhelmed by the task at
Landrieu said that FEMA has inexplicably failed to take advantage of offers of help.
"I understand that the U.S. Forest Service had water-tanker aircraft available to help douse the fires raging on our riverfront, but FEMA has yet to accept the aid. When Amtrak offered trains to evacuate significant numbers of victims - far more efficiently than buses - FEMA again dragged its feet," Landrieu said. "Offers of medicine, communications equipment and other desperately needed items continue to flow in, only to be ignored by the agency.
Landrieu said that her "greatest disappointment" is the lack of progress fixing the breached 17th Street levee.
"Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe. Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment. The good and decent people of southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast - black and white, rich and poor, young and old - deserve far better from their national government," Landrieu said.
Michael Chertoff, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, which
is directing FEMA in its recovery efforts in New Orleans, has said that the federal government is committing more and more resources to what is
the worst natural disaster in the nation's history.
U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters: Rescue delay shows "class division"Saturday, Sept. 3, 2005 8:00 p.m.
U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California, arrived in Baton Rouge on Saturday with one message to President Bush and federal rescue agencies:
"Get it done," Waters said. "I thought I'd seen a lot. Don't forget, I'm from Los Angeles," where there has been a documented history of rioting. "But nothing like this. To see dead bodies on the street just unnerves me."
Waters said she came in response to the vast scope of the catastrophe, and was flanked by her friend State Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge. At about 4 p.m. on Saturday, Waters said she was leaving to ride a bus with evacuees from New Orleans. "To give them water, to give them comfort," she said at the Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge.
Waters said the delay in rescuing the stranded masses of people in the New Orleans region shows "a class division."
"There are a lot of naïve people," Waters said. "This is America. This should be illuminating about what we need in terms of dealing with poverty."
The poorest of the poor make up so many of the people stranded in New Orleans and the outlying areas, she added. "The United States has just been seen in a light that many people in the world never thought they'd see."
Jobs, food stamps available for hurricane victimsState officials reported an outpouring of services to assist those
displaced by Hurricane Katrina Saturday, providing food stamps, jobs
and further transportation for those still needing to flee
The state Department of Social Services reported 80,000 applications
for food stamps have been processed, providing $393 in September to
people who have never needed assistance. Anyone seeking
information about social services should call 1-888-LA-HELPU.
State Police also reported that anyone wanting to donate buses to
assist with evacuation efforts can call (225) 925-7377.
State officials also announced that about 10,000 temporary jobs will
soon be available for workers dislocated by the hurricane thanks to a
$62.1 million grant approved by the federal government.
The jobs will run the gamut from public agencies like libraries to
demolition, clean up and reconstruction work and last about 12 weeks,
with the possibility of extensions.
People can began applying for the work immediately, but the money
won't be available for a few weeks. The grant includes $43.2 million
for wages, $6.48 million for fringe benefits and $6.21 million for
supplies and support services.
Anyone seeking information can contact their local workforce
investment programs for details.
St. John officials call for workers to returnSt. John the Baptist Parish President Nickie Monica and Sheriff Wayne Jones are asking all of their employees to return to work by Tuesday so that the parish administration and law enforcement can return to normal operation.
Parish employees are being asked to report for work at their regular times. Deputies and support staff are asked to do the same.
St. John public schools Superintendent Mike Coburn is requesting that all principals, administrators, maintenance personnel, janitorial staff, and central office personnel report to work on Tuesday at their regular work times as well. Coburn has said that school is scheduled to begin in the parish by Sept. 12.
All evacuees removed from the Superdome and Convention CenterSaturday, Sept. 3, 2005 9:50 p.m.
The Louisiana Superdome and the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center have been emptied of evacuees, state police officials said Saturday night.
While hundreds of people still gathered outside the two facilities at any given time, officials said they were arriving on foot to await transportation out of the city.
With the help of thousands of federal troops, Col. Henry Whitehorn said 19,000 people had been removed from the convention center in less than 24 hours. Whitehorn estimated that 2,000 people, many of them with serious medical problems, were still housed inside the terminal at Louis Armstrong International Airports.
However, he was unable to provide specifics on how many people rolled out of New Orleans on Saturday or how many still remain.
Whitehorn said law enforcement agencies fielded about 1,000 distress 911 calls Saturday from people still trapped in attics of buildings surrounded by water. He said mayhem in the city had declined greatly with no reports of serious violence recorded Friday night.
Meanwhile, the 1 million-plus locations that lost power was down to 643,000, said Public Service Commissioner Jimmy Field. LSU researchers testing the floodwaters for contamination levels also reported that they had taken the first water samples from canals draining into Lake Pontchartrain and expected to have the results in about two days.
Banks announce help for storm-affected customersArea banks continued to reopen branches Saturday and announced aid
packages for customers.
Hibernia National Bank brought its online banking system into
operation and reopened branches across south Louisiana outside the New Orleans area.
Randy Bryan, Hibernia executive vice president, said the online banking
system was in operation and the bank’s call center was available to take
calls from customers.
Herb Boydstun, Hibernia president, said the bank had reopened 42 branches in in Baton Rouge and the surrounding area, as well as LaPlace, Thibodaux, Raceland and Houma. A total of 116 branches in 13 parishes were shut because of the storm.
Boydstun said the bank has moved its operations center from New Orleans
to Shreveport and Houston. The bank also said it would defer until January consumer loan payments and lines of credit for storm-affected customers in Louisiana and Mississippi. The same terms will apply to small business loans.
Payments on home mortgages held by the bank will be suspended up to three months.
The bank said online bill payments previously set up have been processed as
scheduled and that mail addressed to Hibernia is being rerouted by the postal service.
Whitney National Bank also temporarily moved its headquarters and operations
center to Houston. By week’s end Whitney had reopened branches in Houma,
Thibodaux and Gonzales and in Mobile, Ala.
In an unprecedented move, Chase Bank will open selected branches Sunday
and Monday in Baton Rouge, Houma, Lafayette and Lake Charles as well as some branches in Texas.
Chase also announced a 90-day deferred payment and waiver of late fees on
home mortgages, home equity loans and lines of credit. Credit card holders
will be allowed to skip payment for one month and automobile loan customers
may defer loan payments for 90 days.
Pineville church works to helpSaturday, 5:57 p.m.
By Bob Ussery
The road to salvation for many hurricane evacuees from New Orleans is
traveled by vans from churches, which have gone into action across
When the governor’s office issued a call for help in moving nursing
home patients who had been forced out of New Orleans, First Baptist Church
of Pineville was one of many entities that responded.
About 150 patients from two damaged homes in New Orleans had been taken to a high school in Bogalusa. But on Thursday they had to be moved to other shelters because the gymnasium lost electricity.
Pastor Gary Baldwin and volunteers from the Pineville church set out in vans. They joined other church vans and buses that went to the Bogalusa high school. Baldwin said there were several hearses, too, because some of the patients had
“Some had double diapers, some had sugar diabetes, and some were in
nightgowns,” Baldwin recalled Saturday. Several men had to lift the
patients into vehicles.
After patients were loaded, the Pineville volunteers began looking for
a place to take them. After eight hours of travel, “we finally found a
nursing hime in central Louisiana,” Baldwin said.
A story within the story is that of Theresa Washington.
A nurse’s assistant, she lived in New Orleans, but volunteered to work for the
Pineville church an help ove the patients out of Bogalusa.
When she left New Orleans before the storm, she advised her family, including her three children, that if they got into trouble to go to the Superdome. Now,
she doesn’t know where they are, Baldwin said.
Another phase of the
Pineville church’s work is housing refugees. Baldwin said the church is a
Red Cross shelter, and works with the Louisiana Baptist Convention and
central Louisiana government agencies. So far, the church has housed
over 200 refugees.
The church has provided food, clothes, blankets, sheets, and showers. “About 350 of our church members have been helping in various capacities. We have been able to get some into jobs and some into houses,” he said. “We’re helping some find their children.”
Some church members have taken refugees into
their homes. The Pineville church also sends four vans a day to Baton
Rouge to pick up refugees at shelters there and take them to shelters in
other areas, never knowing when or where they will find a place for
Baldwin said the humanitarian efforts are the church’s Main Street
FEMA Food DropWest Bank Bureau
The Red Cross has set up seven sites to distribute food, water and ice in Jefferson Parish.
On the West Bank:
A&P Shopping Center, Carol Sue and Terry Parkway, Terrytown.
Harvey Fire Station No. 61, 639 Maple St., Harvey.
L.W. Higgins High School, 7201 Lapalco Blvd., Marrero.
On the east bank:
East Jefferson High School, 400 Phlox, Metairie
Grace King High School, 4301 Grace King Place, Metairie
Winn Dixie, 211 Veterans Blvd., Metairie
Home Depot, 2625 Veterans Blvd., Kenner.
Also, FEMA has set up distribution sites at the Alario Center, 2000 Segnette Blvd., Westwego, and has moved the east bank site from Zephyr field to the parish transit facility at Saints and David Drive.
I-10 becomes refugee campSaturday, 5:48 p.m.
By Meghan Gordon
and Sheila Grissett
They slouched on both ends of a cot in the shoulder of Interstate 10, two women whose bodies were worn down and whose memories were etched with dozens of individual tragedies that they witnessed together in the days after swimming out of their flooded eastern New Orleans neighborhoods.
While helicopters dropped in and buses stacked up in the eastbound lanes behind them, Celeste Harrison, 44, and Charlene Williams, 42, sat still during the relatively orderly operation around them. Strangers before Katrina, the women said that they couldn’t live another day without the other beside them.
Harrison and Williams were among the thousands who gathered on I-10, turning it into a refugee camp of anxious evacuees awaiting transport out of a flooded city.
Kidding each other about their unkempt hair and dreams of pedicures, the pair tried to push back the images of the unending journey out of their crumbling city. Just one of the memories could send someone spiraling down, but these women – like the near-hopeless refugees all around them near the Causeway Boulevard underpass at I-10 – carried with them countless troubling visions.
For Harrison and Williams, those included a paraplegic woman they couldn’t drag from a roof, a father with a dead baby under each arm and a 2-week-old infant crushed when her mother lost grip of her during a stampede at the Morial Convention Center.
The women held each other up and prayed that they would board one of the buses Saturday.
Instead of dwelling on the psychologically-scarring scenes of the previous six days, they hatched a plan to rebuild their lives together. Williams said she had no means to start over, but Harrison said she would take care of her new friend somehow – just like Williams said she had done to keep Harrison and other refugees moving when they wanted to give up.
“It was hard, but we made it,” Harrison said, at times showing a hopeful smile. “I just keep saying, ‘Come on, we can do it. We can do it.’”
By “made it,” Harrison meant that they had survived long enough for the deliveries of food, water and dry clothes. They made it to the side of a highway where litter, mud and human waste surrounded them. They made it to the day that buses arrived frequently and refugees filed on without stampeding.
Ernest Smith, 10, made it to that moment, too. Speaking in a calm but urgent voice like that of someone many times his age, Smith said he had been watching out for his elderly grandparents, whom he lived with on Camp Street. He finally had food and water, but he wasn’t sure he would make it out to hug his mother in Atlanta.
“I would tell her, ‘I love you. Please come get me, and I don’t want to be out here no more,’” Smith said.
About 50 yards away, Jerome Wise didn’t know if he would see his wife and six of his seven children again. Wise stayed behind at his house near Hayne Boulevard and Sheephead Street, near the New Orleans Lakefront Airport, because his 19-year-old son had to work a shift at McDonald’s last weekend.
All Wise carried in his single bag was a portrait of his large family.
It showed Wise with a much fuller face and a broad smile. On Saturday morning, he paced with a grimace, telling in reverse the chronology of the past six days: two days along the highway, another at University of New Orleans and four days on the roof of his house.
“I can’t go no more,” he said, holding his palms up and out in a gesture many of the refugees used to express their dwindling hope. “Nobody wants us. Nobody wants to help New Orleans.”
But by 1:15 p.m. Saturday, the final two helicopters whipped up the debris as medics in scrubs carried the last injured refugees inside, including an old man who appeared limp on a stretcher. The line to board buses had disappeared. Most passengers had no idea which of the many refugee camps across southeast Louisiana would be their new home.
All that remained was a layer of disposed items Where commuters once sipped their lattes in traffic, random pieces of refuse covered the pavement: a right yellow slipper, an upside-down baby carriage, an unopened can of Blue Runner navy beans.
Despite criticism, Broussard holds to Monday return planSaturday, 6:10 p.m.
By Matthew Brown
West Bank bureau
Even though streets are strewn with storm debris, some neighborhoods remain flooded and almost homes all lack electricity and drinking water, Jefferson Parish residents will be allowed to return Monday at 6 a.m., Parish President Aaron Broussard reiterated Saturday, despite widespread skepticism from state and other parish officials.
Parish officials will begin letting residents enter providing that the driver of the car has identification showing a Jefferson address. Residents will be able to access their homes only via Airline Drive or Jefferson Highway in East Jefferson and U.S. 90 on the West Bank, Emergency Management Director Walter Maestri said.
Anyone not in the car queue by 6 p.m. will be denied entry on that day but may try again the next day. The 12-hour window of entry will be the policy on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
All residents are urged to leave the parish after taking care of their homes, parish officials said.
Residents are advised to bring a full tank of gasoline, food and
drinking water, as well as a claw hammer and pliers to pull out carpet,
disinfectant to prevent mold and materials to secure damaged windows and doors.
An estimated 350,000 of Jefferson’s almost half-million residents fled before or immediately after Hurricane Katrina struck Monday, and thousands more are thought to have left as the week wore on.
With a massive influx of return traffic expected Monday, parish officials recommended that residents carpool and be prepared to walk several blocks to their homes, as only major streets are being cleared of debris. Many side streets remain choked with downed tree limbs and power lines. Emergency management officials also warned women not to come alone for safety.
On Thursday, the parish will reopen to anyone, regardless of residency, Broussard said.
Despite the open doors, Jefferson remains a site of destruction. Floodwater still stands in the southwest portion of the University City subdivision of Kenner, at Transcontinental Drive and Kawanee Avenue in Metairie and in two parts of Old Metairie. Broussard said he has received criticism of his plan from other parish officials, law enforcement agencies and the state, but he has not wavered.
“We’re under martial law. And there’s only one marshal: Me,” Broussard said.
He said the Louisiana Emergency Assistance and
Disaster Act of 1993 gives him full authority to override any objections from the Parish Council, and he said state officials have reluctantly agreed to the plan.
Asked about that during a news briefing Saturday, Gov. Kathleen Blanco said she wanted “to work with Parish President Broussard. We want to make sure it doesn’t hurt recovery efforts.”
She strongly urged residents to have patience. “I know everyone wants to go clean their yards, check on their homes and get back to their normal lives.”
While the state may work with Broussard, some parish officials have openly disagreed with him. They contend Jefferson is not ready for its residents. There are few businesses open to sell such basics as food, water, ice or gasoline, and the only two aid distribution centers in operation have had hours-long lines. And with hospitals full to capacity or shut down all together, those who are sick or injured have few options.
“I realize people’s houses are important to them, but personal safety comes first,” Parish Councilman Chris Roberts said. “Yes, the parish president has made a decision to let people back (but) I am recommending folks to reconsider coming back.”
Roberts said that even if residents come back with full tanks of gasoline, they could use up much of that fuel during a 10- to 15-hour wait in traffic.
Broussard said he is working with the Sheriff’s Office to set up traffic control at key intersections. But he acknowledged that many intersections would remain unstaffed and urged drivers to be cautious. With electricity service down in most of the parish, there will be few traffic lights operating.
Kenner Police Chief Nick Congemi said he is concentrating on how to manage Monday’s traffic. “We have major concerns, but it’s his (Broussard’s) decision to make,” Congemi said.
The Kenner Police Department is already stretched thin. “EMS and fire-EMS have refused to come out after dark. Police officers are the catch- all for everything,” he said.
On the West Bank, though, Westwego Mayor Robert Billiot said he was ready for residents to return.
Mark Smith, a spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Homeland
Security, said he didn’t think it was safe for residents to go back, as “the floodwaters haven’t subsided yet in parts of Jefferson.”
Asked if he thought it might slow the recovery effort, Smith said he thought it could hamper routes needed by emergency workers. “It’s not a decision I agree with, but Broussard has the right to make that decision.”
Charles Parker, 61, who rode out the storm at his Marrero home, agreed that people needed to be allowed to return to check on their houses. With afternoon thunderstorms that “you could set your clock by” in south Louisiana, he said houses with holes in their roofs must be patched quickly so any rain damage doesn’t get worse.
Yet after spending an hour in line waiting to get water from a relief center on Saturday, Parker said having tens of thousands of additional people in a parish with limited municipal services, the waits will be far worse.
“It’s going to be murder,” Parker said. “You know what’s going to happen when people are standing in that line, three, four hours, they’re going to be pissed.”
(Steve Ritea contributed to this story.)
Saints to move?By Robert Travis Scott
New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson is leaning strongly toward moving the Saints permanently to San Antonio following the devastation to the city and the Superdome by Hurricane Katrina, a state senator who has spoken with a top team official said Saturday.
Sen. Mike Michot, R-Lafayette, said he spoke with Saints’ chief of administration Arnold Fielkow by phone Friday morning about Benson’s potential plans.
Team officials could not be reached Saturday. The team had previously announced it was looking for a new home for the current season, and San Antonio was one of the options.
Michot said he was told that Benson has not made a final decision, but the owner is serious about moving once and for all to San Antonio. “We may lose them permanently,” Michot said.
A possible move by the team is a “huge concern” among a few state officials who have become aware of it, but every significant political figure in the state is preoccupied with reacting to the storm aftermath.
State officials want to convince Benson to delay a decision so that the state can focus on the rescue and rehabilitation effort and later find a way to keep the Saints at home in New Orleans.
“This is like pouring salt into the wound,” Michot said.
Michot said decency dictates that Benson should postpone any decision on a permanent move until state officials have had a chance to talk with him.
“Give us time,” Michot said.
Another state official confirmed a similar conversation with Fielkow.
Michot is the vice-chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, a key committee for legislation related to state agreement with the Saints.
He said that in the long run the Saints might be better off staying in New Orleans because a revived city with national support could provide a better stadium.
Trees take a big hit in St. TammanyTo whatever extent life gets back to normal in western St. Tammany Parish, it’ll happen against the backdrop of a changed landscape.
Many densely wooded lots in Folsom have been all but clear-cut by Katrina’s harsh winds.
In block after block of Abita Springs, home sites once lush with pines are suddenly a lot sunnier as toppled trees await removal.
And in Covington, the huge tree which for decades has shaded the walkway in front of City Hall is now a gone pecan.
Water pressure, generators cause concern in CovingtonCovington firefighters converged Friday afternoon at 824 W. 28th St. when the call went out: structure fire, fully involved.
The fire turned out to be not as serious as first feared, but it still left Fire Chief Richard Badon to fret about the conditions under which his department has had to operate this week.
A tank truck filled with water had to be dispatched to the fire scene along with a firetruck to ensure an adequate water supply.
“We have had water since the storm passed, but the pressure has been very low,” Badon said. Water pressure in city water pipes was a serious problem for the first three days after Katrina made landfall, but it’s been on a steady increase since midday Thursday, he said.
Meanwhile, firefighters find themselves facing new challenges in the storm’s aftermath.
As with many fire calls this week, the fire at the modest wood-frame house on West 28th Street was caused by improper operation of a gasoline-powered generator.
In the face of widespread power outages, many residents are firing up generators without any prior experience and don’t know the finer points of how to operate them safely, Badon said.
Meanwhile, some people have been burning the branches and other storm debris that they’ve gathered from their yards. Coupling lower-than-usual water pressure and the extremely dry conditions of most of that debris – it hadn’t rained in most parts of Covington for 17 days before the hurricane struck – has made for a particularly volatile situation.
Because of the situation, Parish President Kevin Davis has imposed a parishwide ban on open burning. The ban applies to household garbage, trees and other green waste from Katrina and items damaged by the storm.
East Jeff staggered but still standingSaturday, 5:20 p.m.
By Sheila Grissett
and Meghan Gordon
East Jefferson has escaped the unfathomable destruction that Katrina delivered to much of the New Orleans region, but the damage done to its pockets of urban forest and its utility infrastructure has changed the face of Lake Pontchartrain's south shore suburb.
It was impossible to tell Saturday just how much water had entered homes in the lowest-lying sections of Metairie and Kenner, because fallen power lines and thousands of toppled trees and utility polls blocked streets in dozens of neighborhoods.
The only significant east bank flooding that remained standing five days after the hurricane was in and around Old Metairie. It was blamed on water flowing into New Orleans from the 17th Street Canal breach, then entering Metairie along Airline Drive east of Labarre Road and at Northline.
Northline, a picture-postcard lovely street known for the canopy of giant oaks that shades its mansions, still held eight feet of water and wasn't accessible, said Robert Lambert, general manager of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Commission. He said that water was expected to recede when repairs to the canal breech are finished and Jefferson Parish is able to turn on its drainage pumps.
To the south and west, a stretch of heavily commercial Airline Drive was covered by estimated 20 feet of foul, black water at its lowest point beneath the railroad underpass at Airline Drive. Buildings on both sides were flooded, including Delta Petroleum.
But if instances of standing water were isolated, the results of hurricane winds and tree-related destruction were visible throughout Metairie and Kenner. The degree of damage varied block by block, house by house -- a few shingles here, part of a roof -- while wooden fences were lost everywhere. In the worst cases, trees had bashed homes, but that seemed to be the exception rather than the rule.
There was little evidence of clean up by residents; in fact, few residents were sighted during a tour of East Jefferson. And there was no obvious evidence of looting. Perhaps would-be thieves were scared off by promises of retribution displayed by homeowners, one of which read, "You loot. We shoot." Or perhaps it was the major police presence, especially in Kenner, where officers in marked cruisers ran up and down the streets.
In Kenner, the storm blasted away the entire front of Nina's Hallmark Shop at Chateau Boulevard and West Esplanade Avenue, leaving rows of cuddly Beanie Babies sitting tidy and unmolested on their front shelves just inches from the destruction.
It looked to Lambert and other observers as though some of the worst damage might have been caused by a tornado or two skipping about East Jefferson. A house on Teton Drive in the Woodlake subdivision in Kenner was heavily damaged, large portions of its roof and exterior walls ripped away. But houses on either side sat relatively undisturbed.
One resident of the subdivision said some homes on the lower-lying streets took enough water to destroy spas and hot tubs.
There were no large areas of obliteration spotted in any of the accessible areas toured Saturday, but there were pockets of major damage. The north end of Causeway Boulevard, for example, had been littered with trucks from a U-haul rental center. They had been picked up by the storm and dropped onto the road.
"After the storm passed, those trucks were completely blocking Causeway Boulevard," Lambert said. "The storm threw them like toys."
By Saturday, only a lone truck remained on its side in a Causeway turn lane, unusable anyway because of the numerous downed power lines and poles on nearby West Esplanade. West Esplanade, in fact, was blocked at several different spots throughout Kenner and Metairie.
Katrina's winds toppled a billboard into West Esplanade's drainage canal at Causeway, and further west, had so damaged the store front of Robert's Fresh Market at Transcontinental that an old Winn-Dixie sign was the only thing legible on the front of the store.
"The cleanup will be massive, but the parish and Kenner have done a good job of clearing a lot of these major streets," Lambert said. "But I think people are going to have a hard time believing what they see when they get back."
Susan Laporte, who spent the day of Katrina in a friend's Old Metairie home, might or might not be back to Jefferson Parish during hurricane season if she ever gets away from this one. She stayed for Katrina to be near her parents, but says she won't stay again.
"If we get Jefferson Parish up and running again and I stay here, I think I'd leave even for a (Category) 1 storm," she said, wiling away Saturday morning on a front porch swing. "There was a new scare every day, and I was really scared of looters.
She said she kept her boyfriend's pistol handy. But it wasn't necessary.
"There's a shoe store on the corner with the window broken out (from the storm), and there's not a shoe missing," Laporte said, adding with a laugh, "And that's been pretty hard for my sister and me."
More soldiers bound for N.O.By Paul Purpura
West Bank Bureau
President Bush ordered more than 7,200 additional active duty troops to the region Saturday, joining the swelling ranks of National Guard soldiers and airmen who are streaming in with supplies and guns.
“Many of our citizens simply are not getting the help they need,
especially in New Orleans, and that is unacceptable,” Bush said Saturday in his weekly address, a day after he visited New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. “In America, we do not abandon our fellow citizens in their hour of need.”
The active duty troops will join a growing number of National Guard
soldiers and airmen already in the region, Gov. Kathleen Blanco said.
By law, active duty troops cannot conduct law enforcement operations in
civilian populations. The security role – troops on the street helping
police restore order -- is handled by the National Guard acting under
orders from state governors, officials said.
About 22,000 National Guard troops have been sent to Louisiana,
Mississippi and Alabama, and the number is expected to grow to 30,000 today, said Jack Harrison of the National Guard Bureau
in Arlington, Va.
Electricity restoration may take longer5:05 p.m., Saturday
By KEITH DARCÉ
Restoring electricity services to the hardest hit areas of southeastern Louisiana will likely take more than a month, the state’s largest power utility said Saturday.
The slow draining of flood water from the parishes of Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines will keep much of those areas in the dark for weeks longer than other parts of metropolitan New Orleans, Entergy spokesman Chanel Lagarde said.
Public security also must be restored in New Orleans before utility crews can move in and begin work, he said.
About 506,000 Entergy customers in southeastern Louisiana remained
without power late Saturday afternoon, down from 800,000 at the height of the historically massive storm outage, Lagarde said. But most of the
restoration work thus far has occurred in the Baton Rouge area.
On the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, about 77,000 Cleco Corp. customers remained without power on Saturday, down from 80,000, Cleco
spokeswoman Susan Broussard said. Electricity was back on at most
hospitals, city halls, police stations and fire stations.
Power also was flowing along the major retail business corridor of
La. 190 from downtown Covington to Interstate 12, she said.
Most of the utility’s transmission system had been re-energized in St.
Tammany, but a major transmission line between Madisonville and
Bogalusa feeding Washington Parish remained down, Broussard said.
More than 10,000 utility line people were working in southeastern
Louisiana on Saturday, up from 6,000 just a day earlier. And more help from out-of-state utilities was on the way, Lagarde said.
Work repairing the catastrophic damage inflicted on the local grid continued to gain traction, but the job remained daunting. Entergy crews restored power to 29,000 homes and businesses in Algiers
on Friday only to lose the services Friday night, said Public Service Commissioner James Field of Baton Rouge.
Meanwhile, some evacuees settling into temporary homes and apartments
in Baton Rouge were told Friday by Entergy that it would take at least
three weeks to turn on electricity to their new residences.
“That’s unacceptable,” Field said. “(Entergy) will have to have a
very, very good explanation to explain that. A seven day period would be reasonable.”
Lagarde said late Saturday afternoon that new customers in Baton Rouge will be connected within five days.
Contact Keith Darcé at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TV concert was a hurricane-relief tearjerkerBy Dave Walker
The first of many similar televised benefits, Friday's “Concert for Hurricane Relief” combined news-report
style footage of Katrina’s devastation with celebrity
appeals for donations and performances by musicians
rooted in the stricken region.
Benefiting the American Red Cross and hosted by
“Today’s” Matt Lauer, the hour-long special aired on
NBC and its cable-news siblings MSNBC and CNBC.
The recap pieces, by such NBC brand extensions as
Jimmy Smits (“The West Wing”), Joe Scarborough
(MSNBC’s “Scarborough Country”), Brian Williams (“NBC
Nightly News”) and Stone Phillips (“Dateline NBC”),
detailed the storm’s approach, landfall and aftermath.
Jesuit High School alumni Harry Connick Jr. narrated a
piece focusing on his hometown’s whistling-in-the-dark
relationship with the constant peril that finally came
Our consciously blithe attitude toward inevitable
inundation -- Connick: “ ‘Been there, drunk to that,’
they say” -- allowed daily life to go on inside the
precarious protection of the levees but also made our
nightly life all the more vivid.
Living for today (for tomorrow the house floods, the
electricity goes off for three months and thousands of
your neighbors die) is the attitude the world comes to New Orleans to taste.
With giant storms twisting in the gulf, we sell them
rivers of a cocktail called the Hurricane.
“It’ll be a long time before New Orleans parties
again,” Connick said.
The celebrity appeals for donations were delivered by
actors and artists ranging from neighbor John Goodman
(“Barton Fink”) and Hilary Swank (“Million Dollar
Baby”), who mentioned a film she’d been shooting in
Louisiana and the friends she’d made here, to rapper
Kanye West, who drifted off-script during his two-man
trade-off with Mike Myers (“Austin Powers”).
Moved no doubt by the pictures of suffering New
Orleanians he’d been seeing all week, West assailed
the neglectful treatment of urban Katrina victims who
hadn’t evacuated as recommended.
Soldiers just home from Iraq had been “given
permission to go down and shoot us,” said West, as
Myers stood without reaction while waiting to read his
scripted lines. “George Bush doesn’t care about black
Absent from the special was any looter footage, which
had otherwise been a staple of broadcast and cable
network coverage of Katrina’s impact in New Orleans.
Understandable, I suppose, given the special’s mission
to mine for charity.
New York Gov. George Pataki got the giving going by
handing over a check for $2.5 million from his state.
Recalling Louisiana’s generosity after 9/11, Pataki
said that the “Spirit of Louisiana” fire truck we
delivered was at that moment on duty in Brooklyn.
Stirring, sure, but it was the songs and singers that
moved me most, an unexpected but understandable
reaction at the end of a week that didn’t allow
victims and evacuees much time for self-pity.
Louisiana native Tim McGraw and his wife, Mississippi
native Faith Hill, delivered plaintive country-gospel,
and Aaron Neville sang “Amazing Grace.”
Searing, sure, but nothing next to Neville’s
devastating rendition of “Louisiana 1927,” Randy
Newman’s hymn to the last great flood.
Nobody who knows the song and its story, or the
performer and his, could see or hear it and not be
moved to mourn for what’s been washed away.
Likewise for the lovely duet rendition of “Do You Know
What it Means (to Miss New Orleans)” by Connick and
Too bad it takes a catastrophe to get music this great
on national television.
With Connick on piano and vocals, a big band opened
the show with an almost defiantly strutting “Bourbon
Street Parade.” “Saints,” of course, was the closer.
The all-local horn line for both was Victor Goines on
clarinet, Marsalis on trumpet, Lucien Barbarin on
trombone and Charles Neville on sax.
I’d been fine through the worst of the Katrina
Watched hours and hours and hours of it and stayed as
stoic as one of those rockheads on Easter Island.
Weird as it sounds, I cried for the first time all
week when I saw that Barbarin was dressed for a gig at
A white shirt and a necktie.
Like a baby.
TV columnist Dave Walker can be reached at email@example.com.
Fountain accounted forFamed New Orleans jazz clarinetist Pete Fountain survived Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, said a co-worker of Fountain's manager. Fountain's sister said early Saturday afternoon that she had been unable to reach her brother, who owns houses in Bay St. Louis, Miss. and near the New Orleans lakefront -- both areas that were heavily damaged by the hurricane. Fountain apparently escaped the storm's path ahead of landfall, but had not yet established contact with his sister.
St. Bernard officials relying on themselves, volunteersBy Jan Moller
CHALMETTE - Terry Hendrix's family evacuated before Hurricane Katrina struck this close-knit community with a devastating blow, but Hendrix decided to try weathering the storm at his three-story house on Riverland Drive. On Saturday afternoon, five days after the winds died down, Hendrix found himself at parking lot of what used to be a BellSouth building but which now has been taken over by firefighters who are giving “decontamination” showers to people rescued from their homes.
Although floodwaters have receded more than 15 feet and the pace of the evacuation slowed considerably Saturday in St. Bernard Parish as most of those who stayed have either perished or been brought to safety, search teams were still finding people who had remained in their homes.
“I've got 122,000 people in my district, and everybody's been affected (by Hurricane Katrina),” said state Sen. Walter Boasso, R-Chalmette, who has been helping with rescue efforts since the winds first began waning Monday afternoon.
Although there is no official death toll, parish officials believe it is in the hundreds. St. Bernard Sheriff Jack Stephens said 31 senior citizens died at St. Rita's Nursing Home due to flooding, while another 22 people were discovered dead in a neighborhood subdivision, their bodies bound together.
But it is too soon to start an official count, Stephens said, while rescue efforts continue. “We are not in a body recovery mode yet,” he said.
Search teams from as far away as Canada ride air boats through receding waters in a parish that's become a virtual ghost town except for the rescue workers. They conduct house-to-house searches for anyone who might still be alive. When they have finished searching a building, they leave a spray-painted marker to indicate whether anyone was found.
An “X” means the house was empty. A number indicates how many bodies were discovered. On one house, just a block away from the Bell South building where evacuees are being taken for decontamination before being transported to the slip, a blue-pained “6” tells the gruesome tale of what became of those inside.
While several days passed with little or no federal assistance, state and local officials set up their own improvised search-and-rescue operations, with the Mississippi River serving as a lifeline to safety for residents in the close-knit parish who rode out Katrina.
When the wind died down but the floodwaters remained, local government was forced to improvise. While firefighters work from the BellSouth building, the parish council set up temporary quarters at the Exxon-Mobil Chalmette Refining and the sheriff's office is operating from the Cajun Queen riverboat that's moored next to the Domino's sugar refinery in Arabi.
And the local prison was turned into a hospital until the wounded and sick could be flown to safety, according to Boasso.
While Navy helicopters were shuttling people to hospitals who needed medical care, local officials are angry at the slow pace of the federal government's relief efforts. “We never had any communication from anybody,” said Parish President Henry P. Rodriguez. “Anything that has been done in St. Bernard has been done by local people.We never had any goddamned help.”
Boasso, whose homes and businesses were badly damaged by the wind and floods as was just about everybody's home in the parish, said he's frustrated by the pace of the federal government's efforts - which he said he's made clear to Federal Emergency Management Agency officials in Baton Rouge.
“I don't care about finger pointing,” Boasso said. “I'm hollering and screaming and you know what? If they can't help us we're going to help ourselves.”
By Saturday afternoon the activity at the Chalmette slip, which was a gathering point for several thousand people at the peak of the evacuation, had slowed significantly. Only a few local police and volunteers were there, surrounded by pallets of water and other basic necessities.
After getting a shower from firefighters at the BellSouth parking lot, evacuees are transported to “Camp Katrina,” as the Chalmette slip has been dubbed by rescue workers. From there they are taken by ferry about five miles upriver to Algiers Point, where school buses were lined up to take them to shelters.
At some points last week the slip was home to thousands of evacuees, but by Saturday afternoon the traffic had slowed to a trickle.
At Algiers Point, the ferry landing was home to about a hundred people Saturday morning, including some who said they had waded through water from the Superdome and hitched rides across the Crescent City Connection.
Others came lower St. Bernard, where the floods engulfed just about every home and those who stayed behind relied on neighbors for support - which sometimes brought surprising levels of comfort. JoAnn Robin said she spent four days after Katrina camped out with 25 of her family members in the Mandeville Canal at Elevating Boats Inc., the company founded by former state Sen. Lynn Dean, R-Caernavron.
Robin said she stayed at home in Caernavron, where her block as Katrina blew through, but decided to evacuate a few miles west to Poydras
While her home and those of her neighbors sat in water up to their rooftops nearby, the elevated boats had air-conditioning, a working television and radio and plenty to eat and drink courtesy of Dean and his family. “They treated us like royalty,” Robin said.
Astrodome gets zip code for evacuee mailSaturday, 4:27 p.m.
So many people are now living ion Houston's Astrodome that the Postal Service has created a zip code for it.
The zip code will allow evacuees there to receive mail. The new code is 77230. Mail should be addressed to the person and "General Delivery, Houston, TX, 77230."
And while the Postal Service is no longer accepting bulk mail and periodicals addressed to zip codes beginning in 369, 393, 394, 395, 396, 700, 701 and 704, people in those areas will continue to get first-class, parcel post and priority mail, according to the Postal Service.
Mail will be held for recipients, but evacuees should register a change of address to their current address to have mail forwarded to them. An address change can ge registered by calling 1-800-275-8777, registering online at www.usps.com. or by filling out a change of address card at any post office.
The change is effective two days after it is registered, according to the Postal Service.
A peachy deal for Georgia students4:11 p.m., Saturday
Georgia students enrolled at Tulane University, Louisiana State University and other colleges affected by Hurricane Katrina will be given the opportunity to enroll in the University System of Georgia, which includes six campuses in the Peach State.
Georgia students returning home can enroll as 'transient students' in the University System until their own institutions can re-open.
Feds say crime wave is overBy Gwen Filosa
Federal law enforcement agencies vowed Saturday that the streets of New Orleans are getting safer by the minute, and that the worst of the widespread terrorizing by gunmen is behind city's residents.
"We are taking the streets back and it will continue," said U.S. Attorney Jim Letten of New Orleans, at the Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge. U.S. District Court judges have already met to plan for a makeshift court.
"The streets of New Orleans belong to its citizens, not the violent thugs who have stuck their heads up out of holes in an attempt to exploit a tragedy," Letten said.
Letten was flanked by top chiefs from the U.S. Marshals, ATF, FBI, state police and Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan, who all said the worst of the crime wave that broke out in the wake of Hurricane Katrina's catastrophic is over.
"New Orleans is a city which does not have a traditional gang problem," said Letten. "But small groups of individuals almost exclusively involved in the drug trade have been controlling small pieces of blocks and buildings through ruthless violence. These are the individuals we are going to hunt down."
State officials today set up a temporary booking and detention center in downtown New Orleans, with enough room to house about 700 people accused of wrongdoing. Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti said.
"We have finished the first two cell block areas," Foti said. "We already have one guy who had stolen an Abita Water truck."
District Attorney Jordan said that most of the offenses will be handled by his office. He said he will approach the Legislature, or the state's top judges, to request more time in order to screen and charge suspects, if necessary.
Prosecutors must go before a grand jury to secure charges in the most serious crimes, including first-degree murder, and other crimes that carry death or life in prison upon conviction.
"The vast majority of them will be state offenses," Jordan said. "We anticipate we are going to handle the garden variety crime that takes place in the city of New Orleans," including murders, rapes and armed robberies.
Jordan, the former U.S. Attorney in New Orleans, was dressed uncharacteristically in blue jeans and a red T-shirt. He said within days his prosecutors will begin holding hearings at the New Orleans temporary detention center.
Letten said suspects charged with federally crimes will be moved to federal facilities.
"We will operate wherever we need to operate," Letten said. "We will assign our prosecutors in the field, if necessary. We will be getting violent offenders off the streets."
Promises of restoring law-and-order were coupled by a defense of police response to the outbreak of criminal activity after the storm.
"I would like those critics to walk in the boots of an NOPD officer in a city block of New Orleans and come back to me and continue to criticize," said Jim Bernazzani, an FBI special agent leading the agency's work in New Orleans. "There was a complete collapse of infrastructure. Our adversaries are well armed. (Law enforcement) did not back down. I am confident the worst is behind us."
FBI agents remained in New Orleans throughout the storm, Bernazzani said. "We had unique missions designed to secure critical assets, some of which were vital to national security. Those efforts were covert."
The FBI has a "gang task force," while ATF has two special response teams and a "violent impact team" on the ground.
Baton Rouge, which has absorbed thousands of people who escaped the storm from the New Orleans region, is secure, said U.S. Attorney David Dugas, of Baton Rouge.
“Crime has not increased in Baton Rouge," Dugas said. "It looks like it might have gone down a bit" due to more visible law enforcement presence.
Dugas criticized the press for spreading a rumor that a riot had broken out at the River Center, which is a large shelter for New Orleans evacuees. "None of it was true," he said. "The streets of Baton Rouge are safe, and we don't intend for that to change."
All modes of transportation used4:05 p.m., Saturday
All means of transportation are being explored to help evacuate victims of Hurricane Katrina from New Orleans.
Friday morning Amtrak carried 97 storm victims from the New Orleans area to Lafayette, where they were transferred to buses taking them to Texas and other locales.
"We were happy to be able to get some people out of New Orleans and hope to be able to continue doing so," said Amtrak spokesperson Tracy Connell.
The federal government has also asked Carnival Cruise Lines to consider docking ships on the Mississippi River to house emergency officials.
"Although to undertake such an endeavor would involve many complicated issues, we are actively taking a look at it," Carnival said in a statement. "We are immensely saddened and concerned for the people of the Gulf Coast who have been devastated by this storm. It is our intention to work with federal officials to determine the feasibility of moving a ship into the area if that is their desire."
Fires being brought under controlSaturday, 4 p.m.
Fires raging in parts of New Orleans, particularly along the
riverfront in the Marigny neighborhood, were
brought under control by the city fire department Saturday afternoon,
officials said, as preparations were made to dump massive amounts of
water onto the blazes.
Ashley Rodrigue, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana Department of
Agriculture and Forestry, said state and federal officials have
commissioned a private firm to bring in two 300-gallon buckets
Saturday night that will be dipped into the Mississippi River via
helicopters and then used to douse the flames.
Rodrigue said the task may prove tricky since the buckets have only
been used to douse forest or brush fires, but never in an urban area.
Jeff Smith, deputy director for Emergency Management in Louisiana,
said he was also hoping to get pumper ships along the river that could
shoot streams of water onto the fires.
Black Caucus calls for air force base to house evacueesSaturday, 3:56 p.m.
Outraged by the lack of available shelter space in Louisiana, members
of the Legislative Black Caucus called upon officials to open the former England Air Force Base in the Alexandria area to those displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
State Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, said members of the caucus planned to use private donated buses and other vehicles to pick up some 5,000 people left along Interestate 10 in New Orleans and transport them to the base Saturday afternoon and evening.
Asked what they would do with the people they picked up if the base was not opened to evacuees, Fields simply responded: "We need to open it."
Fields estimated the base has about 800 empty rooms that could house
all 5,000 citizens.
Some displaced residents would also be taken to a shelter in Monroe by about 25 church vans manned by democratic Rep. Willie Hunter and Sen. Charles Jones among others.
Residents need shelter in their own state of Louisiana, caucus members
said, not far-flung states like Utah and Minnesota.
Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, the caucus chairman, also called on the American Red Cross to provide further aid in Algiers, where he and New Orleans City Councilman Oliver Thomas delivered bottled water to residents Friday.
"They were shedding tears when we gave them their supplies…we didn't encounter one incident of hostility," Richmond said, rebuffing reports that many left behind in the city are dangerous and hostile. "I don't think members of the military need guns as much as they need tents."
U.S Army Col. John Smart said multiple available military bases are being considered for shelters, including England, but he had no immediate knowledge of that base being available today.
Several military bases in Arkansas are currently receiving cititzens displaced by the storm, he said.
More than 100 children and infants separated from their parents during evacuations from Hurricane Katrina or while moving between shelters need help being reconnected with their parents, officials said.
Mike Keller, who works for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said about 100 children were being transported to a shelter in Corpus Christi, Texas, where their pictures will be taken, placed on the internet and connections will be made with parents who have reported losing their children.
Anyone trying to get information or report a missing child or parent can access the internet at www.missingkids.com or call 1-800-THE-LOST.
Marketa Garner Gautreau, assisitant secretary of the state Department of Social Services, said another 26 children are still in Louisiana.
Visiting one shelter housing those children this week, Gautreau said she "went in expecting the worst" but "they were laughing, they were playing with toys, people were holding them."
Tammany radio station providing informationBy Charlie Chapple
St. Tammany bureau
St. Tammany Parish President Kevin Davis, wielding emergency powers, has seized a closed radio station near Covington and is using it to relay information about local recovery efforts to parish residents.
Radio station WASO, 730-AM, got on the air late Friday with the help of Covington doctor Marcus L. "Marc" Pittman III, who heads Pittman Broadcasting Services LLL, which owns radio stations in Franklinton and Lafayette.
The station is only disseminating information and is not fielding questions. Plans call for keeping the station on the air "as many hours as possible each day."
Tim Harris of Access St. Tammany, the parish's cable television channel, said Parish Councilman Ken Burkhalter is lining up officials from throughout the parish for nightly programs to update residents about local efforts to recover from Hurricane Katrina.
Davis said he seized the station because of failed communications sytems that hampered parish officials from getting information to residents.
The station recently was shut down and taken from Bob Namer by the Federal Trade Commission for non-payment of a legal judgement. The station's studios were in Metairie and its broadcast tower was just west of Covington High School. Pittman, using computer equipment from his radio stations, revived the station in a small building next to the tower. The station's broadcast signal carries throughout the parish.
In other news from St. Tammany:
* All parish government employees have been ordered to report to work on Tuesday. But workers who evacuated the parish are being asked to return to the parish alone and leave their families behind until the parish gives the okay for them and other evacuees to head back to St. Tammany.
* Fearing a shortage of water to fight fires, Parish President Davis has imposed a parishwide ban on open burning. The ban applies to household garbage, trees and other green waste from Katrina and items damaged by the storm. Most water systems in the parish, Davis said, are operating at a minimal level. And should there be a major fire, local fire departments would not have enough water to fight the blaze, he said.
Port cargo business may suffer3:10 p.m., Saturday
By Jaquetta White
The Port of New Orleans, already loosing several million dollars a day because it remains unable to operate after Hurricane Katrina, will probably permanently loose some of the cargo business it once handled.
Vessels bound for New Orleans are being diverted to competing ports in Houston, Tampa and Mobile. And the longer ships use those alternative routes, the less likely they are to return to New Orleans.
“Some of them will remain over there,” said Anatoly Hochstein, director of the Ports and Waterways Institute in Arlington, Va. When the port is fully operational again, “at best it would be the same as before, more probably it will be worse.”
A rule of thumb when dealing with cargo movement is that business tends to stay put unless there’s a reason it has to move. That could be troubling for local ports as they try to regain their footing. Traffic that they loose now to other Gulf coast competitors might not come back.
The Coast Guard has opened some stretches of the Mississippi River to vessels with a draft, or depth, of no more than 35 feet, with priority given to military ships and those carrying oil. But deeper draft vessels will have to wait until the Coast Guard can conduct soundings to check for sunken barges or other impediments.
The port itself escaped major structural damage. Port President and CEO Gary LaGrange said in an assessment report that the roofs, outside walls and doors of several buildings and sheds were damaged. Included in those, he said, are the Julia Street Cruise Terminal, which has sections of its roof missing. The port’s heavily used sheds at Governor Nichols Street and Esplanade Avenue also were damaged.
“Our wharves appear to be, for the most part, intact and able to conduct cargo operations,” LaGrange wrote in the report.
The gantry cranes at the Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal also were not damaged, said David Wagner, the port’s chief operating officer, but they can’t be operated without electricity.
However, with the situation in the city still uncertain, it’s possible port facilities could be damaged in the wake of the storm. For example, on Saturday fires were still raging along a stretch of old secondary wharves in the Bywater.
Another major issue for the port is trying to locate its employees, Wagner said.
“Physically, we’re ready to operate. But getting electricity and people are the biggest issues,” Wagner said. “It doesn’t make sense to have a bunch of cargo in the wharf if you can’t do anything with it.”
The port has not said how much money is lost each day it doesn't operate. But a 2002 shipping accident that shut the Southwest Pass of the Mississippi River to maritime traffic for about a week cost the local economy about $3 million a day.
If the port can become operational within a couple of weeks, much of the cargo lost to other reports will return, Wagner said. But if service is suspended for months, “that’s a different story,” he said.
Some cargo will return to Louisiana no matter how long the suspension of services lasts, said Hochstein of the Ports and Waterways Institute.
"Petroleum and grain will immediately come back to New Orleans for obvious reasons."
It would be difficult and costly to duplicate the massive grain elevators and petroleum terminals located around the state, he said.
But the container traffic is much more easily shifted and could be lost, Hochstein said.
The Port of New Orleans last year opened its Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal with the hope of gaining a larger share of the container market. Most containers enter and leave the country through the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Cargo isn’t the only line of business threatened at the port. Cruise ships that sail into New Orleans are being rerouted to Galveston, Texas.
Executives with Royal Caribbean and Carnival cruise lines have long said that the cruise industry thrives in New Orleans because it, unlike Galveston and some other places, is a destination city.
"They don't have much New Orleans to come to right now," Wagner said.
The return of the cruise industry will depend on how well the city is able to rebuild, he said.
"There's no reason that the cruise stuff can't get back up and running," Wagner said. But, he conceded "demand (from cruise lines) could change with the fact that the city can't accommodate tourists."
In addition to the Julia Street Terminal, where the cruise lines calling New Orleans now dock, the port also has been developing other locations to serve the cruise industry.
Work on the Erato Street Wharf, where a cruise terminal was scheduled to open later this year, will be "significantly delayed," Wagner said. The companies under contract to build the terminal, Boh Bros. and Broadmoor, "are up to their eyeballs in recovery work right now," he said.
"There's no damage to the construction that's done, it's just a matter of when can construction begin again."
The Poland Avenue Wharf in Bywater, which was scheduled to be retrofitted and opened as cruise terminal sometime next year, will also have to wait.
Industries around the country and the world are keeping an eye to the port situation in Louisiana.
Randall Gordon, a spokesman for the National Grain and Feed Association, a trade group that represents about 900 companies that operate grain handling facilities across the country, said the closure could affect barge rates and the ability to quickly transport barges between the Gulf region and the Midwestern grain producing states during the approaching shipping season.
David Phelps, president of the American Institute for International Steel, said steel importers already are facing major hurdles. New Orleans is a leading port for steel imports.
With most of that cargo being rerouted to Houston, he said, there are concerns that the Texas port will run out of capacity. What's more, he said, Houston, isn't able to provide the major rail services to move the cargo.
"Members are very much scrambling to see what's going to happen," Phelps said.
The port is asking its employees and those who work in port-related jobs to call 1-866-476-7866.
Chattanooga, Tenn., housing office offers helpSaturday, 3 p.m.
The Chattanooga (Tenn.) Housing Authority has organized a program to arrange shelter and provide aid for people displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Evacuees began arriving en masse at its offices late this week.
“By Thursday, it became obvious that this disaster was much closer to home than any of us could ever imagine," said Bob Dull, the agency's interim executive director. "The lobby at the main office of CHA began to fill up with families from the all over the Gulf Coast requesting assistance. The most sobering realization came when we began asking the families what they needed most and the consistent answer was 'everything.' Many of these families literally had only the clothes on their backs.”
Working with federal housing officials, the agency identified empty public housing units. Employees organized to purchase food, clothing and other supplies.
“I’m not sure anyone could have predicted the response,” Dull said. “Calls began to come in from individuals, companies, organizations, and churches, offering everything from free temporary housing to the most personal of items needed by these families.”
The housing authority has set up a center on their campus at 801 Holtzclaw Ave. staffed by volunteers who will help match families with appropriate housing. Anyone wanting to assist in this effort can contact the Chattanooga Housing Authority at 423-752-4893.
Labor Dept. grant to help create jobs for displacedWASHINGTON - Louisiana will get $20.7 million from the federal government to hire 10,000 dislocated workers to aid recovery and clean-up efforts in Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said she's authorized up to another $41.4 million under the jobs program.
"Our hearts go out to the people of New Orleans and communities throughout Louisiana, who face many challenges as they recover from the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina," Chao said. "This grant will provide up to $62.1 million to create temporary jobs that will mean paychecks for thousands of dislocated workers and will help to clean-up, rebuild and repair their communities."
The Labor Department grant, given to the Louisiana Department of Labor, will be used for demolition, renovation and reconstruction of destroyed public structures, facilities and lands in coordination with other agencies providing services to affected communities. Funding will support projects that provide food, clothing, shelter and other humanitarian assistance for individuals struck by the disaster. They will also be used to perform work on the homes of economically disadvantaged individuals who are eligible for the federally funded weatherization program, with priority given to services for the elderly and individuals with disabilities.
"Hurricane Katrina's destruction has left many residents of Louisiana homeless and in need of help," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training Emily Stover DeRocco.
The parishes of Ascension, Assumption, Jefferson, Lafourche, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. James, St. John, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Terrebonne and Washington have been targeted by the state for assistance under this National Emergency Grant. Due to mass dislocation of Louisiana residents, all 64 state parishes will participate in providing worksites for displaced individuals until evacuation orders are lifted.
National Emergency Grants are part of the Secretary's discretionary fund and are awarded based on a state's ability to meet specific guidelines.
In an interview Saturday, Chao said that she anticipates making available job training funds to prepare area residents for what likely will be a significantly different job market -- at least for sometime. That means, she said, offering people training for costuction trades, and trying to arrange on-the-job apprenticeships to take advantage of what likely will be a big demand for rebuilding.
Pete Fountain being sought by sisterPete Fountain, the world-renown Dixieland clarinetist and New Orleans
institution, may be among Katrina’s victims, his sister fears.
Dolores Materne of Metairie, who fled her Metairie home for Lafayette,
says she hasn’t heard from her 75-year-old brother and his wife
Beverly, who have homes in hurricane-flattened Bay St. Louis and on Swan
Street near Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans, since Katrina turned towards
the central gulf coast.
She has not been able to reach his three adult children, who live in
Metairie and New Orleans.
Materne last spoke with Fountain on Thursday Aug. 25, and he said he planned
to head to the city on Sunday. She said he sometimes rides out storms
at his house on Julia Street and North Beach Boulevard in Bay St. Louis, or
at Casino Magic, where he relocated his regular New Orleans gig a few
years back. He’s also been known to leave the area when a storm is
“At times over the years he’s gone out of town,” she said. “More or
less lately, he seems to be staying closer to home.”
Coast Guard: Ports begin opening, Rescue ops continueST. LOUIS -- Coast Guard air operations rescued 1,245 people and conducted 385 sorties Friday, bring the total of lives saved by boat and air to more than 9,500 people since Monday.
"Saving human life, helping to sustain those in need with critical relief supplies, and evacuating critical need patients remains the Coast Guard's top priority," said Capt. Kevin L. Marshall, Chief of Staff for the Coast Guard's Eighth Coast Guard District. "In addition we continue bringing additional teams into the region to work on reconstituting the waterways to get them reopened to maritime traffic as quickly and as safely as possible."
The Lower Mississippi River has been opened to deep draft vessels with a 35-foot draft or less for one way daylight traffic only.
Only the Port of Gulfport, Miss., remains closed to all traffic. Pascagoula, Miss., is open to vessels with 12-foot draft or less. Mobile is open to barge traffic only. Pensacola, Fla., and Destin/Panama City, Fla., are open to vessels with a 31-foot draft or less.
More than 2,200 Coast Guard personnel and assets from all over the country are currently responding to the post-hurricane response operations, and more continue to arrive daily. Twenty-nine Coast Guard cutters, 52 aircraft, and numerous aids to navigation teams and incident management teams are in the Gulf area. The Coast Guard has recalled 550 reservists to active duty and has the authorization to recall up to 800 reservists.
Southeastern to open Sept. 6HAMMOND – Southeastern Louisiana University will open its administrative and academic department offices on Tuesday. Students are asked to return on Thursday.
“The hurricane no doubt has affected a significant number of our students, who may need to look at various options available to them for this semester,” said President Randy Moffett, “and we will work to accommodate these students.”
Faculty and staff are being asked to report to their respective offices
for planning the remainder of the fall semester and to assist in advising
“We know that our faculty, staff and students are widely dispersed right now and it may take some time for them to return to the area,” Moffett said. “We felt it was necessary, however, to begin initial administrative operations knowing that some will find it difficult to return as quickly as they would like.”
Moffett emphasized that safety and security are paramount objectives in the re-opening of the university.
“We recognize that traffic and gasoline are significant issues right now,” he said. “We want everyone to be safe and ask that faculty, staff and students use their own judgment about returning to campus.
Moffett also said Southeastern is eager to work with displaced New Orleans-based students who are looking for a place to study.
Southeastern will hold two special sessions for these visiting students, one on
Saturday, Sept. 10 at noon, the other on Monday, Sept. 12, at 4:30 p.m.
Both sessions will be held at the Southeastern Student Union.
Students will be provided academic counseling, advice, and other information regarding application and registration at Southeastern.
Moffett said the university suffered power outages that affected telephones, e-mail and Internet service, making it difficult to communicate with faculty and students. However, the university did not suffer any structural damage and power has since been restored.
The university has posted information on its Web site, file:///A:/http://www.selu.edu/>www.selu.edu, and on the University of
Louisiana System Web site,
For more information, faculty, staff and students can call 985-549-2000, 985-549-3835, 985-549-2222.
Blanco Appoints WittGov. Kathleen Blanco has appointed former FEMA Director James Lee Witt as a special adviser to help her manage the recovery and restoration efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Witt was FEMA director under former President Clinton, serving in that position from 1993-2001.
Ursuline Convent damagedThe historic Ursuline Convent, built in 1725 and one of the oldest buildings
in the French Quarter, sustained “serious damage” from Hurricane
Katrina, New Orleans Archbishop Alfred Hughes said Saturday.
“Part of the roof was destroyed,” he said. “They experienced the full brunt of the storm.”
Hughes said he did not know the condition of St. Louis Cathedral, but
he was hopeful that it did not take a major blow. “We do know that before the
rector was evacuated, there were shingles off the roof and some internal
damage from rain. But we don’t think there was flood-water damage.”
Hughes said he would meet Saturday afternoon with New Orleans area
priests who had evacuated to Baton Rouge. “We’re going to try to begin to
identify whether we’re missing any priests,” he said. “We’ve been going through
the last couple of days, tallying who we can account for and those we can’t
Some students and staff at the Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans only
evacuated Friday, having offered shelter to some relatives and others who
just knocked on the door seeking help. The seminary building “lost sections
of the roof, so water came in, and there was water in the cellar,” the
archbishop said. Fire also broke out near the seminary Friday, burning
the home of Auxiliary Bishop Roger Moran.
Hughes said he was particularly thankful for the help he has received
from the Diocese of Baton Rouge and the Baton Rouge community at large.
“It’s because of the way in which people here have provided us with homes to
live in and office space for us and meeting rooms, we’ve been able to
assemble a headquarters in exile” for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, he said.
Blanco urges evacuees to be patientNew Orleans evacuees, who have suffered in squalor for a full week, and survivors who are safe and sound but wanting to return to their properties must all be patient, Gov. Kathleen Blanco said Saturday.
"There are no fuel supplies," Blanco said at a press briefing in Baton Rouge, referring to people who fled the city before Katrina and now want to check on their possessions. "You can't buy gasoline at will to get in and out. You may end up stranded on the highway."
As for those who are in the process of evacuating the devastated, ravaged city, Blanco asked for their patience as well in finding temporary shelter.
"We are getting as creative as we possibly can," Blanco said. "FEMA is working with us. Our deptartment of social services is working furiously to identify more and more places. When buildings fill up, it gets to the point where there is no more room."
Blanco also responded to New Orleans City Council President Oliver Thomas' earlier criticism that Louisiana was rejecting refugees from the catastrophic hurricane.
"I know the pain Oliver is in, and I know the pain our citizens are in," Blanco said. "We just have to keep on asking for patience and asking them to endure, even more than they have already endured. These people coming in have been in stress since Monday. It is Saturday. Our heart goes out to them."
"Sending citizens out of state is a temporary thing, to allow us to work with FEMA and stabalize housing," Blanco said.
Council President Thomas said Louisiana parishes are coldly turning away New Orleans survivors, believing what he called the rumors and myths that they are dangerous would-be criminals and thugs.
Blanco urged Thomas and other critics of the evacuation plan to remember patience.
"These are our people and they're good people," Blanco said. "It gets very difficult when shelters fill up. We're working hard to identify more shelters."
Council president lashes outAn outraged New Orleans City Council President Oliver Thomas blasted the city of Baton Rouge and other Louisiana communities for what he called refusing to take in refugees from the devastated city.
"They don't want them," Thomas said, after bursting into the press room at the Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge."They have put out the word all over the state: 'Those bad New Orleans people. You don't want them.'"
Since the beginning of the aftermath of Katrina, Thomas has constantly said that the images on television of looters and reports of terrorizing by bands of young men have been misleading. "Not everyone from New Orleans is a thug," Thomas said.
While Texas, Arkansas and other states have been "neighborly," Thomas said, Louisiana parishes have been slow to welcome the New Orleans evacuees due to "myths" that they are dangerous.
Dressed in his work boots and jeans, Thomas said that a busload of New Orleans evacuees, about 200, were stopped by National Guardsmen in Baton Rouge on Saturday and told they could not get off.
"These were women and children," Thomas said, his voice shaking. "There were welders, teachers, one lady was a court administrator. ... One of the ladies said, 'If we were lucky, we would have died.'"
Thomas said "rumors" of violence in the New Orleans streets are scaring rescuers and slowing evacuations. "There are people in their attics right now," he said.
Evacuation updateBesides being evacuated by buses and military aircraft, some refugees in New Orleans are being flown out of town on commercial airlines and some are being transported north on AMTRAK trains, FEMA Director Michael Brown said.
Brown said the agency has also located three Carnival cruise line ships which will also be used as shelters and temporary housing.
FEMA spopkesman David Passey said two ships are in Galveston, Texas and one is in Mobile, Ala., and will remain there. The evacuees will be bused or flow to those locations, Passey said.The capacity of the ships was not available.
Brown said AMTRAK trains have started transporting evacuees to other states, including Tennessee and Indiana. He said 650 passengers left Friday and the train movement is expected to peak at 1,500 evacuees a day.
Although 95 percent of the Superdome's 25,000 evacuees have been moved to other locations, Brown said there are no plans at this time to close the stadium as a shelter.
"People are presenting themselves and keep coming to the Dome,'' he said.
Brig. Gen. Mark Graham said that he hopes his troops and other relief workers can move the remainder of the 25,000 remaining evacuees out of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans by Sunday or Monday.
Meanhile, National Guard spokesman Lt. Kevin Cowan said the number of evacuees dropped off along Interstate 10 in Metairie had dwindled from 5,000 Friday night to 2,500 by midday Saturday.
But, he said, the number grows as more people show up to be picked up by buses.
Buses are running day and night to pick up the evacuees in New Orleans and Metairie, officials said.
-- By Ed Anderson, Capital bureau
Algiers pair tries to protect neighborhoodBy Paul Purpura
West Bank bureau
The military and Coast Guard helicopters thundered overhead frequently
Friday as their crews ferried people and supplies between the Belle
Chasse Naval Air Station and New Orleans.
Convoys of buses and military and emergency vehicles headed toward the Crescent City Connection through the day, most destined to remove Katrina’s evacuees.
And at the corner of Eaton and Berkley streets in Algiers, Johnny Bear and Leonard Green stood their posts.
Besides them, leaning against a hydrant at the southwest corner amid
the mounds of tree debris that now is an unavoidable landscaping feature in the area, was their warning to strangers who might venture in with ill intent: a piece of plywood on which Bear spray-painted in black letters, “We shoot looters.”
A physician who lives in the 5200 block of Berkley, Bear sheepishly
acknowledged Friday evening that he’d back that statement with action.
Green, now armed with one of Bear’s shotguns, agreed.
“You’ve got to do something,” said Bear, who with Green has adopted a
stretch of Berkley, from Eaton to Hyman, intent on preventing looters
from entering homes in an area they call home. Bear said he did not want to have to shoot anyone. “Hopefully, this is a deterrence,” he said.
Their vigilance, however, hasn’t been completely successful. Bear
pointed to the front door of the gray brick home at the southwest corner of Eaton and Berkley, its double front doors wide open. Looters had apparently been there, Bear said.
“That one happened today,” he said, shortly after chatting with two
New Orleans police officers who stopped by to check on them.
A sweet-natured German shepherd, whose owner apparently it left behind before Katrina struck Monday, sniffed the ground around the men. Bear said he has adopted the dog.
The area around Aurora Gardens and Huntlee Village is sparcely
populated with residents who either rode out the store in their homes or returned shortly afterwards. At the corner of Eaton Street and McArthur Boulevard, a resident attempted normalcy Friday as he cleaned tree debris from his manicured lawn. He carried a bow saw. He kept a semi-automatic pistol holstered on his right hip as he glared at a passing stranger.
The New Orleans police presence was prevalent, but several officers
Said Friday that the area isn’t safe after sundown. A police officer who lives in the 4000 block of Lennox Boulevard, dressed in civilian clothes but armed nonetheless, said he’d already run people out of his neighborhood, itself the scene of massive mounds of trees and debris.
The nights are dark, as there is no electric power, said Bear, who
returned to his home shortly after Katrina passed. The nightly violence in the area lately “hasn’t been too bad,” Bear said.
He recounted, though, how earlier in the week he went to Hope Haven in
Marrero to inquire if his medical services could be used. A gunfight
erupted nearby. “I thought it was the Fourth of July,” he said.
New Orleans police and fire personnel set up a command center at the
Sisters of Mercy property at Gen. de Gaulle Drive and Woodland
In neighboring Plaquemines Parish, entry is blocked by deputies and
deputized civilians, armed with shotguns and semiautomatic rifles, who manned a checkpoint on Belle Chasse Highway near Engineers Road. Deputies question and record the names of everyone entering Plaquemines there and on Woodland Highway.
Many residential streets in Algiers are impassible; mounds of tree
Limbs, higher than cars block passage. On some streets, motorists are forced to wind their way through the mounds, creating trails on streets that just last week were flush with residents bringing their children to school.
At Alice Harte Elementary and St. Andrew the Apostle School on Eaton,
both of which appeared to have little or no storm damage.
Most homes in the area appeared to have survived the hurricane intact,
though trees leaned against some roofs or cars. Some streets had
flooding, as evidenced by wavy debris lines left on front lawns, but no homes appeared to have been affected by water in the area.
Green, who lives at Berkley and Hyman, said he is prepared to remain
and see his neighborhood return to life.
“It’s going to stay blessed,” Green said. “It’s going to take a while
to settle in.”
>Paul Purpura can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Medical shelters to open Monday(This is a release from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
WASHINGTON -- The federal government announced Saturday that it is setting up 10 medical shelters at Department of Defense facilities throughout the Gulf region to provide health care services to Hurricane Katrina victims. All 10 are expected to be operational today.
Additionally, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Secretary Leavitt said nearly 100 tons in medications and supplies have been shipped since last weekend and currently are being distributed. For example, a 12-hour Push Package was delivered to Mississippi this morning that contained a broad spectrum of medical supplies and 100,000 doses of antibiotics.
"The health care needs in the region are immense, and we are working as quickly as we can to get the medical care and supplies to the people who so desperately need them," Secretary Leavitt said. "These facilities augment the medical services being provided and nearly 100 tons of supplies this Department has shipped already to the Gulf region. Additional shelters we will open in the coming days."
The first 10 shelters will be located at Fort Polk, La. (4 Federal Medical Shelters); Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (2 Federal Medical Shelters); Meridian Naval Air Station, Miss. (2 Federal Medical Shelters); and Mississippi National Air Guard Facility (2 Federal Medical Shelters). Each shelter has a 250-bed capacity, and HHS will provide the equipment and supplies needed to support each shelter. Up to 40 medical shelters will be created.
Five hundred US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps officers were
traveling over Friday night to the medical shelters. Each shelter will require three large semi-trucks of equipment and supplies. HHS, DoD, the Department of Veterans' Affairs, and the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) will staff the shelters with the necessary healthcare and support personnel. Each shelter will require a staff of 150.
Officials anticipate that the shelters will be open as soon as Monday. HHS' National Institutes of Health (NIH) also announced a number of steps to assist with the medical needs in the Gulf region. NIH is setting up a telemedicine consultation and triage facility on the NIH campus that will serve as a medical specialty service to all 40 Federal Medical Shelters on the ground. This will focus on the sickest of the sick and link to expertise and care at NIH and 125 medical centers throughout the country.
In addition, NIH is organizing a volunteer task force that will staff a medical field unit to assist in the disaster area. NIH will provide a comprehensive, integrated team of experts on the ground, including medical specialists, nurses, information technology experts, and administrators.
Finally, NIH has made 50 beds available and up to 100 in the coming days
in its hospital, as part of their disaster surge capacity capabilities.
"NIH is doing what it does best -- caring for the sickest of the sick," said NIH Director Dr. Elias Zerhouni. "Our disease specialists and hospital staff are partnering with medical centers around the country to give expert advice and care to hurricane victims with the most challenging medical conditions."
To date, the Department has taken the following steps to address this
- HHS continues rushing medical supplies, medical personnel and public health
expertise to the Gulf region to meet the needs of evacuees and victims of
- Secretary Mike Leavitt has declared a Federal Public Health Emergency.
- HHS is making available all its public health and emergency response
capabilities to help state and local officials provide care and assistance
to victims of this hurricane.
- Evacuation of patients from New Orleans hospitals began Thursday. Hospitals across the nation participating in the NDMS are making beds available as part of the medical response.
- HHS is setting up medical shelters throughout the Gulf region and identifying available hospital beds in the region to serve those being evacuated from New Orleans and areas devastated by Katrina.
- HHS is deploying up to 4,000 medically-qualified personnel to staff to meet health care needs in this region.
- The federal medical shelter on the Louisiana State University campus in Baton Rouge filled 1,000 prescriptions with medicines from the Strategic National Stockpile yesterday.
- HHS is using the NDMS to identify available hospital beds. HHS is working with DOD, VA and others to move patients to these facilities. At last count, there were 2,600 beds available in a 12-state area around the affected area. Nationwide, the NDMS has identified 40,000 available beds in participating hospitals.
- We are also reaching out to neighboring states, such as Texas, that are providing refuge for those evacuating the Gulf Region to make sure their
needs are being met through any resources HHS can provide.
- HHS has delivered nearly 100 tons of medical supplies to the Gulf
Region from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS).
- Hundreds of thousands of doses of antibiotics from the SNS have been
shipped to the region. Maintenance medications for chronic diseases
like diabetes, heart disease, anxiety and other conditions have been sent
as well. Examples of these medications include tetanus vaccine, Ciprofloxacin,
doxycycline, amoxicillin and insulin.
- Additional medical supplies and equipment from SNS include basic first-aid material (such as bandages, pads, ice packs, etc.), blankets and patient clothing, suture kits, sterile gloves, stethoscopes, blood pressure measuring kits, portable oxygen tanks and other equipment needed to set up the Federal Medical Shelter at LSU in Baton Rouge.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shipped 30,000 doses of tetanus vaccine for use in the disaster area.
- More medical supplies will be shipped into Louisiana and Mississippi as needed to meet any growing demands for health care equipment and supplies. HHS has public health experts working with states in the Gulf Region to help assess threats to public health and develop pro-active responses to not only prevent the spread of disease and illness but also start to address mental health issues.
- The full resources and expertise of CDC and FDA are available to augment state and local public health resources - including chemical and toxicology teams, sanitation and public health teams, epidemiology teams and food safety teams. CDC has assembled 24 teams of 20 disease, injury and toxin specialists who are ready to leave for the disaster zone.
- CDC experts are now working with Louisiana officials to implement a mosquito abatement program that will help prevent or mitigate an outbreak of West Nile Virus.
- CDC and FDA Environmental Health Officers are deploying to the states
to help evaluate their sanitation and water systems.
- Our epidemiology teams, known as disease detectives, are reaching out to state and local officials to augment efforts to monitor potential outbreaks of disease or illness.
- NIH is organizing a volunteer task force that will staff a medical field unit to assist in the disaster area. NIH will provide a comprehensive, integrated team of experts on the ground, including medical specialists, nurses, information technology experts, and administrators.
- In addition to supporting initial FEMA mental health crisis counseling efforts, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has mobilized its Disaster Technical Assistance Center to support State mental health program directors in their efforts to conduct needs assessments, provide services, support ongoing administrative operations, access financial assistance and prepare for long-term assistance.
- We are disseminating public health messages (PSAs) warning about the
safe consumption of food and water. And we're issuing strong warnings
to the public to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning from the use of generators.
(All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials
are available at
Bush's radio addressHere is Saturday's weekly radio address from President Bush:
THE PRESIDENT: "Good morning. Yesterday I saw the aftermath of one of the
largest natural disasters ever to strike America. A vast coastline of towns
and communities are flattened; one of our great cities is submerged. The
human costs are incalculable.
In Biloxi I met Bronwynne Bassier and her sister, Kim. Bronwynne told me
that the only earthly possessions she has left were the clothes on her back.
I also met relief and rescue workers who are performing heroically in
difficult circumstances. They've been working around the clock, risking
their own lives to save the lives of others. Yet, despite their best efforts, the magnitude of responding to a crisis over a disaster area that is larger than the size of Great Britain has created tremendous problems that have strained state and local capabilities. The result is that many of our citizens simply are not getting the help they need, especially in New Orleans. And that is unacceptable.
During my visit I discussed these problems at length with Governor Riley of Alabama, Governor Barbour of Mississippi, Governor Blanco of Louisiana and Mayor Nagin of New Orleans. Each state will have its own set of challenges and issues to solve. Yet all of us agree that more can be done to improve our ability to restore order and deliver relief in a timely and effective manner.
This morning I received a briefing on the latest developments on the ground. Right now there are more than 21,000 National Guard troops operating in Louisiana and Mississippi, and more are on the way. More than 13,000 of these troops are in Louisiana. The main priority is to restore and maintain law and order, and assist in recovery and evacuation efforts.
In addition to these National Guard forces, the Department of Defense has
deployed more than 4,000 active duty forces to assist in search and recovery, and provide logistical and medical support.
Hour by hour, the situation on the ground is improving. Yet the enormity of the task requires more resources and more troops. Today I ordered the Department of Defense to deploy additional active duty forces to the region. Over the next 24 to 72 hours, more than 7,000 additional troops from the 82nd Airborne, from the 1st Cavalry, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, and the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force will arrive in the affected areas. These forces will be on the ground and operating under the direct command of General Russ Honore.
Our priorities are clear: We will complete the evacuation as quickly and safely as possible. We will not let criminals prey on the vulnerable, and we will not allow bureaucracy to get in the way of saving lives.
Yesterday I also signed a $10.5 billion emergency aid package to fund our ongoing relief efforts. This is a down payment on what will be a sustained federal commitment to our fellow citizens along the Gulf Coast. I want to thank the Congress for their quick, bipartisan action, and I look forward to working with them in the days and weeks ahead.
I know that those of you who have been hit hard by Katrina are suffering. Many are angry and desperate for help. The tasks before us are enormous, but so is the heart of America. In America, we do not abandon our fellow citizens in their hour of need. And the federal government will do its part. Where our response is not working, we'll make it right. Where our response is working, we will duplicate it. We have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters all along the Gulf Coast, and we will not rest until we get this right and the job is done.
This week we've all been humbled by the awesome powers of Mother Nature. And when you stand on the porch steps where a home once stood, or look at row upon row of buildings that are completely under water, it's hard to imagine a bright future. But when you talk to the proud folks in the area, you see a spirit that cannot be broken.
The emergency along the Gulf Coast is ongoing; there's still a lot of difficult work ahead. All Americans can be certain our nation has the character, the resources, and the resolve to overcome this disaster. We will comfort and care for the victims. We will restore the towns and neighborhoods that have been lost in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. We'll rebuild the great city of New Orleans. And we'll once again show the world that the worst adversities bring out the best in America.
May God bless you, and may God continue to bless our country."
New detention center openedBy Gwen Filosa
State officials have set up a temporary booking and detention center in New Orleans to deal with those accused of killing, raping, looting and otherwise terrorizing the tens of thousands of people who were trapped in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and awaiting evacuation.
The center, located near the Amtrak-Greyhound station off Earhart Boulevard and opened at 2 a.m. Saturday, doubles as a central lock-up and booking center. It has capacity of 750 people, and is the start of rebuilding and relocating the criminal justice system of New Orleans, officials said.
"We are in business," said Louisiana Corrections Secretary Richard Stalder, at a morning briefing Saturday at the Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge. "If you want to break the law….we are ready to deal with that now."
Attorney General Charles Foti, who formerly was the Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff for almost 30 years, said that the state plans to open a temporary court system in a couple of weeks. "I'd hope we'd hold it in Hunt," he said, referring to the state prison in St. Gabriel.
"The Louisiana Supreme Court will issue a set of guidelines" to deal with the criminal cases from Orleans Parish, Foti said. But there will be "severe problems with witnesses" and "We will have problems as far as jury trials are concerned."
All 7,100 inmates who had been trapped in the Orleans Parish Prison, which is perhaps the nation's largest jail, were evacuated safely by Friday, state officials said. Deputies, other jail staff, and their families were taken to a shelter in Houma.
Despite reports to the contrary, state and local corrections officials said there were no acts of violence during the jail evacuation and that not a single inmate escaped.
The parish prison sat filled with inmates, deputies, staff workers and families, including babies and small children, on Gravier Street off the Interstate 10 for four days with no water or power. At least 10 feet of water crept into the facility.
"It was very orderly, unbelievably orderly," Stalder said.
The state must now go through the massive task of classifying the Orleans inmates – who range from people awaiting trial and convicts on appeal, to arrestees who were awaiting bond hearings and some who were serving misdemeanor sentences.
Many of the inmates have no identification.
"Some have assured me they will never be late on child support payments again," Stalder said.
The families who have languished in New Orleans for the past week, some taking shelter under concrete overpasses, have been heroic, Stalder said. "All they said to us was, 'Lock those thugs up.'"
“It is like we are moving the justice system of Orleans Parish up the road about 60 miles," Stalder said.
The city's top federal prosecutor promised that people who caused the terror in New Orleans following Katrina will face federal charges, from carjacking to murder.
"This is a step toward normalcy," said U.S. Attorney Jim Letten.. "Make no mistake about this: The federal criminal justice system is alive and well. The entire criminal justice system is alive and well."
Letten added, "Boots are on the ground. We're going to bring these guys to justice. We're moving rapidly toward business as usual."
Letten repeatedly said the federal court system is on track, but he did not have immediate knowledge of the state criminal justice system, housed at the corner of Tulane and Broad where evidence is stored and so much is still done on paper.
Foti said there will be some losses, but that District Attorney Eddie Jordan – who was not at the press briefing Saturday but is said to be in Baton Rouge – is getting his prosecutors together. Several state judges are ready to work, he added.
"There are a lot of heroics out there," Foti said. "Unfortunately, we are just focusing on the bad guys."
One of the most notorious criminals in New Orleans history has remained safe and secure in federal custody, Stalder said.
Len Davis, the killer cop who was convicted of ordering the murder of Kim Groves after she filed a police brutality claim against him, is awaiting transportation provided by federal agents.
"We have him in his own special accommodations," Stalder said, of Davis, who was sentenced to death in federal court but is appealing his case now. "We thought it was important to identify him and get him out."
There are 7,000 newly added National Guard troops on the ground in New Orleans, a number expected to grow to 16,000 within days, officials said Saturday morning.
The troops come from 29 states, including the District of Columbia. In addition, Louisiana has 5,000 of its own Guard troops in New Orleans. An additional 4,000 troops are due to arrive by Sept. 5, said Brig. Gen. Michael Fleming at a Baton Rouge news conference.
More than 300,000 National Guard troops are available in the nation, he said, and Gov. Blanco has access to draw from that pool.
Some 30,000 troops are in the region, including Mississippi, which was also devastated by Katrina.
"Our troops are motivated to be here," Fleming said. "They're really making a difference."
HHS Releases $27.25 Million in Emergency Energy AssistanceWASHINGTON -- The federal government Saturday released $27.25 million in
emergency energy assistance to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida,
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt announced.
This release of funds reflects initial requests from the affected states and their current ability to distribute the funds. Further releases are anticipated when additional information becomes available and the states' ability to distribute the funds effectively is increased.
"The suffering caused by Hurricane Katrina warrants the immediate response
of all sectors of government," Leavitt said. "President Bush is releasing this emergency energy assistance to help children, families and communities throughout the Gulf region in their urgent time of need."
The funding can be used for a wide range of purposes, including transportation to shelters for individuals whose health is endangered by loss of access to cooling, utility reconnection costs, repair or replacement costs for furnaces and air conditioners, insulation repair as well as paying energy costs.
"This energy aid is being sent to help those in most need, particularly the
disabled, the disadvantaged and the elderly," said Wade F. Horn, assistant
secretary for children and families.
Today's announcement uses emergency contingency funds recently
authorized by Congress.
No immediate rundown was available on how much each of the four
hurricane ravaged states will get.
Blanco hands Bush 'laundry list'By Laura Maggi
BATON ROUGE – After giving President Bush a first-hand glimpse of the devastated New Orleans-area on Friday, Gov. Kathleen Blanco handed him a laundry list of specific requests desperately needed to help restore order, get needed supplies of food and water to people and restore the fractured communications grid that prevented various agency officials from exchanging information.
Blanco described the meeting with Bush as “important” and “productive,” saying that the “citizens of Louisiana have renewed faith that their government cares about them.” In the aftermath of Hurricane
Katrina, Bush has been under intense criticism from both Republican and Democratic politicians about the sluggish response to the crisis in the region.
Earlier in the day Bush acknowledged that the results of federal actions were not “acceptable” and left Louisiana saying that he would remember what he had seen.
After the visit Blanco and other Louisiana politicians had only positive words about the president’s visit. “He has seen enough to really understand the magnitude of what we are facing,” said U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-New Orleans.
Among the many requests Blanco presented to Bush was the return of the 256th Brigade Combat Team, who are currently serving in Iraq and have only a few weeks left in their deployment. Blanco said the Louisiana National Guard unit is needed to help with the recovery activity.
“They are urgently needed back home,” said Blanco at a press conference Friday night at the state Office of Emergency Preparedness. Many of the soldiers who are currently serving in Iraq have expressed unhappiness about not being able to help with the situation back home in Louisiana, she said.
Blanco also asked the president to establish a second staging base for getting needed supplies to the people who are desperate for food and water. The base for getting water, ice and military meals-ready-to-eat to southeast Louisiana is in Pineville, a town in central Louisiana. Establishing another base in Baton Rouge would allow the state to create more local points for handing out the supplies.
In the letter, Blanco asked the federal government for specific communications equipment, more extensive firefighting support, military vehicles and 175 generators to support local and state operations.
Blanco’s address to reporters on Friday night had a more hopeful tone than previous briefings on the conditions in the flood-ravaged New Orleans area. The governor heralded the progress made in fixing the
breach 17th Street Canal, one of the spots where Bush was taken during his visit, saying she was naming the repair work “Project Hope.”
State officials have said that substantial work has been made on fixing the hole in the levee, which let water from Lake Pontchartrain gush into the city. “It was gratifying to see the dedication of the men and women on the work site,” she said.
Blanco also heralded the thousands of Louisiana National Guard and other soldiers who have poured into New Orleans and other parts of the state. The increased presence of soldiers in troubled city will quell the unrest, said Blanco as well as other state officials.
U.S. Sen. David Vitter, who also joined the Bush visit, along with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, said that he wants to see active-duty military on the ground in the city to supplement the Guard presence.
At her press conference, Blanco said she is receptive to that idea.
A Republican senator, Vitter has been extremely critical about the response of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the days since the hurricane. But he said Friday evening that he was “hopeful that today was a turning point.”
Landrieu has also been critical of the FEMA response, urging Bush to create a Cabinet level position to direct the clean-up of the Gulf Coast region.
Hotline set up for National Guard familiesFamilies of National Guard personnel serving overseas, whose lives have
been disrupted by Hurricane Katrina, are asked to call the National Guard Bureau Family Program at 1 (800) 777-7731.
The bureau will notify the soldiers and airmen of news of their families, said Jack Harrison, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va.
Family members should call and leave information that will be requested. The
Family Program will relay the information to the troops, Harrison said.
“This is critical to us," Harrison said. "We want to make sure our people
overseas doing their duty gets word on their families.”
Blanco forms relief foundationGov. Kathleen Blanco has announced the formation of a nonprofit organization devoted to soliciting money worldwide to provide relief to victims of Hurricane Katrina.
The Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation will be a 501(c) 3 group under the federal tax code, letting donors take a charitable tax deduction. The money will be used for education, job assistance, housing, medical needs and other purposes to help disaster victims return to productive lives.
The governor will appoint a foundation board with members from around the nation. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush will help lead the fund-raising effort, just as they did for relief after the tsunami that struck Southeast Asia in December.
The address of the foundation is P.O. Box 94095, Baton Rouge, LA, 70804. Money also can be donated by credit card on the Internet at www.Louisiana.gov.
Castro offers medical help"Our country is ready to send, in the small hours of morning, 100 clinicians
and specialists in comprehensive general medicine, who at dawn tomorrow,
(Saturday) could be in Houston International Airport, Texas, the closest
to the region struck by the tragedy, in order to be transferred by air,
sea or river to the isolated shelters, facilities and neighborhoods in the
city of New Orleans, where the population and families are that require
emergency medical care or first aid," Cuban President Fidel Castro said in a televised annoucement Friday.
"These Cuban personnel would be carrying backpacks with 24 kilograms of
medications, known to be essential in such situations to save lives, as
well as basic diagnosis kits. They would be prepared to work alone or in
groups of two or more, depending on the circumstances, for as long as
"Likewise, Cuba is ready to send via Houston, or any other airport of your
choosing, 500 additional specialists in comprehensive general medicine,
with the same equipment, who could be at their destination point at noon or
in the afternoon of tomorrow, Saturday, Sept. 3.
"A third group of 500 specialists in comprehensive general medicine
could be arriving in the morning of Sunday, Sept. 4. Thus, the 1100 said
medical doctors, with the resources described tantamount to 26.4 tons of
medications and diagnosis kits, would be caring for the neediest persons in the
aftermath of hurricane Katrina.
"These medical doctors have the necessary international experience and
elementary knowledge of the English language that would allow them to
communicate with the patients.
"We stand ready waiting for the US authorities' response."
The Bush administration, which has imposed travel and trade sanctions
against the communist government, isn't likely to accept the offer.
Audubon Zoo survivesBy Michael J. Montalbano
and Jeff Duncan
Like Noah at the helm of the Arc, a weary but determined Dan Maloney stood at the gates of the Audubon Zoo on Friday and shook his head as he described the journey he and his skeleton crew of animal caretakers endured while guiding the facility's collection of 1,400 animals through Hurricane Katrina.
Amazingly, only two animals were killed by the Category 4 storm, which devastated the Gulf Coast on Monday, said Maloney, the zoo's vice
president and general curator. One other animal was killed in the aftermath.
Maloney said the 58-acre zoo suffered little structural damage from the storm, which he called "the worst natural situation to hit" the 120-year-old institution. The biggest damage was to the trees and
Maloney and a team of about a dozen, including two security guards, are caring for and maintaining the zoo's population of more than 350 species. The zoo's normal operation numbers 30 to 40 staffers daily, he said.
"We feel very fortunate," Maloney said. "We're hanging in there. We did our homework. We're doing the best we can."
HHS Releases $27.25 Million in AssistanceWASHINGTON -- The federal government Saturday released $12 million in emergency energy assistance to Louisiana, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Mike Leavitt announced.
In all $27.25 million is being released to the four states most impacted by Hurricane Katrina.
Further energy grants will be released later when the states’ ability to distribute the funds effectively is increased.
"The suffering caused by Hurricane Katrina warrants the immediate response
of all sectors of government," Secretary Leavitt said.
The funding can be used for a wide range of purposes, including transportation to shelters for individuals whose health is endangered by loss of access to cooling, utility reconnection costs, repair or replacement costs for furnaces and air conditioners, insulation repair as well as paying energy costs.
"This energy aid is being sent to help those in most need, particularly the
disabled, the disadvantaged and the elderly," said Wade F. Horn, assistant
secretary for children and families.
Today's announcement uses emergency contingency funds, which were recently authorized by Congress
HHS announces first medical sheltersWASHINGTON -- The federal government announced Saturday that it is setting
up 10 medical shelters at Department of Defense facilities throughout the Gulf
region to provide health care services to Hurricane Katrina victims.
All 10 are expected to be operational today.
Additionally, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Secretary Leavitt
said nearly 100 tons in medications and supplies have been shipped since
last weekend and currently are being distributed. For example, a 12-hour
Push Package was delivered to Mississippi this morning that contained a
broad spectrum of medical supplies and 100,000 doses of antibiotics.
"The health care needs in the region are immense, and we are working as
quickly as we can to get the medical care and supplies to the people who
so desperately need them," Secretary Leavitt said. "These facilities
augment the medical services being provided and nearly 100 tons of supplies this Department has shipped already to the Gulf region. Additional shelters we
will open in the coming days."
The first ten shelters will be located at Fort Polk, La. (4 Federal
Medical Shelters); Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (2 Federal Medical Shelters);
Meridian Naval Air Station, Miss. (2 Federal Medical Shelters); and
National Air Guard Facility (2 Federal Medical Shelters). Each shelter has
a 250-bed capacity, and HHS will provide the equipment and supplies needed
to support each shelter. Up to 40 medical shelters will be created.
Five hundred US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps officers were
traveling over Friday night to the medical shelters. Each shelter will
require three large semi-trucks of equipment and supplies. HHS, DoD, the
Department of Veterans' Affairs, and the National Disaster Medical System
(NDMS) will staff the shelters with the necessary healthcare and support
personnel. Each shelter will require a staff of 150.
Officials anticipate that the shelters will be open as soon as Monday.
HHS' National Institutes of Health (NIH) also announced a number of steps
to assist with the medical needs in the Gulf region. NIH is setting up a
telemedicine consultation and triage facility on the NIH campus that will
serve as a medical specialty service to all 40 Federal Medical Shelters on
the ground. This will focus on the sickest of the sick and link to
expertise and care at NIH and 125 medical centers throughout the country.
In addition, NIH is organizing a volunteer task force that will staff a
medical field unit to assist in the disaster area. NIH will provide a
comprehensive, integrated team of experts on the ground, including medical
specialists, nurses, information technology experts, and administrators.
Finally, NIH has made 50 beds available and up to 100 in the coming days
in its hospital, as part of their disaster surge capacity capabilities.
"NIH is doing what it does best--caring for the sickest of the sick," said
NIH Director Dr. Elias Zerhouni. "Our disease specialists and hospital
staff are partnering with medical centers around the country to give expert
advice and care to hurricane victims with the most challenging medical
To date, the Department has taken the following steps to address this
HHS continues rushing medical supplies, medical personnel and public
health expertise to the Gulf region to meet the needs of evacuees and victims of Hurricane Katrina.
* Secretary Mike Leavitt has declared a Federal Public Health
* HHS is making available all its public health and emergency response
capabilities to help state and local officials provide care and assistance
to victims of this hurricane.
* Evacuation of patients from New Orleans hospitals began Thursday.
Hospitals across the nation participating in the NDMS are making beds
available as part of the medical response.
HHS is setting up medical shelters throughout the Gulf region and
identifying available hospital beds in the region to serve those being
evacuated from New Orleans and areas devastated by Katrina.
* HHS is deploying up to 4,000 medically qualified personnel to staff
to meet health care needs in this region.
* The federal medical shelter on the Louisiana State University
campus in Baton Rouge filled 1,000 prescriptions with medicines from the
Strategic National Stockpile yesterday.
* HHS is using the NDMS to identify available hospital beds. HHS is
working with DOD, VA and others to move patients to these facilities. At
last count, there were 2,600 beds available in a 12-state area around the
affected area. Nationwide, the NDMS has identified 40,000 available beds
in participating hospitals
* We are also reaching out to neighboring states, such as Texas, that
are providing refuge for those evacuating the Gulf Region to make sure
their needs are being met through any resources HHS can provide.
HHS has delivered nearly 100 tons of medical supplies to the Gulf Region
from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS).
* Hundreds of thousands of doses of antibiotics from the SNS have been
shipped to the region. Maintenance medications for chronic diseases like
diabetes, heart disease, anxiety and other conditions have been sent as
well. Examples of these medications include tetanus vaccine,
Ciprofloxacin, doxycycline, amoxicillin and insulin.
* Additional medical supplies and equipment from SNS include basic
first-aid material (such as bandages, pads, ice packs, etc.), blankets and
patient clothing, suture kits, sterile gloves, stethoscopes, blood
pressure measuring kits, portable oxygen tanks and other equipment needed to set up the Federal Medical Shelter at LSU in Baton Rouge.
* The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shipped 30,000
doses of tetanus vaccine for use in the disaster area.
* More medical supplies will be shipped into Louisiana and Mississippi
as needed to meet any growing demands for health care equipment and
HHS has public health experts working with states in the Gulf Region to
help assess threats to public health and develop pro-active responses to not
only prevent the spread of disease and illness but also start to address mental
* The full resources and expertise of CDC and FDA are available to
augment state and local public health resources - including chemical and
toxicology teams, sanitation and public health teams, epidemiology teams
and food safety teams. CDC has assembled 24 teams of 20 disease, injury and toxin specialists who are ready to leave for the disaster zone.
* CDC experts are now working with Louisiana officials to implement a
mosquito abatement program that will help prevent or mitigate an outbreak
of West Nile Virus.
* CDC and FDA Environmental Health Officers are deploying to the
states to help evaluate their sanitation and water systems.
* Our epidemiology teams, known as disease detectives, are reaching
out to state and local officials to augment efforts to monitor potential
outbreaks of disease or illness.
* NIH is organizing a volunteer task force that will staff a medical
field unit to assist in the disaster area. NIH will provide a
comprehensive, integrated team of experts on the ground, including medical
specialists, nurses, information technology experts, and administrators.
* In addition to supporting initial FEMA mental health crisis
counseling efforts, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has mobilized its Disaster Technical Assistance Center to support State mental health program directors in their efforts to conduct needs assessments, provide services, support ongoing administrative operations, access financial assistance and prepare for long-term assistance.
* We are disseminating public health messages (PSAs) warning about
the safe consumption of food and water. And we're issuing strong warnings to
the public to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning from the use of generators.
Landrieu, Senate Democratic leader, ask Bush for additional steps to help hurricane victims
Sens Mary Landrieu, D-La. and Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Senate Democratic
leader, Saturday asked President Bush to take additional steps, using the powers given the executive branch during emergencies, to help hurricane victims. Here's their letter:
Dear Mr. President:
"In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst natural
disasters in our nation's history, it is critical that all Americans come
together to address the emergency needs of millions of our fellow citizens.
We want to thank you for your efforts since the hurricane hit, and to
express our strong interest in working cooperatively with you in the days
ahead on additional measures we believe are needed to address this crisis.
At the same time, we are concerned about the serious problems and chaos that
have marked the Federal government's initial response to date. We believe
it is essential that you fully use the significant legal authority you
possess under current law to better respond to the absolutely critical needs
of victims who are undergoing unspeakable hardships.
As you know, beyond the thousands who apparently have lost their
lives, countless numbers of others have lost their homes and possessions,
and now are suffering with nowhere to live, few, if any, resources, and
nowhere to turn. These increasingly desperate people are struggling to find
food and water and to ensure their survival. It is absolutely critical that
the Federal government immediately do everything in its power to meet their
needs and minimize unnecessary suffering as this crisis continues.
We know that thousands of dedicated federal workers and many others are
doing all they can to address this crisis, often in the face of enormous
logistical problems that are an inevitable consequence of such a disaster.
Yet we are concerned that rescue and recovery efforts appear to remain
chaotic and that many victims remain hungry and without adequate shelter
nearly a week after the hurricane struck. Clearly, strong personal
leadership from you is essential if we are to get this effort on track.
Fortunately, as you know, the Stafford Act gives you broad legal authority
to address the needs of Katrina's victims. Under that law, for example, the
Administration can provide cash benefits to individuals who have been
stranded without financial resources. Yet we have heard reports that some
victims who have contacted the Federal Emergency Management Agency have been told that FEMA is not accepting applications for financial assistance. This
is deeply troubling, and we urge you to address it immediately. Only the
federal government can adequately address the basic needs of our fellow
Americans suffering from this disaster and they deserve a better response
from their government.
Current law also gives the President broad authority to use Federal
facilities in an emergency in order to provide housing and food for those in
need. We urge you to use your existing authority to ensure that all victims
have at least enough food to survive, and to immediately identify military
bases and other federal facilities that can house these victims on a
Current law also grants the President broad authority to provide
transportation assistance in a disaster. Yet many of those displaced from
New Orleans and other Gulf Coast regions have no ability to relocate to
other areas where they may have family and friends available. Providing
such transportation assistance also should be a priority.
Finally, we urge you to join with us to ensure that our nation makes a
strong and absolute commitment to rebuilding New Orleans. The City of New
Orleans is a national treasure with a special atmosphere and a unique
culture that could never be replaced. It is unthinkable that some in
Washington have suggested that the city, in effect, be abandoned. We urge
you to speak out in strong opposition to such defeatism and to make clear to
all the people of New Orleans that we will never, ever abandon them or their
More survivor storiesBy Millie Ball
THIBODAUX -- Some good things were happening Friday night an hour from the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Center.
With a few hundred others in the gym-turned-shelter at Nicholls State University, Rose Johnson, 38, and her dad, Malcolm Johnson, 56, were glad to talk about the differences between their existence Thursday and Friday
A lime green rolling weekender suitcase their only possession, they sat on cots that volunteers, National Guard troops and evacuees just had uncrated - six to each box.
After a day or two with only two Snicker bars for food and nothing to drink, Malcolm said by Thursday he was so exhausted and "so dehydrated waiting at the convention center, I had stomach cramps".
They had walked to the chaotic center a day or two earlier - who can keep track of the days? - from their apartment in the Lafitte Housing Development, when water rose "to here," said Malcolm, patting the middle of his chest.
"Someone kept me from drowning, when I fell into the water," said Rose.
At the convention center, they saw two children who had died, "lying in a freezer," and another dead person on the neutral ground, while 25 buses came to get them - twice - and drove off empty, "because" Malcolm said, "someone said they were afraid the buses would be hijacked."
Finally Thursday afternoon, a couple of guys stole a car and asked them to come along, and when the car broke down on Hwy. 90, they called the police. The St. Charles Parish sheriff deputies rescued them and fed them and took care of them Thursday night..
"As nice as they were, they're even nicer here," said Malcom, grinning, and brushing his four-day stubble. "Today I took a shower. Tomorrow I'm getting a razor."
Friday night there was air conditioning, water and food - a dinner of dirty rice, bread, oranges, bananas and a piece of chocolate cake for dessert. And there was so many sacks of donated clothing, the volunteers said they couldn't accept any more.
Lie Anne Marcello, 49, a registered nurse volunteer said she had no idea how many people had been processed through Nicholls. Hundreds, she guessed.
The refugees were going through clothes and diapers, and Marcello said she was grateful for some Tampax, which someone just had given and they needed. Children were riding little tricycles. One young woman was braiding another's hair. But mostly they sat and ate and occasionally talked like the Johnsons.
Rose's "baby daughter," who is 17 and supposed to start her freshman year at Southeastern in Hammond, was with them, but left for the Baton Rouge airport a little bit ago. "My older daughter, she's 21, and my grandbabies, a boy and a girl, we don't know where they are," she said, staring ahead.
Across the gym, Sharon Billiot, 39, and her daughter-in-law Heather Cruse Billiot, know only too well that gnawing feeling of wondering about their loved ones. They spent two nights on the levee near their home in Violet in St. Bernard Parish before being airlifted out by helicopter. "We couldn't leave because my sister-in-law is in the hospital," said Billiot.
They fared the beginning of Katrina well, but the water got them, and they and their husbands and other family members paddled a flat boat out to a church where they crawled through a window to ride out the rest of the storm "We saw a man screaming from a telephone pole," but we couldn't reach him," said Billiot, shaking her head. "We were able to get another man off a roof though."
Billiot's two daughters and Heather's mom were flown out from the levee a day before they were, and their husbands, Gene Sr. and Gene Jr., were supposed to be taken away after them. We know they were going to the Belle Chasse High School, but we haven't heart anything more," said Billiot. "We're hoping they're OK"
Friday afternoon, Billiot and Heather and Heather's grandmother, Christine Wallace, 80 - who sat silently while the other two women talked - and Heather's son, Austin, who is - he held up five fingers - boarded a bus outside the gym. "They told us they were taking us to Monroe," said Billiot. "We didn't want to go, but we had been told the Nicholls dean said school started Tuesday and we had to leave."
The National Guard blocked the buses, said Billiot. "A guardsman got on the bus and told us, 'the state runs this facility; you don't have to go anywhere. You can stay here as long as you want to.'"
Billiot had nothing but praise for the troops. Friday would be their third night in the shelter - the first with cots - "and at night, they walk around and if a little kid's foot is sticking out, they cover it. They did it to me even."
Billiot pulled out a copy of "Friday's The Times-Picayune, the first print edition since Sunday, and said it was the first news she'd had. "There have been no TVs or radios," she said. "I've ready just about every word, and will finish it all later."
"A soldier named Ryan, from New Iberia," told us God would bless us," said Heather. They and the other refugees wore blue and white bands around their wrists to show they'd given names and previous addresses.
A volunteer drove Billiot to two other shelters looking for her husband. One offered to take them in her home. "They're wonderful." She said, her brown eyes large.
"We know we don't have anything left, but I don't care if I have to live in a tent. I just want us to be together."
Volunteers were approaching almost all of `the temporary resident of the gym, taking names of those they were searching for.
Dorothy Bates was one who'd already heard good news. A charmer surrounded by a couple of smiling volunteers, she said she was "39," when a reporter asked that rude question. Then she whispered, "I'm 80."
She lives on Eagle Street in the Carrollton area, and said, "I was flooded up to here," touching under her chin. "I was standing on a ladder, trying to stretch my body. I knocked on my wall and shouted to my neighbor, 'Come and get me before I drown!'"
The Carrollton area always has been safe before, she said. She'd been connected with her family, and one of her grandsons is coming to get her from Virginia and she'd go to Boston, where her son lives, she said. "I won't say 'dis' and 'dat' when I come back from Boston. She poked her chin up, and said, "I'll say 'this.'
Wearing a floral smock, slippers and a bandana around her head, Bates said, "I don't usually dress like this. I usually wear a skirt and a blouse that match.
She was glad to have a cot, she said, but added, "It didn't matter sleeping on the floor., I slept on pallets on the floor when I was young and lived in the country in Mississippi."
Draining the region could take several weeksSaturday, 11:30 a.m.
It couldl take up to 36 days - once the pumps get going in a week or so - to drain the polluted waters from Hurricane Katrina, U.S. Army officials said this morning.
"It's going to be time consuming," said Brig Gen. Don Riley, at a FEMA press briefing.
The city's generators are presumably wiped out, and more pumps are needed in order to start draining St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes, which RIley estimated will take 80 days to drain.
"The pumps are underwater," Riley said. "We need to get the pumps on and drain it."
The city's best pump will move 10,000 cubic feet or water per second. "That will move the largest amount of water out of Orleans Parish," Riley said.
Bush visit halts food deliveryBy Michelle Krupa
Three tons of food ready for delivery by air to refugees in St. Bernard Parish and on Algiers Point sat on the Crescent City Connection bridge Friday afternoon as air traffic was halted because of President Bush’s visit to New Orleans, officials said.
The provisions, secured by U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville, and state Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom, baked in the afternoon sun as Bush surveyed damage across southeast Louisiana five days after Katrina made landfall as a Category 4 storm, said Melancon’s chief of staff, Casey O’Shea.
“We had arrangements to airlift food by helicopter to these folks, and now the food is sitting in trucks because they won’t let helicopters fly,” O’Shea said Friday afternoon.
The food was expected to be in the hands of storm survivors after the president left the devastated region Friday night, he said.
StatisticsHere are some of the statistics released at a Saturday morning press conference of FEMA, Corps of Engineers, Coast Guard and Red Cross officials.
ƒÞArea affected by Hurricane Katrina covers 90,000 square miles, greater that the area of Great Britain
ƒÞ4,000 people were airlifted from the Greater New Orleans area Friday alone.
ƒÞ95 percent of the refugees gathered at the Louisiana Superdome have been evacuated to other shelter, many in other states. People continue to show up at the facility and the evacuation continues.
ƒÞ7,500 lives have been saved by rescuers. That is believed to be a very low estimate because it excludes ¡§spontaneous rescues,¡¨ which officials described as neighbors and passersby rescuing people in private boats and vehicles.
ƒÞ1.9 million meals ready to eat (MREs) and 6.7 million liters of water have been brought into the hurricane-ravaged area.
ƒÞEvacuations by Amtrak passenger train began Friday night. Officials expect to evacuate 1,500 people per day by train.
ƒÞ1,700 patients still need to be evacuated from hospitals.
ƒÞ3 cruise ships will be brought to New Orleans for use as temporary housing for the elderly, disabled and those needing basic medical attention.
ƒÞAn Army mobile medical hospital is being constructed on Zephyr Field in Kenner.
ƒÞPresident Bush signed the $10.5 billion emergency appropriation bill Friday night. The bill had been approved by Congress earlier in the day.
ƒÞAdditional troops from the 82nd Airborne Division have been assigned to help with security and recovery efforts.
ƒÞThere is ¡§no humanly possible way of knowing¡¨ how many people remain trapped by flood waters and need to be rescued.
ƒÞ The American Red Cross has set up a link on its Web site where notices seeking missing persons can be posted. The site will also include list of people in shelters trying to notify people who may be looking for them.
ƒÞIn the past 48 hours, no one has fired shots at rescue workers or security forces in New Orleans, officials said Saturday morning. Such incidents had delayed earlier rescue efforts in the city.
ƒÞ500 of the 1,200 U.S. Corps of Engineers workers who live in the New Orleans area and are working to repair damaged levees and pumps, have had their own homes flooded.
ƒÞCorps of Engineers estimate that the flood water can be drained from the city, 36 days after the levees are rebuilt and pumps restored. They hope to have pumps operational in seven days.
ƒÞBetween 7 and 10 a.m. Saturday, six flights had departed Louis Armstrong International Airport carrying 870 evacuees. Between midnight and 10 a.m. 197 buses had departed the city with 8,350 evacuees.
ƒÞIn all 55 airplanes and 788 buses had evacuated more than 35,000 from the city.
ƒÞAir evacuations from Belle Chase Naval Air Station will begin at noon Saturday.
ƒÞOfficials expect to evacuate as many as 25,000 more from the Greater New Orleans area in the next 24-36 hours.
ƒÞA U.S. Coast Guard spokesman said that 52 aircraft had rescued 720 people in the previous 32 hours. About1,300 Coast Guard personnel have been assigned to the rescue efforts.
ƒÞEvacuation shelters have been established in at least eight states including Tennessee, Indiana, Texas and Arkansas.
ƒÞMore than 100,000 people are currently in shelters.
Clinton angered by Hastert commentsSaturday, 10:22 a.m.
Add former President Clinton to the list of those angered by statements made this week by House Speaker Dennis Hastert that it doesn't make sense to rebuild New Orleans.
Hastert, R-Illinois, has since backed off his comments, saying he does not want to see the city "bulldozed,'' as he had told a newspaper several days ago.
Today's Washington Post reports that Clinton was discussing New Orleans's dilemma when someone described the speaker's comments to him. Had they been in the same place when the remarks were made, Clinton said, "I'm afraid I would have assaulted him."
Tauzin not blaming, but unhappy with FEMABy Bruce Alpert
WASHINGTON -Former Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-Chackbay, is "reluctant" to cast blame while rescue efforts continue for Hurricane Katrina victims, but is expressing unhappiness the Federal Emergency Management Agency didn't carry out a congressionally ordered study of evacuation plans for a Category 3 or greater hurricane.
Tauzin said that the House authorized $500,000 for the study in 1997 and when FEMA asked for more clarification on what Congress intended it passed detailed language setting out the parameters in 1999.
The House report, accompanying a funding bill for FEMA and concurred to by House-Senate negotiators who prepared the final bill approved by then President Bill Clinton, read as follows:
"The committee directs FEMA to develop an evacuation plan for a Category 3 or greater storm, a levee break, flood or other natural disaster for the New Orleans area, including the parishes of Orleans, Jefferson, Lafourche, St. Bernard, Plaquemines, St. Charles and Terrebonne. FEMA should incorporate the feasibility of a vertical evacuation into the multi-level structures and identify evacuations problems and infrastructure improvements and its directed to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Louisiana Department of transportation and Development, Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness, New Orleans Regional Planning Commission and Terrebonne Readiness and Action Committee in the preparation of this plan and report."
The vertical evacuation plan that Congress wanted evaluated refers to using tall buildings as places for residents to wait out a storm, presumably safe from flooding. Such an evacuation plan is controversial, with some emergency planning experts worried that the safety from rising flood water might be outweighed by the dangers of the likely shattering of windows by high winds, potentially endangering evacuees.
Tauzin said that despite assurances from FEMA officials that the study would be done it was never completed during the Clinton administration. When President George W. Bush took over as president in 2001, Tauzin aides said that the new administration cited a lack of funds for not moving forward with the study.
Tauzin said he doesn't know if such a study could have avoided the huge evacuation problems, and potentially large death toll from Hurricane Katrina. But he said it's also possible that the study could have provided important insights that could have aided state, federal and locals officials as they planned ways to evacuate people from the very real threat of Hurricane Katrina.
There was no immediate comment from FEMA.
Bush postpones visit by Chinese president because of KatrinaPresident Bush and President Hu Jintao of China spoke by phone this morning. President Bush thanked President Hu for the sympathies of the Chinese people on the hardships suffered by Americans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Both Presidents agreed that, in the present circumstances, it was best not to have a meeting in Washington next week; and they agreed to reschedule the visit of President Hu to another mutually convenient time. They agreed to meet in New York on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly later this month.
Water continues to recede, Corps officials sayWater continued to recede from New Orleans into Lake Pontchartrain Saturday morning, Major Gen. Don Riley of the Army Corps of Engineers told CNN. “Water is flowing out of the city into the lake… The lake levels are about a foot below what’s in the city,” he said.
The Corps of Engineers continues to bring in generators to operate the city’s drainage pumps, Riley said. “We’re also tapping into the natural gas lines in the city… to run some of the pumps.”
Tulane cancels fall semesterTulane University in New Orleans has canceled its fall semester and encouraged students to attend other universities. Nine higher education associations, representing hundreds of colleges and universities, have developed plans to accept Tulane students for the fall semester, according to a letter posted by university president Scott Cowen on the Tulane Web site. “Tulane University will accept credit for all courses with a passing grade from regionally accredited universities; such credit will be applied to a student’s Tulane course of study,” the letter said.
Guard halts Superdome evacuationsThe National Guard halted evacuations Saturday morning from the Louisiana Superdome, but it is unclear why, The Associated Press reported. About 2,000 people remain inside the facility.
Oil slick in Mississippi RiverAn oil-like slick has appeared on the Mississippi River, possibly leaking from two storage tanks, according to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.
The area is not accessible, and DEQ officials spotted the slick during a flyover of lower Plaquemines Parish Thursday evening. The slick is an area near the storage tanks, but it could not be confirmed that they are the source of the leak. The substance causing the slick is unknown, but appears to be petroleum based. The amount of substance leaking also is unknown, DEQ reports.
The tanks are approximately 280 feet wide and 20 feet tall. “The aerial data team also estimated that if the storage tanks were full, they could hold 80,000 barrels of petroleum,” a DEQ statement said.
Political storm brewing over Katrina disasterBy JOHN McQUAID
WASHINGTON - A semblance of post-storm order returned to a ravaged New Orleans Friday. But the political storm over the disaster was just beginning.
Political leaders, Republican and Democrat alike, blasted the Federal Emergency Management Agency and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security for allowing New Orleans to descend into a cauldron of suffering and anarchy for three days and nights after the storm passed.
President Bush, himself the target of criticism for the sluggish response, pronounced the results "unacceptable."
Dozens of others chimed in with criticisms and proposals. "If we can't respond faster than this to an event we saw coming across the Gulf for days, then why do we think we're prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?" asked former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Republican.
The Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee announced they would launch an investigation into the post-disaster response. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., called on Bush to go over the heads of those directing the emergency response and appoint a cabinet-level official to take over. Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., called for splitting FEMA out of Homeland Security.
FEMA officials pleaded "no contest.".
Bill Lokey, chief coordinator for FEMA, said agencies were simply overwhelmed by the scale of the challenge. "It's the nature of the disaster," he said. "This is far beyond anything we've ever done in this country. It's beyond our immediate capabilities for sure."
Lokey said rescue workers have been hampered by floodwaters, and by the fact that many of the resources they needed were not available nearby and had to be brough in. And because the storm damage was spread across three states, FEMA's resources have also been spread out, he said.
What went wrong? Solid answers to that question may take years of study by blue-ribbon commissions and Congress to sort out. Emergency managers will be studying what happened for decades to come. But emergency managers and people who study disasters said several key problems allowed the situation to slip out of officials' hands and deteriorate.
Part of the problem is that the quick mobilization of massive human and material resources takes expert management from the top, and the coordination of dozens of different federal agencies. That would have enabled a quicker entry into the city of National Guardsmen to establish order, distribute food, and get people out.
Emergency management plans are for the most part based on the assumption that the people involved will be a relatively cooperative. "In most cases they are very prompt about having police or national guardsmen deployed in force," said Jay Baker. "So it doesn't become an issue."
The eruption of violence, disorder and confusion caught many by surprise. A simulation that emergency management officials ran last year of a catastrophic flood and hurricane hitting New Orleans did not address the possibility of widespread violence and disorder, said Madhu Beriwal, the president of IEM Inc., the Baton Rouge-based company that ran the exercise. Beriwal said that the violence issue was to be addressed at a later meeting.
"There is a truism among sociologists who study disasters that panic is not a problem," said Rutherford Platt, a disaster expert at the University of Massachusetts. "People are too well informed about what to do and expect - even low income people get a lot of information. There are Red Cross shelters, all these things we expect to take up the slack."
DHS had no master plan on aimed specifically at addressing the New Orleans catastrophe. Officials attending last year's simulation - which included tabletop exercises on the response to a fictional Hurricane Pam that flooded the city - produced a document with many contingency plans, Beriwal said. For example, officials agreed that Fish and Wildlife service personnel would rescue people and ferry them to city access points for transport out.
But the simulation was just an early stage of a multi-year effort to develop a comprehensive plan - one that had been delayed by 9/11 and competing priorities.
Homeland Security Secretary Donald Chertoff for the first time activated a more generic National Response Plan developed in the wake of 9/11 that gives him authority over all agencies involved. But it clearly didn't work as it was supposed to.
"Certainly what happened was some degree of a lack of coordination between federal, state and local folks prior to the arrival of the hurricane and immediately afterward," said Suzanne Mencer, a former Department of Homeland Security official who worked with state and local agencies. "It's that coordination piece that is always the most difficult."
Jan Moller and the Associated Press contributed to this story