Insurance commissioner hosts summitTuesday, 9:43 p.m.
Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Robert Wooley is hosting an emergency meeting in Atlanta on Wednesday to address the challenges facing the insurance industry, homeowners and businesses affected by Hurricane Katrina.
He is expected to issue emergency rules to guide insurers and claims adjusters on how to proceed when they evaluate property damage from the storm. Among the issues is how the adjusters will weigh flood versus wind damage on houses and buildings, an important factor in figuring the types of compensation that property owners will get.
Wooley chose Atlanta for the meeting because of a lack of hotel accommodations in Baton Rouge. Consultants and representatives of industry and government will attend.
St. Tammany dumpsters, curfewsTuesday, 9:01 p.m.
One hundred dumpsters have been set out in neighborhoods and public locations in St. Tammany Parish for residents to throw away their household garbage, and 100 more dumpsters are on the way, parish officials said Tuesday.
Parish officials are expected to announce this week the beginnings of a massive program to pick up storm debris and materials damaged by the storm.
Parish officials also said a 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. parishwide curfew remains in effect in St. Tammany along with a parishwide outdoor burning ban.
A parishwide ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages remains intact. Parish President Kevin Davis said such a ban was recommended after a recent meeting with local law enforcement officials. Covington Police Chief Jerry DiFranco said he suggested the ban to reduce the number drinking-related incidents which could siphon police officers from recovery and security efforts.
St. Tammany death toll risesTuesday, 8:49 p.m.
The number of confirmed deaths in St. Tammany Parish directly linked to Hurricane Katrina has increased by two since last week, bringing the total to six, Coroner Peter Galvan said Tuesday.
Galvan said his office is investigating other deaths in the parish since Hurricane Katrina, and there may be 75 to 100 more deaths that could be indirectly connected to the storm. The coroner said causes of “indirect death” can include stress, heat and lack of medication.
No names of victims nor circumstances surrounding the six confirmed deaths, Galvan said. But other parish officials said the six deaths include a man who was killed when a tree fell through his house and another man who drowned after driving off the road in a flooded area. Both incidents occurred in the Slidell area, the officials said.
'Let residents return' lawmakers urge New OrleansTuesday, 8:45 p.m.
By Laura Maggi
State lawmakers urged New Orleans City Council President Oliver Thomas and state officials to quickly map out a plan to allow New Orleans residents back into the city to get personal belongings or retrieve vital business records.
"Let me into my house," said Rep. Peppi Bruneau, R-New Orleans, who said even people with flooded houses would want to gather any personal effects possible, such as photographs.
The request was made at a meeting of New Orleans area state lawmakers and Orleans area officials Tuesday in Baton Rouge.
For business owners a trip back is even more critical, allowing them to grab records to pay employees or keep operating, lawmakers said.
Oakland Adams with Parsons Brinckerhoff, an engineering firm, said he moved his 12 New Orleans employees to Baton Rouge. But he told lawmakers that he needs to get to his office in New Orleans to pick up his back-up computer tapes so his employees can get back to work on projects.
Thomas agreed that city and state officials will have to come up with a plan to allow people to get back into certain areas, much like what is going on in neighboring Jefferson Parish.
The City Council will hold its first post-hurricane meeting on Thursday, likely at 10 a.m. at the New Orleans airport, Thomas said.
Mayor orders forced removal of civiliansMayor Ray Nagin today issued an emergency proclamation calling on all law officers and military members to begin using force, if necessary to compel all civilians to leave New Orleans.
Read the proclamation
Limited water back returns to New OrleansTuesday, 8:04 p.m.
By Gordon Russell
One of the gravest dangers that has faced New Orleans in recent days – the possibility of a devastating fire, with dry conditions, abundant gas leaks, and no water pressure -- abated greatly Tuesday with the return of limited water service, officials said.
Sewerage and Water Board Executive Director. Marcia St. Martin, said the water is running again on the east bank of Orleans Parish, with pressure sufficient to fight fires. Water service on the West Bank has never been interrupted, she said.
While residents will find their tap is back on, St. Martin said the water should only be used for flushing toilets and fighting fires. Test results on the water won’t be available for a few days, she said, and the water is likely unsafe for bathing, drinking and cooking, even if it’s boiled first.
“We had a significant amount of sulfur water come up from the Gulf,” St. Martin said. “We won’t know exactly what’s in it until we get the tests back.” St. Martin said that returning service back to the East Bank has been a top priority because fires have been breaking out in various parts of town and firefighters have been mostly powerless to stop them. She said she “understands” that there are thousands of ruptured gas lines around the city, but said she could not confirm that.
Asked how many residents are now living on the east bank, where 440,000 had lived, St. Martin said, “I haven’t the faintest idea.”
St. Martin also said five pumping stations on the east bank are in service pumping floodwaters back into Lake Pontchartrain.
She said she could not give an updated timetable on when the floodwater will be removed.
Back to work at Covington City HallTuesday, 7:55 p.m.
By Charlie Chapple
St. Tammany bureau
Covington officials, eight days after Katrina destroyed dozens of homes and flattened hundred of trees throughout the city, held a City Council meeting Tuesday afternoon in what likely was the first session of a government body in an area ravaged by the hurricane.
Although the meeting was an emergency session to approve measures to help residents rebuild from the storm, officials spent more than an hour handing out kudos to those working to return normalcy to the city and St. Tammany Parish.
The meeting was held in the lobby of City Hall which reopened for business Tuesday with electricity flowing through the building. The meeting couldn’t be held in the council chambers because it’s housing evacuees. Just outside, giant uprooted pecan trees graced the City Hall lawn.
City officials applauded Cleco representatives who said power would be restored to 80 to 85 percent of the utility’s 80,000 customers across southern St. Tammany within two to three weeks; Waste Management officials who have resumed household garbage pickup in the city; the Red Cross which has 350 volunteers from outside the area aiding residents in St. Tammany, Washington and Tangipahoa parishes; and city and parish employees who have been working around the clock.
Getting no recognition was the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which Mayor Candace Watkins said, did nothing to help recovery efforts in the city or parish except for three water and ice distribution stations.
“Everything that was done in St. Tammany Parish was done without the help of the federal government,” Watkins said, while praising parish officials for leading the recovery effort. Eight days after the storm, FEMA officials can’t even tell the city what needs to be done to recoup some of the city’s costs for the disaster, she said.
Watkins reported that state health officials have declared city water potable, meaning residents no longer have to boil it to drink it. She said there was no looting in the city after the hurricane, and Police Chief Jerry DiFranco reported a drop in crime during the past week.
“These types of disasters bring out the best and the worst,” Council President Pat Clanton said. “I think we’re seeing the best in Covington.”
The council approved an ordinance to make it easier for residents to recover and rebuild from the storm. They included suspending all late fees on city utility bills; lifting prohibitions against group housing in some zoning classifications to allow residents to take in friends, neighbors and family members; removing restrictions against the use of recreational vehicles and modular homes for temporary housing; and suspending permit requirements for tree cutting and land-clearing.
The council gave the mayor the green light to juggle city finances and dip into reserves, if necessary, to finance the continuing costs of recovery efforts.
Another St. Tammany municipality, Mandeville, also reopened its City Hall for business Tuesday. Mayor Eddie Price said the building plus the city’s business corridor have electricity. But he urged evacuees to stay out of the city because most of the Mandeville is still without power and sewerage.
Workers at some St. Tammany agencies, including parish government, the civil division of the Sheriff’s Office, the Clerk of Court’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office also returned to work Tuesday. But officials stressed those agencies are not open for business. The returning workers are providing support and relief for the recovery effort, officials said.
State in no danger of bankruptcyBy Robert Travis Scott
BATON ROUGE - Louisiana’s government faces enormous financial challenges from Hurricane Katrina, but the state will be able to pay its bills and is not going bankrupt, top state officials say.
Parishes and other local governments in the storm-damaged areas are under even greater financial stress, but the state is prepared to help where necessary, said state Treasurer John Kennedy.
With estimated damages that could top $22 billion, Katrina is the worst storm ever to hit the United States, according to the New York bond rating firm Standard & Poor’s. The firm has placed state, local governments and several agencies based in the area on a credit watch, indicating they may have problems making future debt payments.
Katrina ravaged several wealthy parishes previously populated by more than a million people and thousands of businesses that paid sales and income taxes and fees contributing to the annual state budget. No state official has predicted how much of the economy can be restored or how soon that could happen, drawing into question how the state budget might have to be altered to keep it in balance, as is required by law.
State officials already have spoken with Wall Street bond rating agencies to discuss the state’s ability to repay debts, and economists are trying to get a sense of what the impact might be, said Jerry Luke LeBlanc, who as commissioner of administration acts as the governor’s budget chief.
"The state is going to meet its obligations," LeBlanc said. As for the potential for bankruptcy, "we’re not even close," he said.
Still, LeBlanc said, the impact on the state’s tax and revenue base is unknown, making it impossible to predict what measures will have to be taken to keep the state’s fiscal house in order.
"The breadth and scope of this is larger than anything that anyone has ever dealt with," LeBlanc said. "The costs are going to be staggering."
Greg Albrecht, an economist with the state’s Legislative Fiscal Office who is trying to form an estimate, said he is trying to figure how many people are now unemployed, not all of whom will get jobless benefits.
"It’s not just how many people, but for how long," Albrecht said.
Once Jefferson Parish has its lights back on and people begin to repopulate, it will become a staging area for Orleans businesses and citizens to remake the city, he said.
"I don’t think the state’s just going to fall over the edge," Albrecht said. "I think the bounce-back will be quicker than we might think at first."
When devastating hurricanes have struck other states, those economies eventually were boosted by money and jobs generated by federal aid, insurance compensation and the process of rebuilding, both LeBlanc and Kennedy said.
"In all those cases, the economic and revenue picture exceeded the levels prior to the incident," LeBlanc said.
Congress already has contributed $10.5 billion to the cause and is expected to send more. That spending will generate economic activity that will spur construction and other business activity.
Kennedy called a meeting Tuesday of 50 people related to debt issues in the state, including bond lawyers, trustees, underwriters and state officials. The treasurer’s office will review all state and local bond issues to monitor whether debt payments can be made and check on whether they are covered by bond insurance.
If it looks appears that a bond payment might be missed somewhere, the state will explore alternatives to get it paid, he said. The state is also looking to resources provided by federal legislation that was used to help New York City after the 2001 terrorist attacks.
In the past few days the state has made sure that $2 billion of its investments in securities is now easily convertible into cash, providing ready money to address problems as they come up. The state also can get "substantial lines of credit," Kennedy said.
Kennedy said the state’s debt load currently is not onerous and that the government has $3.5 billion of cash in trust funds.
"We’re prepared to deal with cash flow problems," Kennedy said.
Steering money from one state purpose to another will in many cases require legislative action, Kennedy said.
Alex Fraser with Standard & Poor’s in Dallas said his firm has not downgraded any credit ratings in Louisiana, but is simply re-evaluating the financial situation and will issue a verdict in 30 to 90 days.
State governments typically have the wherewithal to craft financial solutions when problems come up, because they have so many forms of resources and pots of money to move around, in addition to creating new revenue through taxes or fees, Fraser said.
On the other hand, local governments and agencies, such as the indebted commission that oversees the Superdome Commission, have less flexibility, he said.
Fortunately, New Orleans and the Dome Commission have a year’s worth of reserves to make debt payments and are not in any immediate danger of going into default, Fraser said.
But New Orleans has had trouble in the past raising property taxes and faces a major obligation paying off a firemen’s pension fund settlement, creating a tough outlook for the city in the long run, Fraser said.
The budget impact in the short term could affect many state agencies.
Johnny Bradberry, secretary of the state Department of Transportation and Development, said the day after the storm that the agency already was coming to grips with the fact that future plans for highway projects statewide will have to be rethought completely.
"Make no mistake, it’s stressing our resources," LeBlanc said.
The state has about half a billion dollars in its rainy day fund, much of which can be spent if the legislature votes to change the rules to disperse it or if the state’s official revenue estimate declines dramatically, which it is expected to do.
Eventually the state will call a meeting of the panel that designates the official forecast for state revenue for this year and for the future. That forecast is used as the basis for the amount of spending allowed in the state budget. No meeting of the panel has been scheduled, LeBlanc said.
"Fiscal Year 2006 is going to be a relatively bad year," Albrecht said, referring to the current year in the state annual financial calendar that runs from July to June. But because of the rebuilding, "Fiscal Year 2007 will be a relatively good year."
Conventions put off in New Orleans8:04 p.m., Tuesday
By Rebecca Mowbray
New Orleans will not hold any citywide conventions until at least the end of March because of damage at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, the building that is considered the engine of the New Orleans tourism industry.
"We have canceled all conventions utilizing the Convention Center through the end of this year, and we expect in the next day or so to cancel those through March 31," said Stephen Perry, president of the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau. "The Convention Center has severe damage."
The Convention Center's roof is damaged and water has been leaking into the building. After so many people gathered at the convention center last week looking for help, the inside of the building is "not inhabitable" for meetings, and all the surfaces need to be redone, Perry said. Electricity has been restored to the building, but there is no air-conditioning or water.
Convention center officials estimate that it will cost in the "high tens of millions" to repair the building. Perry said he is working with the Louisiana Congressional delegation to get federal funding to repair the building because it is such a key economic driver and will help restore employment in the region.
"We expect to have it back online next year, better than ever, if we get federal assistance," Perry said. Earlier this year, convention officials had hired a consultant to consider ways to freshen up the center.
There is no word yet on whether the Phase IV expansion of the convention center will go forward. The addition is supposed to expand the convention center by nearly 50 percent, to 1.6 million square feet, making it the fourth largest in the country. After being mired in litigation for 20 months, the contract to build Phase IV was signed in August.
"There has been literally zero discussion on that. Until we get through this week, that's on the back burner," Perry said.
Meanwhile, the Greater New Orleans Hotel and Lodging Association is trying to survey damage at New Orleans hotels and hopes to have the power restored at hotels before other buildings. The idea is that the hotels can house emergency management crews, construction workers and electricity technicians and keep hospitality workers employed, Perry said.
For now, New Orleans will be out of service during the prime convention months of the year. And some of the largest conventions scheduled to be held in New Orleans in the coming months are being rescheduled.
"We have received about 40 inquiries from meetings that were scheduled to take place in New Orleans," said Erika Yowell, spokeswoman for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
The LVCVA is sharing leads with other private convention centers and hotels with large amounts of meeting space in Las Vegas to try to nail down the business. In the meantime, Las Vegas has confirmed bookings for meetings of the National Association of Convenience Stores, the Distribution Business Management Association and the Association for Career and Technical Education, Yowell said.
Other large groups that had been scheduled to meet in New Orleans will go to other cities.
The American Society for Microbiology, which was scheduled to meet in New Orleans in September, will instead meet at the convention center in Washington D.C. in December, according to the group's Web site.
National Business Aviation Association, whose 2001 convention in New Orleans had to be rescheduled because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, will meet in Orlando, Fla., instead of New Orleans because of Hurricane Katrina.
"We are planning to go back whenever the city is able to accommodate our event," said Dan Hubbard, vice president of communications corporate jet association.
The Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau is working with "about a dozen major conventions" that were originally scheduled to come to New Orleans. To create more openings in its convention calendar, Dallas is trying to move conventions on its calendar up a few days or back a few days to create more openings.
But the Dallas CVB, led by Phillip Jones, former Secretary of Culture, Recreation and Tourism for Louisiana, has offered to swap years with New Orleans for groups that meet in both cities. For example, if a group was scheduled to meet in December 2005 in New Orleans and December 2007 in Dallas, Dallas would take this year's meeting to give New Orleans time to rebuild.
Perry said the convention business will be painfully slow in the months to come because New Orleans doesn't want to bring convention customers back until the city is able to receive them. But he is optimistic that the convention business will rebound stronger than ever because the Convention Center and downtown hotels will be updated as part of the rebuilding process, and he is encouraged because convention groups have indicated they want to return, despite the risk of hurricanes and the violent images they saw on television.
"They are telling us, 'When you are back up, we cannot wait to come back to New Orleans and put our meeting there and help you,'" Perry said.
Jones said he believes groups will respond in different ways to what they've seen on television. "I think it will have a negative impact on some groups, and others will want to support New Orleans in the same way that many groups wanted to meet in New York after 9/11," he said.
Jones said he believes New Orleans can bounce back, but it will be important for the convention and visitors bureau to send out signals that the city is safe and will re-open.
"The core of the historic district of New Orleans, which serves as the cornerstone to the tourism industry, is intact, so you can rebuild around that. The question is, how soon?" Jones said. "People need to be reassured that the tourism industry will rebuild in New Orleans and in Louisiana, and when the rebuilding is complete, New Orleans will remain one of the top tourism destinations in the country."
For now, that may be tough. The convention bureau's building in New Orleans was damaged by the storm, and is now occupied by the Colorado National Guard. Convention staffers are spread between Lieutenant Gov. Mitch Landrieu's office in Baton Rouge and in different cities around the country. Fortunately, the convention bureau was able to retrieve its computer database on Tuesday to begin reaching out to convention customers.
Website established for Orleans Parish public schoolsA Website providing information on the status of Orleans Parish public schools has been created by Alvarez & Marsal, a firm that has been helping to improve the finances and operations of the school system.
The site, www.alvarezandmarsalnops.com, includes information on system officials' plans to reopen schools and how parents can temporarily transfer their children to other school districts.
The firm also has set up a toll-free crisis hotline at 1-877-771-5800.
24 pumps on the way to LakeviewSept. 6, 7:27 p.m.
By Gwen Filosa and Ed Anderson
A barge carrying 24 water pumps is expected to arrive in Lake Pontchartrain tonight - all headed for Lakeview to attack the flooding from the newly repaired levee breach at the 17th Street Canal, state officials said Tuesday evening.
The plan is to maneuver the barge and get the pumps up and running Wednesday, said Johnny Bradberry, secretary of the Department of Transportation and Development.
In place already Tuesday near Lakeview were two 24-inch pumps at the site of the Lakeview breach. Each was pumping 50 to 75 cubic feet of water per second. Also, a 36-inch pump at the Bucktown Bridge in Jefferson Parish was pumping 100 to 150 cubic feet of water per second.
"It really makes no difference where you put them," Bradberry said. "The water's going to fall" throughout the city.
The barge was loaded up with pumps on the Mississippi River.
Pumping station no. 6 has one pump up and running, but Bradberry didn't give the capacity. Two others are in the area and are each pumping out 1,000 cubic feet of water per second.
Another pump was at the Mounds Street station, right off Interstate 10 in the area known as "the dip," as it is a frequent source of flooding. The Mounds Station will have three more pumps up in running within days, state officials said.
Buyout of Hibernia set for Wednesday amid lingering doubtsTuesday, 7:29 p.m.
The delayed acquisition by Capital One Financial Corp. of Hibernia Corp. is scheduled to close Wednesday, but on Tuesday speculation remained whether the new deadline will be met.
Capital One, which had planned to buy Hibernia on Sept. 1 for $5.35 billion, delayed the closing for a week after Hurricane Katrina took out the bank company’s operations center in New Orleans and flooded branches in the metropolitan area. Many branches have been shuttered for more than a week.
In a joint announcement the day before the deal was scheduled to close last week, the two parties said they “had mutually agreed” to reschedule the planned closing to today “as a result of the devastation and disruption caused by Hurricane Katrina.”
The announcement sparked heavy trading in both stocks as traders reported that they began to have doubts about the deal. Hibernia shares fell much of the week but Capital One shares gyrated.
Capital One did not return a call Tuesday and a Hibernia spokesperson said no announcement was planned.
Herb Boydstun, president of Hibernia, said Monday he could not comment on the delay announced a week ago.
“There is a contract that both sides are called on to do certain things,” he said. “I don’t think it is appropriate for me to talk about this transaction.”
He said the two banks would issue a press release laying out what they would do to rebuild the bank.
On Monday, Boydstun said the bank had reopened 47 branches and was reopening four to five branches every day or two.
Hibernia is one of the biggest businesses in New Orleans. It owns the Hibernia National Bank, which has branches in Louisiana and Texas that hold more than $22 billion worth of loans and other assets.
Analysts said Capital One faces more risk in buying Hibernia as a result of the storm. Hibernia will likely suffer significant short-term damage, including loss of deposits, the inability of customers to pay small business loans and mortgages and actual damage to bank property.
Ed Groshans, banking analyst at Fox Pitt Kelton in New York, said he believes there was a 50-50 chance the deal will close today.
“They will close the deal but not tomorrow,” he said Tuesday. Groshans said the signing will take place in a week or two because of the logistics of getting the parties together at this time.
He believes shareholders will not be affected, so long as the deal takes place today or soon at the previously announced terms.
For each share of Hibernia stock, shareholders are to receive an amount equal to $15.35 in cash plus 0.2261 of a share of Capital One stock based on an average of the stock price for the 5 days prior to the closing. That means each Hibernia share would be worth about $33.72, based on the math, if the deal closes today.
Hibernia stock has been trading below that level. On Tuesday it closed at $31.40.
Normally, before such a merger, the two prices would be very close. Because the prices have not been close, that has created speculation that the deal will be postponed again or renegotiated.
However, some have pointed out that the gap has narrowed, which implies the professional traders started to believe the deal would be done today. Hibernia stock was up 84 cents on Tuesday while Capital One’s was down $1.54 to $80.50.
“I don’t think the long-term finances have changed so they could renegotiate,” Groshans said.
While he said “there will be pain getting the infrastructure of the bank in New Orleans up and running,” Hibernia will benefit from the revitalization of the community and the rebuilding by its customers and it will recoup losses with insurance settlements and payments from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Capital One of McLean, Va., has said that 54 percent of Hibernia shareholders had chosen to receive Capital One common stock, 33 percent had asked for cash and 13 percent did not make a valid election. The maximum amount of cash Capital One will pay is $2.38 billion
After two days, fire still burnsTuesday, 7:08 p.m.
Flames still flickered Tuesday from a multiple-house fire that raged two days ago across the street from Shelia Mossop’s house at Camp and Upperline streets in New Orleans.
Mossop herself still hasn't found a way to leave town, preferring to stay at least until she can get two puppies delivered to an animal shelter.
She and her friends Alex and Kevin Hill, a father and son who visited with her, had not even been able to reach relatives who evacuated to report their whereabouts. But then sheriff’s deputies from Bernalillo County, N.M., who were guarding the intersection and flaming ruins, handed them a phone.
“They don’t know if I survived or what,” Mossop said. “I can’t survive and then have two puppies.”
Charred cars were parked along Upperline, next to the corner where about
six houses burned. The heat partially melted a plastic doghouse and trash can across the street at the side of Mossop’s house.
“My house started burning,” she said. She said she knew three people who were in the houses, but all got out and have since left the area.
“I ran over there to wake them up in the house,” Mossop said.
Vitter says Saints want to stay in N.O.New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson wants his team to play as many games as possible at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge and wants to keep the team permanently in New Orleans, according to U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., who spoke with Benson on Tuesday.
"Today I had a very good, reassuring conversation with Tom Benson about the need for all of us to join together in rebuilding Greater New Orleans, including its jobs and business base," Vitter said in a statement. "In that conversation, Mr. Benson assured me of two things:
"1) He is eager to maximize the number of Saints' home games which could be played in Tiger Stadium consistent with first meeting the medical, housing, and other needs of evacuees in the region.
"2) He is eager for the Saints to return to New Orleans as soon as possible and for his organization to be part of our rebuilding effort and long-term future."
The team has been practicing in San Antonio for its season opener against the Carolina Panthers on Sept. 11. The team's first home game, orginally scheduled for Sept. 18 against the New York Giants at the Superdome, will be played the following night at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
Old Metairie still floodedBy Michelle Krupa
West Bank bureau
Water lapped at the front doors of million dollar mansions and rippled across the hoods of BMWs and Mercedes sedans in Old Metairie on Tuesday as a handful of homeowners in one of Jefferson Parish’s toniest areas returned to gauge damage from Hurricane Katrina and from a levee breach that turned their neighborhood into putrid swamp.
“Usually you just get the low lying areas,’’ that flood, Councilman-at-large John Young said, as he paddled a flat-bottomed boat down Northline. “These people, this might be the highest priced street in the state.’’
That price tag, which often pays for a few inches of elevation to protect against flooding, however, did not save dozens of homes from destruction as limbs from oaks, myrtles and cypresses lay across the watery road and gashed through many roofs along Northline and Stella and Iona streets.
“I came here from Jackson, Mississippi to help my mother and father. They’re 80-something-years-old,’’ said Henry Handelman, 55, whose parents live on Northline. “They got out on a helicopter (last) Tuesday, but I’m going to walk out of here.’’
Handelman said he stopped in Old Metairie to check on his parents as he headed to Tallahassee, Fla., to volunteer for the Red Cross’s Katrina volunteer relief effort. He stayed with them until a Medivac team whisked them out of the house, then on to Austin, last week. But Handleman said he intended to remain in his childhood home until the waters receded.
“I’m doing some soul-searching here,’’ he said. "....We will rebuild.’’
Just down the road, the makeshift levee of sand and riprap erected in four days last week by Jefferson workers and contractors stood strong across Airline Highway, dividing the roughly 5-foot-deep flood that extended into Jefferson and Orleans parishes as far as the eye could see.
The levee was built swiftly to protect East Jefferson from Lake Pontchartrain waters that spilled through a breach at the 17th Street Canal last Tuesday, though it could not keep the flood out of Old Metairie or neighborhoods, near Airline Highway east of Causeway.
A small pump pulled lime green water from the neighborhoods swamped by the levee breach and spewed it back into the canal near the lake. But Corps and New Orleans officials did not give the go ahead Tuesday to switch on the enormous 17th Street Canal pumps that would drain water from the flooded parts of Jefferson, according to Walter Maestri, the parish’s emergency management director.
Maestri said he did not know when federal or city leaders would allow pumping to start. “We tried to get a hold of the city, and the city’s basically in exile right now,’’ he said.
Jefferson residents urged to heed Thursday deadlineTuesday, 6:40 p.m.
Jefferson Parish authorities reminded residents Tuesday that authorities will close the parish Thursday at 6 p.m. to continue its clean up in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
The parish opened to residents Monday at 6 a.m., to survey property damage, but set a deadline of Thursday at 6 p.m., for people to leave.
Administrators are strongly urging residents to follow suit because of primitive conditions that will make life uncomfortable, such as no electricity or running water. But no one will be arrested or harmed for failing to leave their homes, said Walter Maestri, emergency management director.
"We certainly don't want men with guns going around neighborhoods telling people things that are not approved at this level,'' he said.
La. death toll rises to 83Tuesday, 6:57 p.m.
By Gwen Filosa
Louisiana's official death toll from Hurricane Katrina rose only slightly Tuesday, to 83, yet the state's leaders warned that the slowly increasing number indicates nothing other than the pace of reporting – not the final scope of the mortality.
"We aren't going to estimate," said Bob Johannessen, spokesman for the Department of Health and Hospitals. "We're going to take one deceased victim at a time."
While the state refuses to guess how many victims it has in the parishes afflicted by Katrina, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin predicted the toll could reach 10,000.
"Some computer models say 10,000," Nagin said on a CBS morning television show Tuesday. "I don't know what the number is. But it's going to be big. And it's going to shock the nation."
The death toll for Louisiana was 71 on Monday, when Gov. Kathleen Blanco said that thousands of people could have died.
A second staging area to collect the dead has been set up in St. Bernard Parish. The first was established at the Interstate 10/Interstate 610 split near the New Orleans-Metairie line.
But Tuesday's confirmed count has no hidden meanings, the state warned.
"It is a sign of the reporting process only," Johannessen said. "We know some bodies are being found in St. Bernard."
He promised a number for St. Bernard by Wednesday.
Of the 83 bodies, 59 were in the federal Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team morgue at St. Gabriel, while 22 remained in the Jefferson Parish morgue and two were at the St. Charles Parish coroner's office.
The state had not a single confirmed report Tuesday of a body in Plaquemines Parish, where low-lying areas were wiped out by Katrina.
No causes of death have been released anywhere in Louisiana.
Officials also had no prediction of how long the body collection – and subsequent identification by relatives – could take.
"It could take days. It could take years," Johannessen said. "We are working to get family assistance together.
The grim effort of retrieving and processing the dead is not for the purpose of identification, he added.
"The process is meant to take medical evidence from each of the deceased victims," Johannessen said.
Dental records will be checked. In some cases, X-rays will be taken, to perhaps find a serial number on a person's pacemaker, for example. These might aid in future identification measures.
The Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team is in charge of the processing of the dead, which can only be officially counted by a parish coroner or a member of the team.
"Confirmed means they have been confirmed," Johannessen said. "One way is that (the federal team) has laid eyes or a local coroner has laid eyes" on a corpse.
For those who suspect that one of their relatives died during or after the storm in the New Orleans region, the wait for information from the state continues.
Families are not allowed to go to the makeshift mortuary at St. Gabriel, Johannessen said, and there is not yet a public hot-line for them to call.
"Since families cannot go to St. Gabriel, we are creating a place for families to come" to try and locate their suspected dead, he said.
The federal team had 100 volunteers on Tuesday, with funeral home directors, medical examiners, dentists and fingerprinting experts on board.
Louis Cataldie, the former coroner for East Baton Rouge Parish, is the state's medical director for emergency response and is leading the team.
PMAC hospital to shut downWednesday, 6:49 p.m.
By Allen Powell II
The temporary hospital established at Louisiana State University's Pete Maravich Center to treat seriously injured and sick New Orleans evacuees is expected to close Wednesday because of a slowdown in the number of people being sent to the facility.
On Tuesday afternoon, only 10 patients were being treated in the center's 149 available beds, and most of those patients did not need intensive medical care, according to a patient census board visible at
the facility. The number of medical personnel and volunteers at the facility easily dwarfed the number of patients, a turnaround from when the center first opened Aug. 30.
Robert Alvey, the media coordinator for the Maravich center's operations, said the focus at the facility has shifted in recent days from acute and immediate care to dealing with public health issues, including dealing with patients with possible contagious diseases.
The facility established its first isolation unit on Monday after it received a patient with diarrhea, which can be a harbinger of some infectious diseases, Alvey said.
Alvey said patients currently at the Maravich Center, and any new patients, will be sent to the university's Maddox Fieldhouse for care. The fieldhouse has 410-beds, and only 89 of those beds are occupied. Alvey said that once patients have been stabilized at the Maravich Center or fieldhouse they are taken to local hospitals and shelters for continuing care. Alvey expects the center could return to its normal function of hosting men's and women's basketball games and practices by the end of the week.
The Maravich Center has treated more than 6,000 patients since it opened, and has maintained a volunteer medical staff of 17 doctors and nurses from across the country. The center is believed to have been the largest acute care field hospital ever established in the country, Alvey said.
Entergy moves headquarters out of state6:37 p.m., Tuesday
By KEITH DARCÉ
Hurricane Katrina claimed another corporate casualty Tuesday when Entergy Corp., the state’s only Fortune 500 company, announced it has relocated its New Orleans corporate headquarters to Clinton, Miss., a suburb west of Jackson, Miss.
A spokesman for the region’s biggest electricity supplier said the move is temporary and that the company will return once New Orleans is secure, utility services are restored to the Central Business District and Entergy’s high-rise headquarters building is cleared on any structural damage from the storm.
“You know the lyrics to the song. “Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans,” said Arthur Wiese Jr., Entergy vice president for corporate communications.
“We’ve been in New Orleans more than 80 years. It’s home, and we want to come home as soon as we can,” he said.
In the meantime, Entergy Chief Executive Officer J. Wayne Leonard and the company’s other senior executives will occupy about three floors of space in buildings that used to serve as the corporate headquarters for
MCI World Com Communications.
Leonard, who emerged as a major figure in New Orleans’ corporate culture in recent years, spent Tuesday visiting Entergy crews working in storm-damaged areas of Mississippi. He is scheduled to visit crews working
in Louisiana on Wednesday and meet with Gov. Kathleen Blanco.
The company received relocation offers from numerous cities in several states, including New Jersey and New York, Wiese said, but executives wanted to confine the move to states where the company operates regulated electricity utilities: Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
They considered Baton Rouge, but with tens of thousands of metropolitan New Orleans residents and many businesses already relocating to the capitol city, finding adequate housing and office space isn’t possible, Wiese said.
Suburban Jackson offered both, and the central Mississippi location already is home to Entergy’s nuclear power plant division and the emergency operations center that will oversee the repair and reconstruction of the company’s damaged power grid.
Clinton also is a three-hour drive from New Orleans, making it easy for Entergy headquarters workers to travel home over the coming months to check on home repairs, Wiese said.
He wouldn’t speculate when the headquarters might move back home.
“Nobody can predict what the atmosphere will be like in the city. You have to assure that it will be a peaceful city again. Everything has to settle down. We’re not in control of all the factors,” he said.
Keith Darcé can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Entergy searching for gas leaks6:19 p.m., Tuesday
By KEITH DARCÉ
About 130 Entergy Corp. utility workers spent Tuesday scouring dry parts of New Orleans for potentially dangerous natural gas leaks in homes and businesses, using high-tech devices to sniff out the fuel.
The company warned that parts of the city with gas might lose the service as crews make repairs to damaged lines.
That could be a burden to people who have stayed in New Orleans. For many, gas is the only utility service still working more than a week after Hurricane Katrina, and the fuel is their only means for cooking food
and boiling water.
Though various people have attributed fires in the city to gas leaks, Entergy regional gas operations manager Rusty Burroughs said there’s no evidence so far that gas leaks caused any of the major blazes.
“They appear to be mostly arsons,” he said.
While workers were looking for gas leaks, thousands of power line workers continued to fix toppled utility poles, restring wires and restore electricity to more homes and businesses in the region.
About 475,000 utility customers remained in the dark in southeastern Louisiana late Tuesday afternoon, according to Entergy and Cleco Corp. Entergy supplies electricity to parishes south of Lake Pontchartrain and
Cleco supplies power parts of St. Tammany and Washington parishes north of the lake.
After working in Algiers, the gas utility crews began moving Tuesday into the French Quarter, the Central Business District and parts of Uptown between St. Charles Avenue and the Mississippi River, Burroughs said.
The crews carried flame ionization units to detect trace amounts of methane, the main component of natural gas, and combustible gas indicators to measure if a gas leak is large enough to explode.
The crews worked during daylight hours in areas being patrolled by security forces, Burroughs said. “They are in areas where they generally feel safe,” he said.
Entergy cut off gas service to all of the lower Ninth Ward and eastern New Orleans on Sunday because of the likelihood of widespread leaks in the areas due to serious storm damage and flooding.
Entergy workers are also cutting gas service to smaller areas of the city, in part to maintain the flow of gas to pumps moving flood water out of New Orleans, Burroughs said. Generators that produce electricity for the pumps are fueled by gas.
In the coming days, workers will begin moving toward Mid-City and the Lakefront, using military Humvees and boats to explore flooded neighborhoods, Burroughs said.
Anyone discovering a gas leak in the city should report it to Entergy by calling 1 (800) 368-3749.
Keith Darcé can be reached at email@example.com.
From shelter to ER, the airport's transformationTuesday, 6:15 p.m.
By Matt Scallan
More than 500 people rode out Hurricane Katrina at Louis Armstrong International Airport, but the number quickly rose to 5,000 in the storm's aftermath as evacuees showed up at a shelter where food and water were scarce, airport officials said Tuesday.
Eight days after the storm, more than 2,500 people are still sleeping at the airport, although most of them now are not evacuees but uniformed military or law enforcement personnel.
The number of takeoffs and landings has jumped from the pre-storm average of 700 per day to as many as 3,800. Most of those are helicopters. Planes and buses filled with refugees also are moving out.
Now a relief and staging center, the terminal a week ago was jammed with tired, hungry and frustrated refugees – and only 11 Jefferson Parish sheriff's deputies to keep order.
Many of the refugees were injured, and more than 20 died, despite the efforts of a Federal Emergency Management Agency medical team that set up an emergency room in the Delta terminal lobby and sent the sickest patients out the door first to hospitals elsewhere. The rest were frustrated, thirsty and hungry, according to airport employees who rode out the storm.
"The rescue helicopters were bringing people in, but the buses were dropping off people, too, and a lot of folks just showed up because we were high and dry," airport spokeswoman Michelle Duffourc said.
The result was bedlam. The cream-colored terminal floors were caked with black mud, and the evacuees were stressed and angry as they awaited transport out of the New Orleans area city by plane or bus.
Aviation Director Roy Williams said FEMA failed, however, when it prematurely halted "mercy flights" by airlines that flew donated supplies into Armstrong and flew refugees out. Williams said FEMA stopped flights by American, Southwest, Northwest and United airlines on Thursday, four days after the storm, when it was ramping up its own evacuation effort.
"I think their response was far short of adequate," Williams said, adding that some refugees were forced to stay in the fetid conditions longer than necessary.
FEMA spokesman David Passey said he had not heard the allegation
Before, and would have to investigate before he could respond.
Williams said FEMA still does not tell him how many flights will be coming in to the airport.
"I've heard that there is a conference call every day to talk about this, but I'm not on it and no one I talk to is on it. You would think they would ask someone for an estimate of how many more aircraft we can get on the field, or how many people are in the terminal, but it's like they're managing this by remote control."
Williams said the airport’s heroes include Joseph Taylor, manager of CA One/Pampy's, Armstrong’s food and beverage concessionaire. With a dozen employees and relatives, Taylor cooked up food and served it during the harrowing days after Katrina struck Aug. 29.
"It's part of his job description, but when things got bad no one would have blamed him if he had pulled his people out," Williams said.
Other heroes among the 50 or so airport-related staffers who rode out the storm were the sheriff's deputies who managed to keep order despite long hours under chaotic conditions, Williams said.
The airport's future is in flux. Passenger traffic from commercial flights pays Armstrong’s bills, but it is out of the question for the time being. The airport has outstanding loans of $200 million, which are paid by airline landing fees and rents and passenger-derived revenue from parking and concessions.
Williams the airport is eligible for federal grants that could help it pay its operating costs of about $50 million a year.
Before Katrina, airport officials had hoped to break the 10 million passenger mark in calendar 2005. It did so for the 12-month period ending in August.
The last time that happened was in August 2001, a few days before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Gatemouth Brown evacuates to TexasSept. 6, 6:07 p.m.
By Chris Kirkham
St. Tammany bureau
Hurricane-force winds virtually leveled his home on Pontchartrain Drive
south of Slidell, but legendary blues guitarist Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown was safe with family members in Texas before Hurricane Katrina struck the north shore.
Brown’s biographer, Colin Walters, said Brown evacuated Saturday with his daughter, Renee, to his hometown of Orange, Texas. The storm destroyed many of his instruments and memorabilia, as he was only able to escape with his 1966 Pontiac Firebird and one guitar.
Outside his home, awards and photographs were strewn about amid the
debris. A vintage Cadillac and Oldsmobile were partially submerged in the bayou behind his home. Walters has many of Brown’s personal papers for the biography.
“Pretty much everything is gone,” Walters said. “It’s such a shame.”
Walters, who started collaborating with Brown last year on Brown’s biography said the 12-hour trip from Slidell to Orange has taken a toll on Brown’s already ailing body. Brown, 81, who suffers from lung cancer and emphysema, has been in a hospital in Texas where doctors are monitoring his condition, Walters said.
“He’s barely hanging on right now as far as his health,” he said.
Family members are hoping to relocate Brown to Austin in the near future, where Walters said there already have been numerous housing offers. Music venues in Austin should give Brown continuing opportunities to perform, family members said.
Gibson guitar company also has offered to provide him with a new
The City of Austin is having a benefit concert for hurricane victims
Sept. 16 called “6th St.for Bourbon St.,” in which Brown may play if his health improves.
“He lives to perform and it’s kind of the only thing he’s got at this
point,” Walters said.
Walters and Brown’s other daughter, Celeste Biles, are setting up the
Gatemouth Brown Disaster Relief Fund. More information about donating will be available at www.gatemouth.com in the next few days.
Federal officials make first arrestBy Gwen Filosa
Federal agents arrested a young Algiers man in the early Tuesday morning after agents said he shot at a military helicopter designed for rescue missions, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said.
The arrest Tuesday marked the first federal action against the lawlessness that preyed upon New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Wendell L. Bailey, 20, was arrested outside the building in which he had earlier taken aim with a .22-caliber handgun and fired at the helicopter that was flying in the darkness, federal prosecutors said.
A criminal complaint filed against Bailey Tuesday accuses him of the federal crime of trying to "damage and destroy any aircraft and with being a felon in possession of a handgun. If convicted on both charges, Bailey could be sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Letten held Bailey's case up as the first federal arrest and promised more would come.
"He will be prosecuted very aggressively, federally," Letten said at the Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge, flanked by U.S. Attorney David Dugas of Baton Rouge and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives officials.
U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance, of the eastern district, signed the arrest warrant. Bailey was booked at the temporary detention center set up by state officials in the storm-torn downtown of New Orleans, and is due in federal court located in Baton Rouge federal court later today.
Special ATF agents were patrolling Algiers when they observed gunfire coming from an apartment window.
Two young men then walked out of the building and were heard chatting about shooting at a helicopter. "They won't be back now," one of them said, according to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court on Tuesday.
Inside the apartment, ATF special agents found a .22-caliber Rhomn revolver and a .32-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver both hidden beneath a mattress – along with a box of 9-mm ammunition.
Letten said that under federal law, Bailey's home address cannot be released. He said he did not have the specific address at which ATF nabbed Bailey. The second young man who was with Bailey was not arrested after ATF agents interviewed the unidentified man.
Bailey has prior convictions for dealing marijuana and cocaine, Letten said. He admitted to ATF agents at the scene that he was a felon on probation and he told them were the firearms were, Letten's office said.
At the time of the shooting, Letten said a number of civil and military aircraft were in the air helping with evacuation, search and rescue and delivering supplies.
State Attorney General Charles Foti Jr., the former criminal sheriff in Orleans Parish, plans to open up a second detention center in New Orleans, likely using an existing facility that was built to be a jail, Letten said.
Dome damage substantialTuesday, 5:22 p.m.
By Ed Anderson
BATON ROUGE – Although there are electrical problems and some floodwaters still standing in the Superdome, state officials Tuesday said the future of the building is still undetermined.
But they did say this: Damages to the structure could hit $400 million – and it’s not likely the facility could even be used for at least a year.
Superdome Commission Chairman Tim Coulon said the Dome will hire engineers and other consultants to do an assessment of the structural stability and other aspects of the stadium. That will be done in the next few weeks, Coulon said.
Besides flooding, the Dome lost part of its roof as more than 20,000 evacuees huddled in the facility in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
"We have to do a damage assessment first,'' Coulon said. "It is premature to write the Dome off. But there has been substantial damage.''
Damages may total $400 million but a precise figure will not be available for weeks, Coulon said.
"There is still some standing water in some areas in the Dome,'' he said. "Some water has gotten into the new scoreboards. . . .I don't see the Dome being used at all for at least a year.''
Coulon refused to say if he or state officials prefer to demolish the Dome or try to renovate it. The engineering study and assessment will help determine the course, he said
Doug Thornton, a regional vice president with SMG – the company which manages the Dome and the nearby New Orleans Arena for the state – said the Dome's interior was trashed during the evacuation and has to be decontaminated before engineers look at the structure.
"It may take us two to three weeks to get it cleaned up,'' Thornton said. He said it may take another 45 days to determine how sound the structure is.
"Seventy percent of the roof is leaking,'' Thornton said.
"Evacuees broke into the suites, commissary areas and into offices looking for food,'' he said.
Thornton said the Arena fared better.
It has some water-soaked carpeting, tiles and other areas, but he said it is possible the facility – home to the New Orleans Hornets and several concerts each year – could be back in operation "in the first quarter of 2006.''
Coulon said the Dome – well a new or renovated – will be part or a redeveloped and revitalized New Orleans.
"It will be part of an entertainment-sports complex which will be a major component'' of a rebuilt New Orleans, he said.
But, he added, compared to flooded streets and homes, homeless residents and possibly thousands of deaths, the stadium is "a second- or third-tier item.''
On a related matter, New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson said to "the extent circumstances allow'' would like to keep the team in Louisiana and play its home games at LSU.
Days after the storm, families still being reunited5:07 p.m.
By Lolis Eric Elie
Although we hadn't heard from Clothilde Martha Crowley Nichols for several days, we should not conclude that she was ever lost.
When I wrote about her a few days ago, what I knew was this: Nichols had abruptly ended her phone call with her granddaughter, JoNell Kennedy. It was during the early stages of Hurricane Katrina and the storm had broken a window in Nichols' home. She couldn't talk because she had to bandage the hand her son had injured in his efforts to repair that window.
The indomitable spirit of that woman was responsible for her decision to remain in her Gentilly home, even while her relatives begged her to evacuate with them. That spirit has yet to be vanquished.
Monday, I had a brief conversation with Kennedy, who assured me that her grandmother was safe. "She actually told us she was never lost," Kennedy said.
Though Nichols might object to the term, she was rescued and is now alive and well in Orange, Texas.
In that same column I wrote about my cousin, George Thompson III, who felt that the Riverbend area was flood proof.
Whether the neighborhood is flood proof or not, his house on Hillary Street protected him. It neither shook nor took on water, he told me Saturday.
Late last week, he started walking towards downtown, hitchiked a ride, and ultimately was bused from the Convention Center to Monroe.
When we talked, he was more interested in telling me about the disrespectful treatment he and other evacuees suffered at the hands of state troopers than he was in telling me the story of his escape from hell. I took that as a good sign.
The stories of both Nichols and Thompson deserve a more expansive telling.
Their tales deserve a place alongside that of Lula Elzy who this time last week was looking for more than a half dozen relatives, almost all of whom have since been found.
"In the last two days, we went on to (a website) and put my nephew's name on it and told them we were looking for him," Elzy said. "Then he called me from Dallas. Then my niece called and told me she and my mother were in Houston, and two of my nephews were with them. My sister Sherry was in San Antonio, although they all left the Superdome at the same time."
Elzy is still missing one sister, Lynette Elzy, 42, who was last heard from right before the storm.
I am stil in search of Lee Oliver Bates, a carpenter and friend who, when last I saw him, was supposed to be on his way to one of the hotels in the city. When last I talked to him, it was Monday afternoon and he was crammed into the Superdome with everyone else.
I worry about him. His health is not the best. But, I gain strength from the fact that even at this late date, loved ones are still being found. Families are still being reunited.
Columnist Lolis Eric Elie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Teacher relocation assistance offeredTuesday, 4:57 p.m.
The Louisiana Resource Center for Educators has established a free
relocation assistance program for teachers in the state displaced by
Services provided by the program, called Teacher Finder, include resume help, portfolio organization, information on teacher job openings and help with Web sites.
Teacher Finder assistance will be available Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For information on the program, call 1 (800) 449-1908. The resource
center is at 7305 Florida Blvd., Suite D, Baton Rouge.
Help from the worldBy Bruce Alpert
WASHINGTON – Offers of help for Hurricane Katrina victims are coming from all over the world, including some of the poorest nations, governments that strongly oppose the United States and even Cuban President Fidel Castro.
Among the 94 nations offering to help are poverty stricken Bangladesh, war-ravaged Afghanistan, communist Cuba and Saudi Arabia, a strategic military ally often opposed to U.S. policies in the Middle East.
In the Saudi newspaper Al-Riyad, Dr. Muhammad al-Quwayz writes that "no one denies the United States killed thousands and destroyed countries in our Islamic world, Africa and Asia, it has oppressed and carried out unjust deeds in a provocative manner." But he said, "Its injustice should not prevent us from adopting a fair stand on the Katrina tragedy for it is a catastrophe in every sense of the word and calls for cooperation not gloating," according to a translation provided by the BBC.
The State Department said that Saudi officials made what it described as a generous contribution to the American Red Cross.
Other pledges through Tuesday include four ships from Canada with 1,000 soldiers to aid evacuations; 45 tons of military meals from Germany's air force; $1 million from Bangladesh; $100,000 from Afghanistan; and even $25,000 from Sri Lanka, which said through a spokesman that it Is trying to reciprocate for American assistance after last December's tsunami.
The Germans are also offering high-speed pumps to help remove water from New Orleans and other flooded communities. The Netherlands, which like New Orleans lies mostly below sea level, promises the help of its top experts to draw up plans to safeguard the city from future large-scale flooding.
"The American people can take great heart from the fact that when we need help, when we need assistance, the world is answering the call," said Sean McCormack, assistant secretary of state for public affairs.
Castro, the Cuban dictator, has upgraded his offer last weekend of 1,000 doctors to at least 1,500 and expressed impatience that he hasn't gotten a response from the U.S. government, according to Cuban press reports.
McCormack said the United States is carefully evaluating all offers and would decide its response based on identified needs and not on whether the United States has good relations with the would-be donors. He said the Department of Health and Human Services is evaluating offers of medical assistance from Cuba and other countries. The United States has long condemned Castro for a long list of human rights violations.
The outpouring of support is reminiscent of the offers of assistance that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Canada's ambassador to the United States, Frank McKenna, said that his country is ready to do whatever is requested, in addition to the four planes and military personnel already provided.
"You are our friends and together we are family – you do not suffer alone," McKenna said.
Thailand Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkon said his country is sending 60 doctors and nurses, along with rice. He called it a "gesture of the heart," recalling the help his country received after the deadly tsunami last December. The toll is still not fully compiled, but at least 228,000 are thought to be dead or missing.
The largest donation so far appears to be the $28 million from oil-rich Qatar, but U.S. officials seem most moved by the $25,000 from Sri Lanka, given that country's struggles to recover from the deadly tsunami.
"I think that that is really quite touching," McCormack said. "It is a $25,000 donation. But here coming from a country that has recently suffered greatly from the tsunami and lost a number of lives and is itself in the process of rebuilding."
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pledged Tuesday to do "everything we can" to help find foreigners who were on the Gulf Coast during Katrina. Officials said they have received requests from a number of countries, including Saudi Arabia, for help locating missing citizens, but didn't have a firm number.
Evacuees happy to land in AustinTuesday, 4:49 p.m.
By John Reid
AUSTIN, TEXAS -- After going through what she described as hell-like conditions last week at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center - going without food or water for three days - Tameka Randle considered the mere 20-minute wait to get her hair styled for free Tuesday a blessing.
"At the Convention Center, we had no water, no lights, no nothing,'' said Randle, an eastern New Orleans resident who said if she hadn't climbed to the third-floor level of her apartment complex she would have drowned from the flood waters of Hurricane Katrina.
Randle was rescued by boat and taken to the Convention Center before being transported to Austin by plane last week.
"Here, you don't have to worry about if you are going to wake up dead or not,'' Randle said of the Austin Convention Center . "We have plenty of everything here, especially food and water. The people here have been so warm and we know we're safe here.''
Evacuees begin arriving in Austin last Saturday and the outpouring of support from residents has been widespread.
City officials had to put a temporary hold on donations this week because they are overloaded with clothing, diapers, shoes and other items. They need time to sort the supplies before they are sent to the Austin Convention Center and Palmer Events Center, a smaller facility that is also housing evacuees.
State officials estimated there are nearly 4,000 evacuees in Austin, and those with serious medical needs have been moved to Brackenridge Hospital, which is about three blocks from the convention center.
The convention center has a post office, designated medical areas, a staffed pharmacy, and computer areas for evacuees to check for news updates or send e-mails to family members.
There are several tables stacked with men's clothes and shoes, racks of women's dresses and toys for children.
A donated basketball goal has been set up for teenagers to play.
"We've been making sure that they have all the supplies they need,'' said Betty Dunkerley, an Austin city council member. "We want them to know that Austin is a warm and friendly place.''
Dunkerley volunteered to help Monday, sorting donated clothes. Red Cross officials in Austin estimated 2,000 people have volunteered.
"It's beautiful here, there is nothing you say can bad about anything here,'' said Jerome Dominique Jr., who was rescued after about 15 feet of water quickly submerged his Gentilly home. "We're all trying to handle what happened. I'm 47, and I've lost everything in one night because of the flood waters.''
The most popular spot at the convention center for many of the evacuees has been the makeshift beauty salon and barbership. About 20 women were waiting in the sitting area before the beauticians started up Tuesday morning, and about 15 men were waiting for the barbers to get started.
"If I'm able to sleep in my bed, walk and use my hands and whatever God blessed me with, I'm going to use it to give back,'' said Kameesha McBride, one of the volunteer beauticians. "They are very happy after they get their hair done. It makes me feel good, too. When you look good, you feel good.
St. Tammany schools seek Oct. 3 openingSt. Tammany Parish public school officials and employees continue to work toward a possible Oct. 3 opening of schools.
“As soon as repairs and clean-up are complete and electricity and other essentials can be restored to schools, we hope to resume classes," Superintendent Gayle Sloan said Tuesday. "Oct. 3 is our goal for reopening schools here.”
All school and central office administrators are to meet Friday at 8 a. m., at Fontainebleau High School near Mandeville to discuss plans for reopening schools.
School custodians and maintenance personnel are to meet an hour later at the same location, following the administrators meeting. Other school system personnel should contact their supervisors beginning Monday about returning to work, unless contacted earlier.
School system officials are posting updates for parents, students and employees on the board's Web site, www.stpsb.org, as information becomes available. Information also is available by calling the School Board office in Covington at (985) 892-2276 or a toll-free information line at the Louisiana Department of Education at (877) 453-2721, between 8 a. m. and 3 p.m. weekdays.
Paychecks were distributed to employees Tuesday in Covington, or via direct deposit into their bank accounts, said school system spokeswoman Linda Roan. Plans for future pay distribution will be released when details are finalized, Roan said.
SLU to offer short semesterHAMMOND – Southeastern Louisiana University will offer a compressed, two-month semester beginning Oct. 20 primarily to assist students whose college studies have been interrupted by Hurricane Katrina.
Faculty and staff – many of whom reported to work Tuesday when the university reopened academic and administrative offices – helped staff a telephone bank designed to handle the wide range of questions from current students as well as students from other universities displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The phone bank number is 985-549-2000.
Students are being asked to return Thursday.
“We know that many of our own students – especially in the greater New Orleans area, Washington and St. Tammany parishes – are the victims of considerable damage inflicted by the hurricane and are finding it difficult to return to school in the immediate future,” said President Randy Moffett. “In addition, so many community college and university students at other institutions have had their education interrupted. The compressed two-month Term II semester will allow them to obtain some college credits if they cannot attend the entire fall semester.''
More than 3,000 current students had already checked in with the university by mid-morning Tuesday to provide their status, ask questions, and adjust schedules. The university is asking all students to check in online at www.selu.edu, by telephone through the phone bank or in person.
The university also began processing applications from non-Southeastern students – most from the greater New Orleans area – who are looking to continue their college studies this semester.
Southeastern will hold special sessions for displaced students Saturday at noon and Monday at 4:30 p.m. at the Student Union. Students will be provided academic counseling, advice, and other information regarding application and registration. Displaced students can also visit the university’s Office of Admissions in the North Campus Main Building, located on West Tornado Drive off University Avenue.
The university’s Baton Rouge Center and Livingston Literacy Center have also resumed operation, while a decision on the reopening date for the St. Tammany Center will be forthcoming. The Southeastern Laboratory School will reopen at the same time as Tangipahoa Parish public schools.
The university has posted information on its web site, www.selu.edu and on the University of Louisiana System web site, www.ulsystem.net.
Thousands register for state, federal assistanceTuesday, 4:31 p.m.
More than 315,000 Louisiana households have registered for federal or state assistance in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, a Federal Emergency Management Agency official said Tuesday.
FEMA spokesman Dave Passey does not know how many people that represents, but said the number of requests has been so large that he doubts the government agencies responsible can keep up with the demand. The available aid includes food stamps and housing assistance to pay for some costs that are not covered by insurance, he said.
Passey said the agency is examining a variety of options for providing long-term shelter for those left homeless by Katrina, including housing them at the Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant in Minden, commonly referred to as Camp Minden.
Medical myths debunkedBrobson Lutz, MD
Guest Op-Ed Columnist
Hurricanes generate rumors in direct relationship to the ferocity of their winds and flooding.
After each new major hurricane in the United States, alarming rumors about impending infectious disease outbreaks arise like clockwork. How will the people cope with epidemics of cholera, typhoid fever, respiratory diseases, and dysentery?
Modern history allows us to replace fiction with truths if we look at the medical problems associated with major disasters across the United States and the world.
As rescue and cleanup efforts proceed, we will have endemic cuts, lacerations, and puncture wounds. Skin and soft tissue infections will be the major infectious disease problem. These will be not be exotic pathogens but the common ones -- Staphylococcal and streptococcal infections. Staphylococcal resistance is already well established in Louisiana, and we will see more methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections that are resistant to previously useful antibiotics such as Keflex.
The other major infectious disease threat is mosquito-borne viruses. The mosquito population was somewhat "blown away" like us. But old eggs survive, and they will hatch and pupate quickly. The increase in the insect population will bring back many bird species including those carrying West Nile and St. Louis encephalitis.
Aerial spraying for insects needs to start ASAP with the right chemicals, not the ones that are the cheapest for private contractors to spray. Some chemical supply companies provide "kickbacks" to contractors who use their less effective products just like some of the big drug companies give rebates to hospitals for using their particular brand of drug.
Flies are also a problem after any disaster in warm areas of the world. After Hurricane Betsy, rescue workers easily spotted the attics containing dead bodies by looking for swarms of black flies on roofs. House to house searches are not necessary to find dead bodies. Follow the fly swarms.
After Katrina, I heard reports that mosquitoes will transmit disease by biting corpses in our streets. Mosquitoes do not feed off dead bodies. Infectious diseases are not spread this way. Dead bodies on the streets and in the water are an etiologic agent for severe psychological trauma, not contagious diseases.
Earlier this week, I heard a state health official discuss concerns about cholera and other enteric diseases. Cholera is a pathogen that is rare in our environment. It requires human consumption of food or water contaminated with a causative pathogen which is not even established in our wetlands. Cholera and typhoid are not infections we will face in the upcoming weeks and months.
Former city health director Dr. Rodney Jung told me years ago that snake rumors abound with each hurricane. Snake sightings do increase with flooding, but no physician I know has ever treated a person for a snake bite related to a hurricane. Fortunately, the alligators displaced by storms are too small to cause injury and the larger ones are not likely to harm humans unless cornered. The small sharks that wash over from Lake Pontchartrain were totally benign.
Tetanus was a problem after the Tsunami in Asia where many persons never had primary immunizations in the first place. Tetanus will not be a problem here. Even though a tetanus booster is recommended every ten years, the primary series of immunizations for children provides essentially lifetime protection. Adults who got their childhood immunizations are well protected.
Most diarrheas immediately after a storm is stress related and not due to infectious causes. Present supplies of bottled water and uncontaminated food will prevent typhoid fever, salmonella, and most other enteric diseases.
The newest mythical threat on the block is mold. I heard a former director of the Centers for Disease Control say on national television that the mold that will grow in our houses when the flooding subsides is "very dangerous". He has been behind a desk and out of the trenches for too long. Mold growth indicates excessive moisture, but environmental molds are legal fodder rather than disease causing pathogens.
As we recover, each day will be a challenge. Stress related problems will soar. The first-aid for preventing storm stress is secure water, food and good shelter. Overall trauma such as chainsaw injuries will be the major cause of morbidity post-storm. Gasoline powered generators can be dangerous and should not be used in enclosed spaces.
It is time to put medical myths to bed. Forget about cholera, tetanus, typhoid fever, and catching contagious diseases from the dead. Our real medical villains will be storm stress and trauma.
Dr. Brobson Lutz is the health spokesman for the Orleans Parish Medical Society.
St. Tammany recovery infoST. TAMMANY PARISH
Although most of the parish remained without electricity Tuesday, more
stores and gasoline stations continued to open with the help of
trucked-in backup generators.
Supplies and hours of operation are limited at most locations.
Meanwhile, several aid stations have been set up to help residents recover from the storm.
FEMA EMERGENCY DISTRIBUTION CENTERS
8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Cavenham Park – La. 41, Pearl River
Old Wal-Mart store - I-10 and Gause Blvd., Slidell
Target store in Stirling center - I-12 and La. 21, near Covington
CHURCH-BASED DISTRIBUTION CENTERS
Harvest Church - John Jay Center (former Tammany Mall),
Pontchartrain Drive, Slidell
Grace Memorial Baptist Church - Pearl Street, Slidell
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church - Mandeville
Tammany Oaks Church of Christ – La. 59, near Mandeville
The American Red Cross is serving meals twice a day- from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
and 5 p.m.-6:30 p.m. - at all shelter locations, all but one of which is a
school. Food is limited and those not staying in the shelter may not be
able to get a meal at those shelters that are full. The shelters are at the following locations:
Abita Springs Middle - Abita Springs
Bayou Lacombe Middle - Lacombe
Bonne Ecole Elementary - Slidell (FULL)
Clearwood Junior High - Slidell
Creekside Junior High - Pearl River (FULL)
Pineview Middle - Covington
Fifth Ward Junior High – Bush
John Slidell Park – Slidell (FULL)
Northshore High - Slidell
Pearl River High – Pearl River (FULL)
Riverside Elementary - Pearl River
Sixth Ward Elementary - Pearl River
Whispering Forest Elementary - Slidell
William Pitcher Junior High – Covington (FULL)
OTHER MEAL LOCATIONS
Covington – Boston Street across from the old parish courthouse.
Slidell – Slidell Memorial’s Founders Medical Building, Robert Blvd.
Power restored to all four general hospitals – Lakeview Regional
Medical Center near Mandeville; NorthShore Regional Medical Center and
Slidell Memorial Hospital, both on Gause Blvd., Slidell; and St. Tammany
Parish Hospital, S. Tyler St., Covington – and to Louisiana Heart
Hospital on La. 433 north of Lacombe.
EMERGENCY OPERATIONS CENTERS
Those calling from out of the parish must use 985 area code.
Parish – 985-898-2323
Slidell – 646-4261 or 646-4381
ACCESS ST. TAMMANY RADIO REPORTS
730 AM on the dial. Live and taped information and updates from
parish officials and others on the situation in the parish. Broadcasting
from parish Emergency Operations Center in Covington, with signal
strength east to Slidell and west to Hammond. Work is under way to expand signal range.
Temporary address changes
Until regular mail delivery is resumed, those without internet
availability, call 1-800-275-877 to fill out an electronic change
of address form. Those whose internet service is functioning may go to
www.usps.com. Otherwise, go to the nearest post office.
Social Security recipients in the Madisonville (70447 ZIP),
Mandeville (70471) and Slidell (70458), with proper identification, may pick up
their checks at the post office in Hammond, 105 N. Railroad Ave.
Beginning Thursday, the USPS will be returning SSA checks to their original
distribution points unless a temporary change of address form is on
Sources: Staff research, parish government Web site at www.stpgov.org
Indianapolis restaurant owner opens his heartTuesday, 3:40 p.m.
By Brian Allee-Walsh
Indianapolis restaurateur Joe Vuskovich opened his heart to the storm ravaged city of New Orleans.
On Monday Vuskovich, a De La Salle graduate and former owner of Visko's in Gretna, offered an appetizing deal to patrons at his "Yats'' restaurant at College Avenue and 54th Street in Broad Ripple: A block party, live music and all you could eat for $5, in return for a donation to the Indianapolis/Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund.
"A guy up the street who owns 'The Magic Bus' brought in a $500 check,'' Vuskovich said Monday as a band played in the background. "A girl got a $5 plate of food and gave $80 to Catholic Charities. People are touched by what happened down there.
"We'll give food away as long as we can today. This is our little part that we can do. I loved New Orleans. I consider it a great jewel. Heck, I go there once a month. Half my clothes are in my mother's house in Gretna.''
Vuskovich's kindness didn't end there.
Evacuees bearing a driver's license from Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama dined and partied for free. Upwards of 500 residents from the Gulf Coast are being sheltered at the Indiana Fair Grounds in Indianapolis.
It was his small way of giving back to a community that had given him so much.
"What I'm doing is nothing,'' he said. "I'm just giving a day out of my life. I make a living out of what New Orleans gave to me. If I grew up in some other place I wouldn't know how to cook gumbo. I've profited all my life from the culture of New Orleans, the music and the food. I've made a living out of what I learned in New Orleans.''
Vuskovich said as many as 20 Indianapolis restaurants are involved in the relief effort, including all area-based MCL cafeterias.
He has joined forces with another Indianapolis resident, homemaker Teree Bosso, who said a tractor-trailer carrying personal items for the elderly, coloring books, crayons and games for children, and bottled water, pillows and blankets will be leaving within a week for Baton Rouge.
From there, the items will find their way to the many displaced storm victims.
"We have the ability to help and we have to help,'' Bosso said. "It's the least we can do. We see it on TV. How can you not help? All we did was get the ball rolling here. It was easy to do. Everybody wants to help. They just don't know how to help. We have a lot of friends who are giving money. It's way for all of us to feel better.
"New Orleans is a great city. I've had friends down there open up their home to me and my family for Super Bowls, Final Fours, Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, you name it. We have a lot of good memories there.''
"I love New Orleans,'' Vuskovich said. "That's why we're doing what we can because there's no place like it. It's touching to see how much people care.''
Many Blue Jays alight in HoustonTuesday, 3:45 p.m.
By Christine Lacoste Bordelon
HOUSTON -- “Welcome to Jesuit. Nice to see you,” N.J. Santarcangelo repeated over and over this morning as 300 families from Jesuit High School in New Orleans entered the Parsley Center Auditorium on Strake Jesuit campus in Houston.
The Jesuit tradition of “Men for Others” was alive at Strake Jesuit as
the school registered more than 300 Jesuit students displaced by
Hurricane Katrina. More are expected as word continues to spread of the
generosity of the high school.
“It’s a Jesuit school, we take care of our brother,” said the Rev. Daniel K. Lahart, Strake Jesuit president, who welcomed parents and students alike by assuring them that the school would try its best to make the experience a powerful one.
Strake Jesuit is waiving tuition through December for Jesuit New
Orleans students and coordinating uniforms, housing (more than 120 Strake families volunteered as host families for students and their families) and
carpooling. Similar arrangements are being made at a number of the 42 Jesuit
high schools nationwide.
“All Jesuit schools in the United States are accepting as many students
as they can during the duration,” said the Rev. Anthony McGinn, president of
Jesuit New Orleans.
To accommodate the huge number of students who ended up in Houston, the
nearest Jesuit school to New Orleans, Lahart and McGinn met a few days
ago and worked out a logistical plan to accommodate both the New
Orleans and Houston campuses. Strake Jesuit has a current enrollment of 869
students in ninth through 12th grades.
“We are going to have to be creative,” Lahart said. “We are planning on
doing a second session.”
To ease the transition for the New Orleans students on the Houston
campus, 40 percent of Strake Jesuit students will buddy with new students
in the same grade.
“I think it’s terrific,” said parent Brian LeBon of Metairie about Strake accepting Jesuit New Orleans students. LeBon flew his family from St. Louis, Mo., where he left one son at St. Louis University to Houston to register his 10th grader, Conner, at Strake Jesuit. “Everybody in Texas has opened their hearts…It (Strake Jesuit) gives us a place of security, a feeling like we are wanted... Louisiana people have great resolve, and we will be up and running in no time.”
McGinn said the Jesuit New Orleans’ Bank Street campus had water
chest-high as well as wind damage. He’s hoping that school will resume in New
Orleans by Jan. 1. Classes will begin for the New Orleans students at Strake Jesuit on Sept. 13.
UNO updateTuesday, 3:30 p.m.
(The University of New Orleans released this statement today:)
Presently UNO is operating out of the LSU System office in Baton Rouge. UNO’s educational mission remains the same – to provide quality education, research and service as the urban university of the LSU system. We plan to make electronic classes available in October, and we will open the main and satellite campuses as soon as possible. For Fall semester 2005, UNO students have also been offered the opportunity to register as visiting students at any Louisiana public university in addition to many other institutions of higher education throughout the region, country and world.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, UNO’s administration and faculty, as part of the urban educational mission of UNO, will offer their expertise and assistance in rebuilding their hometown. The College of Engineering will be working with the Corps of Engineers. Faculty in other areas such as Urban Planning, Business Administration and Social Science are standing by to aid in community rebuilding efforts. Other staff and administrators are also finding meaningful ways to assist in the recovery effort throughout the affected areas.
UNO requests that all faculty and staff visit www.uno.edu and click on “Faculty/Staff check-in” where they will be asked to provide pertinent contact information.
Up to date information on UNO can be obtained by calling 225-578-7816 or on the Internet at www.uno.edu
Pam Kennett, Acting Director of Public Relations
I-10 twin bridges work to begin soonSept. 6, 3:20 p.m.
Repairs to the Interstate 10 twin bridges over Lake Pontchartrain between New Orleans and Slidell could begin as early as next week, state officials said Tuesday. The bridge was heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
Gordon Nelson, assistant secretary of operations for the state Department of Transportation and Development, said the state plans to open bids Friday and have the eastbound lanes open for two-way traffic within 30-45 days.
"We will work 24/7 to get this in service as soon as possible," Nelson said. He could not say how much the project would cost, but guessed that it would be about $4 million.
While the short-term project will create a route between Slidell and New Orleans, the department's long-term plan is to rebuild the spans at a higher elevation and make it three lanes in each direction, Nelson said.
To help speed the movement of equipment and material, Gov. Kathleen Blanco has signed an executive order relaxing the weight limits on trucks, Nelson said.
Pumping continuesThe entire storm-ravaged New Orleans region will be drained of floodwaters within 80 days, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Tuesday.
"We continue to make progress," Dan Kitchens, of the corps, said at the Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge. "Our primary focus is getting the main pump stations back online."
In the last 24 hours, the corps has installed three pump operations in eastern New Orleans working on the disastrous flooding there. One portable pump is working on draining the flooding from the 17th Street Canal levee break in Lakeview – at a rate of 9 cubic feet per second.
So far, 33 pumps arrived last night. More are due in today and hundreds are on order.
"Any place we can find a large portable pump," Kitchens said.
The region had a total of 148 pumps in their stations. "We have three pumps operational at this point in time," said Kitchens. "There are some pumps that are in dry areas."
Eastern New Orleans is expected to be drained in 24 days.
Corps officials estimate that Chalmette will take the longest time -- about 80 days -- to pump dry.
Mid-day updates from New OrleansTuesday, 3 p.m.
New Orleans Mayor Ray C. Nagin issued another mandatory evacuation of New Orleans for all “non-essential” personnel because of health and safety concerns. Nagin said widespread gas leaks and fires, contaminated flood water and disease-bearing mosquitoes have rendered the city unsafe.
Breeches in the levee at the 17th St. canal and at Florida Avenue canal have been fully repaired. There’s no more flowing of water in or out of that station,” Nagin said. The London Avenue canal, Nagin said, “is a much bigger problem.”
The Carrollton power plant is still not working. But officials expect the plant to be up and running within the next 36 to 48 hours once a dam that was built around the facility is repaired.
Water levels in most parts of Orleans Parish have receded 6 inches to a foot, Nagin said after taking a helicopter flyover Tuesday morning. There are parts of the city that are dry that were underwater. Nagin mentioned the Lakefront Campus at the University of New Orleans as an example.
Deputy Police Chief Warren Riley said there were 20 arrests in New Orleans last night and 150 arrests this week for various offenses.
Search and rescue missions will continue indefinitely, Nagin said. Captain Timothy Bayard of the New Orleans Police Department said all 60 of his boats were on missions Tuesday morning in the parish’s flooded areas of Lakeview, Gentilly, New Orleans East, the Ninth Ward and Mid-City.
Officials are cycling out emergency workers and New Orleans police department officials to Atlanta and Las Vegas for all-expenses paid “rest and relaxation” respites.
Parts of the Central Business District and the Warehouse district have power, according to Dan Packer, president and chief executive officer of Entergy New Orleans. He said he hoped to have entire CBD lit up in the next couple of days. Algiers could have power in the next 36 hours, Packer said.
Emergency response numbersThe Louisiana State Police has set up seven phone numbers for emergency response and recovery calls in the New Orleans region. Anyone with information about people stranded in the area may call the following numbers:
Briefing pointsState officials included the following information as part of their morning briefing:
- Hurricane Katrina's official death toll remains at 71.
- The Louisiana Hospital Association has set up an information line and a Web site for patients and staff evacuated from New Orleans hospitals: wwww.lhaonline.org or 225-928-0026.
- The Louisiana Department of Education reports that six of the nine schools in Plaquemines Parish are underwater, but officials are hoping to have them up and running again in one month.
- In St. Bernard Parish, nearly every school remains underwater, or experienced severe flooding from Katrina. They are not expected to re-open this school year. Daily updates are available at www.louisianaschools.net.
- Katrina displaced approximately 79,000 students from public and private colleges and universities in Louisiana.
- At least 11,500 evacuees are being sheltered at public colleges and universities in the state. Many colleges are also providing food and housing for rescue workers.
- Work on the Algiers Point ferry and landing was completed Tuesday morning, making it available to move equipment and supplies between the east and west banks of the Mississippi River.
Jeff schools: First damage reportSixteen Jefferson Parish public schools are usable, eight have isolated damage and six have major damage from Hurricane Katrina, according to the first assessment by school system officials.
The assessments are cursory and won’t be verified until extensive inspections are made. The other 54 schools have yet to be examined.
Superintendent Diane Roussel posted these details Monday on the state Department of Education’s website:
“Of the 84 school facilities, the following observations have been made. These observations will not be conclusive until actual walk-throughs are completed once utilities are restored.
“Preliminary reviews are:
“16 Schools are in usable condition
“ 8 Schools are in usable condition with isolated problems
“These 2 categories bring to 24 the number of schools which are usable or partly usable
“6 Additional schools appear to have significant damage, thus making a total of 30 schools which have been preliminarily assessed
“54 Schools are of unknown status
“Of the 4 administrative offices buildings:
“1 Office building has significant damage
“1 Office building has isolated damage
“2 Office buildings are of unknown status
“A property preservation team is rapidly being assembled to prevent further damage to buildings. The city of Gretna, through the efforts of board member Mark Morgan, has agreed to house and feed this team.
“Attached is a delineated preliminary status report on Jefferson Parish Public School System facilities.
“A meeting of the school board is scheduled at the Claiborne Education Building in Baton Rouge on Wednesday, September 7, 2005 at noon. The entire agenda is devoted to school system issues created by Hurricane Katrina.
“Diane Roussel, PhD
“Jefferson Parish Public Schools
“Current contact information:
“Preliminary school status as per Board Members Gene Katsanis, Judy Colgan, Mark Morgan, and David Taylor, Assistant Superintendent of Facilities
“Of the 84 Jefferson Parish Public Schools, the following appear to be usable:
“1. Birney Elementary School
“2. Audubon Elementary School
“3. Alexander Elementary School
“4. Maggiore Elementary School
“5. Schneckenberger Elementary School
“6. Roosevelt Middle School
“7. Ellis Elementary School
“8. Adams Middle School
“9. Bissonet Plaza Elementary School
“10. Metairie Academy Elementary School
“11. Haynes Academy Middle School
“12. Ella Dolhonde Elementary School
“13. Jefferson Elementary School
“14. Gretna Middle School
“15. Gretna # 2 Kindergarten
“16. West Jefferson High School
“The following schools appear to be usable with isolated problems:
“1. Riverdale Middle School (a tree fell on the 7th grade building)
“2. Middleton Elementary School (gym/shed destroyed)
“3. Hart Elementary School (air conditioner on roof put a hole in the roof causing a classroom to be wet)
“4. McDonogh 26 Elementary School (water in the cafeteria)
“5. Chateau Elementary School (small protion of the roof is missing)
“6. King High School (gym roof is missing)
“7. Meisler Middle School (gym roof damaged)
“8. Clancy Elementary School (some roof damage to new pre-K building)
“The following schools appear to have significant damage:
“1. East Jefferson High School (extensive roof damage)
“2. Bonnabel High School (extensive roof damage to 100, 700, and 800 buildings)
“3. Thomas Jefferson Academy-currently under construction for conversion to a magnet high school (severe roof and water damage)
“4. Woodmere Elementary School (water and wind damage)
“5. Solis Elementary School (significant wind damage)
“6. Terrytown Elementary School (significant wind damage)
“Known damage to administrative office buildings is:
“1. Administration Building on Manhattan Boulevard ( significant roof and water damage)
“2. Warehouse/Administrative Annex on River Road (isolated significant roof and window damage)”
Contamination risk updatedLouisiana officials said the floodwaters in the New Orleans region certainly carry a risk of disease, but said until results from testing of air and water quality come in it is too early to declare the area toxic.
"It's a bit exaggerated," said Mike McDaniel, the secretary of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality on Tuesday morning in Baton Rouge. "When I hear 'toxic stew,' it sounds like instant death going in there. Let's get some better information before we cause" people to worry.
But McDaniel ticked off a long list of hazardous materials that officials know are in the water, and an even longer list of chemicals they expect to find in the floodwaters: oil, gasoline, pesticides, human waste, and bacteria.
Railroad cars are submerged. Containers of fuel remain in the city. And state officials said there is no choice but to pump the floodwaters back into the lake and river.
"We have to get the water out of the city or the nightmare gets worse," McDaniel said.
Nature has a way of restoring itself over a period of time, McDaniel added.
Environmental officials are concerned about possible radioactive materials unleashed during during the storm.
The region has 2,200 facilities with undergound fuel storage tanks, with an average of three at each site.
The city has had no toilet facilities to handle human waste since the storm struck over a week ago. The battered region has between 140,000 and 160,000 flooded homes and more than 500 sewage treatment plants that are inoperable.
McDaniel said, along with 25 major sewage treatment plants that need examination.
There are an additional 35 "intermediate" sized sewage treatment plants possibly submerged and 470 minor plants. Not all of the treatment centers are damaged, but some are backed up or underwater.
"There is a disease risk," McDaniel said of the floodwaters. "I think it's a little overkill to be calling it toxic. We will have that information in about two days."
"Initial indications are that they are showing large numbers of contaminants," McDaniel said. "We are taking samples to look at other sort of contaminations. We expect you're going to see quantities of fuel and gasoline. There are sheens wherever you look."
The Environmental Protection Agency is handling such testing, McDaniel said.
Anyone with reports of possible hazards in the region is asked to call the state Department of Environmental Quality at 225-342-1234 or toll-free at 1-888-763-5424.
Environmental officials are also confronting the problem of disposing solid waste - an estimated 60,000- 90,000 tons of which could result from Katrina once demolition and disposal begins of the homes, boats, railcars and other structures damaged beyond repair by the storm. McDaniel said there are several "sensitive issues" to be addressed, such as how and where to dispose of wood that's infested with Formosan termites.
"It is almost unimaginable the things we're going to have to plan for and deal with," McDaniel said.
McDaniel said slow progress is being made to control two major oil spills caused by Katrina: 68,000 barrels that have leaked from Bass Enterprises in Venice, and about 10,000 barrels that have leaked from Murphy Oil Refinery in Meraux.
McDaniel said the Venice spill appears to be spreading toward the Gulf of Mexico, while a contractor hired by Murphy Oil Co. is still trying to get its equipment in place to begin clean-up of a spill that was drifting into a neighborhood west of the flooded plant on Sunday.
-Gwen Filosa and Jan Moller, capital bureau
Hotel taxes forgiven, other taxes extendedBy Ed Anderson
Hurricane Katrina evacuees forced to stay in Louisiana hotels and motels will not have to pay the 4 percent state sales taxes on their room bills, state officials said Tuesday.
Secretary of Revenue Cynthia Bridges said the state has issued an emergency rule forgiving the hotel-motel taxes for persons who fled the 31 parishes declared disaster areas by President Bush.
She said she did not know if local governments will forgive the sales tax for evacuees. If an evacuated family has already paid the taxes they can contact the hotel or motel for a refund.
The suspension of the 4 percent states sales tax is retroactive to Aug. 27, Bridges said.
She said that hotels have been told not to include the sales taxes on bills as of Tuesday. The displaced individuals must provide proof that they live in the affected area and a statement that they were forced to take shelter because of the storm.
For more information call 225-219-2780.
Bridges said those in the hurricane area who bought uninsured personal items, such as microwave ovens, clothing, boats and other items as of Aug, 27 can also claim a refund from the state on sales taxes paid on the items.
Bridges said that tax deadlines for those who have to file tax estimates, income and other taxes have also been extended.
The deadline for sales tax returns from businesses, due Sept. 30, will be extended to Oct. 30, she said.
Income taxes and tax estimates due in September can be paid in October, and a 60-day extension has been granted to pay other taxes that would be due Aug. 30 through Sept. 30.
LSU medical schools to resume classes in B.R.From temporary headquarters at the LSU System Office in Baton Rouge,
LSU Health Sciences Center at New Orleans is finalizing plans to resume
classes in its health professions schools. LSU officials are finalizing housing arrangements for faculty and students. Classes in both the schools of medicine and dentistry (the only dental school in Louisiana) are scheduled to begin at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center and other locations in the Baton Rouge area on Sept. 26.
The School of Graduate Studies is working to restart its Interdisciplinary and
Biostatistics programs in mid-September once necessary faculty have arrived in Baton Rouge. The schools of Allied Health Professions, Nursing, and Public Health are developing plans as well.
For more information, visit the LSUHSC Web site at www.lsuhsc.edu or call
Floodwaters carry risk, but too soon to call it 'toxic' DEQ saysLouisiana officials said the floodwaters in the New Orleans region certainly carry a risk of disease, but said until results from testing of air and water quality come in it is too early to declare the area toxic.
"It's a bit exaggerated," said Mike McDaniel, the secretary of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality on Tuesday morning in Baton Rouge. "When I hear 'toxic stew,' it sounds like instant death going in there. Let's get some better information before we cause" people to worry.
But McDaniel ticked off a long list of hazardous materials that officials know are in the water, and an even longer list of chemicals they expect to find in the floodwaters: oil, gasoline, pesticides, human waste, and bacteria. Railroad cars are submerged. Containers of fuel remain in the city.
And state officials said there is no choice but to pump the floodwaters back into the lake and river.
"We have to get the water out of the city or the nightmare gets worse," McDaniel said.
Nature has a way of restoring itself over a period of time, McDaniel added.
Environmental officials are concerned about possible radioactive materials unleashed during during the storm. The region has 2,200 facilities with undergound fuel storage tanks, with an average of three at each site.
The city has had no toilet facilities to handle human waste since the storm struck over a week ago. The battered region has between 140,000 and 160,000 flooded homes and more than 500 sewage treatment plants that are inoperable,
McDaniel said, along with 25 major sewage treatment plants that need examination.
There are an additional 35 "intermediate" sized sewage treatment plants possibly submerged, as well as 470 minor plants. Not all of the treatment centers are damaged, but some are backed up or underwater.
"There is a disease risk," McDaniel said of the floodwaters. "I think it's a little overkill to be calling it toxic. We will have that information in about two days."
"Initial indications are that they are showing large numbers of contaminants," McDaniel said. "We are taking samples to look at other sortof contaminations. We expect you're going to see quantities of fuel and gasoline. There are sheens wherever you look."
The Environmental Protection Agency is handling such testing, McDaniel said.
Anyone with reports of possible hazards in the region is asked to call the state Department of Environmental Quality at 225-342-1234 or toll-free at 1-888-763-5424.
-Gwen Filosa, capital bureau
Jeff officials plot to drain parish; residents returnTuesday, noon
By Michelle Krupa
West Bank bureau
As Jefferson Parish residents eager to revisit their homes after Hurricane Katrina waited in miles of traffic before dawn today, portions of the parish that are drained by New Orleans pump stations remained underwater, officials said.
Jefferson leaders were working to truck in portable pumps to remove floodwater from neighborhoods bounded by Causeway Boulevard, the Orleans Parish line, Jefferson Highway and Metairie Road. It was unclear when the area, typically drained by New Orleans' Pump Station No. 6, would be dry.
Residents returning to their homes were asked to bury spoiled meat, poultry and seafood somewhere on their property rather than bagging it with other trash, parish officials said. All other garbage should be bagged and set at the curb, they said. A schedule for trash collection by Waste Management had not been established yet.
Parish President Aaron Broussard reminded residents that few stores and gas stations were expected to be open today. He suggested those returning bring with them cash, bottled water, cameras for insurance documentation, prescription drugs, cleaning supplies, plastic bags, rubber gloves and batteries.
Conditions are primitive and uncomfortable, he said.
Jefferson residents with identification will be allowed to return to the parish from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. today, Wednesday and Thursday. Those who leave the parish after 6 p.m. Thursday will not be allowed to return until an undetermined future date.
Those driving back into the parish can use the following routes:
- I-49 south to U.S. 90
- I-90 east o U.S. 51 to U.S. 61 south
- I-10 east to U.S. 51 south to U.S. 61 south to 310 south to U.S. 90 east
- I-55 south to U.S. 51 south to U.S. 61 south
- I-55 south to U.S. 51 south to U.S. 61 south to 310 south to U.S. 90 east
The Red Cross is distributing food in Jefferson Parish at the following sites:
- A & P Shopping Center, Carol Sue Avenue and Terry Parkway, Terrytown
- Harvey Fire Station No. 61, 639 Maple St., Harvey
- L.W. Higgins High School, 7201 Lapalco Boulevard, Marrero
- Sam's Club, 3900 Airline Drive, Metairie
- East Jefferson High School, 400 Phlox Avenue, Metairie
- Grace King High School, 4301 Grace King Place, Metairie
- Home Depot, 2625 Veterans Boulevard, Kenner
As the sun rose over Jefferson Parish's Emergency Operations Center in Marrero this morning, a haggard-looking Broussard quipped that since Katrina struck, his use of cutting-edge technology to run parish government has been replaced by a communications vacuum reminiscent of the Stone Age.
Broussard, who typically carries a cell phone, Blackberry device and has dozens of telephone and fax lines to keep in touch with his own employees and officials from other parishes and the state, said he "used to be a Jetson," recalling the 1960s-era futuristic cartoon.
"Now I'm a Flintstone," he said. "Now I"m a yabba-dabba-do."
Rental listingsProperty owners who want to list rental apartments or houses in areas with hurricane evacuees can list the properties on www.hurricanehousing.net.
Renters looking for temporary or long-term housing outside of the areas hit by Hurricane Katrina will be able to search the site for housing, according to the
Louisiana REALTORS, the real-estate association that set up the site. The seven states where rental properties will be listed are Louisiana, Mississippi,
Alabama, Florida, Texas, Arkansas and Georgia.
Chalmette Refining statement to employeesTuesday, 11 a.m.
Chalmette Refining requests that all employees affected by Hurricane Katrina
contact the Employee Assistance Line at 1-877-294-8617. Additional information can also be found at www.exxonmobil.com/ER/Katrina.asp.
The Chalmette refinery, in a news release, said it is committed to restoring operations in St. Bernard Parish as soon as possible.
"Our focus remains to be the safety and well being of our employees and
their families who are dealing personally with the effects of Katrina and we
are supporting our employees and their families through salary continuation
and providing a temporary living supplement while our employees are re-
establishing their community,'' the news release said.
Benefit concerts in Texas, ColoradoTuesday, 11 a.m.
By Christine Lacoste Bordelon
HOUSTON -- Joining colleagues in the entertainment business aiding Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, the Dave Matthews Band has donated $100,000 from its Monday concert at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion at The Woodlands, about 45 miles outside of Houston.
Concert-goers also had the opportunity to give contributions at four tables erected throughout the amphitheatre, said Jerry MacDonald, president
and CEO of the pavilion.
MacDonald said band members wanted to do something to help the thousands of New Orleans area evacuees now in Houston. They earmarked their donation for the Houston Food Bank.
“We, the Dave Matthews Band, applaud the State of Texas and the City of Houston for all of their efforts in aiding the victims of this terrible disaster. We encourage everyone attending our show on Monday to contribute whatever they can monetarily to assist in this endeavor. We are committed to raising a minimum of $100,000 in contributions to support the Houston Food Bank.”
Hayward Sparks, secretary of the board of directors for the Houston Food Bank thanked concert-goers and the band for their donations.
“These donations will greatly help the victims of Hurricane Katrina adjust to their temporary life in Houston,” Sparks said.
In the past three days, the Houston Food Bank has distributed 1 million pounds of food. For every $1 donated, the Houston Food Bank can provide $25 in food, as a result of its relationships with their corporate partners.
Donations will go directly to help those from Hurricane Katrina now at the Astrodome, Reliant Center, Reliant Arena, George R. Brown Convention Center and other shelters throughout the Houston area.
The Dave Matthews Band also will play a benefit concert for the victims of Katrina on Sept. 12 at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado. Tickets for
the show go on sale Wednesday via Ticketmaster. General admission
tickets cost $58.50 with a limited number of VIP tickets available, according to the band’s website. Ticketmaster and Dave Matthews Band's direct ticketing company, Musictoday, will donate applicable services charges.
For the past several years, the band has donated a portion of concert ticket sales to charity through its Bama Works Foundation, a band-founded organization that distributes funds to non-profit groups.
(To make a donation to the food bank, visit www.houstonfoodbank.org)
Saints' Fielkow issues statementFielkow source of off-the-record comments
By Mike Triplett
SAN ANTONIO - Arnold Fielkow, the Saints' executive vice president of administration, issued a statement to the Times-Picayune on Monday to explain the intent of off-the-record statements he made to the newspaper, as well as a handful of other media outlets on Saturday.
Fielkow's statements, which he said were made with "much personal frustration" following a meeting with the team's top executives earlier that day, expressed concern that team owner Tom Benson was leaning toward playing all of the Saints' home games in San Antonio this year.
Fielkow, who feels strongly that the team should play as many games as logistically possible in Baton Rouge, said that he now believes the organization will indeed attempt to play several games at LSU's Tiger Stadium, if possible.
He also said that it is the "collective hope of our organization that Saints will return to New Orleans as soon as possible."
Fielkow said it was personally important to him to explain his position and hopefully put this issue behind him and the team, so they can move forward.
"I personally have just a great passion for our community and would like Saints football to be there for a long time," said Fielkow, who is in charge of the team's business operations, a consuming task that could be spread between Louisiana and San Antonio, which the Saints have made their base of operations for the rest of the season.
Most of Fielkow's statements Saturday were either attributed to a "source inside the organization" or used as background information. He was specifically identified by Sen. Mike Michot, R-Lafayette, as having told the senator that Benson was leaning strongly toward moving the Saints permanently toward San Antonio.
Fielkow was also identified by name Monday on the website profootballtalk.com as having made similar statements to WDSU-TV's Fletcher Mackel.
Fielkow was cited as the source who told the TV station that the Saints did not intend to offer refunds to season-ticket holders this year. However, Fielkow said Monday that the ticket matter has "since been clarified" and that fans will in fact "unequivocally" be able to receive refunds if unable to attend games.
After reports about Fielkow's statements surfaced on Saturday, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis stated a strong commitment to New Orleans and Louisiana during a Sunday evening press conference, saying a potential permanent move is "the farthest thing from any of our minds."
"We are still the New Orleans Saints," Loomis said, "and our commitment to our city is stronger than ever."
Following is Fielkow's statement, in its entirety:
"There have been several published reports regarding some statements attributed to me last week involving the Saints' move of its training base to San Antonio. I would like to clarify these statements and provide some background to them.
"These statements were made last Friday with much personal frustration following an organizational meeting held earlier that day. I participated in this meeting via conference call and left the meeting concerned that some wrong decisions may be made. The last week has been a trying time for our community, including everyone within the Saints organization, as we watched the terrible catastrophe which had befallen a city which my family and I love very much. I know how much the New Orleans Saints mean to our great city, state and region and it was important that right decisions be made in this time of crisis.
"During our meeting, I expressed a strong opinion that Saints home games, following the Giants game, should if logistically possible be played in Baton Rouge. This position was based upon the fact that it would be an uplifting item for our fan base, similar in many ways to how the New York Yankees became a sense of pride for our whole country after 9/11. We are working with the league and hope to announce shortly the location of our 2005 home games beginning in October. We are reviewing all options in conjunction with the league and are hopeful of playing several games in Baton Rouge this season. Further announcements on this subject will be forthcoming.
"It is the collective hope of our organization that Saints football will return to New Orleans as soon as possible and, as expressed by GM Mickey Loomis yesterday, that the Saints, both this year and in the future, can play a leading role in the rebuilding and revitalization of our community. This hope is shared by everyone within the Saints organization, including ownership, players, coaches and staff.
"I was further concerned during our meeting that a question existed as to whether refunds would be provided to season ticket holders unable to attend games this season. This matter has since been clarified and we will announce shortly our club's refund policy which will unequivocally provide our fans the ability to receive refunds if unable to attend games.
"The Saints will be playing this season for our great fans in New Orleans, the state of Louisiana and the entire Gulf South region. We hope the club's success will spread some joy to a fan base which has been devastated over the past week.
"These were the reference points for my statements last week. We all look forward to the start of a successful season this Sunday as we have much work to do over the next several months. We look forward to making 2005 a special season for all of our great fans."
For some who are flooded, refusals to be rescuedTuesday, 10:39 a.m.
By Brian Thevenot
Roosevelt Kyles came out of the front door of his flooded lower 9th ward home a Ziplock back full of medicine in his mouth and a dingy shirt in his hand, trying to keep both out of the chest-high water.
Kyles already had turned down two offers to take him to safety, the first time ignoring the teary pleas of his wife, who left without him. Across the street from his home, a bloated body floated near three homes that had gas leaks bubbling up through the flood waters.
Kyles tried to turn down yet another offer Sunday, negotiating with volunteer rescue workers to give him water instead of a ride to safety. He had run out of water and couldn't take the many medicines he needed to survive.
Volunteer worker Paul Washburn, 23, who had come in Saturday from Colorado, gave him an ultimatum: No water, unless you get in this boat.
"This is your final opportunity,'' Washburn said from the bow of one of the two boats on a rescue mission.
"OK. Let me get my pants,'' Kyles finally relented, before disappearing back into the house.
After heaving him onto the boat, Washburn grilled him about his many health conditions and recent surgeries and handed him bottles of warm Gatorade and water to drink. Kyles at one point seemed annoyed at the questions.
"Don't preach at me, man. I took my medicines a while ago,'' Kyles said.
The rescue operations that continued in the lower 9th Ward took a grim and bizarre turn on Sunday and Monday, as volunteer boats slowly navigated polluted waters listening intently for screams over the roar of passing helicopters.
Some, like Kyles, didn't want to be saved at all, apparently in the belief that they could survive until the flood waters receded.
"It's not going to be a week - that water won't go down for a month,'' Washburn shouted to Kyles through his screened porch.
Just before picking up Kyles, the team of two rescue boats had seen another man in a wrecked tan apartment complex.
"We're coming to get you! Wait there!" yelled New Orleans Police Officer Mike Stalbert of the 3rd District Taskforce.
"I don't want to go," the man yelled back, before disappearing behind the graffiti-covered second story walls, refusing to answer any more of the rescuers' pleas.
The scene baffled one of the boat's drivers, Howard Johnston of Baton Rouge.
"Anybody who would just sit there and hid like that has to be a little off," he said.
Yet refusals of rescue efforts have not been at all uncommon.
Whether out of shell shock, mental disease or a desire to protect what's left of their property, many trapped flood victims have refused help, rescue workers have reported all week.
Cut off from the flood of worldwide media reports about Hurricane Katrina, many also seem to believe that the waters would recede and their lives would go back normal.
Frist on New Orleans tripTuesday, 9:30 a.m.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said conditions at Armstrong International Airport improved drastically during his two-dy stay that ended on Sunday.
Frist, a physician who came to New Orleans as a medical volunteer, said conditions at the airport were worse than reported in the media when he arrived on Saturday. "People were suffering."
But Frist said by Sunday, the organization and communication among workers and officials at the airport were much better and the situation was greatly improved.
Frist, speaking Tuesday from Washington, D.C., urged residents and rescue workers to wash their hands regularly with clean water, and said he is concerned about a potential outbreak of disesases such as cholera, dysentery and typhoid, as well as West Nile and other mosquito-borne illnesses.
He said he is particularly concerned about people who remained in their homes with no access to water or other things to drink.
"They are tempted to drink that very, very dirty sewer water."
Frist would not say if he believed FEMA Director Mike Williams should be fired. But he did say that merely changing where in federal government the department could be shifted, or firing a few or even a lot of the officials at FEMA, are not the ultimate answers.
He said fixing how the organiazation communicates and is organized are among the comprehensive changes that are needed.
Tulane optimismTuesday, 9:05 a.m.
Tulane University President Scott Cowen said Tuesday morning that officials at the school share a single mission.
"Our entire focus now is on rebuilding Tulane University," he said. As the largest employer in Orleans Parish, Cowen said it is important for a number of different reasons for the university to re-emerge.
"We are bound and determined to rebuild Tulane and become a beacon of light for all to see," he said.
Nagin on clean up and death tollTuesday, 8:40 a.m.
Mayor Ray Nagin said Tuesday morning he wants to have the standing water in the city tested to determine its toxicity and repeated earlier statements that he expects a death toll that will "shock the nation."
Nagin said he suspects the death toll will be in the thousands and that a computer model has estimated 10,000 people died in the storm.
He also reiterated the time frame on some of the monumental clean-up and repair tasks in the city.
Nagin estimated it will take 3 weeks to clear out the water and then a couple more weeks to clean up the debris. After that, he said it would take about 6 to 8 weeks to get the electricity going.
And Nagin said he remains confident about the future of the city.
Not only is the city unique, but the people of the area are unlike residents anywhere else in the country - people who love the city and will do all they can to return.
"It will be a better new, New Orleans," he said.
A tour of East JeffersonTuesday, 7:40 a.m.
By Bob Ross
A ride through sections of East Jefferson on Monday revealed widespread wind damage, water down in most areas and - on the first day the area was opened for residents to check their property - more and more vehicles.
Many of the larger streets in East Jefferson - Veterans Boulevard, West Esplanade Avenue, West Napoleon Avenue among others - were clear of most debris.
On those large streets, parts of East Jefferson didn't look that much different than on any Monday. Flooding was more difficult to assess in areas where water had receded and not enough residents had return for carpets to be visible on front lawns.
But a closer look revealed plenty of clues to the devastation that had hit a week earlier.
Many billboards were unable to withstand the winds of Katrina. For some, the billboard itself had been torn off. On others, the metal structure of the billboard itself was bent, sometimes collapsing completely.
The damage also was visible on large signs for businesses. In the middle of a U-turn on West Esplanade Avenue near Clearview Parkway, a large sign for a nearby Shell station lay on the ground, more than 200 yards from the station.
Up and down Veterans, scattered light to moderate damage could be seen on dozens of businesses.
And every now and then, more serious roof damage or a tree into a building could be seen.
The damage was more obvious on side streets that haven't yet been cleared.
In northern Metairie, streets like Cleveland Place and James Drive were often unpassable because of trees and tree limbs, power poles and power lines.
On these blocks and others between Power Boulevard and Transcontinental Drive, hundreds of trees and power poles are in the streets. The majority of the fallen trees - some so huge they also uprooted huge sections of yards and sidewalks as well - did not hit structures.
But for the ones that did - maybe 2 out of 10 in this area - the damage was significant. And across the street from 4812 Cleveland Place, the remains of a home smoldered on Monday. Residents said the fire raged on Sunday but did not spread to nearby houses.
Some minor roof damage was reported at Lakeside Shopping Center, but otherwise, the facility withstood the storm well. At Clearview Shopping Center, a collapsed brick wall was visible in the shopping center parking lot and some of the facade and signs of businesses in the center were damage. But the damage did not appear to be serious.
Businesses and homes on David Drive from West Metairie to Veterans Boulevard had scattered roof damage, but efvery now and then more significant damage was visible. At a Subway store at 3113 David Drive, half of a large billboard fell into the middle of the store, like a knife cutting through a stick of butter.
Jefferson Highway also was clear of debris, but some water was still on streets north of the highway, where many large trees were on the ground and on some homes and driving was a difficult, almost impossible proposition at times.
And significant water could still be seen on Monday. From the Causeway overpass above Airline Drive, water - at least 2 to 3 feet - filled the street and was visible as far as the eye could see.
Most of Old Metairie also had standing water. For example, Bonnabel Boulevard was clear all the way to Metairie Road, but just a block or two into several of the side streets revealed standing water.
Bob Ross can be reached at email@example.com
A tale of two survivorsTuesday, 6:30 a.m.
By Bob Ross
Monday was the day many Jefferson Parish residents returned to their homes and businesses, battered a week earlier by Hurricane Katrina.
But for some, it was just another day to continue to cope with the aftermath of the brutal storm.
The stories of Charles St. Romain and Abdelaziz Hammad illustrated the wide range of how Katrina treated East Jefferson residents.
St. Romain, who lives on Giuffrias Avenue just south of Interstate 10 and near Cleary Avenue, had virtually no damage from the hurricane.
A couple of miles away on Green Acres Street, just north of Veterans Boulevard, Hammad had one of the largest trees in his neighborhood through two different parts of his badly damaged home.
Hammad, an engineer who has his own business in downtown New Orleans, had been in the house only about a month.
His wife and their five children, ages 8 to 20, evacuated to Memphis before the storm hit. Hammad stayed to secure the house and headed toward Texas the night before the storm hit, but as Katrina moved inland, he headed back to the neighborhood.
The first day, he stayed in his car on the interstate near Clearview.
"There was water everywhere," he said. "Behind you there is water, in front of you there is water and still the wind was almost enough to knock you down. It was scary."
He returned to find the huge oak tree in front of his house uprooted. The tree slammed into the front corner of his house, peeling away a wall and exposing one of the bedrooms that two of his children shared.
Another huge branch pierced through the roof into a bathroom in the center of the home, where pink insulated fills the bathtub. About two inches of water initially flooded the house; more comes in every time it rains.
Hammad sat on the front steps of his house, under the shade provided by the huge tree that also ripped up a huge, circular section of the lawn and large chunks of the sidewalk, a dazed look on his face.
"At least my family is safe," he said.
Back on Giuffrias Avenue, the situation couldn't be more different for St. Romain.
While his wife and daugheter evacuated, St. Romain and his son, Charles II, rode out the storm.
"Let's face it," he said. "Nobody thought it would be as bad as it was. I just have so much invested here, I could not leave."
The winds howled and knocked down trees and power poles nearby, while the water rose to his porch but did not get into his home. But St. Romain, 64, had no flooding.
For the next couple of days, he and his son shared a generator with a friend a couple of streets away, each keeping a refrigerator and some other appliances running for a couple of hours and then driving over to the other to switch off.
Then on Thursday, something unexpected happened.
St. Romain said he was talking to his wife at 5:15 p.m. - he remembers the time exactly - when power went on in his home.
"I just told my wife that I couldn't believe it," he said, still shaking his head four days later at his good fortune. "We got everything - we got all the utility and running water."
Neighbors speculated the power, which turned on for a handful on one side of Giuffrias and on some other streets nearby, came from a grid shared with East Jefferson General Hospital.
Romain said he is aware that his situation is drastically different from what most who remained in their homes are experiencing and feels for the thousands who lost everything.
He says that in comparison to so many: "We're living like kings."