St. Charles Parish Up and Running

Thursday, Sept. 8, 2005 10 p.m.

By Jenny Hurwitz
River Parishes Bureau
As of Thursday, the overwhelming majority of St.
Charles Parish residents that evacuated in the wake of
Hurricane Katrina had returned home, and local
government was up and running, according to parish
“We feel really good about our recovery efforts,” said
Tab Troxler, director of the parish’s emergency
Based on water consumption, about 90 percent of
parish residents are back, and industries are
reporting between 95 and 100 percent attendance,
Troxler said.
He estimated that most parish residents would see
major improvements in garbage pick-up, storm debris
removal and wastewater leakage by Sunday.
Troxler said that the parish is approaching the
mounting garbage problem using a combination of parish
workers and contractors. The parish’s garbage
collector, Waste Management, suffered from damaged
capabilities due to the storm, he said.
Earlier in the week, Parish President Albert Laque
signed a contract with the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers to clear fallen branches and other storm
debris, he said.
The corps will absorb the cost of clearing the debris,
not the parish, Troxler said.
The local parish government is also resuming a
semblance of normalcy, as the Parish Council met
Tuesday night for its regularly scheduled meeting,
Troxler said. The council convened in the courtroom
adjacent to the council chambers, which had been
damaged during the hurricane.
Sheriff Greg Champagne announced a mandatory curfew
for the parish on Thursday from 10:00 p.m. to 5:00
a.m. until further notice. Violators could face a $500
fine or six months in jail. Businesses may stay open
without restriction during this time.

New Orleans city workers get paid

Thursday, 9:37 p.m.

All New Orleans city employees with direct deposit received their regular pay as scheduled on Sept. 2, Mayor Ray Nagin's press office said Thursday.

City employees and retirees who normally receive paper payroll checks or paper retirement checks should contact the City at 1-866-793-2427 or via the City's website,

After providing contact information, arrangements will made for these employees to access their payroll funds through the use of City of New Orleans payroll cards. The payroll cards can be used at any Chase Bank or Chase Bank affiliate ATM to withdraw cash without service charges.

Governor, White House detail response

Thursday, 9:35 p.m.

By Jan Moller and Robert Travis Scott
Capital Bureau

BATON ROUGE - As it became clear last week that the devastation from Hurricane Katrina required far more help than state and local authorities could provide, Gov. Kathleen Blanco and other state officials began pleading for more help from the federal government.

But substantial active-duty U.S. Army deployments didn't arrive until a week after the storm, a fact that might turn out to be one of the enduring controversies about the state and national response to one of the deadliest and most costly events in American history.

Earlier this week, Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, who commands Joint Task Force Katrina, said search-and-rescue is the top priority for the 7,000 active-duty forces ordered to Louisiana by President Bush on Saturday. Yet the vast majority of the rescue effort was conducted by state and local authorities, volunteers with flat-bottomed boats that could access the narrow streets where flood victims were stranded on roofs and attics, and by the Louisiana National Guard.

“We pulled out 250,000 people before the Army got here,”said Sam Jones, a former mayor of Franklin who now serves as a senior adviser to Blanco and helped organize the boat-rescue operation. “By Thursday (after the storm), we knew we'd turned a corner.”

Despite the presence of 5,700 guard troops and assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard, Navy helicopters and other military assets, who were deployed in advance of Katrina and in its immediate aftermath ,state and local officials agree there was a need throughout the week for more troops to aid in search and rescue operations, provide food and other assistance and restore order in a city beset by looting and violence.

Blanco spokeswoman Denise Bottcher said the situation was so dire that the need for Army support was obvious. New Orleans was like a dying man who needed CPR, she said, and shouldn't have to ask for help.

State officials of both parties remain frustrated by the delays in getting federal forces. A review of records and interviews with state, White House and military officials revealed contentious negotiations and apparent miscommunication between the two sides as they tried to cope with a disaster that presented unexpected challenges each day.

Blanco administration officials said the governor spoke twice with the president - once on Sunday morning, in the hours before Katrina made landfall - and again three days later on Wednesday morning after the storm. In both telephone conversations, according to Blanco and her senior aides, the governor asked Bush for increased federal help

“I asked him to send me everything he's got,” Blanco said she told Bush in their first conversation,. In their second conversation, Blanco was more specific, saying the state needed 40,000 troops to restore order and complete the search and rescue mission.

But state officials acknowledge that the governor never directly asked for active-duty troops in her phone conversations with Bush. Bottcher said the governor was prepared to accept any combination of Guardsmen and regular Army troops, as long as there were enough numbers to calm the city and complete the rescue effort.

The subject of active-duty troops did not come up until a face-to-face meeting on Air Force One on Sept. 2, when Blanco and Bush spent about 45 minutes meeting behind closed doors. But the president's order to deploy was not made until the following day, and in the meantime the White House and the Blanco administration tussled over who would ultimately be in charge of the rescue effort.

A Bush administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the delay in ordering active-duty forces occurred because the regular Army had to wait for Guard units to be in place before they could deploy.

But Lt. Col. Pete Schneider, a spokesman for the Louisiana National Guard, said, “I don't know how that has anything to do with it.”ť

By law, federal troops are not allowed to engage in law-enforcement, which makes the Guard the logical first-responder in times of crisis.

The White House official said Bush's mobilization order on Saturday came at the appropriate time given the sequence of the various military mobilizations. The official said the prolonged dispute over lines of authority “obviously.. caused some problems,” but said the disagreement in no way affected the speed at which the Army forces were deployed.

A senior official with the U.S. military said from the Army's point of view, the president's order is the only criteria for deploying soldiers, whether or not Guardsmen are in place.

Blanco said earlier this week that she fears the conflict over lines of authority wasted valuable time that she and her staff could have better spent addressing other issues, possibly slowing the relief effort. “It’s just a paper war, that's all it is,” she said. “This is about the silliest argument that I can think of.”

Following the meeting on Air Force One, the White House sent Blanco a proposed memorandum of understanding late Friday night that she was urged to sign right away, according to the governor. The memo would have taken the rare step of putting Honore in charge of both the Guardsmen and the active-duty military units while answering to both the president and Blanco, known in the military as dual-reporting.

But Blanco, after meetings by her staff that consumed much of Friday night and Saturday morning, declined to sign the memo and opted to preserve her authority of the Guard forces, which by then numbered more than 13,000. Blanco said she did not want to undermine the authority of Maj. Gen. Bennett Landreneau, who heads the Louisiana National Guard and oversees the Guard troops who have arrived from other states.

“The problem with the offer (to federalize) was that when the question was asked, 'How does this make things better?' the question was never answered,” said one state official who attended meetings about the issue but asked to remain anonymous because he does not have authority to speak for the governor.

As relief efforts are ramping up rapidly, with more than 18,000 Guard troops from 29 states in Louisiana and about 18,000 active-duty military spread across the gulf Coast, the delay remains mystifying to some of the local rescue workers who struggled against impossible obstacles to keep people alive at makeshift shelters where conditions deteriorated with each passing hour.

Dr. Gregory Henderson, a pathologist at Ochsner Clinic Foundation who helped set up a makeshift medical clinic at the French Quarter Bar last week, said he will never understand why help wasn't more forthcoming.

In a brief interview outside the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center Wednesday, where he was tending to evacuees, Henderson said:

“That's going to be, at the end of the day, the great mystery.”

Katrina death toll now at 118

There are 118 people who have been confirmed to have
died as a result of Hurricane Katrina, the state
Department of Health and Hospitals announced Thursday

Sixty-seven of the dead are currently at the
Federal Emergency Management Agency's mortuary that
was set up in St. Gabriel. The others were released to
local coroners, according to a news release.

The last death count released by the state pegged the
loss at 83 people, although state and local officials
have both said they believe those numbers will grow
into the thousands.

A private firm, Kenyon Worldwide Disaster Management,
has been hired by FEMA to coordinate the recovery of
bodies in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard and
Plaquemines parishes.

People who fear that a family member might have died
during the storm can call a new toll-free line set up
by the state. That number is 1-866-326-9393.

Troops order citizens to leave city

By Bruce Nolan
Staff writer
Troops continued to go door-to-door in New Orleans Thursday, urging the last of the stubborn, the skeptical and the eccentric to get out of a crippled, once magnificently pungent city formerly filled with their kind.
As they did Wednesday, armed military and police pounded on doors and served notice that the last of an estimated 10,000 inhabitants now have to leave the wreckage of a city that two weeks ago contained 480,000 souls.
Some of those they encountered were tired, beaten and ready to come out. Many more apparently were self-selected survivalists: determined not to let go of what little was certain in their lives in exchange for so much uncertainty ahead.
“I got my own place,” said a defiant Robert Thomas in the city’s historic Treme neighborhood. “I ain’t sharing it with no freaking body.” If he agreed to leave the city, “Where the hell I’m gonna be after that?”
“They are trying to get this neighborhood for the rich people,” said a man calling himself Chief Al sitting on a stoop at St. Claude Avenue and St. Phillip Street.
Yet there were no reports of what police and military authorities have promised since mid-week: that soon stern encouragement will shift to evacuation by force.
Kansas National Guard Maj. Gen Ron Mason said the National Guard helped bring out more than 650 willing people between Wednesday and Thursday morning from neighborhoods ravaged by flooding from Hurricane Katrina Aug. 29.
In many ways, Thursday seemed to be a day of small victories: Water continued to drain away. Some downtown hotels struggled toward life. A weak but discernible commercial pulse began to beat in the city’s suburbs.
In Baton Rouge, officials closed the makeshift hospital that sprung up on the floor of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center at Louisiana State University. In 10 days volunteer doctors and nurses treated 6,000 debilitated patients rushed by helicopter and ambulance from New Orleans area rooftops and other places.
Water levels continued to recede around the metropolitan area. Some drained through gaps deliberately punched in levees, sluicing back into surrounding waterways that have fallen back to pre-storm levels. In addition the region’s pumping capacity, still a feeble remnant of its original power, continued to suck at stagnant standing water.
St. Bernard Parish officials reported two feet of water remaining in the government center in Chalmette, which once was flooded up to the second floor.
However, fires continued to break out, although in fewer number. Fire Supt. Charles Parent said three unidentified multi-story buildings burned down at Dillard University on Wednesday.
The day saw 11 fires, six of which were inaccessible from the ground, said Parent.
Yet in the context of the horrors of the last week, 11 fires was a good day, he said. Firefighters were heartened by the fact that water pressure has begun to return for the first time, said Parent.
Still, there were intimations that the dreadful next phase, that of body recovery, is coming nearer.
Bob Johannessen, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Hospitals, said officials have 25,000 body bags on hand. “We don’t know what to expect,” he said.
Teams set up body recovery points in St. Bernard Parish and at the intersection of I-10 and 1-610. Bodies would be carefully logged in, personal effects catalogued and the precise global posititioning coordinates of their places of recovery carefully recorded.
They are to be shifted to a special federal emergency mortuary in St.. Gabriel, where sophisticated techniques would be deployed to make an identification.
Authorities said it promised to be daunting: Many bodies have decomposed. Many were too poor to have dental records useful in identification. Many belong to families who will have to be found after being scattered in haste across the country.
Jefferson Parish Emergency Operations Director Walter Maestri estimated Hurricane Katrina may have killed 200 there.
Many bodies may be trapped in the poor, blue-collar subdivision of Lincolnshire and Westminster in Marrero. Water rose to four feet in those areas, where many residents did not have the means to evacuate, he said.
Crews may begin body retrieval Friday and Saturday in Marrero and in flooded neighborhoods around Airline Drive, he said.
In a nationally televised speech President Bush promised to cut through red tape to rush relief to New Orleans and the Mississippi and Alabama Gulf Coasts.
"The government is going to be with you for the long haul," he said.
U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, told WWL television rebuilding the city could cost more than $200 billion. “It’s important to talk about the big number up front,” he said.
The president asked that Sept. 16 be treated as a national day of prayer and remembrance.
Vice President Dick Cheney visited the area. He toured the flooded Lakeview neighborhood with Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Sen. David Vitter, R-La. He said he was impressed with the Army Corps of Engineers’ repair work at the breeched 17th St. Canal. He said new taxes are not the answer to billions in relief the region will require.
In Kenner, the New Orleans City Council granted Mayor Ray Nagin unprecedented emergency spending and borrowing power to deal with the crisis.
Five council members – all but Councilmen Jay Batt and Eddie Sapir – convened its first post-Katrina meeting at Louis Armstrong International Airport, a city-owned outpost outside the city in Kenner. Sapir was en route back to the city from out of town, and Batt had already scheduled a conflicting caravan back to his partially flooded

The council suspended normal waiting periods and slashed at other procedural safeguards to give Nagin more executive power. Three council members disclosed that they had lost their homes. Councilwoman Cynthia Willard-Lewis said her brother, Elliot Willard Jr., is missing.
Council members made clear they expect to see local businesses and local residents drafted into the rebuilding effort facing the city – the better to rebuild its middle class.
“Don’t pimp us,” Council President Oliver Thomas warned. “Help us rebuild.”
As he spoke, workers at major downtown hotels like the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, the Windsor Court and the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel hustled to bring them back into commerce, perhaps as housing centers for relief crews and construction workers.

“We’ll be up in a couple of weeks,” said Kevin Ryan, regional vice president of operations for Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc., which owns the Sheraton. “We want to get people back to work and make sure we rebuild the city as fast as we can.”

St. Tammany Parish President Kevin Davis said up to 60,000 displaced residents are free to return beginning Friday, although many will have to show identification before being admitted to damaged neighborhoods.
Thousands of homes in flood-damaged Slidell are not yet fit for habitation, he said.
Davis said he has asked federal authorities for 20,000 housing units for homeless families.
But conditions generally are improving rapidly, Davis said. Power has been restored to a third of the parish and most roads are open. More businesses are coming back every day, he said.
In Jefferson Parish, isolated signs of life began to spread across the West Bank.
A few stores opened for business here and there west of the Harvey Canal. Three-fourths of Gretna reported it had electrical power. The sewerage treatment plant was working and the city had water, although a boil order was still in effect, said Police Chief Arthur Lawson.
Meantime, conditions are improving rapidly in Kenner and Harahan on the East Bank, Maestri said.
Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard said officials hoped to open the parish by Sept. 30; he and other parish officials urged residents to stay out, if possible.
Jefferson residents were allowed into the parish on a look-see basis earlier in the week. But Broussard said those electing to stay would not be forced out – although they faced hardships with widespread power outages, water that still must be made safe by boiling, shortages of food and gasoline and a generally shattered economy.
With reporting by Jarvis deBerry, Michele Krupa, Becky Mowbray, John Pope, Manuel Torres and the Associated Press.

Washington Parish battered, isolated

By Larua Maggi
Capital bureau

Unlike the dark, gray floodwaters farther south, the landscape on the way to rural Washington Parish is the usual green canvas of late summer in

But from the Black Hawk helicopter that brought Gov.
Kathleen Blanco to Bogalusa on Thursday, the force of
Hurricane Katrina’s Category 4 winds are clear. There
are thousands of knocked-over trees, many toppled into
the roofs of houses in this small city north of St.
Tammany Parish.

Arriving at the Washington Parish command center,
Blanco met with local officials, noting the
devastation that can be seen from the air. “I know the
power has been down and it has been rough,” she said.
“These folks have been fighting it out and feeling

State Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, said that his
parish had been cut off from the outside world since
the storm blew in, damaging an estimated 70 percent of
the houses east of Franklinton. The Federal Emergency
Management Agency hadn’t set up in Bogalusa until
Wednesday night, he said.

Instead the parish has depended on assistance from the
state, as well as two local companies that brought in
a lot of supplies. Without that help, thousands of
people would have had nothing to survive on, Nevers

In one well-off neighborhood that Blanco toured during
her 45-minute stop in Bogalusa, nearly every house had
a plastic tarp on the roof, where trees had fallen.
A volunteer chain-saw crew took more than two days to
cut through the debris to get out a leukemia patient
who had been trapped inside, said Sandy Bloom,
director of personnel for the city.

Surveying eastern New Orleans

Thursday, 8:28 p.m.

By Brett Anderson
Staff writer

Rescuers who ventured into eastern New Orleans Thursday morning were stymied by the high water that met them at every corner.

A dozen Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical, or HEMT, trucks, accompanied by nearly as many troop transport and other vehicles, carried members of the Oklahoma National Guard, New Orleans Police Department, military special forces and Harbor Police Department into some of the worst flooded areas of the city.

The convoy rumbled through two stretches of flooded highway and came to a halt near the New Orleans Lakefront Airport exit nearly an hour after departing.

New Orleans Police Department detective Ricky Jackson, who was dispatched with a small crew of fellow narcotics detectives, said the trucks should have exited from Interstate 10 earlier, at Chef Menteur Highway, where the land is drier.

“You have to watch out for canals, you have to watch out for pumping stations. What (are those) guys going to do, go out there and get lost? There’s 30 feet of water out there,” Jackson said.

Chris White, a specialist with the Oklahoma National Guard, said he was a little concerned with the flood levels. “This water could drop off anywhere,” he said, “and we don’t want to bury a truck,” he said. The HEMTs can operate in about five feet of water, he said.

An hour later, a large portion of the convoy, each truck filled with
guardsmen armed with M-16s and at least one NOPD officer in the passenger seat, was turned around and heading west on I-10, back through the flooded patch of highway and onto Chef Menteur.

The trucks stopped in front of the Tower of Pizza on Downman Road, a
wrecked landscape of burned out strip malls and abandoned cars. Three
boats sat lopsided on the road next to the convoy. An NOPD officer shouted a report from ahead: “Too deep!”

Turns and U-turns later, the convoy was headed back down Downman and into the water that had initially been deemed too deep, past separate military convoys traveling in the opposite direction. A dog standing at the door of a flooded dog grooming salon was the only sign of life.

The convoy turned onto Haynes Boulevard, where the houses were devastated but the road was dry. The convoy, still eight HEMTs strong, stopped near Pompano Street as two men appeared in the front of a house whose roof had been partially crushed by a telephone pole. They were followed by five dogs.

One of the men, Dudley Crosby, opted to leave. Crosby said he had only known the other man, whose name he said is Oscar, since Monday. Oscar stayed behind.

“I didn’t know him that good,” Crosby said. “I guess he wanted to tough
it out.”

The trucks turned down Vanderkloot Avenue, away from the lake. The street was bone dry for a few blocks, until the convoy ran into a team from the Menlo Park Fire District that had been launching boat rescues from a headquarters built in an abandoned house.

The convoy turned back the way it came, stopping a short time later at
the corner of Haynes and Crowder boulevards. A downed cable had
disabled a truck, Jackson said. The convoy would head back to Harrah’s once the truck was fixed, he said. It was a little after 2 p.m.

A transport vehicle arrived at the intersection, filled with a dozen evacuees, including Silas Walker, 71, who said he’d rather have stayed at his home on Chef Highway. “I was hauled off like a bag of laundry,” he said from the back of the truck.

Jeff Carson with the Ohio National Guard, said Walker appeared
to be suffering from dehydration and had been treated respectfully. “We
did not drag that guy out of his house,” he said.

Forget the rumors: Harry Lee is alive and well

Thursday, 8:15 p.m.

By Michelle Hunter
East Jefferson bureau

The rumors of Sheriff Harry Lee's demise are greatly exaggerated.

Lee, who said Thursday that he and his staff have been inundated with calls regarding a persistent rumor that the parish's top lawman died of a heart attack during the storm, was alive and well.

In fact, he seemed quite miffed.

"I'm disappointed that none of my friends came to the funeral," he said over a bologna sandwich at the sheriff's office community relations building/hurricane bunker in Harvey.

Lee had tried to ride out the storm in his office on the 5th floor of the JPSO headquarters on the West Bank Expressway in Harvey but moved to the smaller building when the roof began leaking.

The rumors of his death were fueled by the curious absence of the usually ever-present Lee on local media, and whispers that parish officials wanted to maintain order by keeping his death under wraps.

Lee said he's just been busy.

"I've been in the streets 18 hours a day since before the storm," he said.

He said Jefferson hasn't had to go through the problems seen in other parishes, but 40 to 50 deputies out of a force of 750 have not yet returned to duty.

And said the finger-pointing and calls for investigations should not take precedence just yet.

"Let's provide for the immediate needs of the citizens: medicine, food, shelter and reuniting families."

Vice President Cheney says no new taxes

Thursday, 7:50 p.m.

By John-John Williams IV
Staff writer

Vice President Dick Cheney said new taxes are not the answer to finance the Hurricane Katrina disaster effort, as he assessed the now infamous 17th Street Canal levee early Thursday evening.

Cheney, who was sent by President Bush, said he was pleased with the work that has been done to repair the levee so far. Cheney arrived by helicopter shortly after 4 p.m. on a makeshift landing strip where 7,000-pound sand bags used to block the leak in the levee are currently being filled.

The vice-president met with officials of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, levee repair workers, members of the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army. The whole visit last about an hour.

Cheney said he was impressed by the job of the Corps at the levee site.

Cheney was accompanied by his wife, Gov. Kathleen Blanco, Sen. David Vitter, R-Metairie and Rep. Jim McCrery, R-Shreveport, Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff and Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez.

"You've got to recognize the severity of what Mother Nature did to us," Cheney said as he stood several yards away from a West End neighborhood that was submerged in water up to rooftops.

"We lost everything at once . . . communications, power grid, infrastructure."

Cheney said he was impressed with the way people have come together for the relief and recovery effort.

"They have done wonderful things," Cheney said. When questioned, Cheney said he had not heard complaints from those directly affect by Katrina about bipartisanship affecting the hurricane relief effort.

"They are focused on the future," Cheney said. "They are focused on the task at hand."

Blanco said she interpreted Cheney's visit as a great sign.

"It's (federal response) going to be more adequate as we go on," Blanco said. "I do not feel partisan difference."

Blanco added that discussions over partisan differences have "had the effect of taking away from our first mission: search and rescue."

When asked if racism played a role in the relief effort, Blanco responded: "I don't that is completely accurate."

Cheney left shortly after addressing a small group of reporters before getting back on a helicopter and heading back to Baton Rouge.

The visit was the first by Cheney to the area since the hurricane struck on Aug. 29.

Red Cross was told to wait

The American Red Cross asked to be able to bring food
and water supplies into New Orleans three days after
Hurricane Katrina hit the city, but were denied by
Louisiana National Guard, officials said Thursday.

Vic Howell, the head of the Capital Area chapter of
the Red Cross, said that the group asked Col. Jay
Mayeaux for permission to go into the city Sept. 1,
but was told to wait. Howell said that when he talked
to Mayeaux on Sept. 2 he was told that they were
then concentrating on search and rescue and getting
everybody out of the city.

“He asked us not to go in and we abided by that
request,” said Howell, who added that the Red Cross
was supplying food and water throughout the
metropolitan area, just not in the city itself.

Mayeaux, who is the deputy director of the state’s
Office Of Homeland Security and Emergency
Preparedness, said that the state began shipping its
own stores of food and water from the Pineville
staging area down to New Orleans two days after the
storm, on August 31st.

The supplies were sent to the Superdome and Zephyr
Field and then spread throughout the city, said
Mayeaux. Although the state did not start moving food
to the Superdome until the Wednesday after the storm,
Mayeaux said there was adequate food at the facility,
noting that people had been instructed to bring their
own supplies. There was also some food that had been
put there before the hurricane, he said.

But when officials realized that people would be
staying at the storm for a longer period of time, they
started to move food down, he said.

Corps making deliveries, fixing pumps and levees

The Army Corps of Engineers has delivered 817,000 pounds of ice
and more than 50,000 liters of water to Louisiana and Mississippi
residents during the past 24 hours, officials announced in a news release
Thursday afternoon.

The corps and local officials also have restored 28 pumps in the New
Orleans area, increasing the amount of water leaving the city to 9,000
cubic feet per second.

Another nine pumps now are online in Plaquemines Parish, removing
1,400 cubic feet per second from that leveed area.

As of Thursday morning, 60 percent of New Orleans was still under

Corps officials said they expect to close two breaches in levee walls
along the London Avenue Canal within 24 hours, using temporary
sandbags. Then, portable pumps will be used to remove water there.

Engineers have found that there were two breaches on the east side of
the Inner Harbor Navigational Canal, and a third on the west side. That
one would have added to the water entering the Lower Ninth Ward at the
height of the flooding.

Officials closed the larger of the two east breaches on Wednesday and
were filling the smaller one with clay and stone on Thursday. Work will
begin on the west side soon, the news release said.

Two Jefferson Parish officers arrested for looting

Thursday, 7:25 p.m.

By Michelle Hunter
East Jefferson bureau

Two Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office correctional officers were among the 226 people arrested in Jefferson Parish since Hurricane Katrina made landfall.

Cynthine Adams, 48, and Menekia Humphry, 29, no addresses available, were booked with one count each of looting for taking electronic equipment from the Wal-Mart in Harvey, Sheriff’s Office spokesman John Fortunato said Thursday.

Sheriff Harry Lee said Wal-Mart officials opened the Manhattan Boulevard store to deputies and emergency personnel for supplies.

“They took something they did not need,” Lee said of the two women arrested. “You don’t need a camera.”

Both women were held in lieu of a $50,000 bond.

A total of 311 people have been arrested in Jefferson Parish since the storm hit. The charges range from drug possession to aggravated battery.

Most of the looting took place in businesses, though some homes were hit, Fortunato said.

Those arrested in Jefferson Parish could face an extended stay in state prison. Inmates from the Jefferson Parish correctional facility have been transferred into custody of the state Department of Corrections since the Gretna jail lost power. More than 1,200 inmates have been transferred. On Thursday only 35 were at the Gretna jail, where power had been restored.

No one will return to the Gretna jail until martial law is ended, Fortunato said.

With bonding companies closed, the only option for those arrested to be released from prison is to post their entire bond in cash.

Volunteers moved to work with evacuees in Houston

Thursday, 7 p.m.

By Christine Bordelon
Staff writer
HOUSTON -- They began as volunteers helping Hurricane Katrina evacuees,
at the Reliant Center in Houston, but these moms mothers at West University United Methodist Church Preschool in Houston knew they had to do more once they saw the children at the shelter.

Working in the children’s area at Reliant Center, volunteers Johna
DiMuzio and Carol Gunn saw initial despair turn to green trees and sunshine in the drawings of the young evacuees.

That sparked the idea Wednesday to create Katrina’s Kids Project, an entity
designed to take the drawings and bind them in quilts to be auctioned
to raise money for the young artists and their families.

Each quilt will be 5-by 7 feet and feature 30 images and 30
plain squares with a border and beaded trim. The project hopes to
complete 10 to 12 quilts with a goal of raising $5,000 to $10,000 each.

“It’s just a bunch of creative moms who didn’t want to sit around and
watch TV (of the hurricane aftermath) another moment,” volunteer mom
Ashley Bryan said.

Bryan has been touched by the children and their images. One artist,
Elisa, 13, submitted a paper with two drawings – one side was Katrina
hitting New Orleans, then people entering the Superdome expressing the need
for food and water On the other side she drew a heart with Texas
written above it and the words 'love', 'kindness', 'hope' and 'peace'.

Bryan hopes that once the quilts are sold, the buyers will either
donate or loan the quilts for display at Children’s Hospital or even the New
Orleans Museum of Art in New Orleans so the artists will get to see the
finished product.

The West U moms are just a handful of the 44,127 volunteers who have
stepped up to the plate and assisted in the evacuee effort at Reliant
Center, said Mark Sloan, an official helping to oversee the evacuee operation.

“We still have the need for volunteers,” Sloan said, especially in the
areas of food service, clean up and support.

Volunteers have come from all walks of life throughout Houston and
beyond. After watching a few days of Katrina on television, Grace Janssen,
48, flew in from Minnesota to volunteer. She’s been sleeping on the
floor of her daughter’s apartment to be able to change diapers, rock
babies to sleep play games and whatever she can do to entertain children at
the Reliant Center.

Janssen, a harpist and an active member in music ministry at her
Catholic Church for 27 years, has experienced pure joy from volunteering.

“The camaraderie of everybody,” has been wonderful, Janssen said,
“not only the volunteers radiating warmth and compassion but from the
people receiving the food. It’s so catching. Everyone was so up and
filled with joy and just so grateful.

Teri Shamlian, a member of the Harris Country Community Emergency
Response Team citizens’ corps in Houston, has volunteered since Sept. 1 when
the first plea for volunteers in Houston was made. She’s been working
five to eight hours a day to insure the comfort of evacuees.

Duties of volunteers have varied from dispersing food and
clothing, to loading and unloading boxes of towels and blankets for laundering,
to answering phones, to organizing the lost and found area, child care
and registering individuals as they came through the evacuation sites
at the Reliant Center.

“We’re everywhere,” Shamlian, a former media and event planner for
Continental Airlines, said.

While it is uncertain how long the evacuee sites on the Reliant campus
will remain open, the numbers have diminished daily. The volunteers are
willing to go the distance.

“I’ll stay as long as I am needed,” Janssen said. Her plane ticket
doesn’t return to Minnesota for another three weeks.

Christine Bordelon can be reached at (281) 980-3895 or

Pearl River recovering

Thursday, 7:04 p.m.

Staff reports
Electricity is beginning to return to the town of Pearl River, though
officials say service is spotty at best.

The town hall is up and running, as are a few businesses.

Homes have water and gas service, but telephone service is still
unavailable, said Town Clerk Elizabeth Allen. Parish officials are
recommending residents boil water before comsuming it.

Officials have yet to receive a visit from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to discuss services such filing claims and receiving food stamps, Allen said.

Alderwomen Ruby Gauley and Marie Crowe said they spent most of the day
Wednesday tracking down a FEMA representative in the Slidell area in an
effort to get help for Pearl River residents. They said the agency is
suggesting residents call FEMA to file damage claims, but town
officials said that is nearly impossible to make contact without phone

Gauley was buoyed Thursday upon hearing that more blue roof tarps soon will be available to those who had trees fall on their homes. She said there are 61 homes in town where trees have fallen across roofs and require heavy equipment to remove them.

Allen estimated that 200 of the town's 850 homes sustained major damage as a result of the downed trees.

Insurance cancellations voided

State Insurance Commissioner Robert Wooley said Thursday that any notices sent to homeowners in the Hurricane Katrina disaster area cancelling their homeowner's insurance will be void under an emergency order to be implemented Sept. 16. The order will be retroactive to notices received by residents beginning Aug. 26, when Gov. Blanco declared a state of emergency.

It is one of the protections Wooley said state officials are establishing for residents in the aftermath of the storm.

A lot of people may have been mailed cancellation notices, Wooley said. “Those notices will be voided, backdating to the date of the storm.”

Under another order, hurricane victims will not have to pay out-of-network or out-of-state charges when getting medical care. Health insurance policies will cover the costs “like normal,” Wooley said. One reason is that so many residents do not have access to their normal doctors or hospitals, even if they are still in Louisiana, Wooley said.

About one-third of health care providers in the disaster area have been displaced, he said.

Drafts of the orders are posted on the insurance commission’s web site.

Wooley said his department also is working with insurance departments in other states to provide information to evacuees in shelters about filing claims with their insurance companies, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the national flood insurance program. His office also will help evacuees get the name of their insurance company if they don’t know it.

Many people evacuated without inurance documents and may not know their insurer if they have policies through an independent insurance agent.

A bright spot in Wooley’s briefing was his assurance that most policy holders are safe.

Insurance companies learned after Hurricane Andrew to figure risk as a bigger factor in their prices, he said.

Their solvency was tested by 9/11, when $50 billion in claims were filed and no companies failed, he said.

In Louisiana, 70 percent of the market is covered by four companies, State Farm, Allstate, Louisiana Farm Bureau and the state pool, Citizens Coporation.

“I guarantee all of them have enough money to handle the claims they will be facing,” Wooley said.

St. Charles Parish back in business

By Jenny Hurwitz
River Parishes bureau

The overwhelming majority of St.
Charles Parish residents who evacuated due to
Hurricane Katrina have returned home, and local
government is up and running, parish
officials said Thursday.

“We feel really good about our recovery efforts,” said
Tab Troxler, director of the parish’s emergency

Based on the amount of water now being used, Troxler estimated that 90 percent of parish residents are back. Industries are
reporting between 95 and 100 percent employee attendance,
he said.

He estimated that most parish residents would see
major improvements in garbage pick-up, storm debris
removal and wastewater leakage by Sunday.
Troxler said that the parish is approaching the
mounting garbage problem using a combination of parish
workers and contractors. Waste Management, the parish’s garbage
collector, has had diminished capabilities due to damage from the storm, he said.

Earlier in the week, Parish President Albert Laque
signed a contract with the Army Corps of
Engineers to clear fallen branches and other storm
debris, he said.

The corps will absorb the cost of clearing the debris,
not the parish, Troxler said.

Parish government also is resuming a
semblance of normalcy, as the Parish Council held its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday night. The council convened in the courtroom
adjacent to the council chamber, which was damaged during the hurricane.

Sheriff Greg Champagne on Thursday announced a parishwide curfew,
from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., will be in place until further notice. Violators could face a $500 fine or six months in jail. Businesses may stay open
without restriction during this time.

Trapped man rescued near Slidell

Thursday, 6:47 p.m.

A 42-year-old man was rescued Wednesday after spending eight days trapped in his home east of Slidell.

The man, whose names is unknown, became trapped when his single-story home collapsed around him, said Maj. Donald Sharp of the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office.

A team of rescuers from Tuscaloosa, Ala., was searching the area off Indian Village Road when they located the man during house-to-house searches on Live Oak Court, Sharp said.

While the man wasn't pinned underneath the wreckage of the home, it
collapsed in such a way as to trap him inside, where he had no water and little food, Sharp said.

Rescuers tried to convince the man, who appeared to have escaped serious injury, to go to the hospital, Sharp said. However, the man left the scene immediately and said he would have a friend take him. The man did not give rescuers his name, Sharp said.

Schumer predicts resurgence for New Orleans

By Bruce Alpert
Washington bureau
WASHINGTON -- Four years ago, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., remembers the predictions that businesses and residents wouldn't return to downtown Manhattan after the World Trade was toppled in the 2001 terrorist attacks.
But they did, along with a lot of new businesses and people, thanks to a series of tax credits and other inducements. Appearing with Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, at a news conference Thursday, Schumer predicted the same could be true for New Orleans, with the right mix of government aid and incentives.
"Everyone forgets there was a real view that downtown could just be hollowed out and nobody would want to be there ever again," Schumer said. "And we decided that we had to move give people hope so they don't get stuck in their head I got to go somewhere else."
What worked, Schumer said, was $20 billion in federal aid, grants of up to $12,000 to cover up to 30 percent of rental or mortgage costs over two years, up to $1,500 for parents with children who made at least a one-year commitment to live in Lower Manhattan, and tax-exempt financing that cost $1.2 billion but leveraged tens of billions of dollars in new construction.
The trick, Schumer said, was to somehow do everything at once, the residential units, the shopping and businesses and transportation facilities.
"People weren't going to move back unless they knew there were supermarkets and dry cleaners, but dry cleaners and supermarkets wouldn’t be open unless they knew there were people," Schumer said.
Jefferson concedes that the obstacles facing New Orleans are greater than what New York faced after Sept. 11, 2001.
New York had part of its downtown evacuated, but all of New Orleans is under evacuation orders. Its airport, schools, many government offices, and thousands of businesses aren't functioning and that was never the case in New York City.
But Jefferson said he believes the incentives used to lure people and businesses back to lower Manhattan can be adopted to do the same for those who until Hurricane Katrina called New Orleans home.
"At the end of the day, we want to see our people come back home, reunited with their culture, reunited with their families, reunited in a place they can identify as their home,” Jefferson said.
Incentives, including job training and help with rent and mortgage payments can bring people back to New Orleans, and tax incentives could convince businesses to return, as well, Jefferson said.
Schumer said that there's no doubt that restoring New Orleans is more of a challenge than New York faced after Sept. 11 and therefore the incentives may have to be bigger.
"If you know, 25 percent to 50 percent rental assistance worked in New York, you may need 50 percent to 75 percent or even 100 percent at certain times in New Orleans," Schumer said.
But he said that incentives program needs to be put in place quickly.
"Financial incentives brought people back to places, brought businesses back to places and were a lifeline for small businesses that would have gone under," Schumer said of the New York experience.
Jefferson and Schumer said that Congress, while divided on party lines over how much blame to place on the Bush administration for the inadequate rescue efforts, are generally unified in agreement that New Orleans should be rebuilt. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said last week that isn’t necessarily a good idea to rebuild New Orleans, but since then put out a modified statement that he only meant the city should be rebuilt so it isn’t as vulnerable to hurricanes and flooding.
“I haven’t seen anyone in the House, from the most conservative to the most liberal member, who isn’t at this moment behind this idea,” Jefferson said.

Despite devastation, Plaquemines Parish death tally holds at 3

Thursday, 6:45 p.m.

By Matthew Brown
West Bank bureau

National Guard teams began a door-to-door search for Hurricane Katrina victims on the East Bank of Plaquemines Parish on Thursday, as receding waters unveiled the catastrophic damage inflicted by the storm on all communities south of Phoenix.

Floodwaters up to 15 feet deep floated dozens of homes off their foundations and slammed many of them into the Mississippi River levee, completely smashing some and breaking others almost in two.

Caskets from the cemetery at St. Thomas Church in Point a La Hache littered the top of the levee. The parish prison was in shambles. And the stench of rotting fish, river muck and spilled petroleum products was inescapable.

But despite the destruction to homes and infrastructure – a scene that mirrored the devastation seen on the parish’s more populous West Bank – the death toll for Plaquemines held steady at just three people.

“So far we haven’t found anybody,” said Lt. Chris Baca, member of a New Mexico National Guard contingent that has been going door to door in search of bodies.

Although some areas of east Plaquemines still have standing water, most has drained through two holes punched in the marsh-side levee by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Only a handful of East Bank residents had returned to their homes through Thursday to be greeted with clean up jobs that promise to be long and hard.

Among them was Point a la Hache resident Billy Hingle, who plodded through mud several inches thick to survey his ravaged property along Louisiana 39.

Hingle’s two-story brick house was all but hidden from view by the remains of a wooden house that had wrapped around a tree in his front yard.

“This house in my yard, I don’t even know who owns it,” said Hingle, 63, a retired ferry boat captain and third generation resident of Point a la Hache. “I can’t even recognize it as one of my neighbor’s.”

Winds clocked at upwards of 100 miles per hour had torn the bricks off the back of Hingle’s house and stripped almost all the leaves off the trees in his yard. A massive tidal surge had burst through his front door and upended everything inside, reaching half-way up the walls of the house’s second floor before receding.

“That was my pool table. Look at it,” he said, pointing to a mud-covered pile of furniture.

“I built this house, every stick of it. See this trim? Cypress. I planed it myself. That cost me a fortune.…I’m going to pull it down and take all that wood and go build somewhere else.”

Many of his neighbors lack even that option. Just down the road from Hingle’s house, along a lane where he estimated 20 houses and trailers had once stood, all that remains are the concrete slabs of the houses and a few cinderblocks that had propped up some of the trailers.

Booze can flow again in St. Tammany Parish

St. Tammany Parish officials Thursday lifted a parishwide ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages that had been in effect since Saturday.

The action taken by Parish President Kevin Davis prevented bars from reopening and stores and other businesses from selling alcohol. However, a parishwide curfew from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. remains in effect, meaning all businesses, including bars, will have to close by 9 p.m.

The alcohol ban was put in place at the recommendation of Covington Police Chief Jerry DiFranco to reduce the number of drinking-related incidents that would siphon police officers from recovery and security efforts.

In other St. Tammany Parish developments:

* State highway officials have closed the U.S 90 bridge over the East Pearl River at the Mississippi state line for repairs. The span is expected to reopen Saturday around 6 p.m.

* Information about St. Tammany’s recovery efforts being broadcast over WASO-AM 730, a radio station being operated by the parish, can now be heard on the Internet. Audio streaming of the station’s broadcasts can be heard on the parish’s Web site,

Chief: Gretna open for business

By Joe Darby
West Bank bureau

Gretna is ready to receive its residents if they can get past checkpoints in Jefferson Parish, Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson said Thursday.

By Thursday afternoon, three-fourths of the city had electrical power, the sewerage treatment plant was working and the city had water, although a boil order was still in effect, he said.

Jefferson Parish authorities have said that after residents were allowed to return to the parish this week to check their homes, a lockdown was to be instituted starting Thursday night for a few more weeks. Lawson said he hopes parish officials will allow people with IDs showing Gretna residences to enter West Jefferson.

Gretna businesses, including the Walgreens drug store on the West Bank Expressway, the Home Depot and a few restaurants were open. “Walgreens was open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. yesterday and they filled 160 prescriptions,” he said.

No gasoline stations were operating yet, although other service stations in West Jefferson were pumping gas, Lawson said. The Omni Bank at Huey P. Long Avenue and Second Street is open for business and several other banks, including Iberia Bank and Mississippi River Bank, will be operating out of Omni’s building.

A few businesses suffered heavy damage, including the Casey Jones Supermarket on Stumpf Boulevard, which lost its roof.

“We want to see our businesses get up and going and our people come back as soon as they can, because we need to get the normal economy running once again,” Lawson said.

The police chief said he expects the city of 18,000 people to be a major hub in the rebuilding of the New Orleans area. “We’re intact and we’re safe,” he said. “Senator (David) Vitter said on national television that Gretna is one of the safest places in the New Orleans area right now.”

Lawson said looting was minimal because of an increased police presence and the city continues to strictly maintain a dusk to dawn curfew, along with the rest of Jefferson Parish.

The city also escaped a major disaster to its water system, Lawson said. A Bollinger Shipyards drydock in Algiers was pushed by the hurricane upriver and came to rest at the levee at Lafayette Street, very near the city’s water intake pipe. And the Westwego river landing tore away from its foundation and floated downstream to lodge in almost the same place, but the intake pipe remained untouched.

A boil water order is in effect because the drydock hit a nearby fuel vessel, which began leaking diesel oil, Lawson said. Some of the diesel got into the city water plant, which is now being flushed and purified.

“You can’t tell by looking at it that any diesel oil got in’’ Lawson said. “It’s safe to wash clothes with and to shower in, but we don’t want anyone drinking it until we can complete some tests.”

Electricity is being quickly restored because Entergy has set up a working center at the Middle South Utilities building on the West Bank Expressway, Lawson said.

Storm anniversaries

The 1900 Galveston Storm was Sept 8-9.

Hurricane Betsy was Sept. 9, 1965

Most oil and gas production affected by Katrina could be online within a month

Thursday, 6:10 p.m.

A little more than 60 percent of daily oil production and 40 percent of natural gas production from the Gulf of Mexico remained off line Thursday, although officials believe that most production can bounce back within a month – a fairly quick recovery given the extensive damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.

The amount of oil and gas out of production, or what the industry calls shut in, is important because the Gulf supplies 29 percent of all domestic oil and 21 percent of gas. The disruption from last week’s killer hurricane is largely responsible for the spurt in oil and gas prices in the last 10 to 12 days.

Still, the amount shut in on Thursday is far better than the day after the hurricane. On Aug. 30, 95 percent of oil production and 88 percent of gas production was shut in, according to the U.S. Minerals Management Service, the federal agency that oversees offshore oil and gas production.

The assistant secretary for the MMS, Rebecca Watson, on Tuesday told the Senate Energy Committee that even though the hurricane churned through a core area of offshore operations, “early reports indicate that the vast majority of facilities could be ready to come back on line in days and weeks, rather than months.”

Of the 4,000 production facilities on the outer continental shelf, 37 shallow water platforms were destroyed, she said. However, they only produced about 1 percent of total Gulf output.

Of greater concern are four large deepwater platforms that accounted for about 10 percent of the offshore Gulf production. They sustained extensive damage, which could take three to six months to repair. Some pipelines suffered damage that could take months to repair, while others have been inspected, tested, and have already commenced operations.

“Despite this damage, about 90 percent of Gulf oil production could return to the market in one month, if refineries, processing plants, pipelines and other onshore infrastructure are in operation to receive, prepare and transport it to the consumer,” said Watson.

Gasoline prices at the pump leaped as a result of the energy pinch. Nationwide, the price of regular unleaded was $3.216 a gallon on Thursday, according to AAA, the automobile club that reports prices to the tenth of a cent. That’s up 30 percent from $2.483 a month ago.

However, this area has caught a bit of a break on prices. Gasoline in the Baton Rouge area averaged $2.666 a gallon on Thursday, according to the AAA. New Orleans did not have enough gas stations reporting to make a meaningful average.

According the MMS report, 901,726 barrels of oil were not pumped from the Gulf on Thursday. Normally, 1.5 million barrels are produced.

Also, 4.02 billion cubic feet of natural gas were not produced. Normally, about 10 billion cubic feet are produced.

The cumulative shut-in production caused by Katrina beginning Aug. 26 amounts to 2.7 percent of yearly oil production in the Gulf and 2.1 percent of yearly gas production.

Bush says administration moving quickly to help evacuees

By Bill Walsh
Washington bureau

WASHINGTON -- Under fire for his response to
Hurricane Katrina, President Bush took to the airwaves
Thursday to assure the tens of thousands of Gulf Coast
evacuees that his administration was moving quickly to
help them in the aftermath.

In an unusual mid-day address, a somber Bush also
declared Sept. 16 a national day of prayer and
remembrance for the dead and those who have been displaced by the

"The people who have been hurt by this storm need
to know that the government is going to be with you
for the long haul," Bush said in a seven-minute
address from the Old Executive Office Building next to
the White House. He took no questions.

Polls show that the American public is less than
enthused with the president's response to the Aug. 29
disaster. When CBS polled 725 adults Tuesday and Wednesday, it
found that just 38 percent approved of Bush's
performance. Nearly half, 49 percent, said they had
little or no confidence in the federal government's
ability to respond to natural disasters.

As the president was speaking, Congress was moving
toward passage of a $51.8 billion aid package
targeting relief and recovery efforts in Louisiana,
Mississippi and Alabama. The House passed the measure
410-11. One of those voting against was Rep. Thomas
Tancredo, R-Colo., who urged Republican leaders to keep
the money away from politicians in Louisiana.

"The question is not whether Congress should
provide for those in need, but whether state and local
officials who have been derelict in their duty should
be trusted with the money," Tancredo wrote in a letter
to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., Majority
Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and House appropriators.
"Their record during Katrina and the long history of
public corruption in Louisiana convinces me they
should not."

The Senate was also poised to pass the aid package
Thursday as well.

The assistance is in addition to $10.5 billion
OK’d by Congress last week for a disaster whose price
tag is still unknown. The administration said it
planned to return to Congress in a few weeks with yet
another financial assistance request.

Just to make sure the money -- the bulk of which
is directed to FEMA to spend as it sees fit -- isn't
misspent, Congress added $15 million for audits.
In a spurt of Katrina-related lawmaking Thursday,
the House also increased to $3.5 billion the amount
available for FEMA to pay flood insurance claims and
passed a bill by Rep. Bobby Jindal, R-Kenner, to grant
the secretary of education authority to give loan
repayment waivers to students forced out of college by
the storm.

Despite the bipartisan goodwill surrounding
efforts to help hurricane victims, a sharp divide has
opened over investigating the Bush Administration's
response to it. Democrats said they would boycott a
Republican-led committee. Democrats called for an
independent probe such as the one that investigated
the government's response to the Sept. 11 terrorist

"I do not believe that the committee proposed by
Speaker Hastert and (Senate Republican Leader) Sen.
Frist is in the best interests of the American
people," Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Democrat leader,

In his speech, Bush urged people displaced by the
storm to sign up for $2,000-per-household in emergency
assistance that the Federal Emergency Management
Agency (FEMA) unveiled Wednesday. People can register
over the phone at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or on the
Internet at Bush said more than 400,000
families have already registered, but tens of
thousands more hadn't.

Bush also said he was making it easier for
displaced people to get public assistance by granting
"evacuee status" on those from parishes declared
disasters, including the entire metropolitan New
Orleans area. The special designation will allow
people to apply for and collect benefits through a
host of public assistance programs without the
paperwork normally required. The programs include:
Medicaid; temporary assistance for needy families;
child care; mental health services and substance abuse
treatment; food stamps; housing; foster care; women's,
infants’ and children's nutrition; school lunch;
unemployment compensation and job training.

Three FEMA contractors arrested for looting in Plaquemines Parish

Three Texas truck drivers under contract with the federal government to bring in storm relief supplies for Plaquemines Parish have been arrested for allegedly looting toys, dolls, women’s lingerie and other merchandise from a Belle Chasse Family Dollar store, authorities said.

Booked late Wednesday night with one count each of looting were Gerald W. Thomas, 47, of Tyler, Texas; Thomas Sherman, 39, also of Tyler; and Lasharon Lemons, 36, of Dallas, said Major John Marie with the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Marie said that since the relief effort began, drivers for the Federal Emergency Management Agency had been allowed to take drinks, personal grooming supplies and other small items from the Family Dollar store at 7902 Louisiana 23.

But he said the three suspects went much further, loading the cabs of their trucks with toys such as Barbie dolls, kitchen appliances, telephones, answering machines, waste paper baskets and other goods.

“When we arrested them, they had enough stolen stuff to fill five grocery carts full of property,” Marie said.

No bail had been set on the three drivers because there is no judge in Plaquemines to hear their cases, Marie said.

The arrests were the first in the parish for looting, a problem that has been widespread in neighboring New Orleans and Jefferson Parish since Katrina hit on August 29.

Under Louisiana law, a conviction for looting carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years, a fine of not more than $10,000, or both.

9-11 rescuer frustrated by Katrina relief effort

For his work helping rescue survivors of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on New York City, Tom Fletcher, a paramedic from Thompson, Maine, continues to suffer from asthma, reactive airway disease, sinus polyps and a fractured knee.

But if given the choice, he'd do it all over again, he says.

Fletcher, who spent nearly $1,000 to come down to New Orleans last week and volunteer for rescue missions in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, said he fears his work in Louisiana has been something less than rewarding.

Although he said the need in New Orleans is even greater than in New York four years ago, he calls it shameful that state and federal agencies cannot coordinate their efforts, preventing help from getting to those who need it most.

This past week, he described rushing out with a team "to a spot where we're told there's people who need to be rescued, then we sit there for four hours on a bridge waiting to hit the water because someone needs to give the order," he said. "Then when we do, we're told, 'Oops, it was the wrong place.'"

Boat operators have grown especially frustrated, he said, since "they spend every day on the water and they know where there's people," but officials don't rely on them to determine where rescue missions should take place.

"You've got so many resources here, there's a bottleneck somewhere," he

"The only good I've done is two nights ago we rescued a put bull, and he was a sweet dog, so I'm taking him home to Maine," Thompson said.

But other than that, "I haven't done anything worthwhile here."

Will city shrink or grow?

With many of those displaced by Hurricane Katrina being shuttled off to shelters as far-flung as Minnesota and Utah and others afraid to ever return, some officials anticipate a vastly smaller New Orleans.

"I think New Orleans will probably be reduced from 480,000," said Deputy Chief Warren Riley. "I doubt if we'll have 350,000 people in this city in five years."

Rep. Arthur Morrell, D-New Orleans, disagreed.

"In five years, we're going to have more people here," he said, noting a huge federal aid package promised to the city that will allow widespread rebuilding and a reliable, far more secure levee system.

Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu said he's determined to return those displaced by the storm.

"We're going to bring them back," he said. "For everybody who wants to come back, we're going to get them back."

It's far too early to speculate on how those returns will be handled logistically, he cautioned.

New Orleans City Council hands over extraordinary powers

By Stephanie Grace and Frank Donze
Staff writers

As usual, the day started with a prayer and the pledge of allegiance.

But from that point on, New Orleans City Council members threw out the
rule book, holding an extraordinary and emotional meeting – their first
since the city they govern was ravaged by Mother Nature.

With a crippled City Hall still off limits, five members of the council, including three who believe they lost their homes to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, gathered in a conference room at Louis Armstrong International Airport Thursday to grant emergency spending powers to Mayor Ray Nagin’s administration.

They also took the opportunity to bare their souls about the
catastrophe that has rendered New Orleans a partially submerged, heavily fortified ghost town. And they began to plot a strategy to get their constituents – and the businesses that employ them -- back home.

That’s not going to happen any time soon. This week, Nagin extended his
mandatory evacuation order for the city’s east bank through the first
week of October, citing contaminated standing water and the lack of
basic services. Even after the mayor gives the all-clear, Chief Administrative Officer Brenda Hatfield said residents likely will be able to return only a section at a time.

Acutely aware that evacuaees are anxious about their homes’ security
in their absence, Council President Oliver Thomas said he’s been told that the military will stay for “as long as it takes” – although he added that he has not seen that pledge in writing.

Business owners might not have to wait much longer to get a look at the
damage. The council asked the administration to allow local
companies to retrieve payroll records and other essentials as soon as
possible, so they can temporarily operate elsewhere. Council members also said they hope to let construction firms pick up their equipment so they can help with the massive rebuilding effort.

Driving home the point that quick action is needed, Councilwoman Renee
Gill Pratt said she’d heard from funeral home owners who were forced to
delay burials as the storm approached.

“The bodies need to come out,” she said.

For much of the meeting council members spoke somberly, recalling
images of floating cadavers, whole neighborhoods under water and looters running rampant.

But there were also moments of gallows humor. Noting that he probably
won’t salvage much from his flooded Broadmoor home, the 6’6” Thomas said, “It’s a good thing I have tall friends. I have on their clothing.’’

The five members present – Thomas, Pratt, Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson,
Cynthia Hedge Morrell and Cynthia Willard-Lewis, unanimously agreed to
hand the administration unprecedented borrowing authority to keep the
city afloat, and to draw upon all cash reserves and accounts, regardless of how the money is earmarked. In a rare departure from normal checks and balances, the action allows Hatfield and finance director Reggie Zeno to choose lenders and set terms without returning to the council for final approval.

The council also waived the City Charter’s requirement that such
measures be introduced at one meeting and be approved at later one.

Unable to recall the official numbering system for city laws, Deputy
City Attorney improvised and labeled the first ordinance K-1, for
Katrina-1. With virtually no staff on hand, the council drafted deputy fiscal officer Barbara Avalos to step in as acting clerk, enabling her to sign the documents and forward them to the mayor.

Councilman Eddie Sapir did not attend the meeting because he was en
route back to the city from out of town, and councilman Jay Batt had
already scheduled a conflicting caravan back to his partially flooded

With the official business taken care of, the council members used the
forum to demand that local businesses play a major role in the city’s
reconstruction, and that contractors hire local people.

The ultimate goal, Thomas said, is to bring displaced New Orleanians
back from places as far away as Utah and Minnesota and recreate a local
middle class. His message to the business community: “Don’t pimp us. Help us rebuild”

That’s a particularly urgent need, several council members said,
because a handful of other states are courting evacuees with the prospect of jobs, housing and decent schools.

With many families still searching for loves ones, Willard-Lewis called
on Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates and his company to set up a comprehensive survivor notification database. She also asked President Bush to formulate an interim relocation strategy for survivors, to bring them closer to home, and asked FEMA to extend its benefits.

Much of the remainder of the meeting was spent recounting the horrors
of the storm. Morrell listed the thriving neighborhoods in her district that have been lost, including Pontchartrain Park, the city’s first middle class African-American subdivision, as well as Indian Village, Sugar Hill, and Gentilly Woods.

Willard-Lewis described a fly-over of her district: “The lake
blended into the industrial canal, and the canal blended into the
Mississippi River. New Orleans East was a body of water. There was no land.”

Later in the meeting, Willard-Lewis treaded on even more personal
ground. She revealed that one of her brothers, Elliot Willard Jr., son of the namesake former Orleans Parish School Board member, is among the

Thomas bemoaned the slow initial response by the federal government
after the storm passed, and criticized those who blame local and state
authorities for not doing enough. Calling New Orleans “this little place,” he said that “it’s crazy to say that we should have taken the lead. Our job is to prepare. We don’t have the ability to manage a disaster of this size.”

“I call this Ground Below Zero,” he said. “We were so far south that
they almost forgot about us.”

But the council president also had some harsh words for local thugs
that terrorized the city during those first chaotic days. Noting the
widely broadcast images of looters hauling electronics out of stores, he struck an exasperated pose and asked why anyone would want a TV that they can’t plug in.

“Whatever happens to you, you deserve,” he said with a scowl.

The council also offered the highest possible praise to police and
firefighters who left their families to protect the city, without radios and in some cases ammunition; Sewerage & Water board workers who
struggled to keep the utilities from failing completely; Entergy officials who moved in quickly to prepare to restore power; and Zeno, who has managed to keep paying city workers.

While they supported the Nagin administration’s efforts to fully
evacuate the city, council members expressed clear respect for those still refuse to leave.

Although she disagrees with the sentiment, Clarkson said, “The spirit
of these people who won’t leave their homes is the spirit that will
rebuild this city.

St. Bernard planning return in stages

Thursday, 5:30 p.m.

St. Bernard officials plan a staggered return for
residents to view their property, though no date has yet been set.

The plan being considered would divide the parish in sectors for a
staggered and temporary return of residents so they
can assess Hurricane Katrina’s damage, officials said

But officials said no one would be allowed back in the
parish until “serious” health and contamination risks
have been reduced. The parish, which was submerged by
as much as 20 feet of water, is covered by a filthy
layer of muck and an oil spill in Meraux that spread
into parts of east Chalmette.

“We realize that it is important to residents and
business owners to return to their homes and
businesses to assess the extent of the damage . . .
However, St. Bernard is facing serious health,
disease, and contamination issues that are out of our
control,” Councilman Craig Taffaro said in a press
release prepared on behalf of the council, Parish
President Henry “Junior” Rodriguez and Sheriff Jack

The plan would divide the parish into sectors and give
residents in each section a separate time to re-enter
once their respective sector is deemed safe. Taffaro
said a schedule has not been completed.

Taffaro said returnees would be allowed to visit only
for a “short duration” to check their property and
retrieve personal items. That time period has not yet been determined. After, all residents would be
required to leave so clean up can continue.

St. Tammany residents welcomed back to improving parish

By Charlie Chapple
St. Tammany bureau

St. Tammany Parish officials Thursday gave the green light for
thousands of residents to return to their homes today beginning at
8 a.m.

But Parish President Kevin Davis warned that many residents will
return to houses that are uninhabitable because of flooding and wind damage
from Hurricane Katrina. And residents should return prepared to deal with that
situation, he said.

“Make some arrangements ahead of time, if you can,” Davis said, “and
find a friend or someone you can stay with if necessary.” Shelters
throughout the parish also are an option, he said.

Security will be tight, especially in neighborhoods hard hit by the storm, like Eden Isles south of Slidell. Sheriff’s deputies will require citizens to have proof that they live in a neighborhood before they are allowed to enter, Davis said.

Conditions in St. Tammany continue to improve rapidly. Officials
report that 95 percent of the roads and streets are passable.
A third of the parish has electricity, including all hospitals
and emergency facilities. Almost all water systems are up and running,
although most will require water to be boiled for consumption.
Exceptions are the Mandeville and Covington systems, whose water has been deemed safe by state officials.

Numerous businesses, including banks, grocery and drug stores, gas stations and restaurants have reopened. And it appears the School Board will be able to meet an Oct. 3 target date to resume classes, officials said.

“Things are getting better,” Davis said. “It’s not a perfect
situation. But things are getting better.”

Davis estimated that 50,000 to 60,000 of St. Tammany’s 215,000
residents have not returned to the parish.

While parish officials never banned residents from returning home, they had discouraged it, saying returning residents would slow down efforts to clear roads and restore basic services, such as electricity.

Once basic services are completely restored, Davis said the parish will focus on providing temporary homes for residents whose houses must be rebuilt or repaired. Davis said he has already asked FEMA for 20,000
temporary homes for parish residents. “We may not need that many, but
that’s what we’re asking for,” he said.

Parish officials already are scouting for locations where pockets or neighborhoods of about 700 temporary houses can be placed. Davis said.

Israeli's send 70 tons of supplies

Israel is airlifting emergency supplies to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

A specially chartered EL-AL 747 carrying more than 70 tons of relief aid, for immediate distribution to families affected by Hurricane Katrina, will land Thursday in Little Rock, Ark.

The supplies include infant formula, baby food, diapers, mineral water, dairy supplies, meals ready to eat, clothes, tents, beds, blankets, mattresses, stretchers, first-aid kits, wheelchairs, and other medical supplies.

Ambassador of Israel Daniel Ayalon said, "In times of need friends stand
together. Israel's hopes and prayers are with the American people."

Holy Cross College to resume classes in January

Thursday, 5:15 p.m.

Our Lady of Holy Cross College in Algiers sustained very little damage during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath and is serving as a base of operations for fire departments from other states helping in the recovery efforts.

The college will resume classes on Jan. 9 with plans in place to offer a full academic year of requirements during the spring and summer semesters. The summer 2006 session will be a series of compressed courses, and students are encouraged to check for details about academic advising.

Our Lady of Holy Cross will accept credit for classes that students take at accredited colleges or universities during the fall semester.

“The college fared very well, with repairs underway already,” said Stanton McNeely, vice president of institutional advancement and planning at the college. “We’re going to get our operations going as quickly as possible. We want to be part of the rebuilding of the city of New Orleans.”

Meanwhile, fire departments from New York City, Maryland and Illinois are using the campus as a base of operations for their participation in the hurricane recovery efforts. “It’s almost like Jazzfest here with the tents set up on campus,” McNeely said.

Firefighters from New York will hold a memorial service on Sunday at 7:30 a.m. for the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and those from Hurricane Katrina, McNeely said.

Crawfish Monica dished up for cops

Thursday, 3:10 p.m.

Crawfish Monica, a spicy pasta dish that has achieved iconic status for
visitors to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, was dished up
free today for about 90 local and out-of-town police officers.

The crew from Kajun Kettle, which produces Crawfish Monica, served it
at midday outside the New Orleans Police Department's 2nd District
headquarters near Napoleon Avenue and Magazine Street.

"They loved it," said Brooke H. Duncan III, a close friend of the owner
and the father of a 2nd District officer. "The out-of-towners thought
it was a great change of pace from MREs."

MRE stands for Meals Ready to Eat, standard military fare. Unlike
Crawfish Monica, they never have been considered for sale at Jazzfest.

Services offered in St. Charles Parish

The United Way of St. Charles is working with St. Charles Parish
government and federal entities to provide information about emergency
services and where to find help.

Up-to-date information can be obtained at the following web sites, media outlets and locations:

United Way of St. Charles,, 985-331-9064 or 985-331-9065
St. Charles Parish Government,
St. Charles Parish Schools,

St. Charles Cable Channel 6
St. Charles School Cable Channel 8

Emergency food, water and ice - Westbank Bridge Park and Jerusalem
Temple at 1900 Ormond Blvd, approximate hours 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Diapers and formula - supplies currently limited:
First Baptist of Luling, 921 Paul Mallard Road, 1 to 4 p.m., weekdays, 985-785-6297, St. Charles United Methodist Church, 1905 Ormond Blvd, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., weekdays, 985-764-8292

Community assistance - Office of Family Support (food stamp cards)
U.S. 90 next to Hahnville High School, beginning at 8 a.m.

WIA One Stop Office - emergency unemployment assistance, job search,
resume writing and job training for dislocated workers, 737 Paul Mallard Road
- Suite
2A, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., weekdays.

Red Cross Shelter, E.J. Landry Middle School Gym, open 24 hours; some
food (breakfast 7:30 a.m., lunch 11:30 a.m., dinner 5 p.m.)

St. Charles Community Health Center, 843 Milling in Luling, pediatric
and adult urgent care, dispensing WIC, tetanus immunizations, 9 a.m. to
6 p.m. on weekdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, no appointment - walk-ins only.

Non-narcotic prescriptions can be filled at most local pharmacies;
contact your nearest pharmacy for information on costs.

To volunteer or donate, visit the United
Way of St. Charles at 13207 River Road, call at 985-331-9063, 985-331-9064 or
985-331-9065 or visit the web site

Orleans School Board

Members of the Orleans Parish School Board will discuss plans for the
future by taking part in a telephone conference call Friday, according
to board member Jimmy Farenholtz. "We need to see where we are and get a
feel for where we need to go next," he said Thursday.

Surreal scenes from a sunken city

By Chris Rose

They’re telling the people they have to go. They’re going door to door with rifles now.

They came to our little hovel on Laurel Street Uptown – a dozen heavily-armed members of the California National Guard – they pounded on our door and wanted to know who we were.

We told them we were the newspaper, the Big City Daily. I admit, it doesn’t look like the newsrooms you see on TV. I suppose if we wore shirts, we’d look more professional.

The Guard moved on, next door, next block.

They’re telling people they have to go.

It won’t be easy. The people who stayed here have weathered ten days of
unfathomable stench and fear and if they haven’t left yet, it seems unlikely that they’re going to be willing now.

In a strange way, life just goes on for the remaining. In the dark and fetid Winn-Dixie on Tchoupitoulas, an old woman I passed in the pet food aisle was wearing a house frock and puffy slippers and she just looked at me as she pushed her cart by and said: “How you doin’, baby?”

Like it’s just another afternoon making groceries.

I love the way strangers call you baby in this town.

Outside the store, there’s an old guy who parks his old groaning car by the front door from sunup to sundown. There are extension cords running from his trunk into the store, which still has power – don’t ask me how; I have no idea – and he watches TV in his front seat and drinks juice.

That is what he does, all day, every day.

At this point, I just can’t see this guy leaving. I don’t imagine he has anyplace else in the world but this.

A young guy walked up and said to him: “I hear you can charge your cell phone here?” and the old guy said “Yes, indeedy,” and walked him into the store and showed him a plug that still had juice.

And life goes on.

Down on St. Claude Avenue, a tribe of survivors has blossomed at Kajun’s Pub where, incredibly, they have cold beer and cigarettes and a stereo playing Elvis and you’d think everything was in standard operating procedure but it is not: The Saturday night karaoke has been indefinitely suspended.

The people here have a touch of Mad Max syndrome; they’re using an old blue Cadillac for errands and when parts fall off of it – and many parts have fallen off – they just throw them in the trunk.

Melvin, a bar owner from down the block, had the thing up for sale for $895, but he’ll probably take best offer now.

Melvin’s Bar and Kajun’s Pub have pooled their inventories to stay in business.

“We’ve blended our fortunes together,” said Renee dePnthieux, a bartender at Melvin’s. “We carried everything we could down here, and we’ll make the accounting later. What else are you gonna do? In case you haven’t heard, Budweiser ain’t delivering.”

A guy with a long goatee and multiple tattoos was covering a couple of aluminum foil pans of lasagna and carrying them up to the roof to cook them in the sun on the hot slate shingles.

Joann Guidos, the proprietor at Kajun’s, called out for a game of bourre and they all dumped their money on a table and sat down and let the cars and liquor flow.

A National Guard truck pulled up and asked if they were ready to leave yet. Two guys standing out on the sidewalk in the company of pit bulls said: “Hell no.”

DePonthiux said: “We’re the last fort on the edge of the wilderness. My family’s been in exile for 300 years; this ain’t shit.”

I just don’t see these people leaving.

Uptown, on what was once a shady street, a tribe is living in a beautiful home owned by a guy named Peanut. There is a seaplane in his driveway, a bass boat in the front yard and generators running the power.

Let’s just say they were prepared.

All the men wear pistols in visible holsters. They’ve got the only manicured lawn in the city. What else is there to do all afternoon, really?

Christine Paternostro is a member of this tribe and she is an out-of-work hair stylist from Supercuts in a city where no one shaves or bathes. Not many prospects for her at this point.

“Everyone will need a haircut when this is over,” I offered.

While members of this tribe stood talking on their street, a woman came running out of the house, yelling: “Y’all, come quick. We on WWL! We on WWL!”

Everyone ran in the house and watched a segment about how people are surviving in the city. And these guys are doing just that. (Although I think the airplane in the driveway is a little over the top.)

As I was leaving, the WWL woman said to me: “Are you staying for dinner?”

I was not, but I asked what they were having. “Tuna steaks,” she said.

If and when they rebuild this city and we all get to come home, I want to live near people like this. I just can’t imagine them ever leaving.

They make me wonder if I ever could.

Chris Rose can be reached at

I-49 hearing cancelled

Thursday, 4:40 p.m.

Two upcoming hearings on the I-49 construction project, scheduled for next week in St. Charles and Lafourche parishes, have been canceled, officials said.

The meetings were to be held Tuesday in St. Charles and next Friday in Lafourche, according to a state Department of Transportation press release.

Transportation officials will notify the public when the hearings are re-scheduled. For more, contact DOTD at (225) 242-4513. Additional information on the project can be found on the Web at

No announcement made on LSU QB

Thursday, 4:30 p.m.
By William Kalec
Staff writer
Even with an extra week to ponder the decision, LSU coach Les Miles apparently has no plans to announce which quarterback will start Saturday's game against Arizona State.
Miles was not scheduled to meet with the media on Thursday, and LSU sports information director Michael Bonnette said there would be no statement issued on the choice.
Originally, Miles pegged Thursday Sept. 1 as his announcement date, but that got pushed back a week because of the postponement of the North Texas opener. At his Monday press conference, Miles said more than once that he'd let his decision be known this Thursday.

FEMA allocates $31 million to St. Bernard Parish

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has made an
initial allocation of $31 million for infrastructure
repairs in St. Bernard Parish, parish officials
announced Thursday.

The money includes cash to pay for
temporary buildings for government functions,
officials said.

The parish also reported that officials have
identified private sources for up to 6,500 temporary
housing units for parish residents, and President
Henry “Junior” Rodriguez is asking FEMA to lease or
buy the units. Officials said they would post
guidelines for residents to apply for any temporary
housing they secure.

Parish officials also reported that water levels continue to
drop across St. Bernard, though mobility remains
constrained mostly to collector roads.

Archbishop Hannan Boulevard, in Meraux, still had standing water
Thursday from Judge Perez Drive to Hannan High School.
Water levels along the 40 Arpent Canal remain between
four to six feet across the parish. Water at the
government complex in Chalmette was still at about two
feet. Those levels, however, are much lower than the
more than 10 feet of water that accumulated across the

Officials have restored operations to the water
plant and planned to begin treating water Thursday. Work
to reactivate the sewer system has begun as well.

Hotels cleaning up; some ready to open soon

4:03 p.m. Thursday

By Rebecca Mowbray
Business writer

Just a few days after all remaining guests were evacuated from downtown New Orleans hotels, some of the city’s most important lodging properties already have started work on re-opening.

At the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, the city’s largest hotel, a forklift plowed the twisted metal pieces that had fallen from the roof of the port cochere into a big pile Wednesday, while cars marked “Hilton Recovery” moved from hotel to hotel investigating damage.

At the Windsor Court Hotel, another forklift carrying 2-by-4 inch lumber zipped across the luxury hotel’s round brick driveway. At the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel, a crane parked on Canal Street knocked broken glass out of window frames.

“We’ll be up in a couple of weeks,” said Kevin Ryan, regional vice president of operations for Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc. “We want to get people back to work and make sure we rebuild the city as fast as we can.”

Starwood, which operates the Sheraton and two W hotels in New Orleans, already has about 75 staff members on hand to open its hotels.

While no one expects the tourism business to restart soon, those hotels that re-open soon can assist in the recovery by housing relief workers and construction crews, while employing workers and keeping a small piece of the local economy functioning.

The quick moves are also partly defensive: the longer the hotels sit damp and exposed to the elements the greater the chances that toxic mold will ruin the buildings.

“The big concern right now is moisture and mildew -- the environmental issues,” said Bill Langkopp, executive vice-president of the Greater New Orleans Hotel and Lodging Association. “If it sets in behind the vinyl and in the walls, then the walls have to come down.”

At a few hotels badly damaged by water, Langkopp said, “it’s ‘Can we save our building?’ ”

Toward that end, the hotel association and the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau have been working with Entergy Corp. on getting the power turned back on at hotels. Electricity and water service will enable hotels to run their air-conditioning systems and help dry out the buildings.

The hotel association is trying to take an inventory of problems at local hotels to get an idea of how soon they can get rooms up and running. Once that inventory is completed, the hotel association will be able to help Entergy determine which buildings to power up first.

Conditions at downtown hotels vary widely. Some, such as properties in the French Quarter, are in good shape because they didn’t flood and they’re not tall enough to have sustained much wind damage. Others, such as the Hyatt Regency New Orleans and the W New Orleans hotels on Poydras Street, saw a significant number of windows blown out and those hotels may be closed for a while.

Even within hotel companies with large holdings in New Orleans, situations varied significantly.

At Marriott International Inc., for example, which operates about 4,000 hotel rooms in the metropolitan area, the Covington Courtyard is already open, and three other properties in the suburbs will be able to re-open almost immediately. But the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans and Renaissance Pere Marquette hotels sustained significant damage from the flooding and will be closed for a while. Other Marriott properties are somewhere in between.

“We are working downtown, and as soon as we can get some city services to the hotels, I think it’s just a matter of days before the New Orleans Marriott opens up,” said Mark Sanders, general manager of the New Orleans Marriott.

For now, Marriott only has engineering staff on site in New Orleans, but the company believes it will soon need other employees back. “We expect we’re not going to have enough staff to run our hotels come the beginning of October or November,” Sanders said.

What happens to employees is another universal concern, Langkopp said.

“Our employees are scattered all over the country,” Langkopp said. “We are urging any hotel employee who hasn’t already done so, to please contact their employer or their employer hotel chain.”

The other major challenge facing hotels as they try to re-open is sanitation. With all the germs floating around New Orleans from sewage, decaying bodies and chemicals, hotels need to disinfect from top to bottom before they can re-open.

Some hotel operators, such as Sanders, plan to have each hotel certified by a hygienist before re-opening. Others, such as Hans Wandfluh, general manager of the Royal Sonesta hotel are taking intermediary steps to re-claim the hotel.

The 25 Royal Sonesta employees who remain have already cleaned Bourbon Street in front of the hotel and taken away trash from the Sonesta and other French Quarter hotels. They’re sanitizing everything they can with bleach, and the hotel has buckets of water with bleach or tubs of waterless chemical soap around the hotel for people to clean their hands. They even require people who enter the hotel to clean the bottoms of their shoes. Meanwhile, employees are getting vaccinations.

“We’re doing everything we can to keep everybody clean and safe,” said Wandfluh, who believes he can re-open within five days of getting power, food and a laundry facility. “We need to encourage the neighborhood to get rid of the garbage and do common sense things.”

Campaign to help Guardsmen left homeless by storm

Hundreds of soldiers from a New Orleans National Guard unit begin leaving Thursday to return to the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina. Guard officials said 80 percent of the Guardsmen lost homes or jobs and some had not heard from relatives since the storm, according to Pentagon estimates.

Citizens Helping Heroes announced today that it has launched a targeted campaign to help the families of National Guardsmen currently serving in Iraq who have been left homeless by Hurricane Katrina. Money raised will go directly to the families of those service members deployed overseas, who live in the Gulf Region.

For information or to donate, visit

In Louisiana and Mississippi, the states hit hardest by the hurricane, up to 40 percent of their National Guard troops are on active duty in Iraq. While
the National Guard at home has been taking part in rescue operations and law
enforcement, some 6,000 members of the Louisiana and Mississippi
Guard have been forced to watch the catastrophe from 7,000 miles away in Iraq.

Over the past eight months, 23 members of the Louisiana National Guard have died in Iraq - only New York's Guard unit has suffered as many deaths.

Private Richard Beyl of New Orleans (94th Engineer Combat Battalion), stationed in Mosul, is worried about his family. "I've tried calling, but I haven't been able to reach anyone. When I call my cousin's cell phone, it says all circuits are busy. I just want to get in contact, so I know that they are all right. I hope they left before it hit."

As Americans largely focus on the civilian families devastated by Hurricane Katrina, CHH wants to ensure that families of those so bravely fighting on our behalf are supported. The organization is encouraging citizens to remember that Katrina is an added hardship to military families already facing financial and emotional difficulties.

Airport floodgate project to resume

Thursday, 3:10 p.m.

By Matt Scallan
Staff writer

Work on a $5 million floodgate to seal off a
dangerous hole in the East Jefferson levee system will start up again as
soon as possible, even if it means shutting down the recently rebuilt
east-west runway, finished two days before Hurricane Katrina
struck, officials said.

"The rescue effort is winding down and the equipment is in place to
begin the work," Aviation Director Roy Williams said this week.

The floodgate is designed block a hole in the levee system that the
Canadian National Railroad runs through. As a storm approaches, the gap is
filled with sandbags. However, the system also requires that Airline
Drive at the St. Charles-Jefferson Parish line be sandbagged, as well,
cutting off a key evacuation route from Jefferson.

The floodgate will elminate the need for that sandbagging.

The $64 million runway refurbishment project included $8 million in
drainage and hurricane protection work, including the floodgate. A
project to raise the East Jefferson hurricane protection levee from eight
to 14 feet has already been completed.

Fran Campbell, executive director of the East Jefferson Levee District,
said the 12.3-foot-tall floodgate will prevent water from St. Charles
Parish from flooding into Jefferson at Airline, and also add protection
to the St. Charles Parish east bank levee system.

An extra advantage is that the floodgate can be closed in much more quickly than it would take to build the sandbag barriers.

"We sandbagged the tracks and at Airline, and we had three feet of
water up against the bags at Airline," she said. "Had they not been there,
the water from St. Charles would have flooded into Jefferson."

Stacy Dupre, a spokesperson for the state Department of Transportation
and Development, said the Canadian National railroad tracks, which run
parallel to Interstate 10 between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, were
damaged during the storm but should be back in service within two weeks.

West Jefferson returns to full operations

Thursday, 2:50 p.m.

West Jefferson Medical Center announced Thursday that it is open and fully operational for inpatient medical and surgical treatment. The Marrero hospital’s emergency, hyperbaric medicine, home health and hospice, wound care and radiation oncology departments also are functioning.

The hospital’s Family Doctors office will resume operations on Monday. Medical practices in the Physicians Center also are beginning to open, hospital officials said. For information on specific practices, call the hospital’s Community Relations office at (504) 347-5511.

“They are free to call us. We have a command center that has been in touch with our physcians, and we can let them know when that doctor is coming back in or if that doctor is already here,” said Benola Cooper, a community relations spokeswoman.

The hospital never closed during the storm and its immediate aftermath, but defered all non-emergency surgery, Cooper said. “We kept a full complement of physicians. We were fully functional for emergency surgery and care.”

Algiers exempt from mandatory N.O. evacuation

Thursday, 3:10 p.m.

Algiers residents who rode out Hurricane Katrina in their homes will be allowed to stay, despite Mayor Ray Nagin's order that New Orleans' remaining residents evacuate the city, Councilwoman Jacqueline Brechtel Clarkson said Thursday.

Nagin's directive came Wednesday as safety issues, including the threat of fire and disease, loomed over the city's remaining residents.

Clarkson said a few thousand of Algiers' estimated 60,000 residents remained in the West Bank community, which suffered downed trees and power lines in the storm. She said she hopes residents will be able to return home in two weeks.

The city's governmental operations could also move to Algiers, a timetable that has not yet been set, Clarkson said.

Publisher gives textbooks to LSU students affected by Katrina

Thursday, 2:55 p.m.

When the approximately 13 students displaced by Hurricane Katrina arrived in David Perlmutter's Introduction to Mass Communications class, the LSU associate professor decided to try to get free books.

Perlmutter said he contacted publisher A.B. Longman and asked if they would consider donating 13 of the books for his section and a similar amount for the other two sections of the class.

Jennifer Gremillion at Longman quickly answered with good news - the company would be happy to supply about 40 books at $70 each.

Then came the twist: Perlmutter's estimate that the other two sections of the course had the same number of Katrina victims turned out to be wrong. Instead, he learned, there were a total of 299 students affected by Katrina who were in the class.

Despite the huge increase in the request - from $2,800 to $21,000 - Gremillion told him today by e-mail that Longman, which also has made a sizeable donation to the relief effort, will be sending out the books immediately.

"I thought that was just a remarkable thing," Perlmutter said.

Bodies found at Memorial Medical Center, removed

Thursday, 2:50 p.m.

An unspecified number of patients' bodies that had been left behind Sept. 1 as Memorial Medical Center was being evacuated while water rose around the Uptown hospital were removed today, hospital officials said.

Estimates varied. CNN reported 14 bodies, but Steve Campanini, a spokesman for Tenet Healthcare Corp., the hospital's owner, said it could be higher.

An exact count would not be possible until representatives of the Orleans Parish Coroner's Office staff finished removing the bodies, he said.

Some were in a chapel that had been converted into a morgue, and others
were on the ramp to the Magnolia Street parking garage, hospital spokeswoman Sandra Cordray said.

While some of these patients had been critically ill, others deteriorated as the hospital lost power, she said.

"We couldn't get them out," Cordray said. "I'm sure this is being reported at other hospitals in the city."

John Pope

Fire destroys three Dillard University buildings

Thursday, 2:45 p.m.

Three multi-story buildings burned Wednesday at Dillard University.

New Orleans Fire Superintendent Charles Parent said Thursday that the buildings are probably destroyed, but firefighters have been unable to get close enough to survey the damage or determine the cause of the blaze.

The university has several multi-story dormitories on campus, but Parent did not know which buildings burned.

"From what I understand they were destroyed,'' he said. "It doesn't look like they were salvageable.''

The university closed Aug. 27 and students were evacuated to Centenary College in Shreveport. The university announced last week that its students had returned to their families.

Northshore Harbor Center survives Katrina

By Carol Wolfram
St. Tammany bureau

Northshore Harbor Center near Slidell is structurally sound in
the wake of Hurricane Katrina but in total lockdown
for at least two weeks, a facility official said.

"Power in that area's going to take at least two
weeks to restore and I can't get in my offices until
then because they're electronically locked," said Kerry Painter, the event center's general manger.

Damage to the $16 million center includes water damage in
the lobby, a buckled driveway, crumbled portions of
the parking lot, damaged exterior lights and metal
access (garage) panels, and capsized storage sheds.

"Practically everything we owned was in storage
sheds that were blown around like a stack of cards,"
Painter said.

She credits the slight water damage to the
center, located about a mile inland from Lake
Pontchartrain, to the $3 million spent on fill dirt
and the 84-foot pilings on which the building sits 15 feet above sea level. The
facility opened last spring.

"We're really appreciating the Army Corp of
Engineers," Painter said. "That was a good investment.
In fact, it was a Godsend."

Once power has been restored to the building, a
more extensive damage assessment will be made,
insurance carriers contacted, and repairs begun. No
preliminary date for reopening has been established.

Tally for Army task force

Thursday, 2:25 p.m.

Maj. Gen. Bill Caldwell, commander of the Army's 4,100-troop Task
Force All-American, said the group has moved roughly 3,800 people out of
the city.

Early on, many people did not want to be taken out of the city, he said. "Now they are changing their

Many people who chose to go had heard news of the chaotic early
evacuation efforts and were afraid to join it.
"Now, the batteries in their radios are gone and all they're hearing
are rumors," he said.

The task force, which includes the 82nd Airborne Division and support
units, is conducting a house-to-house "hasty search" of the city
coordinated by FEMA.

"We're knocking on every door and calling out at least," Caldwell said.
The task force is based at Louis Armstrong International Airport and at
the Naval Support Activity in Algiers, both of which escaped serious
damage in the storm.

The group also is patrolling still-flooded neighborhoods such as
Lakeview by boat, and hopes to get high-water vehicles to supplement the
82 boats it has acquired.

Caldwell said 60 percent of the troops in the unit have served in Iraq
and that they welcome the domestic rescue mission.
"These are our brothers," he said. "We're glad to be here."

The Air Force's 4th Air Expeditionary Groups, another collection of
forces, reports that it has evacuated 4,905 people and flown 22,715
people out of the area, including 2,553 medical evauations. The group's
emegency medical squadron has treated 5,552 patients at field hospitals.

Reaching jailed juveniles

The state Office of Youth Development has established contact numbers for parents and other family members who are trying to reconnect with children in the juvenile justice system who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

Juvenile offenders housed in Jefferson, Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes were relocated to other facilities around the state before the storm.

Because most telephone service in the 504 area code has been interrupted by the storm, the agency has only reached about one-fourth of the family members of incarcerated youth.

The Office of Youth Development is urging parents and family members to call the following numbers as they try to find their children's whereabouts:

Main Office: 225-287-7900
Perla Steele: 225-287-7988
Stacey Williams-Miller: 225-287-7955

Information is also available on the agency's website at

Insurance rates to rise

Robert Travis Scott
Capital bureau
BATON ROUGE -- Homeowners from Shreveport to Slidell will be hit with a 20 percent increase in insurance premiums next year thanks to new state legislation that forces property owners statewide to reimburse insurance companies for supporting the state’s catastrophe insurance fund.

After next year, the special charge to policyholders statewide will continue at 10 percent, probably for several years, state insurance officials say. And the increases are in addition to rate hikes that insurers are likely to seek from state regulators as a result of new risk assessments after Hurricane Katrina.

State legislation in 2003 created the Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp., basically a state-sanctioned company that provides homeowners insurance to people who cannot get it at reasonable prices on the open market. The corporation is especially geared toward storm-prone areas, but also helps homeowners who simply can’t get anyone else to write a policy because of credit problems or any number of other reasons.

Citizens has 135,000 policies statewide, with a total exposure of about $12 billion, said Citizen’s Secretary Terry Lisotta. About 60,000 of the policies are likely to make claims as a result of Katrina, he said. The coverage does not include flood damage, which is handled by a federal insurance program.

Under the new program, started last year, Citizens started building a catastrophe fund to be used for claims following a disaster.

But the fund is so new that is has accumulated only about $100 million, well below the $750 million to $950 million that state officials are now estimating will be needed to pay for claims under the plan.

The state had a similar insurance institution prior to Citizens, but its rules of operation were significantly different. Previously, in the event of a disaster the insurance companies had to make payments into a catastrophe fund within 30 days and eat the costs, although they could attempt make it up indirectly in future years with increased premiums.

The new program still requires the insurance companies to fill up the fund in 30 days to cover the total claims, but the companies now can borrow the money and charge residential policyholders statewide to pay off the loans.

State Insurance Commissioner Robert Wooley and the insurance industry pushed for the legislation, saying that companies were reluctant to continue writing polices in the state under the old plan and that homebuyers were facing crisis in trying to find coverage on the commercial market.

At the time, the predecessor to Citizens was bulging with clients, causing industry analysts nationwide to warn about the serious looming problem in Louisiana, which was becoming overly dependent on the state insurer. The sparse availability of household insurance, moreso than the price, was a major consumer and political issue in the capital in 2003.

Citizen’s will now embark on a four-step process that will reverberate for years throughout the state.

First it will draw money from its existing fund. Lisotta said that out of the $100 million in the fund, only about $50 million can legally be paid for claims, because of the fund’s requirements to maintain a cash reserve and pay for operations.

Next, Citizens can take advantage of the fact it, too, is protected by insurance. Called re-insurance, it will provide a net of about $260 million to the fund to pay for claims.

In step three, the insurance companies will make a payment equal to 10 percent of the total home premium coverage in the state, which will put about $112 million more into the fund. The companies can pay cash or borrow the money and charge customers to pay it off. As a result, the insurers will begin charging all customers statewide next year a 10 percent increase over their regular premium.

The fourth step is when Citizens borrows money by issuing bonds with the permission of the state Bond Commission. The bonds are supposed to provide enough money for all remaining claims that can’t be paid by Citizens. Lisotta said the bonds are likely to amount to several hundred million dollars, and they will be paid off by an emergency assessment on all homeowners policies statewide.

The emergency assessment can be up to 10 percent per year of the customer’s premium, which means Citizens can rake in about $112 million a year and pay off the bonds over a multi-year period.

The figures assume that the homeowner policy base in Louisiana will be about the same it has been in the past, Lisotta said, but that could change with people leaving the state.

The end result is that homeowners next year will be paying an extra 10 percent on their premiums for the insurance company assessment plus another 10 percent for the emergency assessment to pay off the bonds. In subsequent years, policyholders will continue paying the emergency assessment until the bonds are paid off.

Jeff Albright, chief executive of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of Louisiana, said the creation of Citizens was critical to the health of the insurance industry and to encourage companies to keep writing policies in the state.

“We have a systematic way to pay for this cataclysmic loss,” Albright said. In the old system, the insurers would have received a bill for the whole loss.
“State Farm would be totally devastated” under the previous system, Albright said of Louisiana’s largest insurance carrier.

Costa Rican consul general at SLU

Southeastern Louisiana University will serve as the temporary headquarters for the consulate general of the Republic of Costa Rica.

Consul General Gonzalo Calderon said he is now prepared to take calls and handle issues from Costa Rican citizens. In addition, as dean of the consular corps for all of Louisiana, he will assist other Latin American citizens as much as possible. Calderon’s office can be reached on the Southeastern campus at 985-549-5454.

He said other consulate offices also have relocated, with Venezuela moving temporarily to Lake Charles, Honduras to Baton Rouge, and France to Lafayette.

“The hurricane has had devastating effects and has been very bad for international communication,” Calderon said. “We appreciate the opportunity to establish a presence on the campus that will allow us to continue our mission.”

“We are happy to be able to provide some services to our friends from Costa Rica,” university President Randy Moffett said. “We have had a close, ongoing relationship with the nation for several years now and this reinforces our international friendship.”

Forensic center opens hotline

Residents with a friend or relative who died before, during or after Hurricane Katrina at a Jefferson Parish hospital, hospice or nursing homes can call the parish forensic center at 365-9108 for information about release to funeral homes.

Jeff testing water lines

Thursday, 1:30 p.m.

The Jefferson Parish Water Department will be testing water lines for leaks until 3 p.m. today.
To report leaks, East Jefferson residents can call 838-4312; West Bank residents can call 349-5058, 349-5084, 349-5081 or 349-5080.

Covington school reopening

COVINGTON -- Christ Episcopal School will reopen Monday for
those families who have returned home to St. Tammany Parish, but
regular curriculum instruction will not resume right away, a school official
said Thursday.

The school's Christwood Boulevard campus off Louisiana 21, which houses
Grades 1 through 8, has electricity. If power is not restored to the
school's South New Hampshire Street campus by Monday, pre-K and
kindergarten students will be temporarily situated at the Christwood location as

The school has hired additional certified teachers to temporarily fill
in for staff and faculty members who are unable to return to work
Monday, Headmaster Greg Homer said in a message posted on the school?s Web

"We ask that (employees) take care of your personal business as needed. Should you require more time for your family," Homer wrote. "Students
not able to return to us on Monday should know that, while we will be
doing meaningful work, we will not initially follow the linear sequence
of the curriculum in a typical fashion. We will introduce topics not
typically covered yet still valuable and instructionally sound."

Homer said that parents and students can find updated information on
the school's Web site,

200 feared dead in Jefferson

By Michelle Krupa
West Bank bureau

An estimated 200 Jefferson Parish residents have perished in Hurricane Katrina, their bodies likely trapped in homes in the West Bank neighborhoods of Westminster and Lincolnshire where flood waters rose as high as four feet and many residents didn't have the means to evacuate, Emergency Managment Director Walter Maestri said Thursday.

Federal and local officials are expected to begin recovering the dead in those areas, as well as in swamped portions of Old Metairie and around Airline Highway, on Friday or Saturday while workers restore utilities so Jefferson can become a staging area for the recovery of Orleans and St. Bernard parishes, Maestri said.

The process, however, has been hampered by a lack of communication in storm-ravaged areas. Cell phone service is spotty, Parish President Aaron Broussard said, and there are too few radios and walkie-talkies to direct information to thousands of police officers and armed military personnel from around the country who are manning Jefferson streets. Satellite phones don't work, he added.

"We are having a tough time getting in touch with New Orleans," Maestri said. "There are very few officials still there."

Red Cross has set up its regional staging area at the Kmart store at Lapalco and Ames boulevards in Marrero, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency was based at nearby Belle Terre Playground, he said. From those sites, food and medical supplies were dispatched to Behrman Stadium in Algiers and other New Orleans locations.

As Jefferson residents reentered the parish Thursday morning, the last of four days they would be allowed to visit their homes, electricity sparked on around major roads. Tastee Donuts, Walgreens and Domino's Pizza shops opened on the West Bank Expressway west of the Harvey Canal. Parish leaders said businesses would be allowed to continue operating, despite a dusk-to-dawn curfew that goes into effect at 6 p.m. today.

Jefferson residents who choose to stay in their homes after the deadline will not be forced to leave, officials said, though they warned that lack of critical services such as power, water and sewerage would make life uncomfortable. A boil-water order remained in effect.

Though Broussard has set a goal of Sept. 30 to have critical infrastructure restored in Jefferson, Maestri said allowing residents to return on that date could compromise efforts to relieve areas hardest-hit by Katrina.

"We know people want to come home, but that can interfere with the recovery process" in Orleans and St. Bernard, he said.

For those who stay in Jefferson after today, Parish President Aaron Broussard announced the creation of "Operation Lifeline Depot," a program to open neighborhood elementary schools as medical clinics and food distribution sites. Locations were not available Thursday morning.

650 rescued since Wednesday

Nine days after Hurricane Katrina devastated the New Orleans area, search-and-rescue patrols are still finding people who have been stuck in their homes since the storm.

Maj. Gen Ron Mason said National Guard helped rescue more than 650 people in between Wednesday and Thursday morning from the flood-ravaged region: Five hundred by high-clearance trucks, 150 by boat and 37 by air. "The mission of saving lives is an ongoing mission,"ť he said.

Mason estimated that fewer than 10,000 people remain in New Orleans, and said the Guard has yet to receive orders from Gov. Kathleen Blanco to aid in the mandatory evacuations being carried out by police. Rather than forcing people from their homes, Mason said, the guard has been able to persuade many holdouts to leave by explaining that it will be months before electric power, plumbing and other basic services are available.

A week in the ruins of Mississippi

By Leslie Williams
Staff writer

Bay St. Louis. Ms. – I had planned to ride out Hurricane Katrina in a schoolhouse-turned shelter about seven miles north of Pass Christian. When, on the day before landfall, police advised that the building – DeLisle Elementary – was no longer on the list of approved shelters, I cast about for an alternative bse of operations.

Not unlike the little pigs of fairy-tale fame fleeing the I’ll-blow-your-house-down wolf, I join family members – including my mother, retreating from her home in Bay St. Louis, and a sister with her three children from Diamondhead – at the house built by my brother, Thyrone, with invaluable help from an uncle. The house, barley north of Interstate 10, is a solid, spacious, one-story structure, and my brother, like our late father, is a man of action during and after natural disasters.

The lens opens here on the personal, week-long journey of a Times-Picayune reporter struggling with other coastal Mississippi residents in Katrina’s whirlpool of misery.

(to continue reading story, click on link below)
Monday, August 29

At 10 a.m., the hurricane is advancing at about 16 miles per hour through an area roughly 35 miles northeast of New Orleans between Slidell and Bay St. Louis. Its category-three, 125-mile-per-hour sustained winds reach 125 miles outward from the eye.

At my brother’s home, pine trees bow to the ferocious winds until the trees snap like twigs in a child’s hand. One breaks several feet from its base, then another, then dozens, like popcorn beginning to pop on a kitchen stove. Some of us watch from a glass door in my brother’s bedroom and find ourselves trying to predict which colossal tree will topple next
We wait for the tree that will smash the house -- and us.

During the most forceful winds, my brother orders everyone into the hallway.

In the end, the house is spared a direct hit.

By late afternoon, tropical force winds linger, but we venture outside. My brother moans about the loss of nearly half the trees on his property. We pile into his pickup truck to check on others, and at the sight of the severe and widespread destruction, a sense of despair gives way to relief and then to gratitude that my brother’s losses are limited to trees and some shingles on his roof.

Like others in the area, my brother doesn’t wait for government services to kick in. Two chainsaws and a collection of strong bodies, including his wife, Luella, and teenage daughter, Simone, comprise a work crew. We move through a jungle of hazards: trees blocking sections of Firetower, Vidalia and other roads become unblocked as Thyrone cuts and we haul the pieces to the side of the road.

As we advance, we find Mike Holmes and his wife, Ginger, doing the same. The Holmes add a small bulldozer to the list of available tools. They are working their way down Giani Road. “We have a neighbor who lives about one and a half miles away,” Ginger says, adding that the neighbor hadn’t answered the telephone since Katrina passed.

On this torn and scarred landscape, an undamaged home is an uncommon sight. Trailers are turned over as well as vehicles. Boats are pitched far from sources of water. Trees are embedded in homes. Many houses have been knocked off their foundations. Sections of roofs are missing. Toppled trees and dangling power poles abound.

Soon we stumble upon members of the Swanier Family, a large family in the DeLisle-Pass Christian area. Oliver Swanier, 72, looks whipped as he talks of the wind damage and the water – more than a foot deep -- that poured into his home. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” he declares. “Camille couldn’t touch it.” He laments the loss of the gorgeous, three-story home owned by his son, Volme. “It’s gone,” he says.

Those are the words many people use to describe once familiar neighborhood landmarks: “It’s gone.”

Turns out that Oliver Swanier was being literal. Volme is moving slowly with the weight of the tragedy on his broad shoulders when we find him not far from where his home, with a picturesque view of a marsh, once stood. Only the foundation remains.

On Bradley Road in DeLisle, before reaching Volme, I hear a young woman screaming and smell smoke.

A granddaughter of Olteray Swanier, 78, and his wife Virginia, 74, has discovered that her grandparents’ home and vehicles have been reduced to ashes and shells of hot metal.

“We lived in this house for 74 years,” recalls Olteray as he inventories the smoldering ruins. “Man, I lost so much stuff, my Ford Ranger pickup, my Buick Century. It’s everything I owned. It’s a shame.”

“I called the Diamondhead Fire Department,” he continues, “but they said there was nothing they could do” because the trucks could not get to the house.

Tuesday, August 30

My mother, Doris, gasps and hugs herself when she sees what has become of our family home in Bay St. Louis, a one-story brick house on Ballentine Street that handily survived the notorious Hurricane Camille in 1969 even though it was only two blocks from the beach.

It’s as if someone swung a giant baseball bat and knocked the away the walls, causing the roof, at least a portion of it, to fall to the earth.

“It’s gone,” my mother manages to utter as she sobs uncontrollably and stares at what’s left of the roof, plopped like a baseball cap over the muddy, crushed wreckage.

For some unknown reason I reach in my pocket for my set of keys and feel a splinter poking in my heart when I realize the keys no longer open anything.
My damp eyes focus on a toy ball that I bought for my mother to use when playing pitch-’n’-catch with my niece, Sarah. For some unknown reason, it seems a bit like the Wicked Witch’s shoes jutting from underneath the house that crushed her in “The Wizard of Oz.”

Maybe the witch symbolizes Katrina and the ball represents the magic she left behind.

I feel cowardly because I don’t walk toward my mother and hold her when I see pain in her eyes equal only to the look she had when my dad died a few years ago. She suffers. I remain immobile, fearful that I’ll fall apart like the house the moment I touch her.

Mississippi connection

I was born in New Orleans and I live there, but this small Mississippi town was imprinted on me as a boy, a place where I watched estuarine life in the shallows of the Sound and Bay the way I now watch television. My childhood was a life of skimboarding, fishing, taking long walks under a full moon and star-filled skies. In the rain and in the glow of a rising sun, I’d pull up crab nets from the bow of a skiff steered by my father.

In my soul, the shoreline, a short walk down the street, has been a family member. It has been brother and sister to me, never far from anything that mattered while I grew up.

In the days that pass, my mother will return often in her thoughts to the moment when she first saw the rubble that has replaced our family home at 222 Ballentine St. She will weep, not for the bricks and mortar but for everything they represented: safety, a lifetime of memories, my father – who built the place, the space where she cradled her children and experienced dramas and peace, joys and troubles, the place where she felt the same contentment and sense of purpose and belonging that she feels at the church she attends every Sunday. Her home is no more just a building than my father was just a man.

Dad was lover, provider, father, joker, wild man and enough other things to fill a five-volume set of books. Each room in what Dad often referred to as our “cinder-block home,” with the American flag out front, was similarly packed with history and personal meaning.

Debris to beach

The entire stretch of Ballentine Street from my parents’ home to the beach is covered with debris so high that I cannot see the water down an archway created by decades-old trees considerably thinned by Katrina. With a few exceptions, the homes on each side of the 100 block of Ballentine and part of the 200 block have been crushed by storm surge and high wind. The same is true for homes along intersecting Easy Street.

Unprecedented destruction, say neighborhood elders.

“Gone. Gone. Gone,” says my mother as she looks at the neighbors’ houses.
At the intersection of Highway 90 and the bridge connecting the city of Bay St. Louis and Pass Christian, only the bridge’s concrete pilings remain, the same for the train bridge that parallels it.

The large homes recently built near the intersection have been razed, massive amounts of shoreline along Beach Boulevard carved away. My mother looks for the home of a friend that she’s visited at least a hundred times. But the landscape is so distorted, she can’t determine where the home is or should be.

Wednesday, August 29

I get up late, around 7 a.m. I’d hoped to start the day at sunrise. My sister, Merinda Davis, her teenage son Braden, her 11-year-old daughter, Sarah, my mother and I plan to return to Bay St. Louis and recover what we can from wreckage. One goal is to find some of the hundreds of family photos Mom has collected in her 73 years. All of her photos, on display on walls and in photo albums, were left behind when she evacuated.

The drive from Merinda’s place in Diamondhead to Bay St. Louis, goes smoothly. We take I-10 to the NASA exit and come into town via Highway 90, past an overturned fuel tanker, flipped cars and other signs of chaos.
She seems weary.

I try to set up an orderly search-and-recovery process: Merinda and I will search in the rubble, watching out for protruding nails, unstable surfaces and broken glass. Sarah will walk in a tiny hazard-free area carrying the treasured things we find to a spot near the street. My mother will supervise, keeping an eye on us all. And I forget what I assigned Braden because I’m distracted by the task of finding him shoes in the rubble that will fit his size 13 foot. His boots and sneakers are in my brother’s pickup. It doesn’t matter anyway because everyone pretty much ignores my instructions, except Sarah, who soon wants to know, “How long do we have to do this?”

We’ve been at the site perhaps less than 30 minutes when Mom, who has wandered off with Braden, slips on something slathered with gray silt and smacks her forehead on something hard. The sudden swelling looks as if a hot-dog bun has been pushed under the skin just above her left eye.
I’m alarmed. My sister’s beside herself.

She wants to leave immediately to get Mom medical attention. I argue that there’s nothing anyone can do for her and that only time will heal the injury. My sister announces, “We’re going.” I declare, “We’re staying.” I tell her I’ve hidden the keys to Mom’s car and she can leave if she finds them. My great fear is that rain will come any moment and destroy whatever Katrina has not. Every moment seems precious to me.

I believe my niece and nephew are appalled by my behavior – and they should be, even though it turns out nothing can be done for Mom’s injury.

My sister, who has her own set of keys to Mom’s car, loads up the group and drives away. I ask them to send someone to pick me up about 6 p.m. At about 4 p.m., my sister-in-law and her 8-year-old son, Prescott, will come to get me. Prescott will tell me I smell and move away when I get in the back seat with him.

During the day, my clothes have been completely drenched with sweat and dried at least twice. I don’t understand why it’s so hot. Thirst has been my only companion during this solitary recovery mission. I regret not bringing lots of water.

I don’t regret staying to complete the work.

Hours after the others leave, I find the address marker for the family home. The marker, a Christmas gift, is carved out of metal. It is a tilting palm leaning over the house numbers. I took several pictures of similar address markers on New Orleans homes in Algiers Point to show the designer what I was trying to achieve. It has several coats of sparkly white-pearl paint and it’s still in prime condition. I found the marker on a mostly vacant lot across the street. The front of our family home landed there after Katrina ripped it off, spun it around and slammed it against a gate.

I find Mom’s giant notebook of telephone numbers and addresses of friends and family that she has amassed over the years. It, like many of the photos, is covered with gray mud. I find more than 150 photos. Only about 50 are in good condition. All of the damp items are scattered on roof shingles to dry. Some of the pictures are from days long ago and make me smile. Each item evokes memories that bring me back and forth in time so often that nostalgia becomes as pervasive as the mud.

While I work, a large, well-equipped search-and-rescue team arrives and begins looking for the body of our neighbor, Kim Bell, in the collapsed house on Easy Street, directly behind ours.

Bell, 51, and her 20-something son, Stephano, opted not to evacuate. Larry Lewis, a resident of the neighborhood, tells me that her son’s body was found earlier in the week.

“No one can find Kim,” he says.

The rescue team does.

In the afternoon, they place her bagged corpse on a canvas stretcher and hoist it onto a small trailer pulled by a motorcycle-like four-wheeler popular with hunters. A neighborhood man identifies the body.

I take a walk toward the beach, hopping like a mountain goat over the wreckage littering Ballentine Street. When I reach the shoreline, I see only trees where homes, some old and magnificent, faced the Sound. It’s eerie, as if the houses were never there.

I walk to the edge of the shoreline and dip my boots in the Sound. The water is a rusty color, more common to a creek. I walk to a favorite haunt, Da Beach House, near the intersection of Washington Street and Beach Boulevard. Only the slab remains.

Gone. Gone. Gone.

Thursday, September 1

My mother’s eye is black and blue. She looks like she was punched by a heavyweight, a look that matches the way she feels – beat up.

I spend the morning and early afternoon in my sister’s garage sorting through the smelly, muddy photos that I’ve harvested from the site. Mom, Merinda and her children pack. Tomorrow they leave for the homes of relatives in Alabama and Georgia. Primitive living ain’t my sister’s style – and I don’t blame her. My mother is reluctant to leave me behind until I remind her that I lived in Europe for nine months, basically with my house on my back – a Gregory backpack that served me like a faithful dog.

I open the garage door to get as much sun on the photos as possible. Many images from our childhood don’t make it through the recovery process. Water damage has made some faces unrecognizable. Pulling a photo out of a plastic sleeve tears away three or four children in a circa 1970s shot. Birthday celebrations are no more when the image comes off the page with the mud that must be removed.

The enormous value of these photos became evident to me early on. Whenever a visitor was curious about the family, my mother would pull out her photo albums and begin telling stories – some short, some long – as she paged through the ever-growing archive.

Katrina has stolen the visual aids to that story-telling. The oral history from my mother’s lips will forever have missing parts. Like the current Bay Bridge with only pilings left, Mom will have no easy road back to the past.
I feel like an environmentalist trying to save beached whales that die, one here one there.

Sad. Discouraged. Weary.

There are some victories: unscathed coffee mugs from Jazzland, Corpus Christi, Texas, as well as ones with her name on them and the “What is a Grandma?” mug; the high school diploma of my dead sister, Deborah; and Mom’s Walk America for Healthier Babies plaque honoring her fund-raising for the March of Dimes.

I listen to radio broadcasts from New Orleans while I work in the garage. It’s a luxury I cannot afford while playing archaeologist at my parents home. Distraction there equals injury. And like every day since I was dispatched to Mississippi to cover Hurricane Katrina, I try to get in touch with the Times-Picayune newsroom. It seems incomprehensible to me that I cannot reach headquarters. I try calling whatever city government and New Orleans Police Department number I can remember when I have a working telephone, but I never get through to the party on the other end. Avid radio and television watchers will later tell me that the newspaper has abandoned its Howard Avenue headquarters and moved to Houma, then to a temporary base of operations in Baton Rouge.

I atone for my earlier inability to open up emotionally with my mother. I talk candidly with her about her suffering the loss of her home. And this time I hold her while she sobs.

Friday, September 2

I’ve never been on an archaeological dig. Yet, I imagine archaeologists to be patient and methodical as they explore sites. Since the first day at the site of our family home, I’ve tried to temper my explorations with similar patience.
Today, this approach yields rewards.

I unearth from the debris Mom’s bike, the sail for my Sunfish, sentimental elementary school photos of brothers and sisters and a box full of the coral-colored stone tiles I purchased to redo the smaller of the two bathrooms in our family home.

If my mother decides to rebuild, these extra tiles could be used in a bathroom in the new home.

When Mom was 71, she surprised us all when she bought the red, wide-wheeled bicycle with a big seat that I recovered today. She was in her 20s the last time she owned a bicycle.

She bragged about riding the apple-red Huffy Santa Fe II model around town. Mom kept it in the laundry room, but hadn’t ridden it recently.

On occasion, visitors to our house in Bay St. Louis would regret not bringing a bike to pedal around the city. And I think Mom enjoyed seeing the surprise on their faces when she said, “Would you like to use mine?”

Although I’ve found my sail and mast, my Sunfish – which I kept on a trailer on a lot across the street – appears to have been pirated by Katrina.

Among the photos culled today from the wreckage, one is an image of Dad, decades ago, being congratulated by his employer for submitting a suggestion that improved performance. There’s a photo of my first aquarium, a head shot of my sister, Petrina, in elementary school, looking like a glamorous child movie star. Another shows my brother, Pierre, and me, each holding a side of our first store-bought kite.

While I sort through the mounds of debris, workers arrive to clear the street. A bulldozer pushes the broken walls, floors and roofing to the sides of the road. When I step out the front gate of our family home, or should I say lot, and look in the direction of the beach, I can again see the Mississippi Sound. It strikes me that this rearranging of debris is the first major sign in this neighborhood of civilization reasserting itself in the territory conquered by Katrina.

I saw more people today than I have since I started sifting through the crushed remains of our family home. A sister of Kim Bell walks by and wants to know “where in the house did my sister die.” I look at the flattened structure and doubt anyone will ever know.

My muscles ache. The sun is setting.

Saturday, September 3

I hand wash clothes in a bucket, pants, socks, underwear. I eat an apple and mixed nuts. I empty the contents of black plastic bags I carried from the site.
The sooner the items inside get in the sun the better.

I’m in my first gas line at 10:46 a.m. at the BP station near the entrance to the Diamondhead golf community. The rules are cash and no more than $20 of fuel per customer. I get mine after waiting two hours and 13 minutes.
Welcome to civilization.

I also pick up free ice and water from a distribution center near the entrance.
I’m beginning to feel emotional fatigue. My battery is low. I despair over the loss of what had been the center of the family universe, the safe place, a place to retreat from the noise of a busy world, a place familiar, a place that helped define me, a place whose very sight reminded me of who I am, a place so full of meaning that I saw it as a country on the continent of Bay St. Louis, a place that my tribe built.

Sunday, September 4

Only two hours in the BP line today, starting in roughly the same spot in line as yesterday. A U.S. Coast Guard worker from Georgia and others in uniform keep the line tight, efficient and orderly.

My brother John Jr., on a brief leave from military duty in Egypt, loans me his Honda generator, a dreamy little device that will help me better communicate with the outside world as services improve.

Civilization advances . . . but without my ancestral home.

Archive salvage to begin

Rainbow International, a restoration and cleaning company, has been hired to salvage historical documents in New Oreleans damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Seven Rainbow International workers will be at the New Orleans Notarial Archives this week to extract water from the building, housing government documents more than 100 years old – including documents from the civil war and blue prints of the city. The documents will then be sent outside the city to be freeze-dried and preserved by the Munters Corp.

The New Orleans Notarial Archives holds 40 million pages of signed acts compiled by the notaries of New Orleans over three centuries. They reside in the only archive dedicated to notarial records in the United States. Founded in 1867 when it gathered in the records of colonial and ante bellum notaries, the New Orleans Notarial Archives relates closely to those European and Western Hemisphere repositories that share Louisiana's heritage of civil law. In New Orleans, nearly every property transaction that has occurred since the founding of the city was recorded by, or found its way to, a notary's office.

For more visit:

Free vacinations available

New Orleans - The U.S. Office of Public Health within the Department of Health and Human Services, in conjunction with West Jefferson Medical Center, Ochsner Clinic Foundation and East Jefferson General Hospital, is coordinating an effort to administer free inoculations against tetanus, diphtheria and Hepatitis A and B. The inoculations will be administered by Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMAT) and nurses and doctors of the three participating hospitals. “Public Health understands the anxieties citizens are having with regards to prevention of the outbreak of contagious disease as well as the threat,” says Commander Kimberly Elenberg. “The secretary is committed to this mission.”

Citizens in metropolitan New Orleans are encouraged to participate in this mass inoculation or other inoculation programs being held to prevent serious illnesses that may result from harmful bacteria and contagions that often come from exposure during severe environmental disasters such as Hurricane Katrina or its aftermath.

Triage services are available at designated locations to determine immunization needs for children, adolescents and adults exposed during Hurricane Katrina. Bring your immunization record(s), if available. Rescue and law enforcement officers as well as persons helping to rebuild municipal and community services are also invited to be immunized.

Immunizations will be administered Sept. 9 through Sept. 13 at the following locations from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day:

East Jefferson General Hospital
3800 Houma Boulevard, Metairie
Rear of the hospital

Ochsner Clinic Foundation,
1514 Jefferson Highway, Jefferson,
Emergency Department

West Jefferson Medical Center
1101 Medical Center Blvd., Marrero
Front Lawn of Hospital

Southeastern students check in

HAMMOND – As classes resume today, more than 7,500 of Southeastern Louisiana University’s approximately 15,500 students have checked in and the vast majority say they plan to return to school.
The university has also accepted more than 400 applications from displaced students whose studies at New Orleans area universities were disrupted by Hurricane Katrina.
Following the storm, Southeastern quickly instituted a campaign to locate students and determine their status. The check in procedure – which students can complete online, by phone or in person -- is also gauging students’ needs from altering schedules to replacing textbooks.
Knowing that some current and displaced students were not ready to resume studies today, the university has also scheduled a compressed, eight-week session, which will begin Oct. 20.
The university is also gearing up for two special sessions for displaced students, scheduled for noon Saturday and 4:30 p.m. Monday at the Southeastern Student Union. At those sessions, students will be provided academic counseling, advice and other information regarding application and registration at Southeastern.
Stephen Soutullo, dean of enrollment management, said Southeastern has no idea how many displaced students will attend the two sessions, but is preparing for a large number.
“I don’t think we could be any readier,” said Soutullo. “We’re expecting the unexpected and we will handle it as we encounter it.
“We want these visiting students to come to the special sessions so that we will know exactly what their needs and questions are,” he said. “We’re going to do everything we can to help them, as well as our current students.
Soutullo said approximately 300 current students indicated on check-in forms that they did not plan to return to the university. Many are changing their minds about resigning, however, after university staffers address their individual needs and explain their options through follow up phone calls.
“When we call them and talk them through it, only about a dozen have actually resigned,” he said.

Jeff Parish could reopen sooner than expected

Thursday, 9:20 a.m.

Jefferson Parish officials are not yet ready to stray from the 3- to 4-week timeline for residents to return, but that possibly could change soon, Emergency Management Director Walter Maestri said Thursday morning.

"It might be earlier than we thought," he said in an interview on WWL-TV. "We certainly hope it will be. (But) that estimate is still three to four weeks."

Maestri said signs of life are surfacing, such as a Wendy's restaurant and a Walgreen's drugstore opening on the West Bank.

He said the situation is improving rapidly in Kenner and Harahan is in good shape in East Jefferson, while work parishwide on the water, electrical and sewer systems also is going well.

"We are making real progress there," he said. "There are literally thousands of crews here . . . The West Bank is improving quite rapidly."

Responding to a question about the parish pump stations during the storm, Maestri said the pump operators in the large stations were removed once conditions became dangerous. At that point, those stations were shut down, he said.

While some smaller, electrical pumps in the parish can operate remotely, he said the huge, diesel pumps require operators, who returned about 10 hours after they were evacuated.

"So it is not true that we shut down all the pumps," he said. "It is true we shut down the larger pumps."

Congressman: Rebuilding could cost more than $200 billion

Thursday, 8:55 a.m.

The rebuilding of New Orleans could cost more than $200 billion, and it's time to start talking about those kinds of figures, Congressman Bill Jefferson, D-New Orleans, said Thursday.

"I think it is unrealistic to appropriate $10 billion, $30 billion at a time," Jefferson said in an interview on WWL-TV. "It's important to talk about the big number up front."

Jefferson said he is concerned that members of Congress may think these initial outlays are enough to take care of the whole problem and perhaps may not want to come back again and again to approve more money.

"I have said $225 billion," Jefferson said. "These are not unrealistic numbers."

That money would pay for repairs to the levee system, the port system, 0 percent loans for the city of New Orleans and all the school system which rely significantly on property taxes and have lost their tax bases, as well as cleanup and housing costs and the incentives that will be needed in the future to convince businesses to return.

Jefferson also said the estimated $14 billion price tag to raise the levee system in New Orleans to defend against a Category 5 storm is not so realistic. He said he and other members of the state's delegation have pushed for more money in the past, but the climate in Congress is now much more favorable for a huge outlay for the area.

Jefferson also said the timing is right to talk about the huge amount of money needed for the New Orleans recovery.

"There is so much sympathy for the area and I think (a much larger appropriation) would have a great amount of support."

N.O. Police chief passionately defends officers, mayor

Thursday, 7:30 a.m.

Saying he wasn't interested in talking about the "cowards" who walked off his force, New Orleans Police Chief Eddie Compass described his officers as heroes and said Mayor Ray Nagin is a great leader.

"When you talk about somebody who is a leader, no one is a greater leader than Ray Nagin," Compass said Thursday morning on the Today television show.

Nagin talked about the 1,200 officers still working hard and under extraordinary situations: spending 6 days at the Superdome, remaining on the job despite losing family members, homes or having to take care of large familes.

"You want to talk about cowards; I have no time for that," he said.

Compass said no residents have yet been removed forcibly. He said the voluntary evacuation effort would continue Thursday. Once that is completed, "we will start the forced evacuation with the minimum of force."

The police chief said he is confident his officers can handle the difficult job of convincing residents - many dead-set against abandoning their property - to leave their homes.

He said his department is perhaps best qualified of any in the country for the task, considering the experience New Orleans police have in controlling the millions of people who come into the city for Mardi Gras.

Compass said he would love to have a cruise ship locate nearby to offer some housing and refuge for his department.

"I think it only fair this country protect these heroes."

Update on payroll information for N.O. schools employees

Thursday, 7:10 a.m.

Alvarez & Marsal, the restructuring firm that has been
working with the New Orleans Public Schools, is leading an effort to
process the NOPS payroll originally scheduled for Sept. 2.

Last week, A&M and NOPS team members retrieved back-up
tapes containing payroll information for NOPS employees. This
information and the required software are now being recovered and
uploaded to systems at IBM's Disaster Recovery Data Center in Tuxedo,
New York – a complex project that takes at least several days.

Once all information is recovered and the system is tested, A&M expects to
make arrangements with a national financial services company – with
locations around the country – to distribute payments to employees.
A&M said that payments, which might be in the form of advances if
accurate payroll information is not quickly recoverable, would be
available next Thursday.

Bill Roberti, managing director of A&M who has been
serving as chief restructuring officer for NOPS, said: "To date, over
3,000 employees have called the hotline and provided their contact
information. It is crucially important that all employees call in, if
they have not already done so. We need your contact information in
order to get in touch with you to provide updates and future

A&M has also set up a new web page,, which provides information and answers to frequently asked questions. In addition, the website of the Louisiana Department of Education,, is an excellent source as well.

"Rebuilding New Orleans, rebuilding the schools and
assisting everyone whose life has been devastated by this disaster
will be an enormous undertaking," said Roberti.

"We are proud to be part of a team being led by State Superintendent Cecil Picard, who is showing leadership, compassion and keen insight during this crisis. Our prayers are with the residents of this region and the many
individuals and organizations who are working to restore it."

Officials urge NOPS Employees to Call the Toll-Free Hotline - 877 771-5800.

Pay and mandatory evacuation on N.O. City Council agenda

Thursday, 6:45 a.m.

City Councilwoman Rene Gill Pratt said before today's council meeting in Baton Rouge that officials will talk about relocating City Hall, coming up with a plan to make sure all employees are paid and talking about the issue of a mandatory evacuation.

Pratt, in Baton Rouge, said city officials want to come up with a plan for workers who do not have direct deposit to get their checks. A possibility, she said, is for employees to get their money at Western Union offices.

She said city leaders may also decide to temporarily relocate City Hall to be able to continue the functions of government.

She conceded there is confusion about whether Mayor Ray Nagin's call for a mandatory evacuation will be enforced, with Gov. Kathleen Blanco at the same time saying there is no mandatory evacuation.

"That is another issue we need to talk about," she said.

Pratt said she believes it will take about 90 days for the water to be removed from all areas of the city, pointing to the high water that remains in so many places, including New Orleans East and parts of the Carrollton area.

"You don't want people to think it will be tomorrow or the next day," she said.

But Pratt said some areas of the area will be ready for people to return much sooner. In fact, she said Algiers could be ready for residents to leave in a matter of days and pointed out that Jefferson Parish will be ready for residents much sooner than New Orleans.

Pratt said she envisions some people returning to first relocate to Jefferson Parish so they can be ready to eventually move back into New Orleans. And Pratt said she is optimistic about the future of the area.

"New Orleans is still a destination and it will be an even greater destination . . . It's like how Florida was rebuilt."