St. Tammany residents starting over in Midwest

St. Tammany bureau
Almost 50 Slidell and Pearl River area residents made homeless by Hurricane Katrina’s devastation were evacuated over the weekend on two big tour buses with the promise of a new start in the Midwest.

The promise – guaranteed jobs and free apartments for up to six months – was made by Ed Blinn, a Marion, Ind., businessman who owns three used car lots and almost 100 apartments.

Some 47 people who had spent much of the week in five crowded, squalid school gymnasiums took him up on it the offer and boarded one of the buses Blinn hired to journey down the nation’s midsection and back.

They arrived at their new home, temporary or otherwise, late Monday afternoon and Blinn put them all up at a local hotel, he said in a telephone interview.

With his help and that of Red Cross volunteers and social service agencies, the displaced persons are settling into some of his vacant apartments and others – and into their new lives.

So, why did Blinn, 39, safe and sound with his family 900 miles away take it upon himself to embark upon this mission of mercy?

Blinn was aware from the numerous televised news accounts of the devastation and the plight of so many thousands of men, women and children driven from their homes in the New Orleans area.

But he also has a friend in Slidell, Roper Construction Co. owner Jimmy Roper. He’s the uncle of Dr. Mike Roper, a close friend of Blinn’s. For the past few years, the Blinns and Ropers have gone hunting together every year in South Dakota.

“I have a friend in Slidell – so that’s why I decided to go,” he said. “Hell, we’re like family.”

Blinn also was impatient with the slow pace of a hurricane relief effort that city officials and others in the Marion area were talking about to help the stricken area far to the south.

That group met late Friday and spent a lot of time talking without coming to a firm decision on what to do, he said.

“I just felt that with the bureaucracy, it wasn’t going to get done,” he said. “They said their next meeting was Tuesday and I knew I could make it happen, or thought I could and so I did.”

Accompanied by his 14-year-old son, Evan, Blinn hired a driver for each of the two buses capable of holding 30 to 35 passengers. The buses left Marion at about 8 p.m. Saturday and arrived in Slidell at mid-afternoon Sunday.

They then went shelter by shelter to John Slidell Park, three schools the names of which he couldn’t remember and ultimately to Creekside Junior High School near Pearl River.

At each stop, he told those stranded at the sweltering facilities about his proposal and his six-month “guarantee” of jobs and a place to live rent-free and gave them 20 minutes or so to make up their minds.

Not surprisingly, despite their desperate situations, many didn’t want to leave behind what had been their home for many years.

However, travelers ultimately included a family of three that initially wanted to stay, then changed their mind and chased down one of the buses after it began driving off and jumped on, Blinn said.

“I would have liked to stay a little longer and get a few more people,” he said. “I could’ve spent another day.”

But time was running out, the rescue group was informed of an 8 p.m. curfew, “and these people were weary enough” and faced a long drive back to Indiana.

Blinn said he didn’t know how many of his temporary charges eventually would decide to return to Louisiana or stay in their new homes.

“I don’t know if any of them will (want to return),” she said. “But if they do, I’ll help them get back. We’re friends now.”

Socio-economic gap evident

8:09 p.m., Monday

By Greg Thomas
Real estate writer

Alfanao Tony of Meraux stood at the counter of the Baton Rouge Hampton Inn wearing a starched white shirt. His eyes filled with tears as he explained that anonymous donors from Baton Rouge had paid his hotel room bill for five nights now.

The financial help has been critical for an 86-year-old man who has no home, no where else to go, and wants to avoid shelters.

“I’ll sleep in my car before I go to a shelter,” Tony said. “At my age, I couldn’t take that.”

The scene at Baton Rouge area hotels illustrates the socio-economic gap among Hurricane Katrina evacuees. Some are being put up in hotels by the companies they work for. Their jobs are secure and they will eventually operate out of temporary offices their firms are setting up in Baton Rouge.

Others, like Tony, have limited means and are struggling on their own to find shelter in a market where housing is increasingly scarce. They don’t know when they can go home, when the money will run out, and where they will go when it does.
Tony spent two nights on the fourth floor of his apartment building awaiting rescue after the storm.

He had $1,000 in his pocket when he headed towards Mystic, TX., but he found no rooms and eventually made his way to the Hampton Inn, where "the staff have been just wonderful.”

He's down to less than $200 and doesn't know what will happen after that.

Anna Dennis of Kenner had nine family members crammed into two rooms at the Hampton Inn. They, too, were running out of money, but were being given a break on room charges.

Her husband, Warren, was at the local Hilton Garden Inn with his adoptive father, Wilbert Denies, 83. Wilbert has been a foster parent for decades and three of Warren's adopted brothers were staying with them: two teenagers and a 41-year-old man with an emotional disorder. "He just doesn't talk, and hasn't since he was a child,'' Anna Dennis said.

Warren Dennis has been hitting the road early every morning to find an apartment, but to no avail.

The one lead they had on an apartment got them excited, but when they went to meet the leasing agent they found a man with a truck unloading his furniture, saying the apartment was his.

"I've been trying to keep my break-downs to every other day,'' Anna Dennis said.

The Dennis family has been to FEMA and the Red Cross and is trying every other avenue they can think of to find housing. Meanwhile, Anna Dennis sent her two daughters, Alyssia, 6, and Alexandria, 5, to live with an aunt in Texas. The daily phone calls always are emotional with the daughters crying to be back with their mother and father.

But Anna Dennis doesn’t know when that will happen.

"I've got to have my daughters back, but I just didn't want them to see all of us going through this,'' she said.

Many Realtors in the area were inundated with calls for apartments or rental space of any kind, but most families found that large businesses had already snapped up most of the inventory.

URS, an engineering firm, did just that. The company lined up 28 apartments for its critical employees. One of those units is going to information technology manager David Scripter, his wife Cheryl, and their three young children.

The Scripter’s Lakeview home is under water and feared totally destroyed. Cheryl Scripter said she felt bad – and a little guilty – for the people who are still in New Orleans, and the hundreds more who can’t find a place to stay in the Baton Rouge area.

Celeste Nillen-Cade, a teacher St. Robert Bellaramine School, is among those hunting for housing in Baton Rouge. Nillen-Cade was driving around town with the ashes of her husband in the trunk of her car. He died of a heart attack last month.

Along with her step daughter, she was crammed into a one-bedroom apartment with an expanded step family, eleven all together, many sleeping on the kitchen floor.

She headed to the Embassy Suites to use the hotel computer to find housing. Her brother is a hotel employee.

"I'm thinking about Oklahoma City. I have my teacher's certificate, and if things can't work out here, I don't think I'll come back,” Nillen-Cade said.

Kathie Jacobs, vice president of sales and marketing for Hampton Inn Hotels & Suites of New Orleans, which operates five hotels in metro New Orleans, was walking the lobby of the Baton Rouge hotel Sunday, checking on the customers she has grown to know by first name. She said the company is working hard on getting the Elmwood Hampton Inn up and running with hopes of moving back in as soon as power and water is restored. They were feeding Baton Rouge guests free hot dogs and other easy-to-prepare foods.

Jacobs was upset that many Baton Rouge residents were expressing their anger at "the New Orleans invasion.''

But she also pointed out the generosity of the community. Some area residents have been coming to the front desk anonymously and offering to pay at least one room night for a New Orleans family. Others have been dropping off diapers, formula. and other necessities

And employees of Hilton Corp. were calling and putting room nights for New Orleans evacuees on their credit cards.

"They just call up and say, 'I want to sponsor a family.'''

Christoper Perry, A Hampton concierge at the Hampton Inn on Convention Center Boulevard, went through the survival ordeal of other city folks, including spending two nights on his roof before being rescued. He's helping out at the Hampton Inn and eager to get back to clean up the city and get things up and running.

"I just want to get home and help out,'' Perry said.

Power update

Monday, 8:09 p.m.

By Lynne Jensen
Staff writer

Electrical power has been restored to some areas of Jefferson Parish, but Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes remained in the dark Monday.

But portions of Orleans Parish, including the Central Business District and the Crescent City Connection, have “energized’’ substations prepared to distribute power as soon as buildings in the area are ready to accept it, Entergy spokesman Chanel Lagarde said Monday.

That could soon mean the lighting the CCC, a rainbow of hope for New Orleans, which was plunged into darkness more than a week ago when Hurricane Katrina brought the city to its knees.

As for areas north of Lake Pontchartain, Cleco reported Monday that about 8,600 St. Tammany Parish customers and Washington Parish are on their way to having their power restored, with Franklinton already on line.

Parts of East Jefferson and Kenner have already had their power restored and the entire parish should be up and running in 2 to 4 weeks, Lagarde said.

While no one in New Orleans had power Monday, “we are making good progress,” Entergy’s manager of engineering Danny Taylor said, surveying the city from the backseat of a helicopter – one of many choppers hovering like mosquito hawks over flood-soaked neighborhoods.

Entergy’s first priority is answering the city Sewerage & Water Board’s goal of restoring pumping capacity in the Lakeview area, where floodwater is still licking rooftops, Taylor said. With that accomplished, water can begin to flow into the 17th Street Canal and then into Lake Pontchartrain, he said.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said a 36-inch pipe at the 17th Street Canal was up and running and had begun pumping water out of the Lakeview area Monday.

Bucktown and nearby neighborhoods should have power “sometime next week,” Lagarde said. “They can expect to see crews working and power being restored.”

Power starts at the generating plants, Lagarde said. And “there’s enough electricity being generated in southeastern Louisiana to meet the needs of customers” in that area, he said.

Once Entergy’s transmission grids are up and connected to the plants, and distribution lines are clear of vegetation, substations will begin to distribute power to homes and businesses, Taylor said.

Hospitals, police and fire departments are priorities, Lagarde said.

It will take several months to restore power to all of Orleans, St. Bernard and lower Plaquimines parishes “because those areas are inaccessible at this time,” Lagarde said.

Entergy has restored power to 340,000 of its 800,000 costuers, he said.
In the next two weeks, Cleco plans to restore power to 80 percent of about 80,000 customers it serves in sections of St. Tammany and Washington parishes, Cleco spokesman Robbyn Cooper said Monday.

Lawrence St. Blanc, a staff member of the Louisiana Public Service Commission, said power might restored as soon as today to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans..

“If we have any luck we may have that baby up tomorrow,’’ he said.

Blanco: Better days coming

Monday, 8:05 p.m.

By Gwen Filosa
and Ed Anderson
Staff writers

BATON ROUGE- Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco admitted more could have been done in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to help survivors stranded in floodwaters and squalor, but she said the devastated region is now stable.

"We all wanted more, faster," Blanco said Monday evening after a day that included meeting with President Bush in Baton Rouge. "We needed more, faster. We were limited by our own capacity. We were limited by the speed at which organization could be mustered. There isn't any person who is not sorrowful about wanting to do more in a quicker amount of time. We knew lives were being threatened minute-by-minute. Everything is now stabilized. We know there are still people to be rescued. Loved ones need to be buried."

State officials confirmed the death toll from Hurricane Katrina was at 71 on Monday, an increase of 12 from the first released figure issued Sunday. The dead were from Orleans and Jefferson parishes.

"We know that number will continue to increase," said Department of Health and Hospitals spokesman Bob Johannessen.

Twenty-eight of the dead are being kept in refrigerated trucks at a location at the Interstate 10/Interstate 610 split in Orleans Parish, while 23 are at a temporary morgue in St. Gabriel, La. And the remaining 20 were at the Jefferson Parish coroner's office on Monday.

The National Guard and Federal Emergency Management Agency continued Monday to make "outstanding progress" in response to Hurricane Katrina, Blanco said.

Louisiana has 20,000 National Guard troops on the ground and an additional 4,000 expected by tomorrow, she said in Baton Rouge, flanked by FEMA director Michael Brown and top U.S. Army officials.

"We have everything it takes now to make this work like a finely oiled machine," Blanco said at the Emergency Operations Center. "We're going to do it faster than anyone expects us to do it."

Blanco said troops on Monday in the New Orleans region handed out 620,000 bottles of water and 320,000 meals at 20 distribution points run by the National Guard and volunteers.

"Every act of kindness, every life-saving act is an answer to a prayer," Blanco said. "Better days are coming. There are lights coming back on in these parishes."

FEMA promised to work in Louisiana until the extraordinary relief and rebuilding effort is complete. Money is no issue, said FEMA director Michael Brown.

"We're here to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you to help you rebuild Louisiana," Brown said. "The entire country is behind this massive effort."

Former FEMA director James Lee Witt, hired by Blanco to oversee the state's recovery efforts, will work with federal and state officials to draft new building codes and see that "every nickel is spent in the proper way," Blanco said. "We're not going to waste a nickel."

Bush was briefed at the Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge before entering the nerve center – a place in which reporters are typically banned – where the rescue officials welcomed him with applause.

Bush also toured a shelter filled with evacuees Monday, Blanco said. "They could sense he was here to take care of them."

Brother Martin to open Baton Rouge campus

Brother Martin High School has announced plans to open a night school at Catholic High School. Until Brother Martin can reopen on the Elysian Fields site in New Orleans, classes will be held at Catholic High School, a Brothers of the Sacred Heart school in Baton Rouge, beginning Sept. 19, from 3:45 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Registration for current Brother Martin students will take place on Thursday for 11th and 12th grades, and Friday for 8th, 9th and 10th grades. Registration will be from 6 p.m to 9 p.m. in the main lobby at Catholic High School. Any student interested in enrolling in Brother Martin in Baton Rouge should register or apply with a parent or legal guardian on Thursday or Friday even if he has previously left contact information at Catholic High School.

Parents who cannot make registration either night should call a Brother Martin administrator at Catholic High School at 225-383-0397.

Applications will also be accepted from boys who have relocated to the Baton Rouge area and who were enrolled at other Catholic high schools.

Additional information regarding Brother Martin in Baton Rouge will be posted on the Catholic High School Web site at and on the temporary Web site for Brother Martin High School at

For more information, call a member of the Brother Martin staff in Baton Rouge staff by phone at (225) 383-0397.

The quest for ice

Sept. 5 7:27 p.m.

By Matthew Brown

Staff writer

"Y'all have ice? We want ice!"

The call came from the second-floor landing of a Marrero apartment building, its brick facade crumbled into the parking lot, where truck driver Wayne "Slim" Christen and four others had taken up residence after Hurricane Katrina.

A week after the storm turned their neighborhood into a ghost town, a week in which the temperature topped 90 degrees day after brutal day, Christen and his friends ranked ice right up there with food and water: An essential. A necessity.

"You've got to have it," Christen said.

The human body can last only a few days without water, slightly longer with no food. Theoretically, it could function in perpetuity without ice.

But storm victims -- suffering under the hot Louisiana sun, the sweltering nights with no air conditioning and only the hope of a breeze -- know better.

In the words of Algiers resident Nicholas Beninate, "Ice is like gold."

Water keeps you alive, Beninate explained; ice keeps you sane.

"Ice by itself, ice in water -- anything cold," he said. "It gives you a burst of energy. Inside the houses at night, it's 105 degrees. Ice is the thing."

In Katrina's immediate aftermath, ice was almost impossible to find across much of the metropolitan area. Most had been snatched up before the storm even hit, by people hoping to keep their perishable food cold until the power came back up. The little that was left was plundered by looters or authorities who "requisitioned" supplies from grocery stores and other outlets.

Recently, it has rolled in by the truckload, to the point where some areas now are overflowing with ice.

Ice-filled tractor trailers lined up in a Belle Chasse parking lot -- far in excess of what Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Jiff Hingle said is needed for the small numbers of residents still in his parish. He said a single ice machine delivered by state Senator Craig Romero, R-New Iberia, would likely have been sufficient to meet his needs.

But in neighboring St. Bernard Parish, largely cut off from the world for most of the last week, Maj. Jimmy Pohlmann of the sheriff's office said there was no ice at all for the past week. The first ice arrived Sunday when a relief contingent crossed the Mississippi River on a ferry and forded three-foot deep floodwaters to deliver two trailers of ice. To put that delivery in perspective, the contingent delivered only one trailer each of food and water.

Even in parishes where ice is suddenly plentiful, getting to it can be a problem. In Jefferson Parish, the Federal Emergency Management Agency set up a single distribution center for ice on each side of the river, at the Transit Facility at the corner of Saints and David drives in Metairie and at the Alario Center in Westwego. For those without vehicles – or the fuel to power them -- those distribution sites might as well be on the moon. Some people hitch-hike to the sites. Others carpool or try to convince those with cars to pick them up some ice, too.

Beninate, a short-order cook at an Italian restaurant, said he got his first 10-pound bag of ice six days after the storm hit, from television news. As he rode his bike home with the bag sitting in his basket, people began running after him shouting, "Where'd you get the ice?"

For Christen and his four friends at the Marrero apartment building, the mood appears to swing according to the contents of the coolers on which they prop their feet. When they've got ice -- and their beers, sodas and waters are cold -- the friends are all smiles and laughs. When the ice runs out, they are glum and depressed.

In the first few days after the storm, police largely turned a blind eye or even supervised looting for basics such as food and water. Christen and Bryan Bowden, one of his friends at the Timberlane Apartments in Marrero said they got their supplies from the nearby Breaux's Market on LaPalco Boulevard.

Christen said he was grabbing a bag of ice at a Walgreen's when his supply was cut short as police started cracking down.

"We were getting food and water and ice,” he said. “Things we needed. The cop came in and said he was going to arrest us. I said to the cop, are you going to arrest us for taking a bag of ice?"

Their supply cut off, the Timberlane crowd had to wait several more days, until a friend drove to Vacherie, in St. James Parish, to get more ice.

The friend bought them two bags. By the time he got back, it had melted to one, Christen said, and that was gone by the end of the night.

Over the weekend, they hit the jackpot: 6 bags, 10-pounds each, from a relief group that set up shop at a decrepit shopping center on Ames Boulevard for a few hours.
They filled up two coolers with ice to spare, cranked up some country music on a portable stereo, chilled some drinks and acted like they were on top of the world.

"You sure you don't want something? Beer? Coke? Kentwood water?" Christen asked a visitor. "I've finally got ice and I'm not jealous with it. I'll share with anybody."

Contaminated floodwater will harm lake

By Mark Schleifstein
Staff writer

Expect floodwaters still standing in the New Orleans area to be septic and smelling of hydrogen sulfide within the next few days, John Pardue, director of the Louisiana Water Resources Research Institute at Louisiana State University, said Monday.

Pardue and other researchers taking water samples in 26 locations in the city earlier this week found little or no oxygen.

“So many things in the water -- dead animals, leaves and debris -- and bacteria is consuming all of that and taking the oxygen out of the water,” he said.

In addition to the oxygen content measured in the field, water samples from each location will be sent to two separate labs out of state for identification of contaminants, which could include anything from household hazardous chemicals to gasoline from underground storage tanks, he said.

Pardue said another team of researchers is taking samples from several
locations in Lake Pontchartrain.

The idea is to determine both what’s in the floodwaters and what effects the floodwaters may have on Lake Pontchartrain when they’re pumped out of the city.

“The Environmental Protection Agency granted the corps a waiver not to worry about the quality of water as they release the stormwaters into the lake,” he said. “By the time they pump the water out, there will be no oxygen whatsoever, and when it mixes in the lake there will definitely be an impact.”

Pardue said samples already have been taken in Lakeview and the area
surrounding the Industrial Canal, and samples will be taken later this week in other flooded areas.

He said he expects there will be quite a bit of fuel in the water.

“In Lakeview, we were going over submerged vehicles, and everywhere there was a sheen,” Pardue said. “And we’re real interested to see what kinds of household chemicals it contains.”

Pardue said the normal practice for such a study would be to not release the results until they underwent peer review, a process aimed at making sure the results are accurate.

But because of the importance of letting the public know what’s in the water, he said, the data will be released immediately. Pardue said he hopes releasing the data also will force the EPA and state Department of Environmental Quality to release the results from similar sampling they now are doing.

“After 9/11, there was a lot of data collection and not a lot of reporting of the results by the EPA,” he said. “If we do it, that’s a separate, independent entity doing it, and will force them to release their information.”

Pardue said he expected significant environmental effects to result from the pumping of the contaminated stormwater into Lake Pontchartrain.

EPA officials were criticized for their failure to release detailed information about the health risks from air contaminants including asbestos and toxic chemicals after the terrorist attack that caused the World Trade Center’s towers in New York City to collapse in September 2001.

On Monday, the EPA announced that they, too, had taken six samples of
floodwater earlier this week, and expected to take more on Monday. The samples will be tested for chemical and biological contaminants.

Many of the federal agency’s employees have been participating in rescue efforts, using 65 boats and participating in the evacuation of 120 people on Sunday.

Carlton Dufrechou, executive director of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, said the effects on marine life in the lake will be significant.

Earlier this year, scientists found as many as 20 manatee had taken up residence in the lake, apparent visitors from the Florida coast.

Dufrechou said he hopes they will be able to avoid the dirty water as it's being pumped into the lake.

But the water will definitely be bad news for rangia clams that have repopulated the south shore of the lake during the past 10 years.

Many sportfishing species may also avoid the dirty water, he said.

He said the contaminated water is likely to stick close to the south shore of the lake as it moves east towards the Rigolets and Chef Menteur passes and out into the Gulf of Mexico.

"The lake will certainly take a hit, but we don't have a choice," Dufrechou said. "We have to dry out the city."

The lake foundation has been instrumental in restoring water quality on the south shore to the point where people resumed swimming at Pontchartrain Beach in 2000. State health officials had declared the south shore waters too dirty for swiming for the first time in 1961, and ordered a permanent ban in 1970.

Reopening the lake to swimming followed the removal of several sources of contamination, including the moving of an outfall for Jefferson Parish sewage to the Mississippi River in 1988.

Dredging for fossil rangia clamshell on the bottom of the lake was halted by state officials several years later, and the water quality has continued to improve since then.

Dufrechou was optimistic that the problems caused by the stormwater won't be longlasting.

"While the lake will take a tremendous hit, I strongly believe it will eventually recover," he said. "We've just got to do the things we did 10 years ago to make sure that happens."

St. Paul's School to reopen later this month

COVINGTON -- St. Paul’s School in Covington expects to resume classes in mid- to late September and will adjust the school calendar to accommodate a full term, a school administrator said Monday night.

“The cleanup of Saint Paul's campus and the restoration of electricity to Covington is progressing steadily,” Assistant Principal John Morvant said. “Our school sustained relatively little damage to buildings as a result of the storm, although scores of trees were felled by the winds. We anticipate school re-opening within two to three weeks.”

Morvant said that students who have enrolled in other schools during their evacuations should remain there until Saint Paul's re-opens.

“We anticipate resuming normal school activities soon, and we will reschedule the school-year calendar to allow for the requisite numbers of days required for a full school term,” he said.

Morvant recommended that students and parents check for updates. Information about the return to school also is being posted on the school’s student information Web site,

Gulf oil production up to 30 percent

7 p.m. Monday

By Mary Judice
Business writer

Energy companies on Monday continued to inspect and repair almost 900 oil and gas platforms that were directly in the path of Hurricane Katrina when it roared through the Gulf of Mexico one week earlier, shutting down oil and gas operations and leaving platforms toppled or listing.

Regulators on Monday reported a slight increase in the amount of oil and gas being pumped in the country’s largest oil and gas producing region. Some companies that reported little or no damage said they could not resume pumping because power had not been restored to pipelines that transport and oil and gas ashore.

The Minerals Management Service, which regulates oil and gas operations offshore, estimated that almost 450,000 barrels of oil per day was flowing from Gulf platforms on Monday, or about 30 percent of the normal production of 1.5 million barrels a day.

Natural gas production is likewise cut back. MMS estimates only 46 percent of the gas that normally flows was being produced Monday, or 4.2 billion cubic feet per day.

But production is rebounding. The agency said that since Sunday, oil production increased 5 percent and gas production 2 percent.

The estimates are based on reports by 67 companies, which represent about 63 percent of the companies operating in the Gulf.
Some areas of the gulf off southwest Louisiana and Texas were relatively untouched while companies reported platforms listing in areas south of Grand Isle.

Exxon Mobil’s operations south of Grand Isle sustained damage, said
Mark Boudreaux, media manager in Dallas, and the company is evaluating a temporary move of its Gulf support base from Grand Isle to Port Fourchon. He said the majority of the equipment is stable.

The company shut in wells from offshore Louisiana eastward, Boudreaux said, and is bringing wells in Mobile Bay, which produce primarily gas, back into operation.

On Monday, Exxon was producing two thirds of its normal oil and gas yield.

Shell Oil did not release figures but said some of its deep water platforms, which produce significant amounts oil and gas, are running in the western gulf.

In the eastern gulf, where the storm ripped through, progress is slower. The company is still evaluating damage at its deepwater Mars, Ursa and Cognac platforms and at its west Delta field. At other platforms the company is inspecting and repairing damage to platforms and onshore processing facilities.

Boudreaux said Exxon’s Baton Rouge refinery is running at its maximum capacity of 500,000 barrels of oil per day, which are refined into gasoline and other products. Exxon’s Chalmette refinery remains shut because of flooding, he said.

BP said most of its damage was in the shallow waters of the Gulf. The company’s signature Holstein Spar was back in production Monday, said
Annie Smith, spokeswoman, but a total of 10 platforms in shallow waters offshore southeast Louisiana were toppled or listing.

“The only place we were impacted was south of Grand Island where the storm went over,” she said. “All of the deepwater came through fine.”

However, the company still has a significant amount of production shut in, she said, because power has not been restored to the pipeline system.

Bleary Broussard soldiers on

Monday, 7 p.m.

By Matt Scallan
East Jefferson bureau

Bleary-eyed and stubble-faced, Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard nonetheless talked a mile a minute to returning residents Monday, urging them to drive slowly and painting a grim picture of what life would be like if they stayed at their homes.

Please don't lose your patience," he said to motorists waiting in line to enter Jefferson for the first time since Hurricane Katrina struck a week earlier. "There are so many bad things that can happen if you lose your patience."

Broussard, a career politician and normally one of the smoothest elected officials in the New Orleans area, had been up since 4 a.m. honing the points he wanted to make to the flood of traffic that would begin two hours later. There are places that are worse than hell, he told reporters in the basement of Jefferson’s emergency operations center: Orleans and St. Bernard parishes first, then Jefferson.

"From here, hell doesn't look so bad," he said.

Unlike many people in parish government, Broussard has been in the lower depths of hell before. He was mayor of Kenner when a catastrophic flood washed over southeast Louisiana on May 8, 1995. Earlier, on July 9, 1982, just eight days after Broussard was sworn in as mayor, Pan American World Airways Flight 759 stumbled on takeoff from New Orleans International Airport and smashed into an east Kenner neighborhood, killing 154 people, including eight on the ground.

"We picking up bodies out of the trees, and it was very kind to call them bodies," he said. "I've been to this rodeo before."

It's not a place he wants to be. Seven straight days of hurricane stress have left him weary to the bone, frustrated by what he says is resistance from people who tell him he can't do the things he needs to do.

"I feel like a salmon swimming upstream, but I'm going to get there," he said.

He said he asks himself the same questions he asked himself in 1982, when he was first thrust into the role of reconstructor in-chief for his community: "How can I do this without killing myself?"

Later in the day, he pushed aside the question.

"Ten days after the Pan Am crash, we had cleaned up the site and buried the bodies," he said. "I want to return this parish into a place that people will recognize in three weeks. I know that's ambitious, but I'm going to do everything I can to make that happen."

To make it happen, Broussard has railed against what he calls the Federal Emergency Management Agency's slow mobilization in the post-Katrina wasteland of Jefferson Parish. On national television, he broke down in tears Sunday on "Meet the Press" and later said "the bureaucracy has murdered people."

For now, he sees the world as made up of either ducks or eagles.

"A duck doesn't do anything but paddle around and quack. An eagle soars. I've got a lot of eagles around me, but there are an awful lot of ducks, too," he said.

He bucked the advice of virtually all of his advisers and fellow elected officials when he allowed residents to return to Jefferson beginning Monday, although only long enough to see the damage to their homes and leave again.

Critics said the plan inconvenienced and slowed emergency workers who were still trying to search for hurricane victims and restore power to Jefferson. But Broussard insisted that residents see for themselves the devastation, to convince them to find new jobs and register their children for school elsewhere.

So wrenching has the experience been for Broussard, who has held one office or another for the past 31 years, that he ponders whether he should run for re-election in 2007. What if another disaster strikes and he has to do this again?

Then, however, he dismisses thoughts of retirement, saying he was just wondering aloud in a time of enormous stress.

"I'm not going to talk about what's going to happen in 2 1/2 years," he said. "Wait ’til this is over. It's only the first quarter.

“No one interviews Aaron Brooks in the first quarter and asks what he's going to do."

Jeff residents survey damage

By Matthew Brown
West Bank bureau

Maneuvering through streets clogged with splintered trees, soggy trash and pieces of wrecked houses, thousands of Jefferson Parish residents returned Monday to communities rendered almost unrecognizable by Hurricane Katrina, the worst natural disaster to hit the region in modern history.

What they found -- and what the remainder of the parish's half-million residents will soon discover -- was damage that varied dramatically from one neighborhood to the next.

Entire blocks in Metairie were ravaged completely by floodwaters while others remained high and dry. The storm's furious winds peeled roofs off homes in Marrero and flipped large trucks onto their sides in Gretna and Terrytown, yet some residents in those communities were left with nothing more than a few broken branches littering the yard.

At one end of the spectrum, in the economically-depressed Lincolnshire neighborhood of Marrero, was Martha Grinstead, who said Katrina had thrust her and her son into "a living hell."

Floodwaters three feet deep ruined most of the family's belongings in their Rue St. Phillippe house. Wind ripped all the shingles off the roof, leaving it pocked with holes. Rainwater soaked the ceiling tiles and attic insulation until they grew heavy and collapsed, leaving the living room, kitchen and den covered in a grey-black soggy muck.

"It's a lost cause," Grinstead said. "I brought home a new generator, but I'm not opening it up for this ... My family is looking for a home for me in Lake Charles."

When Kevin LaVie of Metairie arrived at his mother's house on Fairfield Street in Metairie, the stench of standing water was countered only by the intense humidity. The foot or two of water that had entered her home managed to open the refrigerator door, floating the vegetable crisper inside across her living room.

Out in the backyard, Carol LaVie surveyed the dark brown water and frogs in her swimming pool, noting that just before the storm it had been a perfect crystal blue.

Finally, the emotion of returning home caught up with her.

"It's OK, I got y'all," she said, her voice cracking and tears flowing as Kevin threw his arm over her shoulders. "My other son was killed in a plane crash when he was 34 so this is not the worst that can happen."

With Monday the first day in which the general public was allowed through security checkpoints at the parish line, long lines of evacuee vehicles had queued up Sunday night, anxious to see what fate awaited them. But earlier plans to limit entry to only parish residents were suspended by the State Police, and a predicted traffic back-up lasting 12 to 15 hours never materialized and traffic moved relatively smoothly.

"People actually got to see their homes, damaged or not, to the point where they could digest what their challenges were at the homesite, so they could go on and make an intelligible decision about what to do next," said Parish President Aaron Broussard who had stuck with his Labor Day re-entry plan over stinging criticism from other parish officials and state and federal relief coordinators.

Mark Waller, Steve Ritea, Matt Scallan and Sheila Grissett contributed to this story.

Celebrities bring some cheer to Houston

Monday, 5:55 p.m.

By Tara Young
Staff writer

HOUSTON—A star-struck Phyllicia Winchester stood behind the barricades with her family and watched Oprah Winfrey and the talk show host’s entourage leave the Reliant Astrodome Monday afternoon.

A few minutes before, the 16-year-old spied Jada Pinkett Smith. The Rev. Jesse Jackson had just left the building. And at one point Monday, she was close enough to touch U.S. Sen. Hilary Rodham Clinton, D-New York, who was in town visiting storm survivors with her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

She hadn’t seen Macy Gray but heard the singer was on the grounds volunteering, and Dr. Phil held an impromptu talk show at the dome Sunday, she said.

The visits have been a welcome diversion for Winchester, a high school junior, who is afraid of what she’ll find upon returning to her home in Harvey this week to survey storm damage with her family.

On Monday the guests wouldn’t stop coming as a virtual who’s who of political, social and pop culture idols flooded the Reliant Park Complex, which houses the Astrodome, the Reliant Center and the Reliant Arena, where more than 20,000 New Orleans area residents are now being sheltered.

The day started with a security sweep and a bomb-sniffing dog at the Reliant Center, where Clinton and another former president, George Bush, appeared to announce the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund to assist hurricane victims. The two compared the fund to the tsunami relief effort they spearheaded earlier this year.

Their entourage included Hilary Clinton, Barbara Bush, U.S. Sen. Barak Obama, D-Illinois, and last but not least, former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League.

It was sensory overload for Karen Wilson of Treme Monday morning when Morial entered the cavernous hall where she and a couple thousand more residents were staying. She clung to Morial like a long lost friend.

When President Clinton entered the room, Wilson said she was moved to tears.

“They hugged me! Both of them,” said Wilson, smiling. “I was just amazed. It made me feel happy. It made me feel good.”

For some, like Wilson, a hug, or a simple touch was all they needed. Others, like Linda Jeffers, a 7th Ward resident, forced visiting celebrities and politicians to listen to stories about missing relatives, slow emergency response time after the storm and their fears of never being able to return home.

Jeffers, who is known in the dome by the straw hat she wears, made it a point Monday to get Jackson’s attention as he stepped on the ground floor with state Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge.

Before touring the facility, Jackson and Fields said they were concerned about Louisiana residents being shipped away to states outside of the South. The two spoke about establishing “tent cities,” opening up cabins and lands at Louisiana State Parks for evacuees and, lastly, creating temporary residential areas at closed military installations, like England Air Force Base in Alexandria.

Jeffers, who heard relocation offers to Michigan, Minnesota, Kansas and West Virginia Monday, said she wanted to make sure that Jackson would help fight to bring Louisiana residents back home.

“They are sending us to places that we know not of,” said Jeffers, who cornered Fields until he provided her with his contact information. “Who do we know in Kansas?”

Jackson, however, was all but forgotten when Oprah Winfrey arrived at the dome.

By far, Winfrey received the warmest reception of the day by evacuees who were kept at bay by Houston Police officers who escorted her around the dome. But security did not keep Winfrey from reaching out and touching several residents during her visit.

“She said my daughter was the prettiest storm survivor there is,” said Karen Matthews, hugging her little girl, Kaytrell.

Matthews said Winfrey also asked about Kaytrell’s father, who hasn’t been seen since the storm.

Matthews said seeing people like Winfrey gives her hope. “It makes me feel overjoyed to know that people care,” she said.

Winchester, who still couldn’t believe she met Jada Pinkett Smith Monday at the Astrodome, agreed.

“She didn’t come down here with her nose up in the air,” Winchester said of her favorite actress who is married to actor Wil Smith. “She was hugging and touching. She was signing autographs. It was breathtaking.”

Rev. Jackson: Return evacuees to Louisiana

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who on Sunday delivered a blistering critique of the slow efforts to rescue hurricane victims in New Orleans, shifted his focus Monday to what’s going to happen to those evacuees in the coming weeks.

Jackson said offers from Utah and Minnesota to house evacuees currently in Houston and Dallas are not viable options because it would put citizens too far away from the cleaning and rebuilding of New Orleans and the jobs that effort will bring.

A better alternative, Jackson said, is to bring the evacuees back to Louisiana and house them in “unused or under-used’’ military bases such as England Air Force Base and the Belle Chasse Naval Air Station. England has 3,000 acres of property with dorms, movie theaters and recreations areas. “It’s like a little city,’’ he said.

“The people who are displaced ought to have first dibs on the reconstruction jobs, but they can’t do that if they are in Utah or Minnesota,’’ Jackson said.

He praised people in those states for the “generous expressions of kindness.’’

Jackson also suggested using state parks in Louisiana to house evacuees.

N.O. police chief defends force

By Gwen Filosa
Staff writer
New Orleans Police Superintendent Eddie Compass said his officers were heroic during a “hellish week” in New Orleans, and blasted any reports that local cops sat by and watched crime happen without stepping in.
"In the annals of history, no police department in the history of the world was asked to do what we were asked," Compass said Monday, at the Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge. "We won. We did not lose one officer in battle."
Compass blamed the outburst of crime, including shootings, rapes and robberies, on "a small group of nefarious individuals preying on the weak."
He did not have a number of police officers who abandoned the effort, and referred to any desertions as "a few cowards."
"Not one of my deputy chiefs left," said Compass, who was accompanied by the Rev. Jesse Jackson in Baton Rouge. "We had 150 officers trapped in eight feet of water. It wasn't 150 desertions. We were fighting odds that you could not imagine. We had no food. We had no water. We ran out of ammunition. We were fighting in waist-deep water."
Compass scoffed at reports of New Orleans cops standing by and doing nothing while women were being raped.
"Are you crazy?" Compass asked. "We did everything we could to protect human life. All you could find was a few cowards who walked away," Compass said, addressing the news media. "Where's the chief? Where's the mayor? On the front lines in the command."
Over the horrifying week in New Orleans, Compass confirmed that one officer was shot in the head and a National Guardsman suffered a leg injury - both survived - but no one fell to the criminal element.
"I had two officers commit suicide because they were worried about their families," Compass added.
"You have people who have made the ultimate sacrifice for this city," Compass said. "The mayor will go down as the greatest mayor in the history of America. (Without Mayor Ray Nagin) we would have had a lot more people dead."
Compass described the reality that his officers faced on the mean streets - such as tracking down gunmen by the flash of their guns and having to disarm them by hand -- but stopped short of criticizing the federal response.
"I'm not a bureaucrat," he said. "I'm a police chief. We needed more resources; the resources didn't come."
New Orleans police lost all communications when the Category 4 storm struck the Gulf Coast, Compass said. After the storm died down, "we had no juice to charge the batteries. We had to physically stay on the street to keep in touch."
Compass said, "We had to use so much of our manpower to fight the criminal element instead of saving human lives. We had police officers in boats being shot. We had police officers using their own boats to save lives. We were sleeping on the streets. I had the same underwear on for five days. There were no restroom facilities. Officer Gary Flot has an infection on his leg from wading around in the nasty water."
Compass also blasted anyone who thought he was out of town during the storm or its aftermath.
"I have an 8-month pregnant wife and a 3 year-old daughter who I evacuated in my police car to Denham Springs," he said.
The police chief, who came from the ranks of NOPD to lead the department once plagued by corruption and outrageous law-breakers wearing badges, said New Orleans was overwhelmed by a tiny contingent of the worst kind of criminals -- not the masses of city residents who took shelter from the storm.
"There are a small percentage of people who terrorize every major American city," Compass said. "They have low morals and prey upon the weak. These are criminals. They were housed with law-abiding citizens who they could take advantage of."

Times Picayune reporter found

Times-Picayune reporter Leslie Williams was found alive and well Monday in Pass Christian, Miss. Williams had been missing since Aug. 28. Williams will be reporting on his experiences.

Blanket drive on

Monday, 5:17 p.m.

A New Iberia resident is spearheading an effort to make blankets for
infants and children who are victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Local quilter Julia Fleming said infant blankets can be sewn quickly by
machine or by hand. Fleming added that she is hoping to get as many
area quilters and seamtresses to get involved in the effort as possible.

To help or for more information, call Fleming at (337) 560-5187.

Local TV stations scramble to keep signals up

By Dave Walker
TV columnist

One week after the world awoke to terrible pictures
of Gulf Coast devastation wrought by Hurricane
Katrina, New Orleans broadcasters are covering the
continuing story from locations ranging from Baton
Rouge to Orlando.

Of the four New Orleans news-providing TV stations,
only WWL-Channel 4 is broadcasting on its normal

Anticipating hurricane flooding, the station elevated
its transmitter several years ago when upgrading
equipment for the digital-television transition.

Though the West Bank site has not flooded, the
facility’s sturdy construction and backup power has
allowed the city’s most-watched news provider to do
around-the-clock coverage of the storm and its

During the past week, WWL news programming has
originated from the station’s French Quarter studios,
the Manship School of Mass Communication at LSU and
even from a makeshift studio at the station’s
transmitter site.

WWL’s news operation is currently based at Baton Rouge
PBS affiliate WLPB. In addition to its over-the-air
signal (faintly visible in Baton Rouge, refuge for
thousands of New Orleans area residents), WWL’s
coverage is also carried on cable TV in Baton Rouge,
and, for one hour each day at 4:30 p.m., by WLPB.

Transmitter flooding in Katrina’s wake, knocked WDSU-Channel 6, WVUE-Channel 8 and WGNO-Channel 26 off the air, though antenna towers for
all three survived the storm.

The stations have been discussing sharing a temporary
transmitter until their own signals can be restored, a
process expected to take several weeks due to
floodwater damage to electronic gear.

“Anything that had water in it -- for 10 minutes or
five days -- we expect is gone,” said WGNO General Manager Larry Delia.

A sign-on date for the co-op broadcast has not been

“We are hopeful to at least be making progress by the
end of (this week),” WVUE General Manager Jeff West said.

“It’s a matter of getting delivery of the
transmitter and being able to get it where we need

To cover Katrina, WDSU relocated staffers to both
WAPT-TV in Jackson, Miss., and WESH-TV in Orlando,
both owned by WDSU’s parent company, Hearst-Argyle
Television. WDSU's signal has been carried in the New
Orleans area on Pax affiliate WPXL-Channel 49.

WDSU News Director Anzio Williams said the
station’s Central Business District studio and
newsroom was not flooded or damaged last week by the

“The building is in perfect shape,” he said. “The
station is functional and ready to go.”

WVUE’s Mid-City studio and newsroom were flooded by
Katrina or the subsequent levee failures, and likely
won’t be usable as a base of operation when the
station fires up again, date undetermined. A portion
of the station’s news staff is stationed at WALA-TV in
Mobile, Ala., owned by WVUE parent Emmis
Communications. Some staffers have contributed reports
to cable’s Fox News Channel and WALA.

WGNO has teamed with Baton Rouge ABC affiliate
WBRZ-TV (both are owned by Tribune Co.) to provide
Katrina coverage. Damage to WGNO's studio and newsroom, recently
relocated to the top floor of the New Orleans Centre
shopping mall, is believed to be minimal.

On radio -- likely the most accessible news medium in
parishes where electricity remains knocked out -- two
national station groups with New Orleans clusters,
Entercom and Clear Channel, have combined forces to
broadcast a signal at WWL AM-870. Now based in Baton
Rouge, the cooperative enterprise is providing
round-the-clock Katrina news and talk using personalities from numerous Entercom and Clear Channel stations.

TV columnist Dave Walker can be reached at

SLU classes resume Thursday

Monday, 4:45 p.m.

Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond released this information:

HAMMOND – In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Southeastern Louisiana University will reopen administrative and academic offices Tuesday, Sept. 6, and resume classes on Thursday, Sept. 8.

The university has set up an informational phone bank to answer questions from current students, faculty and staff as well as displaced students who want to continue their studies at Southeastern. The phone bank numbers are 985-549-2000, 985-549-2222, and 985-549-3835.

The university is asking all current students to fill out a “check-in” form, which will gather basic information about their academic plans and current status. The form is posted on the university’s web site, It can also be filled out in person when students return to campus. Students need only complete the form once.

A Frequently Asked Questions section has also been added to the web site.

For housing questions, students can contact the Office of Student Housing, 985-549-2118.

Southeastern will hold special sessions for displaced students on Saturday, Sept. 10 at noon and Monday, Sept. 12, at 4:30 p.m. at the Southeastern Student Union. Students will be provided academic counseling, advice, and other information regarding application and registration at Southeastern. Displaced students can also visit the university’s Office of Admissions in the North Campus Main Building, located on W. Tornado Drive off University Ave.

The university’s St. Tammany Center north of Mandeville and other off-campus locations remain closed, but Southeastern’s Baton Rouge Center is also resuming operation on Thursday. The Southeastern Laboratory School will reopen at the same time as Tangipahoa Parish public schools.

Faculty and staff are being asked to report to their respective offices beginning Tuesday to plan the remainder of the fall semester and to assist in advising students. The Louisiana Board of Regents has set up a registry for displaced faculty and staff as well as a general FAQ at The Board’s registry and FAQ are also linked on Southeastern’s web site,

As safety and security are paramount objectives, faculty, staff and students are urged to use their own judgment about returning to campus.

Recognizing that many students, as well as faculty and staff, will not be able to return to campus immediately, the university is also planning to offer a term, or abbreviated, session in mid-October.

Half of Pearl River's homes are damaged

Monday, 4:44 p.m.

By Carol Wolfram
St. Tammany bureau

Of the approximately 900 homes in the town of Pearl River, about half
were damaged by Hurricane Katrina, Mayor James Lavigne said.

The damage primarily was caused by downed trees and powerlines, with only two houses taking in
water from the 12 1/2 inches of rain that fell during the storm.

On Saturday, Lavigne was working to secure a generator to power the
town's sewerage system. The generator that had been operating it was pulled to
replace the water system generator, which was destroyed by
lightning. Also lost was the emergency power to the police complex and its
communication system.

Communication between town and police officials was restored Saturday, and officials expect to restore the sewerage system this week.

Washington-St. Tammany Electric Co-operative power was restored Sunday
to Creekside Junior High School, a shelter.

Meanwhile, relief efforts continued Monday at Cavenham Park, north of Pearl River on Louisiana 41, where 100,000 meals ready to eat, 80,000 pounds of bagged ice and 17,784 bottles of water are being distributed daily, said U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Services station manager Eric Stuart of Galveston, Texas.

Lavigne said he is most thankful that only minor injuries were sustained by
people who didn't evacuate. "Thank God we had no fatalities." Lavigne said.

Flood waters may spread infections

People with open wounds who walk through foul water are risking exposure to a bacterium that can trigger skin infections and potentially lethal bloodstream infections, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although the organism, Vibrio vulnificus, is in the family of bacteria that cause cholera, no cholera cases have been found among people who survived Hurricane Katrina, CDC spokesman Van Roebuck said.

"There's a lot of self-diagnosis going on," he said.

When open wounds are exposed to warm sea water, skin infections result that can lead to skin breakdown and ulceration, the CDC said.

People whose immune systems are compromised, including transplant ecipients and people infected with the AIDS virus, are at greater risk of dying from bloodstream infections the bacterium can cause, according to the agency.

A Vibrio vulnificus infection is diagnosed via routine stool, wound or blood cultures, and it is treated with antibiotics such as doxycycline or ceftazidime. After recovery, the CDC said there are no long-term consequences.

Another problem rescuers have found is that people with chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart problems have worsened because they have
gone without their medications for several days, Roebuck said.

Alexandria swamped with refugees

Joan Treadway
Staff writer

Clarence Fabregas, 60, of Metairie, and several of his relatives are among hundreds of New Orleans area evacuees who have been descending upon a Wal Mart in central Alexandria in recent days, turning it into a mecca for storm refugees.

Fabregas’ family and the others have all been buying food, clothing and medicine to take back to the hotels and homes of relatives or friends where they have gotten temporary refuge.

Fabregas said that his clan had settled in at his sister-in-law’s house in Plaucheville, a town close to Alexandria. They have filled the house, as well as two campers that they have pulled into the compound.

While his wife and other relatives shopped for food and clothes, Fabregas and his grandson, Alex Englade, 14, ate hamburgers and chips in the store’s luncheonette, where the managers were offering a $2 special to refugees.

The two were also waiting for the pharmacy in the store to fill a prescription for medicine that would ease his 84-year-old mother-in-law’s suffering from diverticulitis. She was ill and weary after coming along for the family’s three-car exodus to a Houston hotel last Sunday, and also from the trek back to Louisiana, when the hotel bill kept rising. En route to Plaucheville, they had had to stop in a hospital in Cottonport, when she developed a pain in her side, but she was treated and released.

The teenager, who normally goes to Riverdale School in Metairie, said his parents were trying to enroll him in an Alexandria area school.

And that’s fine with him, he said: “I won’t know any of the kids, but I would like to go to school. It’s something to do. We don’t have anything to do.”

Fabregas, who worked at Metairie Bank, said he was worried about his home and said it might have sustained wind damage, but he has not yet been able to go back and check on it.

But he had perspective on things: “We’re holding up pretty good. We know that they are still finding bodies back in New Orleans.”

And he and the other evacuees around in the shopping mall were cheered, as they saw local fire fighters appear with cans, collecting money to help storm survivors just like them.

School system employees can pick up paychecks

St. Tammany bureau

Employees of the St. Tammany Parish school system who aren't enrolled
in direct deposit may pick up paychecks Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at
Copeland's restaurant on U.S. 190 south of Covington.

Deputy Superintendent Trey Folse said abouut 30 percent of the system's employees receive paper checks.

Flood of food-stamp requests

Monday, 4:21 p.m.

By Jeffrey Meitrodt
Staff writer

BATON ROUGE -- Food stamps have suddenly become a way of life for thousands of Louisianans who had never before sought public assistance, according to data provided Monday by the state Department of Social Services.

In the past three days, the agency has processed more than 90,000 applications for emergency food stamps for individuals or families. Recipients receive cards to use like an automatic teller machine card or a credit card at supermarkets and other stores. They obtain average monthly benefits of about $370.

The flood of applicants -– 23 times the normal volume -- has caused several problems. First, there have been long lines to apply for the assistance, Social Services Secretary Ann Williamson said.

“I am very aware that we are asking our citizens to be patient at a time when patience is a luxury,’’ Williamson said.

Williamson said the agency has been overwhelmed by the requests. Before the hurricane, she said Social Services employees processed an average of 1,300 food stamp applications each day.

To cut down on the wait, Williamson said, the agency has hired another 55 workers to process the paperwork. She said she will monitor the flow of applications and add more workers if necessary. Until the recent hires, the agency was using about 2,000 employees for the job, Williamson said.

Another problem has cropped up in supermarkets, where some new food-stamp recipients have been unable to use their new cards because of heavy traffic on the data lines needed to approve individual transactions. After hearing that some new recipients were leaving the stores empty-handed, state officials worked out a deal with retailers in which approved emergency food-stamp applicants may leave the store with $25 worth of groceries. The agreement becomes effective Tuesday and runs through midnight on Sept. 12.

Williamson acknowledged that means many families will be unable to obtain the goods they need to replace those lost to the hurricane, but she said the state reached the best deal it could with the retailers.

Retailers will be reimbursed for one shopping trip worth up to $25 per day and will bear any risk for purchases over that limit, Williamson said. Retailers must also document failed attempts to get electronic approval for the purchases and collect this following information from the food-stamp recipient: card number, purchase amount and recipient signature.

Franklin North

Monday, Sept. 5, 2005:
At least a dozen Benjamin Franklin High School students, driven out of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina, have enrolled in the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts in Nachitoches. The displaced students are calling their new location "Franklin North.''

Generator fumes kill one, sicken six

Monday, 3:37 p.m.

By Matt Scallan
Staff writer

One man died and six other people were severely poisoned with carbon monoxide from running an electricity generator inside a Harvey home, Jefferson Parish officials said Monday.

The identities of the victims were not available. The survivors were taken to West Jefferson Medical Center.

Robert Wilson, assistant chief of the Marrero-Ragusa Volunteer Fire Department, said he saw four generators in the home at 2316 Alex Korman Blvd., in the Woodmere subdivision.

Wilson said dead man was in his 50s and, judging from the condition of the body, might have died as early as Friday. Because carbon monoxide poisoning impairs mental functions, he said, the other occupants of the house might not have realized that the man was dead.

Deano Bonano, deputy chief administrative assistant to Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard, said sheriff's deputies originally thought that all seven people in the home were dead. But emergency medical technicians found signs of life and sent the six survivors to the hospital.

Parish officials say the incident was the latest of several deaths caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. Portable generators should never be placed inside a home or an enclosed area, they said.

Efforts to save documents stymied

3:25 p.m., Monday

By Greg Thomas
Real estate writer

Specialists working for the New Orleans Notorial Archives have been stymied in trying to return downtown to rescue some of the most historic documents in the city’s history, from original land grants to slave sale records and title records.

Federal troops have refused to let them through checkpoints into the city.

The Notorial Archives hired Munters Corp., a Swedish document salvage firm that freezes and then freeze-dries records to slowly remove moisture from them. But Munters’ refrigerated trucks were turned away by uniformed troops as they tried to enter the city, said Stephen Bruno, custodian of the archives.

The trucks were headed to the Civil District Courthouse on Poydras Street, where many of the city’s real estate documents are housed, and to the former Amoco building at 1340 Poydras St., which houses historic documents such as a letter from Jean Lafitte to Washington demanding for his expenditures during the Battle of New Orleans.
Eddy Pokluda, head of national sales for Munters in Dallas, said the company tried to get one person in to make an assessment of the damage but was turned away, even though days earlier they had coordinated with New Orleans police to have an escort into the city.

“I don’t think people realize the importance of these records. It’s imperative we get in there and see if these can be saved,’’ Pokluda said.

“These records are a historic treasure trove (that) would go to the Vatican or Smithsonian and be under armed guards and in vaults,” Bruno said. “This is extremely frustrating.’’

“Of course, the most important thing is the people and the bodies, but now we’re really concerned about the records,’’ he said.

Most governments have digitized their real estate records, and Bruno was just about to hire a firm to transfer many of the documents in the archive to the computer.

But at the Notorial Archives, most abstractors still do hand searches of the 12 million stored documents.

“We’re still in the horse and buggy days,” Bruno said.

Bruno was quick to point out that homeowners shouldn’t worry about others making claim to their properties. Further, “there won’t be any (real estate) transactions until this problem is solved. Sure, a lot of people are going to want to sell and a lot of speculators are going to want to buy.” But without access to the records by abstractors, “It isn’t going to happen,’’ Bruno said.

OMNI Bank offers help

Omni Bank said Monday it has opened a branch in Baton Rouge to serve its customers. The Baton Rouge office is located at 6300 Corporate Blvd, Suite 120, and will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., effective Tuesday. Additionally, the LaPlace Office at 113 Belle Terre Blvd is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday. More locations in Mandeville, Metairie, Kenner and the West Bank will open soon, the bank said.

The bank is also waiving ATM fees for its customers across the country.

Customers in Texas can conduct limited banking transactions at four OMNI Bank locations in Houston. Customers may receive assistance with deposit transactions, check cashing, credit cards, or loan requests by calling:
-- (225) 927-9088
-- (225) 927-9089
-- (225) 927-9090
Customers can go to visit the OMNI BANK website, for further information.

In Houston, misery and hope

Monday, 2:31 p.m.

By Josh Peter
Staff writer

HOUSTON – Pink wristbands. Thousands of them. Worn by every evacuee taking shelter at the Astrodome.

The numbers of evacuees and the wristbands grow daily. They’re expected to hit 30,000 when the available space inside the stadium, arena and exhibition hall in Reliant Park is full. And evacuees wearing those wristbands mill about the grounds of a temporary shelter that feels like a mini-city of hope and hopelessness.

Herman Grady, wearing a pink wristband, stood on the sidewalk on Kirby Drive, a street that runs along one side of Reliant Park. He wore pink bedroom slippers, gray shorts and a T-shirt and held up a cardboard sign that read, “Please Help Anything.’’

Cars whizzed past.

“Help a brother out, man’’ Grady pleaded.

There, with his girlfriend, Grady said they initially took shelter at the Astrodome but that it’d become too crowded.

“I’m just trying to get a couple of dollars so I can get a room for me and my girl,’’ said Grady, 30. “It’s a hard struggle when you come from nothing and don’t have nothing.’’

Cars passed one after another, but he stood resolute while holding up the cardboard sign. Suddenly a young boy approached.

“Sir, here you go,’’ the boy said, handing over three dollar bills.

Grady smiled.

“Thank you, bro,’’ he said. “God bless.’’

The two men approached the family of five, each wearing pink wristbands. One of the men held a clipboard with a stack of forms, the other a digital camera.

Volunteers for Helping Hands of America, Joseph Phillips and Mali Reed were trying to help reunite evacuees with missing family members.

Phillips held the clipboard and a pen.

“OK, what’s the name of the family?’’ he asked.

“Thomas,’’ a middle-aged woman replied.

“And you all are looking for?’’

The family listed the names of three people, then gathered together as Reed aimed his digital camera at the somber-looking evacuees.

“All right, guys, here we go,’’ Reed said, taking the photo. “Looks great.’’

One more snap.

“OK, guys,’’ Reed said. “Looks good. Here we go.’’

One last thing.

“OK, I just need you to sign right here,’’ Phillips said. “All you’re doing is giving us the right to put your picture on the Internet.’’

A woman in her early 20s signed the form. Soon the family’s picture would be posted on as the man with the clipboard and the man with the digital camera circled the Astrodome looking for people who first lost their homes and then lost their family members.

The woman in a wheelchair looked up at the Texas state trooper wearing a crisp khaki uniform, sunglasses and trooper’s hat. Standing under the hot sun, the trooper simply listened as Lauvinia Mack, 49, sat next to her 54-year-old husband, George, and a few feet away from her 22-year-old son, Yendis. All three were wearing pink wristbands.

Between sobs, she said she suffered a stroke a few days before Katrina hit and was in the West Jefferson Hospital and returned home. They family survived Katrina’s initial hit, but when the levees broke and the water started to rise, six family members piled into a van. She said they got to Baton Rouge before they “bummed’’ enough gas to drive to the Astrodome.

“This is all I got,’’ she said, pointing at her son.
George Mack suddenly broke into tears, and his wife tapped him on he wrist.
“I can’t let him go,’’ she said as she took broke into sobs.

Erica Robert, 19, stood on the sideline outside the Astrodome and under the hot son as her 18-month daughter, Di-Mare, wove in semicircles near her mother’s feet. At a brisk pace, a woman strode down the sideline but stopped when she saw Robert, her daughter and the pink wristbands.

“You from New Orleans?’’ the woman cheerfully asked.

“Yeah,’’ Robert replied with a smile.

“What part?’’

“The West Bank.’’

“Well, my family’s from Chalmette. I got games. You want games?’’


With that, the chipper woman whose family was from Chalmette unzipped a black shoulder bag and pulled out a box of checkers.

“There you go, baby. God bless.’’

Robert smiled and showed family members the box of checkers. Yet before she had a chance to say thank you, the chipper woman from Chalmette was off with her bag of games.

Michael Hays, with only a watch around his wrist, was looking for people with pink wristbands, and hoping God would lead him to the right ones.

He and a handful of other residents from Atoka, Okla., had made the six-hour drive to Houston with enough bus and car space and take 70 evacuees to their hometown in Oklahoma and put them up in about 300 available rooms.

Yet he circled the Astrodome in frustration.

Hays, 41, the owners of a used-car lot in Atoka, embarked on his search for evacuees in a jeans, sneakers and with a silver loop earring in his left ear.

“I’m just a concerned Christian trying to do what we were taught,’’ he said. “I would certainly hope that someone would help me, so I’m here to offer any help that I can. We have volunteers that have opened their homes, their apartments, all kinds of housing . . .

“For the first few hours I was here, I was trying to find any sort of way that I could register with the organized efforts here and tell them what we have. But I couldn’t find any avenue to do that whatsoever. There was no organized avenue to direct them to us or us to them.’’

So he finally gave up and started circling the arena looking for evacuees interested in taking him up on the housing offer in Oklahoma.

“We have a lot of people that want to go with us,’’ he said. “But they don’t know where the rest of their family is and they’re afraid to leave and get more separated. We have a lot of people that are weighing their options and said that they may go with us. And we have a few that said yeah, they definitely want to go with us.’’

Inside the Astrodome, the pink wristbands outnumbered the green cots squeezed onto the floor of the indoor stadium. A voice came over the P.A. system.

“May I have your attention, please. People looking for missing people, please meet at the Lost Persons Table in section 262.’’

Those looking for people whose last names started with the letters A through M, the voice went on to say, should report to the table at odd hours. Those looking for people whose names started with the letters L through Z should report to the table during even hours. The table, in front of a wall filled with scraps of paper and signs identifying the missing persons would open every day at 9 a.m.

A minute passed. The voice came over the P.A. system again.

“May I have your attention please. People who have family in Denver and
would like transportation to Denver, please come to section 222 as soon as possible.’’

Among the volunteers wearing sanitized gloves and picking up trash in the Astrodome, a young girl wearing a pink wrist band had joined the crew. She’d found a broom, dustpan and plastic bag and began sweeping up trash.

“Are you looking for someone?’’ she asked upon spotting a reporter watching the names of missing persons flash on a scoreboard – about 10 per minute.

Her name was Doja Dickson, a skinny 9-year-old with long braids who had evacuated from New Orleans with her parents and sister. Her father, Wilbert, his eyes weary but his thin gray beard neatly trimmed, straightened up the family’s bags stored on the orange, cushioned seats in the Astrodome grandstand as his daughter swept up trash.

“We already left a mess behind us,’’ he said, referring to the devastation in New Orleans. “So we want to keep this place clean.’’

A 'golden' deal

2:07 p.m., Monday

Campuses in the California State Unviersity system are offering refuge to students displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

The system is offering storm-affected college students the same tuition deals residents of the Golden State are given.

Numerous other schools around the country, including some University of California campuses, are trying to find places for students enrolled in New Orleans-area schools.

17th Street Canal breach fixed

Monday, 1:55 p.m.

By Jeff Meitrodt
Staff writer

With assistance from the Army Corps of Engineers, repairs have been completed to the 17th Street Canal breach, responsible for the post-Hurricane Katrina deluge into New Orleans, the state Department of Transportation and Development announced during its mid-day briefing.

The next step, transportation public affairs officer Cleo Allen said, is to get the floodwater out of the city. Authorities said the Mounes Pumping station has power and they expect to start it up this afternoon.

“We will get the smaller pumps, which should dry out the larger pumps,’’ he said.

Authorities are uncertain about the condition of the 17th Street Canal pumps, and Corps engineers are trying to determine whether the canal’s walls are stable, Allen said. “When that happens we will have considerable more capacity,’’ he said.

Crews will move next to the London Avenue canal, he said.

Allen also updated news the media on evacuations in St. Bernard Parish. In the past three to four days, 5,000 to 6,000 people were shuttled from Chalmette to Algiers Point using the ferry.

In addition, Lt. Lawrence McLeary of the State Police addressed rumors of state police officers resigning rather than serving in New Orleans.

“I”d like to stop that misinformation right now. The fact is there have been no such resignations by the State Police,’’ McLeary said. “In fact, 14 retired troopers who retired in the last 24 months have been rehired. There have been no troopers resigning their commission for refusing to go to New Orleans.''

SLU releases faculty, student information

Monday, 1:36 p.m.

Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond released this information Monday.

Effective Tuesday, Sept. 6, 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 students. As safety and security are paramount objectives, please use your own judgment about returning to campus.

The Baton Rouge Center will also open; however, the St. Tammany Center and other off-campus class locations remain closed. The Southeastern Laboratory School will reopen at the same time as Tangiphaoa Parish public schools.

Current students
Classes will resume effective Thursday, Sept. 8. Safety and security are paramount objectives. Students should use their own judgment about returning to campus.

All current students should check in. We need to know your status. A form will be available on the university's web site,, later today, or students can fill out the form in person when they return to campus.

For housing questions, contact the Office of Student Housing, 985-549-2118.

Displaced students
Southeastern will hold two special sessions for displaced students on Saturday, Sept. 10 at noon, and 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.

Meanwhile, displaced students can visit the Office of Admissions, North Campus Main Building, located on W. Tornado Drive, off University Avenue.

Information numbers
985-549-2000, 985-549-2222, 985-549-3835.

Long traffic lines into Jefferson


State Police spokesman Lawrence McLeary said the influx of residents into Jefferson Parish is proceeding smoothly, although long lines were reported along the two access routes into the parish.

"There are no problems that we have been made aware of,'' McLeary said.

The two routes, Airline Drive into Kenner and U.S. 90 on the West Bank, are reportedly packed with residents heading back to their homes Monday, the first day they are being allowed back into the parish.

State Police said traffic was backed up about six miles on Interstate 10 where it intersects with Airline Highway near St. Rose. The backup along U.S. 90 was about three miles late Monday morning, officials said.

Many people had slept overnight in their vehicles on the road, backing up traffic past Laplace on Airline, the only way into East Jefferson.

Right after officials opened the roadblocks, however, traffic took a sudden lurch forward suggesting that vehicles might begin to move smoothly into the parish. Parish President Aaron Broussard had warned that non-residents would be barred, but it appeared everyone in line was being waved through without identification being checked.

Among those waiting was Fred Gard of Kenner, who has heard conflicting reports of whether is home is under water or not. Gard and his two teenage sons spent the night in their Chrysler minivan parked on Airline. He said he hoped to salvage some clothes, while his sons were more interested in their Nintendo game system.

Whether he stays in the New Orleans area depends on the condition of his home, Gard said, as the family may relocate to Houston.

Meanwhile, Jason Churchman of Metairie sat in his pickup with his father as he wondered about the state of his possessions, especially his small gun collection. Churchman said he was worried about “the wrong people getting them.”

Authorities told returnees to take what they could and leave quickly.
There is a 6 p.m. curfew. People have been told to bury spoiled food
because no one knows when garbage collection will resume.

There is a heavy police presence. This is especially true at major
intersections because there isn't a functioning traffic light in the

Cox suspends bill payments

Cox Communications has suspended all bill payments for New Orleans area customers displaced by Hurricane Katrina, according to a message on the company’s customer service telephone system.

Billing will resume when services have been restored to customers. For the time-being, there is no need for customers to disconnect service.

People with Cox high-speed Internet service will continue to be able to access their electronic mail through the Internet, the company said. They will not be charged for the continuing service.

Keys, keyrings in short supply

11:25 a.m., Monday

Housekeys and keyrings are in short supply in Baton Rouge, where hundreds of Hurricane Katrina evacuees have converged on friends and family.

A sign in the automotive section of the Wal-Mart on College Drive in Baton Rouge warned customers that "We are out of housekeys."

And at Perkins Road Hardware, small keyrings were out of stock. A clerk at the store said the store has been busy making copies of keys for customers who have friends and family from the New Orleans area staying with them.

Jeff schools retreat, regroup

Monday, 11:05 a.m.

Jefferson Parish public school officials have moved in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to Baton Rouge. They are posting updates on the state Department of Education's website ( Here is the first notice, dated Sunday:

"The Jefferson Parish Public School System has set up an auxiliary site at the State Department of Education office in Baton Rouge. Coordination of efforts to assess, rebuild, and re-open the school system will be housed in Baton Rouge until further notice. Financial operations are also being transferred to Baton Rouge. An initial core of central office administrators and clerical support has reported. Additional staff will be reporting as circumstances allow. Please be assured that we are moving as expeditiously as we can in conjunction with parish, state and federal entity. The administration, in partnership, with the Jefferson Federation of Teachers is ensuring that employees will be paid in a timely manner via direct deposit until other financial decisions can be made. We will not be able to re-open most schools until the second semester on January 19, 2006. Our goal is to re-open some of our schools, as many as we can, in the first semester. Parents and guardians should enroll their children in schools where their families are currently housed.

"The following are steps that will be taken by the Jefferson Parish School System:

"-- The personnel and payroll records are being secured and transported.
"-- As soon as clearance is given by parish government, teams headed by David Taylor, Assistant Superintendent for Facilities, will assess damage to facilities, equipment and supplies.
"-- Schools most easily repaired will be opened first. Those schools will be utilized for as many as two shifts of students in a split schedule arrangement.
"-- School populations may change in the interim to facilitate re-openings.
"-- A telephone line for questions will be set up and advertised in the near future.
"-- Information will be posted on the State Department of Education website -

"Diane Roussel, Ph.D

Tensions color Bush, Blanco meeting

Gov. Kathleen Blanco canceled a scheduled trip Monday to visit Louisiana evacuees in Houston shelters to stay in Baton Rouge to meet with President Bush.

Blanco Communications Director Bob Mann said the governor did not learn about the Bush visit until early Monday morning.

“We had no idea the president was coming,” Mann said.

Tension between the Blanco and Bush administrations has surfaced in recent days as state and federal officials try to coordinate recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The Blanco administration clearly wanted to express their irritation with the communication about the president's trip.

Blanco officials said they had heard that the president might make a visit and had been trying to get details. As of late Sunday night, FEMA officials told Blanco that the president was not planning a visit, Mann said.

One key point of coordination is the military effort to restore order and begin rebuilding infrastructure.

As of Monday morning, the National Guard from Louisiana and other states had deployed 13,268 troops in the 13 parish area affected by the storm, Louisiana National Guard spokesman Pete Schneider said. In route are 7,845 more National Guardsmen, so that by Tuesday morning 21,113 guardsmen will be in Louisiana.

Parallel to that effort, the regular Army 82nd Airborne and 1st Cavalry divisions are sending in 7,000 troops to Louisiana to arrive in the next couple of days.

Another cruise ship on the way

A fourth cruise ship is headed to the Gulf Coast to provide housing relief for Hurricane Katrina victims, FEMA officials said.
FEMA spokesman David Passey said he did not know where the ship would be docked. Three other cruise line ships have been designated as homes for elderly and medically need along the Gulf Coast. Two are based in Galveston and one is in Mobile and "one is underway,'' Passey said. "It is cruising to the Gulf Coast.'' The four ships will be able to house about 8,000 evacuees, mostly elderly and those in need of minor medical attention, he said.

Return to Jefferson

Monday, 9:51 a.m.

Airline Drive leading into Jefferson Parish resembled a parking lot early this morning, as thousands of Jefferson residents try to return to their homes for the first time since Hurricane Katrina. The parish opened its doors to residents today at 6 a.m. Many slept overnight in their vehicles on the road, backing up traffic past Laplace on Airline, the only way into East Jefferson.

Right after officials opened the roadblocks, however, traffic took a sudden lurch forward suggesting that vehicles might begin to move smoothly into the parish. Parish President Aaron Broussard had warned that non-residents would be barred, but it appeared everyone in line was being waved through without identification being checked.

Among those waiting was Fred Gard of Kenner, who has heard conflicting reports of whether is home is under water or not. Gard and his two teenage sons spent the night in their Chrysler minivan parked on Airline. He said he hoped to salvage some clothes, while his sons were more interested in their Nintendo game system.

Whether or not he stays in the New Orleans area depends on the condition of his home, Gard said, as the family may relocate to Houston.

Meanwhile, Jason Churchman of Metairie sat in his pickup with his father as he wondered about the state of his possessions, especially his small gun collection. Churchman said he was worried about “the wrong people getting them.”

Authorities told returnees to take what they could and leave quickly.
There is a 6 p.m. curfew. People have been told to bury spoiled food
because no one knows when garbage collection will resume.

There is a heavy police presence. This is especially true at major
intersections because there isn't a functioning traffic light in the

Thibodaux church sheltering pets

By Millie Ball
Staff writer
THIBODAUX - The young woman from New Orleans, her 7-year-old daughter and their pet poodle were sleeping under the altar at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center on the Nicholls State University campus.
The Rev. Jim Morris said he gazed down at the family that had been banned because of the dog from the regular shelter for victims of Hurricane Katrina. He told a colleague, "Our altar has never been adorned more beautifully than it is with these people seeking the sanctuary of God."
Morris has a dog named Blue. He understands.
"I went over to the school shelter Tuesday night and saw all these people outside, looking dejected and clinging to their animals," said the slender 44-year-old priest with friendly blue eyes and sandy hair he hasn't had time to comb lately. "They wouldn't let them inside. So I said, bring them on over to the church."
The first night there were 130 people with "all these rottweilers, poodles, Chihuahuas, cats, birds, even a pot-bellied pig. It was unbelievable. We had no kennels or cages - PetSmart and Petco donated them later - and people slept on the terrazzo floor and on the pews. We had no electricity. It was like Noah's Ark."
Sunday, there were 53 people still here with their pets. People chatted with one another, sitting on mattresses donated by locals, kennels holding their pets beside them. Volunteers and owners were returning with the leashed animals after their walks. One volunteer chased a Chihuahua that got lose. Others smiled since they'd been in that situation too, one time or another. Volunteers served burgers. So many donated clothes that were piled on long tables in the hall, it was hard to navigate through it.
"Some people say we're stupid because we wouldn't leave our animals," said Cora DeRussy. "It's why I'm in the predicament I am now, but I'm glad I'm stupid."
An employee at Dillard's in eastern New Orleans, she lived on Vicksburg Street in Lakeview, and watched from her perch in the kitchen sink while one of her dogs swam in the water dumped in her house from the broken canal, and eventually drowned. Wearing a donated blue muumuu Sunday, the 65-year-old DeRussy said when two men in a boat rescued her Tuesday afternoon, she got them to row around the house until she spotted Amber, her collie, its head poking out of a window.
Now Amber, who swallowed a lot of polluted water, is at Ridgefield Animal Hospital nearby, recovering from her ordeal. Dr. Paul Seemann Jr., a veterinarian, shook his head. There would be no bill for any of these refugees' pets - or almost anyone else from New Orleans last week.
Carole Montet is another of the many people here who are grateful for the Catholic Center. There was no way the recently retired special education teacher, her sister, Patricia, and their 80-year-old mother, Lillian, were going to leave their cat in the attic of their flooded house on 28th Street in Lakeview, a block from the 17th Street Canal.
McGinty, an orange tabby, was oblivious to the Montets' story as she slept curled up on a floral cushion in the cluttered office at the Catholic Center. Carole Montet, who said her brother in Mississippi had borrowed her car so they couldn't leave, looked through oversized tan-rim eye glasses and told how she punched out the ventilator in their roof of their one-story home to crawl out; how the two men who rescued them in a boat lifted her mother out, and then paddled them to the roof of a nearby two-story house - but the water went up 4 feet in 20 minutes. So they paddled the boat to another rooftop, and eventually reached a rescue point where Lillian lay in the sun for four hours until a bus arrived and took them to Thibodaux.
"Leave McGinty?" Carole Montet asked, as if that were a ridiculous question. "This cat helped my mother get through her hip surgery; McGinty inspired my mother."
"She's family," interjected Lillian Montet from her wheelchair where she said in the air-conditioning, wearing a black flowered dress, a green parka and a heavy knit, smoky blue sweater.
"It was terrible," said Patricia Montet, who's in her 30s. She lifted both hands to cover her brown eyes.
"Our animals are the only semblance of normalcy we have left," Carole Montet said. "You've lost your home. You've lost your job. You have no possessions."
"I didn't get my pictures or my albums," said her mother sadly. "The animal is the only semblance of your old life," Carole said.
Jack Weber, who lives on St. Denis Street near the Fair Grounds in Mid-City, got out with his family too. That includes his wife, Ollie, 56; their daughter, Tamara, 30; and their mixed dalmatian-retriever mix, Spartica. "That's my family."
Their roof blew off, then the sheetrock fell as the family moved from room to room "until there wasn't more room," said Weber, 58. A wiry man with a neat moustache and gray hair, he works as a bank messenger for the Board of Liquidation.
Then the ceiling fell down, and they managed to get in their little boat - avoiding five or six guys chasing them and trying to steal it - and took on a neighbor Leon Gomez, who's in a wheelchair, and Gomez' rottweiler, ODB.
After getting no help from a man in an official looking boat, another man paddled by in a child's inflatable plastic wading pool, and he told them to get to I-610, where they slept on the concrete until their rescue the next day by helicopter. Weber's wife and daughter got separated, but at least they know the others' locations.
Weber was smiling Sunday and wearing new pants, socks, a Pride of Arcadia T-shirt and his old shoes he said can walk over nails. He was on his way to Laredo, Texas, to join up with his family. He also wore a new wooden cross he picked up at the center. "I wear it for good luck," he said.
And he'll arrive with Spartica. Gomez still has his rottweiler, which Seemann said is one of the largest at the shelter, maybe 160 pounds.
Seemann, 48, who grew up in Metairie and went to John Curtis and St. John Lutheran High Schools, has gone to the shelter several times to check on the pets and give shots. And he's also treated other pets from New Orleans, mainly ones who have gotten in fights.
Saturday night, he had five emergency calls after dog fights, all at homes where several families gathered with their various dogs. The normal rate is one every two or three weeks. "I think it happens when "the dogs are establishing new territory and dominance." On the information form, one New Orleans resident wrote down "under water" when asked for his address, Seemann said.
Morris looked happy and content as he looked over his temporary flock of humans and pets. "Animals calm people down. And pet lovers usually have gentle hearts. If you go in the other shelter, people tend to sit still and idle. Here, there's a lot going on. And what's wonderful is the way our students are volunteering and helping wherever they can. For us this is a mission that helps the evacuees and their pets as well as our students who are here taking care of them."

Bush nominates Roberts for Supreme Court chief justice

Monday, 7 a.m.

President George Bush this morning nominated John Roberts for chief justice of the Supreme Court to succeed William Rehnquist, who died Saturday. Roberts said he was "honored and humbled" by the confidence the president has shown in him. The president made the announcement prior to a planned trip to Baton Rouge and Poplarville, Miss., today to visit areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina.