Storm Help Available in St. John Parish

In St. John the Baptist Parish, various stations have been set up to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.

FEMA – Public Assistance is available through FEMA. Please register online at www.fema.gov or call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). Hearing Impaired, please call TTY 1-800-462-7585. Computers are available at all parish libraries and New Wine Christian Fellowship if needed for registration.

Salvation Army – Hot meals are being served by the Salvation Army, please call (985) 652-2222 for more information.

Office of Family Support (Food Stamps) – The office will be open from 6:00 a.m. until midnight for the next several days. It is located at 546 W. 10th Street in Reserve, LA. For additional information please call (985) 536-4735.

Jazzfest still on, Davis says

Friday, 8:05 p.m.

The 2006 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival will go on, despite the ravages of Hurricane Katrina.

“There will be a Jazzfest. We are committed to putting on the 2006 Jazz and Heritage Festival, whatever that may take,” said Quint Davis, producer/director of the springtime musical extravaganza and president of Festival Productions Inc.-New Orleans, which produces the festival with AEG Live, the nation’s second highest-grossing concert promoter.

Details are sketchy at this point.

“We don’t know when, we don’t know where, we don’t know what format,” Davis said. “There will be a Jazzfest in 2006. It will be in Louisiana. It will be as close to New Orleans as we can get it.”

The producers would like to hold the event at its customary site at the Fair Grounds Race Course, but if that’s not possible they are committed to holding it in Louisiana. “We’ll be starting from the Fair Grounds and working our way out” in determining a location, Davis said.

This commitment comes from all of the major stakeholders in the festival, Davis said.


Davis and Jazzfest founder George Wein have met with AEG Live Chief Executive Officer Randy Phillips and other top AEG Live officials. AEG will continue to bankroll the festival, as it did in 2005.


The plan to go forward with the 2006 festival has the support of members of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, which owns the festival. Davis and Phillips have have been in contact with foundation Executive Director Don Marshall, who has been in contact with board members.

The producers and the foundation also have committed to contribute to a fund to support festival staff, many of whom have been dislocated by Hurricane Katrina. Jazzfest planning typically begins in September.

Food stamps available in St. Charles Parish

Friday, Sept. 9, 2005 7:56 p.m.

Food stamps and unemployment applications are available for St.
Charles Parish residents, said Parish spokesman Steve
Sirmon.

Residents who have applied for help can pick up food stamps on U.S. 90, near Hahnville High School. The office opens at 8 a.m.

The WIA One Stop Office, located on Paul Maillard Road
in Luling is processing unemployment applications.

That office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. The office is not providing job placements at this time.

Storm claims debated

7:51 p.m., Friday

By Mary Judice
and Jaquetta White
Business writers

Was it water or wind that damaged your home and will it be declared a total loss?

These are the questions on the minds of several hundred thousand
policyholders trying to figure out how to pay for Hurricane Katrina-related property damage. A key part of the debate is whether claims should be filed under homeowners or flood insurance policies.

“It is not a black and white answer because each claim is different,’’
said Bill Mellander of the Allstate Natural Catastrophe team in Northbrook, Ill.
Homeowners policies provide compensation for damage resulting from high
winds, but do not cover flood damage. The only water losses covered under a homeowners policy are those that occur after a windstorm has damaged a building, such as a tree that creates a hole in the roof, allowing water to pour into the structure.

Flood damage is covered by federal flood insurance, which is a type of coverage held by a fraction of homeowners. Flood insurance, however, only covers damages up to $250,000.

As a result, many homeowners would prefer to see their claims handled through homeowners insurance. And many policyholders are arguing that wind from the storm caused the levee breach that flooded the city and that any water damage should be covered under a traditional storm policy.

Jeff Albright, chief executive of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of Louisiana, said Katrina was an unusual storm because flooding occurred after the hurricane had passed through the area.

“Any claim from rising waters, whether from rain, a tidal surge or a
levee breaking, comes under the flood insurance policy,’’ Albright said.

The issue of which policy to file Katrina claims under was a crucial topic when insurance commissioner Robert Wooley met with almost 300 insurance company representatives at a hastily called meeting in Atlanta Wednesday.

“Obviously there are several kinds of potential problems,’’ said Bob
Hunter, director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America. “In this event the big problem will be what’s wind and what’s water?’’

Hunter said those who try to make a case that wind lead to the flooding
will have a hard case. “I think that argument may have a class action law suit to follow it.’’

Carolyn Gorman, vice president of the Insurance Information Institute,
said only about half of New Orleans residents have flood insurance, which far exceeds the national average of about 20 percent.

She said the residents without insurance and the circumstances surrounding the rising water in New Orleans will no doubt lead to disputes.

The debate over which policies to make claims under isn’t the only issue consumers are debating. Also at issue is when a damaged home is considered a total loss, or beyond repair.

“There is no cut and dry line or blanket that determines what creates a total loss,’’ Mellander said.

Nor are there state rules that dictate when a structure must be declared a total loss, Wooley said.

“There are no rules because every policy, even with the same company, is different,’’ he said. “It takes an adjuster to look at each property
and each policy to determine what people are entitled to.’’

Gorman said the term total loss is usually reserved to car insurance
settlements.

“I have never heard of houses routinely described as totaled,’’ she
said.

But there are practical rules that apply.

“If it costs more to repair a home than to replace a home, we would pay
the full amount of the policy,’’ said Dick Luedke, spokesperson for State Farm Insurance, the largest home insurer in the state. He added that State Farm homeowners do not cover damage from flood waters.

And consumers have protection from a law that applies to fire and
dwelling or homeowners policies, Albright said.

In short, the so-called ‘valued policy’ law protects consumers when they have a significant loss. The law provides that if an insurer declares a total loss on a property, it must pay out the full value of the policy limit.

“If the building is beyond repair, they can’t write a check for less than the policy limit,’’ Albright said.

For lesser damages, the insurance policy will pay the lesser of the
cost to repair or replace or the policy limit.

Albright said if a property is insured for $200,000 and the repairs
total $150,000 the insurer would pay $150,000.

If a policyholder carries $100,000 coverage on a property valued at
$200,000 and the damages amount to $150,000, the insurer would pay $100,000.

Those without flood insurance will have to rely on the Federal
Emergency Management Agency for a loan, grant or other financial assistance to pay for repairs

St. John Parish Moves Toward Normalcy

Friday, Sept. 9, 2005 6 p.m.

By Allen Powell II
River Parishes bureau
Nearly two weeks after Hurricane Katrina turned the metro New Orleans’ world upside down, St. John the Baptist Parish is starting to regain vestiges of its former self.

More grocery, retail stores and gas stations are opening with each passing day; the post office no longer has that shuttered, abandoned look. And, just as on Friday nights of autumns past, some local high school football teams took to the field tonight.

On many neighborhood streets, air conditioners are humming and green Waste Management garbage cans are lined up neatly at the curb awaiting pick-up. Parish utilities are all operating and public schools are expected to start on Monday.

On the surface everything in St. John appears normal. But, even if bodies are not decomposing in the parish’s streets, lifestyles are slowly being lost.

Most gas stations and grocery stores that are open have lines of people. Some stores, like Wal-Mart and Winn Dixie, are limiting the number of people allowed inside in order to maintain security and handle crowds. Many grocery stores and convenience stores also are closing earlier because employees need longer to re-stock shelves after the daily crowds, managers said. Some stores, like a CVS in Destrehan, have signs saying that they will not sell alcohol to customers.

Inside their cool homes, some families have doubled in size from taking in friends and families who have been displaced. Many also are wondering whether they will be employed next month.

Since Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent flooding, the city of New Orleans has been described by many as an enormous bowl surrounded by water. Fittingly, now that the bowl is full of water, people in St. John Parish are experiencing ripples from things collapsing inside of it.

Kim and Donald White of LaPlace have definitely seen their lives change, despite the fact that their home suffered little damage in the storm. While pumping gas on Airline Highway, the couple was shocked at how little gas $40 now buys.

Kim White said her household of three has increased by seven members because of family and friends displaced by Hurricane Katrina. While she knows she is fortunate to have her home and electricity, White noted that she doesn’t know how long her money will allow her to continue to support her new, possibly permanent, houseguests.

“Some of us don’t know if we have jobs to go back to. You’re just at a standstill,” White said. ‘It’s a rough time to me. It’s a nightmare.”

Vicki Pousson of Reserve said she avoided most of the personal heartache associated with Katrina. None of her family was injured, her house sustained minimal damage and her husband, Lyndon Jr., still has his Donaldsonville job.

In fact, when the Poussons and their children returned to their home, they found their electricity on and their freezer full of unspoiled food. Pousson admitted that the things she sees on television from New Orleans seem surreal from the comfort of her home.

“We couldn’t believe (the television). It felt like something in a movie, something that is not true,” Pousson said. “It makes you feel guilty in a sense that you have food and these people are out there.”

But, Pousson notes that she has cared for stranded family and watched as her friends struggled to put their lives back together, while she awkwardly attempted to offer help. She worries about how people in her community and New Orleans will ever regroup after this tragedy.

But, St. John Parish could be in a position to benefit from businesses looking to relocate, Parish Councilman Steve Lee said.

Although it may have been seen before as an inexpensive, bedroom community of Jefferson and Orleans parishes, Lee said he has already talked to several businesses that are thinking about relocating to the parish. Lee said he is working with the parish’s economic development department to find them office space.

But, any future economic boosts may come too late for some businesses struggling to stay solvent now. When people are struggling to buy food and pay their rents and mortgages, they have a hard time purchasing luxury items like new cars or furniture.

Elizabeth Houidobre, a sales manager at Mike Beach Furniture Showrooms in LaPlace, said overall business has considerably since the storm, although there has been an increase in bunk bed sales.

But, Houidobre, who was living at the furniture store because of the condition of her Metairie home, was cautiously optimistic about the eventual rebirth of the entire region.

“When we get back together as a city, people will sit in a recliner and watch Saints’ games.” Houidobre said. “It may take some time, but it will happen.”

Jefferson sets up legal fund

Friday, 6:36 p.m.

Staff report
Washington bureau

WASHINGTON -- Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, under federal investigation for his role in promoting telecommunications businesses in Africa, has filed papers to form a legal defense fund.

The fund can accept contributions and offers of pro-bono legal help. Donations are limited to $5,000 per individual or organization.

The federal investigation has included raids of Jefferson’s homes in New Orleans and Washington D.C., his accountant’s office, and the Maryland home of the vice president of Nigeria. The Washington Post reported that agents found a substantial sum of cash in a freezer and that the probe is a part of a sting operation that began almost a year ago.

Legal documents indicate that one area of the inquiry centers on whether the congressman violated a 1997 act that bars payments, or attempted payments of cash or other items of value, to a foreign official.

The papers establishing the legal fund lack the required signature from the fund’s trustee, Walter Wilkerson, Jefferson said. He explained in a letter to the House Resources Center that the papers and required signature were shipped from New Orleans, but haven’t arrived yet in Washington D.C. because of Hurricane Katrina.

Some scenes from Mid City

Friday, 6:25 p.m.

By Leslie Williams
Staff writer

A residential section of Mid City – roughly encircled by Canal Street, City Park Avenue, South Carrollton Avenue and the Pontchartrain Expressway – is among neighborhoods throughout New Orleans that could benefit as more of the city’s pumps become operational.

On Friday afternoon, homes in the area along Cleveland, Palmyra, Baudin and D’Hemecourt streets continued to steep in dark, murky waters. Water cleared the tops of some cars and rested below the windows of others on South Hennessey, South Alexander, South Murat, South Olympic and South St. Patrick streets.

The water line outside Gigi’s Bistro and the Banks Street Bar & Grill reached halfway up their front doors.

A canoe trip through the area Friday offered solitude comparable to many Louisiana bayous, only occasionally interrupted by airboats with rifle-toting crews of law enforcement officers who were actively patrolling the areas to keep looters away.

At 4328-4330 Banks Street, two medium-sized black dogs barked loudly as they jumped around on a second-story porch. Dogs were elsewhere in the neighborhood, including 307-305 South Hennessey Street, where three pooches – one tiny and brown, one medium-sized and brownish and one black –yapped and kept each other company.

One of the members on an airboat crew wondered aloud what will happen when the water gets too low for the water patrols. In that area, City Park Avenue – where the Canal Street Car route ends – is already terra firma. It was bone dry Friday and the first block on Canal Street from the cemeteries was only inches high.

1,100 rescue workers set up shop in Algiers

By Rob Nelson
Staff writer

The weather is steaming, the accommodations are makeshift and the recovery will take months, but for Capt. James Hay of the New York City Fire Department, the mission remains clear.

"We learned after 9/11 that no one city can do it by themselves," he said Friday.

The 22-year veteran of the NYFD is one of about 1,100 military, fire and medical officials who have set up shop in a corner of Algiers to take the logistical and perhaps some of the emotional weight of Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts off New Orleans police and fire departments.

Three buildings in Algiers have been transformed into headquarters for the crews: the Little Sisters of the Poor's Mary Joseph Residence, which is housing fire officials from Maryland and many New Orleans firefighters and their displaced families; Our Lady of Holy Cross College, where military officials and New York firefighters have taken ground; and Our Lady of Wisdom Health Care Center, which is serving as a command center for several agencies.

With the rest of New Orleans still devastated, Algiers bustles with recovery efforts, including Army camps established at the Naval Support Activity as well as the Behrman Sports Complex, now the headquarters for citywide cleanup.

At the Mary Joseph Residence, three flags have been draped over the entranceway: Maryland's state flag, the American flag and one featuring the New Orleans fleur de lis. The site is filled with fire trucks and emergency vehicles packed with supplies, including bottled water, napkins and detergent. One room, called the Sacred Heart Center, has been converted into a bedroom.

A firefighter on Friday napped in a hallway on a thin foam mattress, while others smoked cigarettes or talked on cell phones outside. Some simply sat, perched on what seemed to be large seats removed from minivans.

At Holy Cross College, Army Capt. Dave Maxwell from Fort Hood, Texas, said he and several of his soldiers, many of whom returned from Iraq five months ago, volunteered for duty in New Orleans. "It gives us a chance to use our ability to directly help the American people," he said.

Help has poured in from nearly 20 states, including California, Illinois, Texas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Montana, Idaho, Arkansas and Wyoming. Some of the soldiers are staying in a tent city at Holy Cross College, including Private First Class Richard Martinez, who kept post at the campus entrance, checking incoming traffic. "People here are really nice," said Martinez, a soldier in Maxwell's troop. "They appreciate us being here, we are here to help them."

Martinez, who had never previously visited New Orleans, said he didn't mind the conditions inside his tent, which can sleep between six and eight soldiers. "I don't care how long we'll be here," he said, feet away from where officials spray painted a large white circle on the college's front lawn for helicopter landings.

Hay said crews are not only helping New Orleans firefighters repair fire stations but have also helped firefighters check on their homes. Of the 350 New York firefighters in Algiers, about 30 are part of an emergency management team that has been trained to assist with disasters. Formed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the team is finally getting a chance to put their plans into action, Hay said.

"This is the first time we've had to implement it in a true disaster," he said.

Meanwhile, at the Behrman Sports Complex, work crews continued to fan out to clean streets citywide. Usually swamped with teenagers looking for basketball pickup games and children swimming in the public pool, the complex is stacked with trucks, equipment, portable bathrooms and trailers. Slidell-based Omni Pinnacle is leading the effort along with dozens of subcontractors.

Ricky Lyne, who lives in Bastrop and works for an Arkansas engineering company, has been on the job since Monday, cleaning streets and chopping trees along with 30 others from his company. Most of the men worked 12-hour days, including lunch and water breaks. A veteran of Hurricane Ivan cleanup efforts in Florida, Lyne said he has seen progress in New Orleans. "It's in bad shape but it looks better everyday."

More lights coming on in St. Tammany

Friday, 6:05 p.m.

Cleco and Washington-St. Tammany Electric Cooperative had restored electricity to about 40 percent of their customers in St. Tammany Parish by late Friday. According to one estimate, that’s about 32,000 structures.

However, government and utility officials said, just because your area has been “energized” doesn’t automatically mean you will have electricity in your home, because much work remains to repair distribution centers and string new lines.

The Mandeville area seemed to be in the best shape, with power restored to all or most homes in three dozen subdivisions. Power was restored last week to all major hospitals and most allied healthcare facilities, nursing homes and the like.

About 75 percent of Slidell had been energized, although most individual residences in that power grid still didn’t have power as dusk approached, city officials and residents said.

Most of Slidell’s sewage lift stations were back on line, either from restored Cleco power or generators, and being pumped through a network of lines to the central treatment plant.

Just east of the city, the huge Cross Gates subdivision got power back Friday, as did a handful of other subdivisions in the Military Road area, the electric cooperative reported.

In Covington, Mayor Candace Watkins estimated 30-35 percent of the homes now had electricity.

“We are way ahead,” she said. "We’re well into recovery … Our biggest problem is with our sewage lift stations. Only 20 or so of the 58 stations were on line Friday."

The drinking water systems in Covington, Mandeville and Slidell have been declared free of bacterial contamination, although some officials suggested citizens boil their water a few days longer if they plan to drink or cook with it.

Chase to open bank branches Sunday

Friday, 6:16 p.m.

Chase will open 42 branches throughout Louisiana Sunday, including
nine in the New Orleans area and six around Baton Rouge, to serve customers
affected by Hurricane Katrina.

The New Orleans area branches are
located in Mandeville, LaPlace, Destrehan, Hammond, Covington and Slidell.

Baton Rouge campuses take in displaced students

Brother Martin High School has set up a Baton Rouge campus at Catholic High School for boys who were displaced by the hurricane from schools in New Orleans.

Meanwhile, 200 girls from the New Orleans area have enrolled at St. Joseph’s Academy in Baton Rouge, boosting that school’s enrollment to 1,000 students, said Mindy Averitt, St. Joseph’s communications director.

The new girls will attend regular St. Joseph’s classes, while Brother Martin in Baton Rouge will hold classes from 3:45 to 9:30 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays in Catholic High’s classrooms, 855 Hearthstone Drive, Baton Rouge.

Brother Martin held registration on Thursday and Friday. All tuition paid for students previously enrolled in Brother Martin for the 2005-2006 school year will be applied toward tuition in Baton Rouge, according to the Catholic High Web site at www.catholichigh.org. While students will not be required to wear uniforms, a dress code will be enforced.

“We’ve figured we can take about 600 students,” said Sister Joan Laplace, Brother Martin community relations director. “We had about 1,100 inquires.”

The Brothers of the Sacred Heart operate Brother Martin, St. Stanislaus School in Mississippi and Catholic High School, making the transition as easy as possible, Sister Joan said.

At St. Joseph’s, which is run by the Sisters of St. Joseph, the school received more than 650 applications for new students after the hurricane, Averitt said. “We wish we could have taken all 650, but it just wasn't possible,” she said. The new students' first day at St. Joseph’s was Tuesday.

Societies raise more than $200,000

The Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi state societies in Washington raised more than $200,000 this week for American Red Cross efforts in the Gulf Coast region.

About 2,000 people attended the event Wednesday on the roof of a Washington law firm.

“”To have raised more than $200,000 at a benefit that was planned in a less than week is a great accomplishment,” said Carling Dinkler, president of the Louisiana State Society. Congressional delegation members of the four states served as honorary hosts.

The Louisiana State Society is mostly a social organization that consists of Washington area residents who have ties to the state

Northrup Grumman set to reopen Monday

By Michelle Krupa
West Bank bureau

As Jefferson Parish continued to dig out from Hurricane Katrina's wreckage, the area's largest private employer called back some of its workforce Friday, aiming to jumpstart its shipbuilding enterprise in Avondale as a sister facility in Pascagoula, Miss., recovered from far more severe storm damage, a spokesman said.

Northrop Grumman Corp. asked maintenance, scaffold and security shift personnel to report to the Avondale shipyard, if possible, Monday at 5:30 a.m. as the company worked to reopen its Mississippi shipyard, formerly known as Ingalls, spokesman Bill Glenn said.

"The New Orleans operation did not sustain as much damage as Pascagoula," he said, adding that he did not know whether workers from Mississippi might be shifted to work in suburban New Orleans. "We're still in recovery mode."

Supervisors in the production, QA, PC, industrial engineering and material supervision departments are expected to report to a meeting Saturday at 9 a.m. at Ormond Country Club in Destrehan.

New Orleans area employees should visit one of three locations on Sunday and Monday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to check in at: Winn Dixie, 375 North Canal Blvd., Thibodeaux; Winn Dixie Shopping Center, 4560 Highway 1, Raceland; Wal-Mart, 2799 West Thomas St., Hammond.

The announcement came less than a month after Northrop unveiled plans to lay off 400 workers at the Avondale yard and 500 workers in Pascagoula by year's end. A hiring freeze already had slashed about 400 jobs and another 600 were expected to be eliminated but next summer through resignations, retirements and other departures.

Meanwhile, at least 60,000 Jefferson residents were still living in their homes Friday after being asked to leave Thursday evening so work crews could have free reign to restart electricity, water and drainage services, officials said. Many more were expected to return Monday, when temporary passes would be given to essential workers and homeowners who want to begin reconstruction.

Parish President Aaron Broussard said top officials in Kenner and Harahan have begged him to allow all residents back into those towns immediately to reopen businesses that already have regained water and power. A boil-water remained in effect in East Jefferson but was lifted Friday on the West Bank.

Jefferson Parish banks also were expected to open some branches across the parish Monday, he said.

But Emergency Management Director Water Maestri said that until sewerage services are fixed, parish officials will continue to bar "nonessential" workers from Jefferson and enforce a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. "Sewerage can lead to another disaster, which is disease," he said.

However, Broussard said residents who need to enter Jefferson starting Monday to work for public entities, hospitals or other working businesses can get entry passes at Blue Bayou Waterpark, at Interstate 10 and Highland Road in Baton Rouge, with appropriate identification. Residents who want to get into the parish to work on their houses also will be issued passes, he said.

"We are encouraging businesses to begin the reconstruction right away," he said. "If restaurants want to open up, it might look like Casablanca with troops from everywhere, but they're customers.

"What we don't want is people meandering through the utility trucks, slowing things up," Broussard added. "The curfew is strict. You don't want to spend the night here. You'll be miserable."

Maestri said renovating the sewerage system has been hampered by delayed delivery of 400 generators to operate lift stations. Maestri said he asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the generators Aug. 28, but only half of them arrived Friday, he said.

"Nobody knows" where they are, Maestri said. "Ghosts stole them."
FEMA spokeswoman Lara Uselding said the agency has been delivering generators to parishes across southeast Louisiana based on assessments by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of requests approved by the state.

"We are working around the clock to deploy generators," she said. "Right now, Jefferson Parish has received generators that would help them begin the process of making the environment livable."

Uselding said, however, said she did not know how Jefferson could have received dozens of generators or whether the parish might get more.
"They could not have gotten 200," she said. "I don't where they got that number."

McCrery: Red Cross should help non-Red Cross shelters

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Jim McCrery, R-Shreveport, said he’d like to see the American Red Cross help out shelters housing Hurricane Katrina victims, even if the organization isn’t running the facilities.

In Shreveport, he said Friday, the Red Cross is running 10 of the city’s 40 shelters for people displaced by the hurricane. But McCrery said all of the shelters, including those run by government, faith-based and community organizations, need resources.

“I’d like to see the Red Cross help,” McCrery said. So far, he said, the Red Cross has limited its involvement to its own shelters.

The Red Cross, which reported over $400 million in contributions for Hurricane Katrina victims as of Tuesday, did not respond to phone calls Friday seeking a comment.

'Hurricane Pam' exercise offered glimpse of Katrina misery

Friday, 6 p.m.

By John McQuaid
Staff writer

The document’s cover page reads: “Southeast Louisiana Catastrophic Hurricane Functional Plan.”

It maps out detailed instructions for emergency managers responding to a deadly hurricane that floods all of New Orleans, killing more than 60,000: how to rescue and evacuate hundreds of thousands of people stranded on rooftops or trapped by rising waters; how to quickly mobilize federal, state and local agencies; how to drain water laced with toxic sludge and clean up a ruined city.

But officials never put this plan into action. It wasn’t an official disaster playbook but an experiment, the product of a weeklong simulation done last year in which emergency managers confronted a fictional “Hurricane Pam.”

The halting emergency response to Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath left thousands of people stranded in New Orleans and adjacent areas for days without food and water, with many vulnerable to roaming gangs of outlaws. Flaws in communications and coordination between government agencies at the federal, state and local levels apparently slowed the response, though exactly what went wrong has yet to be determined.

The 109-page report on Pam, dated Sept. 20, 2004, and provided by a participant in the exercise, addresses many of these issues.

The simulation imagined a grim scenario even worse than Katrina: A slow-moving Category 3 hurricane strikes the New Orleans area, overtopping levees and causing 10-12 feet of flooding in New Orleans and the entire east bank metro area.

Katrina’s flood waters spared most of Jefferson Parish and parts of New Orleans.

In the simulation, 61,290 people die, including 24,250 in New Orleans. An additional 384,000 are injured or fall ill.

The exercise grew out of an initiative at the Federal Emergency Management Agency started early in the Bush presidency to develop plans for the worst possible disasters that could hit the United States.

The initiative was sidelined for a time after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but moved forward last year. According to a federal document outlining the Louisiana project released by congressional Democrats Friday, “FEMA and the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness believe that the gravity of the situation calls for an extraordinary level of advance planning to improve government readiness to respond effectively to such an event.”

The document says that once complete, the Louisiana plan was to be used as a model for plans for other extreme disasters, including terrorist strikes.

The Pam simulation was meticulously designed and run by a private contractor, Baton Rouge-based Innovative Emergency Management, Inc.

“We were still fairly early in the process” of developing a formal response plan for New Orleans, said IEM president Madhu Beriwal. “This was part of FEMA’s initiative for doing catastrophic disaster planning. New Orleans was picked as the first place to be studied.”

The Pam exercise had over 270 participants from federal, regional and local agencies, Beriwal said. Officials gathered at Louisiana’s Office of Emergency Preparedness in Baton Rouge and were presented with a hurricane scenario designed by Louisiana State University researchers.

“It was a slow-moving Category 3 storm, something that could quite easily happen, and designed so that it totally flooded the city, so that the participants could try to understand the full impacts of a flooded New Orleans,” said Ivor Van Heerden, an LSU professor who used computer modeling to help create a realistic hurricane.

“In many affected parishes, a high percentage of the population remained in the parish at landfall, resulting in high numbers of fatalities and non-fatal injuries,” the report says. “Transportation will be limited due to flooded roadways and a shortage of resources such as fuel. There is no medical treatment within the affected area. Local resources will be exhausted. … communications networks are non-functioning.”

The Pam scenario envisioned other problems now confronting New Orleans as well.

The report says area health services and schools would be out of commission, more than 600,000 area homes would be destroyed, and described what it calls the “HazMat gumbo” in the streets that would render the area unlivable for at least a year.

“An estimated 710,808 households in the affected area have released 236,936 cubic yards of household hazardous waste into the still-rising floodwaters. Floating coffins appear sporadically in flooded areas, totaling as many as 500. Some subsurface tanks, possibly containing fuel, have buckled or breached the pavement. Many water surfaces … have a visible sheen due to chemicals,” the description reads.

The report was not perfectly on the mark.

The number of dead from Hurricane Katrina, though not yet counted, appears to be significantly lower than Pam’s hypothetical death toll, for example. The report also does not contemplate the widespread looting and disorder that erupted in the days after Katrina. Beriwal said that subject was supposed to come up in a later meeting.

During the simulation, participants broke into groups and tried to devise responses as the disaster scenario unfolded. For example, one group of about 25 officials focused on debris removal as Pam’s floodwaters dropped, coordinating requests for assistance from local governments the with the Army Corps of Engineers, said Art Jones, the chief of the disaster recovery division for the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

The final Pam report outlines in minute detail 15 subjects that emergency managers should address during and after a catastrophic storm hitting New Orleans. They range from the mundane, such as where to billet emergency responders, to core issues such as rescue operations, medical treatment, and housing for displaced people.

It assumes a high degree of coordination between federal, state, and local officials – something that has been a thorny issue in Katrina. But Jones said the Pam exercise was valuable simply because it drew everyone involved together to sit down face-to-face – something that is paying off now.

The report recommends a massive mobilization of transportation assets to evacuate the region after the hurricane has passed, another problem that plagued response last week. “A major limiting factor in executing this plan will be a shortage of transportation facilities,” it says.

For example, it says that 400 buses per day would be needed to transport an estimated half-million storm victims out of the affected area to temporary medical facilities set up some distance away. Katrina victims waited for days for buses or other transport out of the city.

John McQuaid can be reached at john.mcquaid@newhouse.com or at 202-383-7889

Insurance questions vex process

Friday, 6:01 p.m.

By Rebecca Mowbray
Business writer

Whether the flooding in New Orleans caused by the breach in the 17th Street Canal should be covered by flood insurance policies or homeowners insurance policies is likely to be the key insurance question emerging from Hurricane Katrina, and may end up in court, participants in a meeting of the Joint Legislative Committee on Insurance said Friday.

National Flood Insurance policies by law are capped at $250,000. Some homes in the New Orleans area that were affected by the 17th Street Canal flooding don’t have flood insurance because they’re not in a flood plain, while many other homes that have flood insurance are worth more than $250,000.

Louisiana lawmakers would like for homeowners insurance policies, which are tied to the value of the house, to cover the damage. If not, some Louisiana lawmakers would like the federal government to create a special appropriation to cover the gap.

“Does the homeowners insurance cover it? That’s going to be the big question down the road,” Sen. James David Cain, a Republican from Dry Creek, who chairs the committee, said in opening remarks. “A lot of issues like the flooding are going to end up in court.”

Kristina Simpson, an intergovernmental affairs specialist from the Federal Emergency Management Agency who came to the meeting to answer lawmakers’ questions, said that in previous disasters, FEMA did not cover the gap if homeowners were underinsured.

Former state representative Chuck McMains Jr., who now represents the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, a trade association for the insurance industry, had no answers on the flood insurance question.

“A lot of that is going to take more investigation of exactly what happened,” McMains said. “I don’t know the answer to that question.”

McMains said that the insurance industry wants to set up a mediation process to handle those disputes individually. In Florida, mediation solved 83 percent of the disputes from the four hurricanes that struck the state last year, added Jim Donelon, chief deputy commissioner from the Louisiana Department of Insurance.

McMains also said that he thought mold and mildew damage caused by the flooding would also fall under the flood insurance policy, not a homeowners insurance policy.

But some state lawmakers didn’t accept these answers. Rep. Peppi Bruneau, R-New Orleans, said he has constituents whose homes never flooded during Hurricane Betsy or the May 1995 floods that now have water problems. Because the water came from one break in the levee rather suggests that it’s an engineering failure, and people who have paid diligently on their homeowners policies for decades shouldn’t be abandoned in their time of need.

“If all the water was coming over, why did it give in just one spot?” Bruneau asked. “We find it unusual that it was caused by a brand new levee collapsing.”

Other insurance questions are likely to emerge. If areas such as eastern New Orleans are deemed unfit to be rebuilt, will the federal government reimburse homeowners for the value of their lots, which are separate from their homeowners’ policies? What happens to tax bills that will be issued on homes that no longer exist? And, how will the many people who lost jobs through Hurricane Katrina get health insurance?

The other major concern for New Orleans area lawmakers was how local people can participate in the millions of dollars of local contracts that will be let to rebuild Louisiana. Enabling local people to get work will help rebuild the economy and increase the chances that people return to New Orleans.

“I’d like you to let FEMA know that we would like our people to participate in the rebuilding process,” said Sen. Edwin Murray, D-New Orleans. “It’s a good way to help bring the local economy back.”

Rep. Karen Carter, a Democrat from New Orleans who co-chairs the insurance committee, said that she has heard that several international engineering and construction firms already have handshake agreements for major contracts, and she’s concerned that the process is moving too fast for locals to grab on.

Simpson said that FEMA recognizes the economic development importance of the rebuilding contracts, and promised to give the Louisiana representatives about how the contract process works and what skills are typically needed for the work.

But Simpson emphasized that FEMA’s role is one of helping the state as a last resort – local and state governments need to try to solve problems first.

“If you want to keep it in Louisiana, you need the state to keep it in Louisiana,” Simpson said. “We are always in a support role. We do not have jurisdiction to take over.”

Department of Labor to help displaced workers

Workers displaced from their jobs by Hurricane Katrina might be able to find work by contacting the state Department of Labor, a spokesman for the agency said Friday.

Meanwhile, employers who want to hire displaced workers can call the agency toll-free daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., said Ed Pratt, the department’spokesman.

Pratt said evacuees looking for jobs can contact the department from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.

The toll-free number for evacuees looking for work is 1-866-310-1585. The toll-free number for employers to call is 1-800-481-6762.

Pratt said employers should provide a company contact and specifics about the jobs to be filled. Both prospective employees and employers can also visit the labor department’s Webite, www.LAWORKS.net, for more information.

Pratt said the department’s “One Stop and Job Centers’’ will be open Saturday and Sunday to accept applications for unemployment and disaster unemployment assistance as a result of Hurricane Katrina.

Information on the program can be obtained by visiting the department’s website, Pratt said.

Labor Department Secretary John Warner Smith said more federal assistance may be needed to pay “an unprecedented’’ number of unemployment claims as a result of the hurricane. More than 105,000 people in the state have filed jobless claims as a result of the storm, Pratt said.

Federal officials recently awarded the state $62 million in emergency money to help fund some 10,000 temporary jobs for displaced workers, Smith said.



In St. Tammany, an optimistic view

Friday, 5:52 p.m.

Officials were generally optimistic about St. Tammany Parish's outlook as they emerged from their daily meeting in Lacombe.

The parish, municipal, state and federal authorities agreed that the degree of “normalcy” the parish has reached less than two weeks after the storm clobbered metro New Orleans is remarkable.

“Every day, we make such great progress,” said Parish President Kevin Davis, who has been overseeing operations parishwide. “The majority of the parish should be back to normal, at some level, in two or three weeks.”

With hospitals and local government agencies back in operation and more businesses opening every day, residents began returning home in greater numbers Friday after Davis gave them the green light earlier in the week.



St. Bernard Parish shedules public meeting for evacuees in Baton Rouge

St. Bernard Parish officials on Friday announced they plan to hold a public meeting next week with parish residents who evacuated to Baton Rouge, to discuss plans for the clean-up and reconstruction.

Officials said the meeting is scheduled for Monday at 2 p.m. at the Embassy Suites Hotel, 4914 Constitution Ave. All parish residents are welcomed.

But officials said their main message will be that residents can’t come back to the parish yet, because of health risks.

Parish crews are removing debris street by street in preparation for allowing residents to come back and retrieve salvageable items from their homes, but reentry is not expected to begin for at least three or four weeks. They plan to divide the parish in sectors, probably starting in the western portion of St. Bernard, and move section by section with residents being let in using six-hour passes.

Details will be announced once a schedule is finalized, the parish said.

Water and sewer systems down near Slidell

Friday, 5:35 p.m.

The impact of storm surge damage in and around the Eden Isles/Oak Harbor area south of Slidell is not limited to the hundreds of homes that were destroyed.

There is no water supply for the area and sewage treatment plants have been flattened, Parish President Kevin Davis and Parish Council Chairman Steve Stefancik said Friday.

Davis, who was meeting with homebuilding officials at late afternoon, said he’s reviewing the situation in that area and “we’re looking at the prospect of rebuilding” the water and sewer systems.

"It's going to be months" for rebuilding and restoration of services to take hold in those areas, Davis said.

Public and private officials urged residents returning to the parish to stay off the major roadways at late afternoon and early evening and, when on the highways, to move over for utility, supply, emergency and similar vehicles.

“Try to do a trip a day if possible,” Davis said. “Take care of all your water, food needs and supplies, then go back if you can.”

Flood waters down in Kenner; pickup of curside debris set for Saturday

Friday, 5:25 p.m.

By Michelle Hunter
East Jefferson bureau

Although 65 percent of Kenner was still without power Friday, Mayor Phil Capitano said all of the floodwaters have been pumped out of the city and every road has been cleared of storm debris.

Tomorrow, city crews hope to begin removing curbside debris left by residents and businesses, Capitano said Friday afternoon from the city's hurricane command center at City Hall.

No home or business in Kenner escaped Katrina unscathed, Capitano said. Every structure had some type of damage, ranging from ripped away siding to 8 feet of floodwater.

As with the rest of Jefferson Parish, Kenner neighborhoods are littered with felled trees or their limbs. Businesses are surrounded by wind-toppled billboards, shattered glass or debris from destroyed signs.

Capitano estimated that more than 50 percent of the city's residents were flooded. The worst flooding occurred in north Kenner from Veterans Memorial Boulevard to Lake Pontchartrain, and in south Kenner, from Airline Drive to the Mississippi River. In the north, neighborhoods including University City, Driftwood Park and Chateau Estates had 6 to 8 feet of water.

South Kenner neighborhoods around Rivertown and Kenner Avenue had about 3 to 4 feet of water. As pumping stations began to drain the affected areas earlier this week, residents in north Kenner may have noticed the water getting deeper. That's because gravity initially sent water rolling into that area, which is lower than south Kenner.

Sewerage is still a problem in the city. Although Sewerage Treatment Plant No. 2 has power, Plant No. 3 has severely damaged pumps that must be replaced, Capitano said. Delivery of the pumps could take as long as 7 weeks. Capitano and his staff are working to come up with an alternative plan.

Residents do have water, though only a trickle, because of several breaks in water lines which have hindered efforts to restore full pressure, Capitano. The city remains under a boil water order.

Capitano said some residents remain in the city, and while it seems that much progress is being made, he is urging everyone to wait "at least another five days" to give the city the opportunity to continue restoration work.

In the meantime, Kenner police are focusing their efforts on halting looting. Spokesman Capt. Steve Caraway said Friday. As of Thursday, officers had arrested 79 people for looting or looting-related offenses, including 13 juveniles.

Caraway said he expects the number of looting reports to increase as more residents return to their homes.

So far, neither Kenner city officials nor the Police Department have received any reports of fatalities due to drowning or wind-blown debris. There were 8 to 10 people who died since the storm in Kenner nursing homes, city officials said. The two nursing homes are Walden Health Care Center on Idaho Avenue and Chateau Living Center on Village Road.

Copter crews continue rescue missions

By Paul Purpura
West Bank bureau

At times, the helicopter pilots hovered 10 feet above power lines, giving their crews a glimpse into windows where they still find people stranded in their houses.

“A lot of people are too weak to even make it out of the house,’’ said Sgt. David Palmer, a medic with the Georgia Army National Guard’s 148th Medical Company.

Twelve days after Katrina swept through the New Orleans area, military and Coast Guard helicopter crews continued to pluck people off rooftops Friday. Officials estimated that as many as 10,000 people have remained in the city, despite most of it being deluged with murky water with a stench so strong that crews smell it 300 feet in the air.

“We are still averaging 30 to 35 people a day at this stage in the game,’’ said Lt. Col. Sherry Brannan of Abita Springs, the executive officer of the Louisiana Army National Guard’s 204th Air Traffic Services Group, which is managing the air traffic over New Orleans.

As many as 163 National Guard, Navy, Coast Guard and civilian helicopters are involved in search and rescue and other missions in the New Orleans area. Brannan said the post Katrina operation has more helicopters involved than in all of Iraq.

Air crews continued Friday to haul huge sandbags to drop them into breaches in levees around the city and were successful in closing a gap in the Industrial Canal. Brannan said 13 levees were breached and crews will continue to drop sandbags into the London Avenue Canal for another three days. The missions are being staged from the Coast Guard station at Bucktown.

Crews also continue to spot bodies in the water, but usually plot a coordinate to relay the locations to ground crews for retrieval.

Palmer of Cummings, Ga., who is a firefighter in his civilian life, said he spotted five bodies Friday and four on Thursday. However, since arriving last week, Palmer’s unit, which has three UH-1 Huey helicopters, has rescued 250 people, he said. Still he said he is stunned that he is still seeing people needing to be rescued.

“It’s really amazing to see that, but this is our mission,’’ he said.

Friday morning Palmer spotted some people in a second floor window of a home on Tulane Avenue, a block from the Old Dixie Brewery. Moments later, he was lowered on a hoist to the roof where he met with two people, who climbed out onto the roof.

A Coast Guard boat crew also attempted to get the people out. In the end, the boat crew collared two while two others were taken out by helicopter.

“They said they were picked up yesterday but the (rescuers) wouldn’t let them take their luggage,’’ Palmer said. “So they went back.’’

On Friday, Palmer’s crew let them take everything they could carry.

Power restored to 600,000

By Ed Anderson
Capital bureau

BATON ROUGE – Power companies have restored service to about 600,000 households in south Louisiana battered by Hurricane Katrina but Orleans and St. Bernard parishes continue to have little power because many areas are impassable because of standing high water, officials said Friday.

State Public Service Commission member Jimmy Fields of Baton Rouge said Katrina knocked power out to about 1 million homes but service crews have been working non-stop to restore power.

As of Friday, he said, 99 percent of St. Bernard was without power and 89 percent of Orleans was dark, except for areas along the levee and Poydras Street, and BellSouth buildings.

He said there was no way to estimate how long it will take to have power restored to New Orleans or St. Bernard, two of the areas hardest hit by the hurricane.

Fields said Jefferson Parish was about 55 percent dark Friday but those numbers were dropping. He said more than 1,000 additional Entergy employees were headed into Jefferson Parish over the weekend.

About 32 percent of Plaquemines Parish was without power Friday, Fields said while about 69 percent of St. Tammany and 68 percent of Washington parishes were without power because of “a massive number of trees that came down’’ in those areas.

In nearby Tangipahoa Parish, 19 percent of the households were without power, while St.Charles Parish had only 3 percent of its residents without electricity. All of St. John the Baptist Parish had power Friday, Fields said.

By Saturday, he said, Washington and St. Tammany parishes should have 40 percent of its residents with power.

Meanwhile, Louisiana National Guard Lt. Col. Jacques Thibodeaux said some of the 24,000 troops from the state are escorting utility and power company workers as the make repairs.

Thibodeaux said there have not been any reports of snipers trying to stop workers form doing their jobs.

State Treasurer says Katrina will not bankrupt state

5:02 p.m., Friday

By Rebecca Mowbray
Business writer

State Treasurer John Kennedy says rumors that Hurricane Katrina will bankrupt the state are false, and that he has been on conference calls all week trying to reassure Wall Street analysts that Louisiana will remain solvent.

“The state will meet all current and future obligations,” Kennedy said. A bankruptcy filing “is not within the realm of possibility.”

Two bond rating agencies -- Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s -- placed $9.4 billion in Louisiana debt on credit watch this week because of the storm, sparking the bankruptcy rumors.

“The states of Louisiana and Mississippi and their local governments and enterprises have experienced severe physical damage and economic disruption, but the full extent and duration of the disruption is unknown,” the Moody’s report says. “At this time, we do not anticipate any defaults, but the ultimate extent of credit deterioration, if any, remains unknown.”


Kennedy said state tax revenues likely would take a hit from the storm. About $40 billion of the state’s $125 billion in total personal income tax revenue comes from the metropolitan New Orleans area, and the state will also lose tax revenue on lost income and spending.

“We will have some cash flow disruption at the state and local level,” Kennedy said.

But Kennedy said the state has about $400 million in its rainy day fund, and he has opened lines of credit to give the state flexibility in dealing with the crisis. Meanwhile, all non-essential spending by the state has been frozen.

Kennedy is also working with U.S. Sen. David Vitter to set up a pool of money from which local governments can borrow to meet their debt obligations. The idea make sure state entities stay credit worthy for when it comes time to start re-building Southeastern Louisiana.

Sept. 22 final day to apply for SLU graduation

HAMMOND – Sept. 22 is the final day that Southeastern Louisiana University students can apply to graduate in fall 2005.

University officials said the original deadline has been extended to accommodate students impacted by Hurricane Katrina. Candidates for associate, bachelor and master’s degrees can apply for graduation by logging into their Leonet campus accounts and choosing the "Apply for Graduation" option. Instructions are available on the “Student” link at www.selu.edu or by calling Southeastern’s Office of Records and Registration at 985-549-2066/62.

The $35 application fee should be paid directly to the Controller’s Office, located on North Campus in the Financial Aid Building.

Evacuees in Alexandria given food stamps

Trey Crowe, 36, a registered nurse at Tulane Lakeside Hospital in Metairie, stayed on duty there through the hurricane, until Wednesday, when the last patients were evacuated.

He even took one patient, a stroke victim who didn’t have a place to go, with him when he finally sought refuge at the home of relatives in Alexandria, where he grew up.

Thursday, Crowe was among hundreds of evacuees who went to a state building in downtown Alexandria to get food stamps that were earmarked for people displaced by Katrina. He knew he would get his regular paycheck eventually, but in the meantime, he wanted to be able to help out family members who were housing him.

By Friday, as the first week of the Rapides Parish disaster food stamp program for hurricane survivors ended, 5,000 evacuees had been given debit cards for food, said Rayetta Thompson, parish manager of the office of family support, within the State Department of Social Services.

Many, including Crowe, were initially reluctant to take advantage of the assistance program. But they said they talked themselves into using the aid by remembering that they were taxpayers who, for once, were in need themselves.

“It’s an equalizer,” Thompson said of the disaster aid program

The recipients included professionals, company managers and blue-collar workers, she said. Everyone helped each other fill out the necessary paperwork, and there were no disgruntled customers, she said.

The amount of money given out depended on the size of the household, but the average was several hundred dollars, she said.

Patty Nugent, 45, a New Orleans housewife, said, “It feels a little odd, but I’m really glad to get the food stamps. I plan to go out and get groceries right away.

Rebecca Ducoing, 35, a Covington resident who had come to the state building, located near the Red River, said that her husband had been called back to work at a Bogalousa papermill and that their family didn’t need the food stamp assistance.

But she was getting a card for her elderly parents, also residents of St. Tammany.

Her father, George Poupart, a disabled, former truck driver, had driven supplies to victims of Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Now, it is his turn to get some help, Ducoing said.

Antoinette K-Doe has left the city

By Dave Walker
TV columnist

Anyone looking for a hint, a ray, a glimmer, a whiff,
a glimpse, a flash, a gift of hope in the toxic rubble
of New Orleans got one Thursday morning on WWL 870 AM.

After making her stand for seven days in the darkening
heart of the city, Antoinette K-Doe, widow of Emperor
of the World Ernie K-Doe, had escaped Katrina and was
alive and well and thinking about rebirth.

Had, in fact, made her way to the Baton Rouge studio
of the United Radio Broadcasters of New Orleans to
tell her story.

The survival tale she told was harrowing, as they
apparently all are.

I paraphrase the details here at risk of botching a
few.

Stuck in Baton Rouge traffic (of course) when the
segment aired, I was unable to take notes, and
attempts to reach K-Doe through an e-mail address
mentioned on-air were unsuccessful.

But to a certain slice of New Orleans culturati, any
K-Doe news is good news, so I’m glad to play the
approximate conduit, clarifying follow-ups to follow.

As I recall:

Antoinette rode out the storm inside the Peoples
Community Organization Center, reclaimed from what had
been Joe’s Cozy Corner only a few days before the
storm.

Or perhaps she was inside the Mother-in-Law Lounge,
the North Claiborne bar that has become a landmark
for international music pilgrims, as well as a bit of
a community center in its own right.

Her exact landfall location is the point on which I’m
least clear.

With her was a 15-year-old granddaughter. Together,
they were adequately provisioned with food and water
for the siege to follow.

In the wake of Katrina’s attack, various
well-intentioned visitors encouraged K-Doe to move to
the Louisiana Superdome.

She’d heard the constant sound of gunfire and seen the
marauders in her neighborhood, knew of the danger and
lawlessness, but also knew from listening to WWL that
the Superdome would be worse.

So she stayed and survived a week of that, then
evacuated to Georgia.

Tracked there by friends, she was intending to follow
them to stable refuge in North Carolina at the time of
her radio interview.

She said she also intended to one day return to New
Orleans and restart her life there.

She said that the Mother-in-Law Lounge, a shrine to
the weird organic magic made by her eccentric husband,
will survive Katrina.

The legacy of the erstwhile Ernest Kador Jr., whose
1961 R&B hit “Mother-in-Law” gave the lounge its name
and who the citizens of the city gave a beneficent
monarch’s funeral upon his physical death in July
2001, will survive Katrina.

Antoinette K-Doe has survived Katrina.

“We will rebuild,” she said on WWL.

Rebuild, K-Doe, rebuild.

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

Airport medical teams treat thousands

Friday, 3:45 p.m.

By Matt Scallan
Kenner bureau

For days on end, they handled a neverending flood of the sick and
wounded streaming out of shattered New Orleans and into the terminal at
Louis Armstrong International Airport.

Now, some of the small corps of exhausted doctors, nurses and medics - who treated about 10,000 people - are going home.

"Remember the scene in Atlanta in "Gone With the Wind?" That's what it
was like," said paramedic David Spence of Texas City, Texas, a member
of a Disaster Medical Assistance Team organized by the Federal Emergency
Management Agency.

D-MAT teams from Washington state, Alabama and Texas were among the
first to arrive two days after the storm struck the city on Aug. 29.

They set up curtained treatment areas in the ticket lobby near
Concourse D, including a triage area in baggage claim nicknamed "the pit."

"When we got here, there were six patients waiting for us," said Dr.
Mona Khanna, whose regular job is as a medical correspondent for a Dallas
television station. "A day later, there were patients stretching out to
the horizon in mud and blood and feces who needed help."

The evacuees came from overloaded staging areas such as the Superdome
and the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Many were rescued from
rooftops by helicopter and carried to the airport.

Somewhere between 50,000 and 75,000 evacuees have passed through the
airport terminal between Aug. 30 and Wednesday, most of them on the
Friday, Saturday and Sunday after the storm. At least 30,000 were evacuated
from the area by airlift. The rest left by bus.

They were hungry, dehydrated, wounded and chronically ill. Patients in
hospices and nursing home residents also were dropped off at the
ariport. The floors were black with mud and the restroom toilets overflowed
because of damage to the Jefferson Parish water system.

"You had day-old babies sitting in all of this," Khanna said.

The 150 members of Air Force and FEMA medical teams in place during
those first few days had the daunting task of checking on each who came through and taking care of those who needed medical attention. The medical teams were short on people, supplies and space.

"This is a situation where you couldn't stop working on someone until
they got what they needed. If you left them, you would never be able to
get back to them," said Spence, who said he operated a manual
ventilator bag on one person for three hours because there weren't enough oxygen
regulators to go around.

Khanna and nurse Brent Boen of Denton,
Texas, both went to New York to work in the aftermath of the Sept. 11,
terrorist attacks. Khanna also went to the areas in Indonesia damaged
by the 2004 tsunami.

"As bad as those were, I've never seen anything like this," she said.
"You had to keep going because of the entreaties for help. I don't think
anyone here got more than four hours sleep in that 72-hour period."

Boen said the major difference between Sept. 11 and Katrina is that
most of the New York victims died in the attack.
"This was more like war," he said.

By Thursday, an 85-member team from the Air Force's 357th Medical
Group from Scott Air Force Base in Illinois had also arrived and helped to
handle the flood.

"I picked up (stretchers) for 19 hours, straight, and when I couldn't
do that, I found something else to do," said Col. Larry Riddles, the unit's commander, said.

The flood of patients was so great that the medical teams had to set up
triage areas to prioritize treatment.

"The fact that you had triage, means that you didn't have the resources
to get to everyone," Riddles said. "If I had to come in here tomorrow,
I don't know if we would have done it any differently."

Because many of the patients were chronically ill, or taken from
hospices, it was inevitable that some would die. But just how many died at the
airport is unclear.

Aviation Director Roy Williams said he believes the number is between
20 and 50, and that some of the deaths involved people who did not seek
medical help.

Khanna's 35-member D-MAT TX4 team went home on Friday, and she said she
needs a few days to re-adjust to the pace of a normal life.

"It's a syndrome that everyone who has been in these fantastically
stressful situations has to deal with," she said.
FEMA spokesman Mike Reiger said each team has a choice of whether it
goes home or not.

"If one person on the team says they can't stay on, the team goes
home," he said. "Other members may be assigned to teams elsewhere, but
everyone who stays is sent out of the area to be evaluated to make sure
they're psychologically able to continue."

Spence said he wants to delay his return to his job as a British
Petroleum oil refinery operator.

"I don't feel like I've done enough," he said.

Twin Span work begins Monday

Friday, 4:25 p.m.

By Ed Anderson
Capital bureau

BATON ROUGE – Work will begin Monday to repair the badly damaged Interstate 10 Twin Span linking Irish Bayou with Slidell, but a spokesman for the state highway department said plans are in the works to completely reconstruct the bridge over Lake Pontchartrain.

Mark Lambert, communications director for the state Department of Transportation and Development, said the state has awarded a $30.9 million contract to Boh Brothers to make temporary repairs to the span.

But those repairs will only be a temporary fix and in the first three months of next year the state will seek bids to rebuild both sides of the Twin Span, a project that could cost $350 million to $500 million, he said.

Entire sections of the 35-year-old span were knocked out and the others were shifted out of alignment by Katrina’s wrath. Although the bridge is 8 miles long, about 5.4 miles of it were damaged by Katrina.

Lambert said the westbound lane of the 8-mile-long span may have been more seriously damaged than originally thought, possibly more damaged than the eastbound lanes, which were originally thought to have been hit harder.

Lambert said the first stage of the temporary repairs will start Monday by moving some of the sections from the most damaged span to the one least damaged. He said by Monday, the agency and contractors will have determined which span is actually more damaged.

When the repairs of the first span is finished in about 45 days, there will be two lanes of traffic, one flowing east, the other west.

The second stage of the repairs will involve moving “temporary section” into place to rebuild it. When that is finished, on lane of traffic will be accommodated, probably by January.

FEMA chief replaced as head of recovery effort

Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown, who has come under intense criticism for his handling of the Hurricane Katrina recovery effort, was abruptly replaced Friday as the main federal official overseeing the recovery efforts along the Gulf Coast.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Brown will return to Washington and resume his duties as head of FEMA, where he will concentrate on making sure the agency is prepared to deal with other potential disasters.

"We cannot afford to let our guard down," Chertoff said at a brief news conference at FEMA's new Baton Rouge headquarters to announce the change of command.

Brown is being replaced by Coast Guard Vice Admiral Thad Allen, who had been leading the hurricane recovery effort in New Orleans. In a sign of how quickly the change of command was made, Allen said he was informed of his promotion at 10 a.m. Friday.

Chertoff praised the embattled director. "Mike Brown has done everything he possibly could to coordinate the federal response to this unprecedented disaster," Chertoff said.

Chertoff refused to address questions about Brown's future at the agency or comment on reports in Time and Newsweek that Brown had padded parts of his resume.

Brown, who stood alongside Chertoff, Allen and Lt. Gen. Russel Honore at the news conference, did not take questions from reporters. "I am going to answer the questions," Chertoff said, before declining to address questions about whether Brown planned to resign from his post.

Chertoff said the move comes as FEMA is entering a new phase in the recovery effort. Although search-and-rescue remains a top priority for the agency, Chertoff said the agency now is spearheading an effort to recover the bodies of those who died as a result of the storm.

"I want to have the people who are present here on the ground" able to focus their full attention on what needs to be done," Chertoff said.

Chertoff pledged that the body-recovery process will be handled with "dignity" and said it would be one of the agency's top priorities as the search-and-rescue effort winds down. "We are going to work as effectively and expeditiously as possible" to recover and identify bodies and notify family members of the deceased, Chertoff said.

Honore said rescuers are finding fewer people to evacuate, but that efforts are still under way to locate people who have been in the New Orleans area since the storm struck and want to be brought to shelter. "The city is still under a mandatory evacuation," he said. "(But) right now we're focusing on those that do want to leave."

The general said there will be no media access granted to the body-recovery effort.

Allen did not say whether he planned to make any changes to the way the recovery effort is run. He said he first planned to meet with his new staff before launching into his new duties.

-Jan Moller

Database of shelters to be established

By Jan Moller
Capital bureau

State officials are trying to develop a database of shelters in Louisiana and are urging churches and other non-profit groups that are housing evacuees from Hurricane Katrina to register with the Department of Social Services.

Terri Ricks, undersecretary of social services, said any group hosting 25 or more people in a non-private home needs to contact their local emergency preparedness office. The local office will then ensure that the shelter gets registered with the state.

More than 54,000 Louisiana residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina are currently being housed at about 240 registered shelters around the state, Social Services Secretary Ann Williamson said. But officials believe many more are living in other shelters that the state doesn't know about.

Ricks said shelters that register will receive a visit from the state in an attempt to make sure that they have enough resources and that evacuees are receiving proper care. The visits are designed to resolve any specific concerns and make sure they can stay up and running, Ricks said.

The state has set up a hotline for shelter operators to register: 1-866-310-7610.

On a different matter, Williamson announced that the deadline for evacuees to register for emergency food-stamp benefits has been extended by a week. More than 130,000 displaced Louisianians have registered for more than $55 million in food stamps since Sept. 2 under an emergency federal waiver. The registration period had been scheduled to expire Friday at 4:30 p.m., but it has been extended to Sept. 16.

Although there have been reports of long lines at the Office of Family Support centers where applications are being taken, Williamson said the waits are getting shorter. “With each day, the efficiency of our office operations has increased,” she said.

People who were already signed up for food stamps before Katrina do not have to visit the offices to get assistance, as their benefits will be automatically credited to their EBT cards.

The emergency benefits are available to residents of the following parishes: Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, Washington, St. Tammany, St. Charles, St. John, West Feliciana, Lafourche, Terrebonne, Tangipahoa, Livingston and St. Helena.

A city emerges outside the Pontchartrain Center

Friday, 2 p.m.

By Laura Ricks
Staff Writer

KENNER - As the last of New Orleans area residents slowly evacuate, there is one area where the population is exploding.

In and around The Pontchartrain Center in Kenner, approximately 1,500 to 2,000 Entergy employees, tree trimmers, caterers and others have formed a small city from which they are working to restore power to the larger one outside. It’s not the only such Entergy-driven compound in the metro area, with two similar staging grounds on the West Bank, but it is the first and largest, and one whose population, according to Entergy officials, may swell to as many as 4,000 people by the time the lights are turned back on.

Due to roof damage at The Pontchartrain Center, Entergy determined it was not safe to house people inside, so by the weekend after the storm, Tent Cities One, Two and Three had been erected on the grounds. Equipped with hard floors, air conditioning and outside shower and lavatory facilities, the tent cities offer a good degree of comfort, yet the lines of cots covered in blankets stamped with the American Red Cross insignia bear mute witness to the catastrophic nature of their beginnings.

The caterers are up at 4 a.m., cooking hearty breakfasts of eggs, bacon, grits, biscuits and more. The logistical people caring for this ever-expanding army of workers are up at 5. The power crews and tree trimmers eat at 6 and hit the streets after receiving their marching orders from a central Entergy service center and grabbing an over-stuffed boxed lunch designed to fill a person who working from dawn to dusk.

With $1.4 million dollars worth of gas being consumed in the week after Katrina, even fueling the trucks is an elaborate process. According to Entergy staging site manager Joe Catalanotto, it takes place at night while the crews are asleep, involves 20 people and “is really something to see.”

Still, the whole emergency response process was something Catalanotto said Entergy was well prepared for. “We work on an emergency plan throughout the year. We then go through a drill in April or May to rehearse it. We drill like crazy. And we’ve used this site several times in the past, though certainly not to this extent.”

He grinned and added, “Cindy was great preparation for us. It forced us into a smaller operation early on, so we were ready.”

Things seem to be operating smoothly. Jeanine Green, who is the Entergy employee in charge of lodging, knows to the worker how many are in each tent, as well as in the few nearby functional hotels. As more workers come in from around the country, she writes the crew names and numbers down on her yellow legal pad and busily works the phones from the table she and others are sitting at in front of The Pontchartrain Center in order to catch the breeze from the lake.

Inside an undamaged section of the center, long lines of tables dotted with hot sauce bottles await the hungry crews at dinner. Ice and snacks abound. And though the caterers note the difficulty of getting food, the crews, including those from places as far away as Ohio, are raving about the crawfish bisque, chicken and sausage gumbo and pork chops, which Green described as “to die for.”

Most importantly, there is an abundance of activity and a feeling that things are getting done. Helicopters buzz overhead taking people back and forth from command centers and land in a makeshift helipad drawn on the levee. Truck convoys arrive and depart. People with walkie talkies and cell phones pace in front of The Pontchartrain Center barking orders and taking notes. Caterers unload the 500 pounds of shrimp that will be needed for that night’s dinner of fried shrimp and Salisbury steak. And in the background, The Pontchartrain Center employees, like fellow SMG-managed workers across the country working in arenas from the Superdome to Reliant Stadium, are busily working to provide Entergy the support it needs, as well as to restore the Kenner-owned building to order.

Entergy corporate communications specialist Mike Duhe, who served in the Air Force and is still in the Reserve, said, “This all reminds me of a military operation. It’s a well-oiled machine and everyone’s doing what they need to do.”

That sentiment was echoed by Catalanotto. “I have been through a lot of emergency situations, but never one this large or one with such cooperation and teamwork. And there is no way in the world we could get this done without it. Everyone knows what they’ve got to do and they just go do it.”

Acadiana gets economic boost from evacuees

Friday, Sept. 9, 2005

By Eva Jacob Barkoff
East Jefferson bureau

Hotels are packed and the real estate market is saturated. Local restaurants and fast food chains are busy and both retail and grocery stores are experiencing increased sales.

The bottom line – thousands of people have evacuated to the Acadiana
parishes and the economic impact in New Iberia alone has soared since
Hurricane Katrina hit on Aug. 29.

“The real estate market in New Iberia is saturated,” said Mary Ellen Wilke, president of the Chamber of Commerce in New Iberia. “It is hard to find a room to rent much less a home or an apartment. “Housing was not growing nearly as quickly here as in other areas, other town near New Iberia. And now, with what real estate we had available, has now been taken for either the short term or long term. There have been many homes sold or rented in the past few days. It is getting harder and harder to find a place to live.”

Large companies, Wilke said, have been “buying a lot of properties in order to house their employees and their families.”

“In many cases, if you don’t work for a large company, it can be very hard for a person or a family to find a place to rent or buy,” Wilke added. “It is a case, let’s say, of an individual trying to find a home on his own verses a large company that has a lot of resources to secure properties.

“Many local people have family and friends from the New Orleans area who evacuated here from Hurricane Katrina. These folks have a place to stay. But it is difficult for those who are here in hotels or shelters who don’t know anyone to find a more permanent place to live because of the shortage.”

The addition of so many people is giving New Iberia “an economic boost,” Wilke said.

Wilke and her family have moved out of their New Iberia home to accommodate her in-laws from Metairie and Picayune, Miss. Wilke said she
and her husband are living nearby with her parents.

“We are not the only ones doing this,” Wilke said, “Everyday I hear about residents who have taken into their homes family and friends from the New Orleans area. Our community can and will always open our arms to everyone affected by this or any other disaster.”

For those living in the New Iberia area and are looking for a place to rent or buy, Wilke suggested the Web site www.hurricanehousing.net to check available listings.

A frequent visitor to New Orleans, Wilke said from a historical, cultural and business point of view, she feels “the city of New Orleans will come back.”

“The French Quarter seemed to have survived the storm pretty well and I
think it will be up and running soon,” Wilke said. “So when the city, as a whole, is ready, visitors will return for vacation and residents and businesses will also begin to come back. It may take a long time but the city of New Orleans will come back. I just know it.”

Seafood industry to take hit over $1.1 billion

By Ed Anderson
Capital bureau

BATON ROUGE – Hurricane Katrina’s ravaging winds and tidal surges have dealt at least a $1.1 billion blow to the state’s seafood industry, based on preliminary reports released Friday by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

John Roussel, the department’s assistant secretary of fisheries, said that the losses would represent about a 40 percent drop in the value of the state’s commercial and recreational retail harvest, based on 2003 sales levels of $2.85 billion.

Because it takes oysters two years to rejuvenate, the hit to that crop is expected to be about $300 million this year and next, he said. Most of the oyster production occurs in the waters off St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes which were devastated.

Roussel said the loss estimates to the other seafood crops for the next year looks like this: shrimp losses, $539 million; crab losses, $81 million; saltwater fish, $79 million; menhaden, $93 million; and freshwater fish $1.2 million.

“These projections are subject to adjustments as air and water surveys are made over the next several months, Roussel said. The estimates are based on seafood production in Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany and lower Lafourche parishes.

As the nation’s second largest producer of seafood – second to Alaska – Louisiana produces 35 percent of the nation’s oysters and about 30 percent of its blue crabs.

The loss numbers are based on seafood production from Bayou Lafourche eastward to the Mississippi line. Mississippi and Alabama seafood industries were also hit hard, but those numbers were not available, he said.

The only seafood being produced, Roussel said, is coming from the area west of Terrebonne Parish, mainly in the Atchafalaya area and off the coasts of Cameron and Vermillion parishes.

Additionally, Roussel the state recreational fishing industry took a $200 million hit from Katrina. He said about 63 percent of the licensed charter boats and guide vessels were registered in the areas most affected by the hurricane.

“A lot of the boats and infrastructure have been destroyed,’’ including processing plants, cold storage warehouses, boats, docks, ice plants, roads, marinas and bait-and-tackle shops, he said.

“There are no vessels fishing west of Bayou Lafourche,’’ he said. Compounding the problems, Roussel said, will be the future or many fishers, including shrimpers who do not carry insurance on their vessels.
“But we will have something to build from,’’ Roussel said.

Restaurants will be able to get some seafood – like crabs and finfish -- from western Louisiana waters and some seafood distributors in the New Orleans area have moved to Lafayette and Baton Rouge.

“Hopefully, they will end up back where they started,’’ he said.

Help line set up for state workers

From staff reports

The 27,000 state employees displaced by Hurricane Katrina can now call the sate Department of Civil Service for help.

The department has set up a toll-free number for the state workers to contact their employing agencies, said Civil Service spokeswoman Erika Roberts.

The toll-free number, which is being operated daily from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, is 1-866-783-5462. The line will also be open today Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

If the displaced workers have Internet access, they can check the Civil Service website at www.civilservice.louisiana.gov to get information.

Roberts said Civil Service can help the displaced state workers “connect with their agencies and give them contact information regarding their health and retirement benefits.”

Moss Bluff state park is home to some evacuees

11:35 a.m., Friday

By Jaquetta White
and Susan Poag
Staff Writers

MOSS BLUFF – Dressed in a blue pin-striped shirt and khaki pants, Joe Gilyot, assistant principal of Marion Abramson Senior High School in New Orleans, looked ready to walk the halls of his school Wednesday.

Instead, he walked purposefully through the towering pines at Sam Houston Jones State Park in Moss Bluff, Louisiana, to read the days news on a message board set up for Hurricane Kantrina evacuees.

Gilyot, his wife, two children and mother-in-law are among more than 200 New Orleans and Gulf Coast evacuees finding refuge at the park, nestled deep within this small community of about 25,000 located nine miles northwest of Lake Charles. The Gilyots arrived Aug. 27, the day before Hurricane Katrina submerged their eastern New Orleans home, and now are living in a 23-foot-long pop-up travel trailer.

For at least the month of September, and likely longer, a state moratorium on state park fees will keep dozens of hurricane evacuees at the Moss Bluff park. Although the park is not receiving assistance from the Red Cross, volunteers and donated supplies are overflowing. For many of the displaced, the outpouring of support has made the park feel like home.

“This community has wrapped their arms around us so tightly. They are our Moss Bluff angels, they are saving us,” Gilyot said.

“It’s been wonderful,” said Pamela Huhner of Jefferson, whose camp was set up about 20 yards from where three men played a game of horseshoes and a few paces from a children’s play area. “We are like a community here, now.”

Many families have worked hard to make their campsites resemble home. At campsite T-18, a family of eight has found a way to install air-conditioning in each of the four tents donated to them.

John Heath cut square holes in the tents and put air conditioning units through them. The units are connected -- along with a donated television, microwave and electric fans – to nearby electric outlets by a tangle of extension cords. The air conditioner is used only at night, said Heath, who shares the space with his children, his ex-wife Gwen Killen, her husband and sister, and two dogs, two rabbits and a duck.

During the day, the evacuees busy themselves with plans to rebuild, at least temporarily, in Moss Bluff and nearby Lake Charles.

Heath, a self-employed plumber whose River Ridge home escaped damage, said he can’t go back until there’s work available. Much of his work comes from the metro New Orleans area, so he has taken a job at a Moss Bluff plumbing company for now.

“This is not going to be anything permanent. But I’ve got to stay here now. I’m going to do what I can while I’m here to try to make a few dollars,” Heath said.

“We’re just like everybody else, we live paycheck to paycheck. You miss one paycheck and something is out of sync.”

While Heath prepared for work, Killen enrolled three of their four children in school, one each in the local elementary, middle and high school.

“I have heard that the schools are good. Their education is a big factor,” she said.

Gilyot, too, enrolled his children, ages 12 and 15, in school in Moss Bluff.
“The city is underwater. I can’t wait,” Gilyot said. He’s also talked with a principal about job openings in the school system for him and his wife Alorea, a teacher at Lake Forest Montessori School.

“I am signing up to be a substitute teacher. Before being an administrator, I was a math teacher. The thought of unemployment is unappetizing. I have never been unemployed,” he said.

Already Gilyot is using the park’s address as his own. “This is my life for now until I get a job,” he said. “I am in combat mode, my administrative mode. I have told my son ‘work the problem, don’t let the problem work you.’”

Still, Gilyot like others at Sam Houston Jones, longs for the comforts and certainties of home.

“What hurts most are the little things. Not losing the house but hearing my son listen to a song and say ‘Daddy has that album at home’ and knowing that it doesn’t apply anymore,” he said. “Thinking of an album or a piece of something I had on the computer. It is the little things that just crush you.”

Fighting back tears, Huhner said the hardest thing she has to deal with is not knowing what will happen to her lifelong home.

“New Orleans is not New Orleans anymore,” she said. “Even for those folks living on the West Bank or in Jefferson Parish, New Orleans is the heartthrob of everything. It makes everything else work. If they rebuild it it’s going to be a slow process.”

Whenever the city is ready to receive him, Heath will be there.

“It would be ridiculous not to go back,” he said. “New Orleans is my home. I’ve got to go back.”

Katrina by the numbers

- 24,464 National Guard soldiers and airmen are conducting operations in 13 Louisiana parishes.
- They have helped evacuate 238 critical patients in the last four days, including 34 in the past 24 hours.
- More than 130,000 Louisiana residents applied for a total of $55 million in emergency food-stamp benefits in the one-week period from Sept. 2-9.
- About 240 shelters in Louisiana operated by the state, the American Red Cross and other non-profit groups are hosting more than 54,000 people displaced by the storm. Another 659 people are being housed in special-needs shelters.
- As of Thursday, the state Department of Labor had collected 105,000 unemployment claims from Louisiana residents who lost their jobs because of Katrina.
- Preliminary estimates indicate a potential $1.3 billion loss in retail fisheries revenue over the next year due to Katrina.
- A total of 229 people have been arrested and detained at the "Camp Greyhound" temporary detention center in New Orleans.

Teams to help "special needs" evacuees

Friday, 10:35 p.m.

Teams from the state health department are heading out today to hurricane shelters in most of Louisiana to let people with special medical needs know what services are available in the areas where they happen to be.

They will be looking for people who need help with problems related to substance abuse, disabilities, mental health and long-term care and let them know about nearby centers where they can go for help, spokesman Bob Johannessen said.

"We want them to be aware that just because they've had to evacuate, they don't have to go without what they need," Department of Health and Hospitals spokeswoman Kristen Meyer said.

Although these teams will be going into publicly and privately operated shelters, they will not be traveling to Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and St. Helena parishes because no facilities are available there as a result of mandatory evacuations.

John Pope

Toll-free number for those seeking lost family

Friday, 10:10 a.m.

A toll-free number has been set up for people who believe they may have
lost relatives in Hurricane Katrina.

People may call the national Find Family Call Center at 1-866-326-9393.
It is designed to be an information and support resource, said Bob
Johannessen, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Hospitals.

According to the latest state tally, there have been 118 storm-related
deaths. Sixty-seven bodies are in the St. Gabriel morgue to be
identified, and the rest have been given to local coroners.



Cleco update - more than 50,000 still without power

Friday, 9:36 a.m.

Cleco this morning said that it had restored power to 30,724 of its customers in St. Tammany and Washington parishes. More than 50,000 customers were still without power, nearly all of them in St. Tammany, the utility said.

The power company said 38 percent of its St. Tammany Parish customers had been restored; 54 percent of its Washington Parish customers were up and running.

The utility also said Cleco service personnel (line mechanics, meter readers) will always wear clothing that clearly identifies them as Cleco employees. In addition to the Cleco logo on their shirts and hats, they can produce a photo identification card, which clearly identifies them as Cleco staff. Identification signs on private vehicles alone are not enough. The company has received reports that Cleco storm response signs have been stolen from vehicles.

If there is any damage to a customer’s home or to the electrical service entrance that may pose a danger if power is restored, Cleco may not energize service to the home until repairs are made by a licensed electrician. Crews will leave a door hanger indicating repairs need to be made. Please have repair work conducted by a licensed electrician.

UNC system waives fees for displaced students

Friday, 8 a.m.

The University of North Carolina system is waiving tuition and fees this semester for college students displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

The Board of Governors, which oversees the 16-member university system, approved the measure Thursday.

Students will be admitted to the state's public colleges after meeting academic requirements and on a space available basis. Authorities said about 65 students from the Gulf Coast region had transferred into the UNC system.

St. Tammany officially opens to residents

Friday, 6:30 a.m.

St. Tammany Parish President Kevin Davis has given residents the official "all clear'' to return to their property today beginning at 8 a.m.

The parish had requested that residents stay away to facilitate restoration of utilities and debris cleanup in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but many people had been returning for several days, Davis told WWL-TV.

"We wanted to get them back to the parish so that they could look at their properties and evaluate the situation,'' he said.

The storm claimed the lives of six people, and authorities are expected to continue their house-to-house search today for more fatalities.

A 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew remains in effect, Davis said.

Davis also asked residents to stay off the streets, because 3,000 crews are working to restore utility service. About 33 percent of electricity has been restored, he said.

The parish will also begin debris pickup today, starting with trees.

About 6,000 people are currently staying in shelters. Officials hope to re-open the parish's public schools Oct. 3.