Lee reports on deaths in Jefferson

Friday, 10:05 p.m.

Sheriff Harry Lee said Saturday night that the Jefferson Parish Coroner’s office had processed 152 bodies, but only 20 of those were deaths related to Hurricane Katrina. He said the coroner’s office was picking up bodies that are reported lying in the street and handling them to FEMA’s specifications. He also said that body count does not include bodies that may have been taken to the morgue in St. Gabriel.

Guardsmen get treated to Louisiana hospitality

Friday, 8:13 p.m.

By Paul Purpura
West Bank bureau

It started as a chance encounter at a Raceland convenience store, where
a Tennessee National Guardsman went to buy canned ham and a loaf of
bread.

A woman there noticed the soldier’s pending purchase and told him that
that kind of meal in south Louisiana wouldn’t do. And on the spot she
made a couple of phone calls, said 2nd Lt. Steve Haley, a Tennessee
Guardsman.

“Within two hours, they had enough to feed 200-plus” soldiers and
airmen, Haley, of Murfreesboro, Tenn.

The generosity the Tennessee troops are receiving in Lafourche and
Grand Isle is widespread, the soldiers said, and residents there are even doing laundry for the visiting Guardsmen who arrived in the state Sept.1 to help the region repair damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.

Saturday afternoon, several Tennessee troops gathered at the Naval Air
Station-Joint Reserve Base in Belle Chasse, where in the back seat of a
Humvee sat a large pot of red beans, thick with sausage slivers, and a
pan of rice. Haley said the meal was a gift from a Lafourche Parish
woman, Haley said.

Holley said people in towns in the parish have laid out tables full of
food and deserts for the troops. “They’ve been eating gumbo,
jambalaya,” he said. “Good food.”

And the people aren’t stingy, Haley said. “’No’ is not an option, and
‘just a little bit’ is not an option, either,” he said.

The soldiers and airmen are part of Task Force Tennessee, which is
assigned to Lafourche Parish and Grand Isle recovery efforts. About 360
Tennessee Guardsmen are in the area, and another 109 were on the way
Saturday, said Col. Garry Hicks, the task force’s commanding officer.

“We have had nothing but -- considering the circumstances -- a most
rewarding experience,” Hicks said. “These people down there put their arms around our people. I have to say those people in Lafourche are a great group of folks.”

Navy personnel to report to Stennis

Friday 8:05 p.m.

Navy personnel assigned to John C. Stennis Space Center are required
to report to work Monday at the space agency complex in Hancock County,
Miss., northeast of Slidell.

NASA civil service personnel should report in Wednesday by 11 a.m. for
a meeting in the Logtown Conference Room, Building 1100, officials said
in a press release.

Any employees of NASA, government contractors and resident agencies of
the space center and the Michoud Assembly Facility who haven’t yet
checked in are asked to call 288-688-3777 or toll-free 877-470-5240.

Employes with internet access are advised to check routinely
www.nasa.gov/hurricane for information and updates that will be helpful to
personnel and their families, the center said.

For more than a week, Stennis provided emergency shelter to more than 3,500 employees, family members and area residents who rode out the
hurricane and its initial aftermath there.

Stennis is as major research and development technology center of
several dozen public agencies and private companies.

Many eastern St. Tammany Parish residents, especially those in
the Slidell area, work at Stennis.

Maravich center’s stint as hospital comes to end

Saturdeay, 7:41 p.m.

By John Pope
Staff writer

BATON ROUGE – After 10 days and 6,000 patients, the 800-bed field hospital at the Pete Maravich Assembly
Center has closed.

Even though the basketball arena at Louisiana State University was a major destination for ambulances and helicopters delivering critically ill people from areas ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, it needed to be closed as quickly as possible because the facility wasn't sanitary enough to be a long-term hospital, said Dr. Chris Trevino, the medical director.

"This is not a hospital," he said. "There are lots of federal laws and regulations that were being broken right and left, but that's OK if it's not for a long time. ... That was why we shut it down as quickly as we could."

The center, which has been described as one of the biggest facilities of its kind ever created, stopped treating patients Wednesday.

People seeking medical help who come to campus are being evaluated at Alex Box Stadium to determine whether they need to go to the nearby Carl Maddox Field House, which remains a shelter for people with special medical needs; to a nursing home; or to a hospital, said Trevino, an emergency-room doctor at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Gonzales.

Even though the Maravich Center hospital was set up swiftly Aug. 29, when Katrina roared ashore, planning had begun several years earlier. That’s when Dr. Jimmy Guidry, the state health officer, asked Trevino to design such a center for a catastrophe. As a result, Trevino said, about 60 percent of the necessary planning had been done before Katrina struck.

"The next thing I knew was when Jimmy called up and said, 'Buddy, it's here,'" Trevino said. "I arrived Monday about 1 p.m. Six hours later, we had our first patient arriving. Two days later, we had patients from all over, many of them nursing-home patients. At one point, 14 people were on ventilators."

Personnel came from a host of agencies, including the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Public Health Service.

According to an LSU estimate, about 1,700 volunteers came from Louisiana, Georgia, Arkansas, Mississippi, Florida, Texas, Utah, Arizona, Illinois, Washington state and Washington, D.C., as well as 2,000 LSU faculty and staff members and students.

Although Trevino said he is proud of what he and his colleagues were able to do, he said he was frustrated because they could have treated many more patients but couldn't get the necessary transportation.

"I needed to help people, and I couldn't get them where they needed to go," he said.

One challenge came last week at Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans, where Trevino saw about 1,000 desperately ill people, including 50 who, he said, were expected to die.

"Just about all of them got transferred and went somewhere," Trevino said. "None of them died there."

River Parishes' Catholic schools enroll nearly 1,000 new students

Saturday, Sept. 10 4 p.m.

By Angel Thompson
River Parishes bureau

Surrounded by smiling strangers, Genitra Mumphrey, 8, sat quietly in a desk at her new school in a new town and listened to her new teacher talk about classroom procedures during a reception Friday night at St. Peter School in Reserve.

Ashley Duhe, 12, one of the smiling strangers, walked over to Genitra, a third grader, to reassure her that her new teacher, Mrs. Monica, was cool and that her new school, was a pretty cool place, too.


Genitra offered a small smile.


Genitra, and her mother, Dawn, of Gentilly, were among the thousands of families who left New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city Aug. 29.

Mumphrey evacuated to Reserve in St. John the Baptist Parish to stay with her great aunt and wait for her husband, Genesis, a communications expert in the military, to return from overseas.

"I wish we were home, but we do feel welcome here," Mumphrey said as she watched her daughter, who was originally enrolled at St. Joseph Central in New Orleans East, chat with Ashley, a seventh-grader.


St. Peter and the six other Catholic schools in St. Charles and St. John the Baptist parishes are becoming educational havens for about 1,000 displaced students from Orleans, Jefferson and St. Bernard parishes as well as Mississippi.


Working with the Archdiocese of New Orleans, Ascension of Our Lord, St. Charles Catholic High and St. Joan of Arc in LaPlace, St. Peter and Our Lady of Grace in Reserve, Sacred Heart in Norco and St. Charles Borromeo in Destrehan are enrolling as many students as possible, school officials said.


"We want to educate the children and help them through this tough time," said Don Fernandez, Director of Admissions at St. Charles Catholic. "Faculty, staff and parents at all of the local schools are pulling together, working hard to do what's necessary to serve all of the students. It's been an uplifting experience for many of us."

Most of the local schools are holding used uniform drives and seeking donations of school supplies. Meeting rooms are being transformed into classrooms, and unused desks are being pulled from storage. Local businesses also are working with schools to provide for extra lunches that are needed.

"Response is great," said Gina Wagoner, who is helping with the uniform and school supply drives at Ascension of Our Lord School. "We already have over 1,000 uniform pieces. School supplies are coming in, too, thanks to wonderful parents and generous businesses in the area."

Many schools are currently contacting students who have been accepted for enrollment and will hold registration and orientation Monday and Tuesday. Most displaced students are scheduled to start classes at their new schools on Wednesday.

While local schools are opening their doors for as long as needed, many parents are hoping to return their children to their regular schools sites in January, school officials said.


The Rev. William Maestri, superintendent of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, is scheduled to visit some Catholic schools on Monday.

The public and private schools in both parishes are also expecting an influx of students, most of whom are expected to start on Monday in St. John. School officials at Riverside Academy and Reserve Christian, both in Reserve, have waived registration fees for displaced students.

While public school teachers in St. Charles Parish are scheduled to return to school on Monday, district officials have not set a return date for new or returning students. Registration is currently underway for students displaced by Hurricane Katrina.



Councilwoman's brother found

Elliot Willard Jr., son of the namesake former Orleans Parish School Board member and reported missing following the hurricane, has been found, a relative said Saturday.
Willard’s sister, New Orleans City Councilwoman Cynthia Willard Lewis announced during a council meeting Thursday that her brother was among the missing.
Willard Lewis’ daughter, Rianna, who lives in Atlanta, said that her uncle was among the evacuees at the Convention Center but was in South Carolina when the family got word from him.
Rianna Lewis said Saturday that her uncle is en route to Atlanta.

Diplomat tapped to oversee foreign aid

Saturday, 5:31 p.m.

The Bush administration has tapped a career diplomat to oversee the foreign aid flowing into Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina and to coordinate with foreign governments as they try to locate their citizens who might have been displaced by the storm.

Ambassador Joseph Sullivan, who currently serves as the U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe, said Saturday that initial reports that thousands of foreign nationals were missing after Katrina have been sharply revised as many have been located and returned to their home countries.

"Those numbers are way down," Sullivan said, as the State Department has helped foreign governments locate people who were in New Orleans for business or recreation as the hurricane struck. So far there are no confirmed reports of any foreign nationals who have died as a result of the disaster, Sullivan said, though hundreds remain unaccounted for.

If any foreign nationals are discovered as authorities recover and identify bodies, "We will work quickly and give access to the remains," Sullivan said.

He said 112 countries and 12 international organizations have given a total of $460 million in cash and hundreds of millions more in fuel, food and technical assistance since Katrina struck. Much of that money has been pledged to groups such as the Red Cross, and to the relief fund overseen by former Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush.

Passenger flights to resume Tuesday at N.O. airport

By Matt Scallan
Kenner bureau

Commercial air traffic will resume Tuesday at Louis Armstrong International
Airport, Aviation Director Roy Williams said.

Commerical cargo flights have already begun.

"We've had a lot of demand from our carriers to begin service again,
and we're ready to do that," Williams said.

The resumption of service comes despite the fact that the airport is
located in Jefferson Parish, which is closed to everyone not already in
the parish.

But Williams said both Jefferson Parish and Kenner have agreed to allow
the opening in order to serve areas not under closure orders.

Passenger service will initially begin on concourses A and B.

The airport has been open since Aug. 30, the day after Hurricane
Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, and has served as a major hub for rescue
efforts.

The airport is still home to Army and Air Force troops assisting in the
rescue, but most of them have moved out of the terminal and into areas
on the west side of the airport.

"We are extremely pleased to reopen Armstrong International to
commercial air service,” Williams said. “Scheduled passenger and cargo service
enhances the airport’s ability to support the city and region in its
recovery.”

Jefferson Parish resumes garbage collection

Saturday, 4:45 p.m.

Jefferson Parish will begin collecting food waste at some sites around the parish, all waste at the Jefferson Parish landfill and will begin picking up garbage on Monday.

The landfill at 5800 Highway 90 West in Waggaman will be open for business Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Jefferson Parish residents with proof of residency can bring their garbage and storm debris to the landfill free of charge. Businesses and contractors will be charged a fee of $28 per ton until further notice.

Jefferson Parish residents may take food waste from refrigerators and freezers only to Lakeside Mall in Metairie, Clearview Mall in Metairie, Elmwood Shopping Center in Harahan, Esplanade Mall in Kenner, Belle Promenade in Marrero and Oakwood Mall in Gretna.

The parish will begin collecting garbage and hurricane debris on Monday, but warns that the collection will be a lengthy process and asks that the debris be separated in the following manner:

Regular household garbage in garbage cans and heavy duty trash bags

Clean wood and tree debris

Roofing material

Carpeting, furniture,

Metal debris

Appliances

Househould hazardous wastes

For more information go to http://www.jeffparish.net/JeffParish.nsf/

Red Cross seeking 40,000 new volunteers

Officials at the American Red Cross, which is in the midst of its largest and longest-lasting relief operation in its history, said Saturday that they are seeking 40,000 new volunteers from around the country to help with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

About 36,000 Red Cross volunteers are currently providing food, shelter and other emergency help to about 160,000 people at 675 shelters in 23 states, an agency spokesman said. But many of the volunteers, who typically serve three-week stints in the field, will be going home soon and replacements are needed.

"We're not going away in a few weeks or even a few months," said Red Cross spokesman John Dengan, who described the recruitment drive as the largest ever for the relief agency.

Those who sign up will have to undergo training, which typically takes about six hours but could take longer for those who perform specialized tasks. Dengan said those who are interested should inquire with their local Red Cross chapters for more information.

Jeff Parish banks to open Monday in shared offices

Saturday, 4:13 p.m.

In an unusual move, most banks and savings associations in Jefferson Parish will reopen Monday for limited hours in shared offices.

For example, the Chase Bank location at 3783 Veterans Memorial Blvd. will house not only Chase bankers, but bankers from AmSouth Bank, the Bank of New Orleans, First American Bank and Trust, Guaranty Savings Association and Parish National Bank. Customers of any of those banks and thrifts can get services there.

In all, at least 23 banks and thrifts will open in 13 locations on the East and West banks, although more may join later. The banks will be open from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. and will provide most banking services, such as check cashing. The banks plan to open daily through Friday and may stay open in subsequent weeks until normal banks and branches are able to open. The locations will have 24-hour security.

“Commerce is starting in Jefferson Parish,” said John Ducrest, the commissioner of the Louisiana Office of Financial Institutions. “We need to have geographically dispersed banking services.”

The idea was hatched by various bankers and the Louisiana Bankers Association. The bank commissioner said it is very unusual for banks to cooperate in such a manner.

“There’s a lot of competition among bankers,” Ducrest said. “To see this kind of cooperation is heart warming.”

Besides the Chase location on Veterans, the other shared bank locations and their visiting banks:

Metairie Bank and Trust, 3344 Metairie Road near Severn Avenue. It will include Omni Bank, Regions Bank and Union Savings and Loan.

Hibernia National Bank, 1501 Veterans Blvd. near Bonnabel Boulevard. It will include the Bank of New Orleans, First Bank and Trust, Liberty Bank, Omni Bank and State Investors Bank.

Gulf Coast Bank and Trust Co., 3410 Williams Blvd. at Bonnabel. It will include First American Bank, First Bank, Hibernia and Metairie Bank.

Fidelity Homestead Association, 9099 Jefferson Highway, River Ridge. It will include Hibernia, IberiaBank, State Investors Bank and United Bank and Trust.

Omni Bank, 285 W. Esplanade at Loyola Avenue. It will include Fidelity Homestead and Crescent Bank and Trust.

Hancock Bank, 500 Veterans Highway near Oaklawn. It will include Metairie Bank.

Chase Bank, 4100 Lapalco Blvd., Marrero. It has no visiting banks.

Omni Bank, 204 Huey P. Long Ave. at Courthouse Square. It will include Mississippi River Bank, Regions Bank and IberiaBank.

First Bank, 2316 Manhattan Blvd. near Lapalco Blvd., Harvey It will include First American Bank.

Gulf Coast Bank and Trust, 737 Terry Parkway near Carol Sue. It will include Fidelity Homestead, Hibernia, IberiaBank, Liberty Bank and Statewide Bank.

Hibernia, 4601 West Bank Expressway, Marrero. It will include IberiaBank.

AmSouth, 900 West Bank Expressway, Westwego. It will include Fifth District Savings and Loan and Metairie Bank

Mississippi update from Corps of Engineers

GULFPORT, MISS -- The Army Corps of Engineers' Task Force Hope
Mississippi
has about 300 personnel from around the nation focused on recovery
operations
in the Mississippi Recovery Field Office, according to a news release from the corps.

This number could eventually
reach 1,000 at peak recovery as the Vicksburg District sets up a
district-size
team to execute assigned FEMA missions.

The corps reported the following activities during the past 24 hours:


Power generation

Power is coming back online in the impacted areas. We have
completed 352 requests for power assessments to critical facilities. New requests came in
during the past 24 hours. A priority is being given to bringing
water
treatment facilities back on line and providing generators for key
locations.
We expect more generator requests as inaccessible areas are reopened.
Some
earlier installations are being uninstalled as power is restored.

Water and ice

Demand for water and ice has fallen over 70% as power comes back on
line.
Water and ice will be distributed daily in Mississippi at least
through
today. Additional stockpiles are available at Meridian, Stennis
Space
Center, and Camp Shelby staging areas.

Debris removal

The corps has been assigned this FEMA mission and it is continuing.

Removal
operations are underway in 6 counties (Jackson, Jones, Stone,
Forrest,
George, and Hancock). We are expecting additional requests from
cities and
counties. Each county or municipality must agree to USACE debris
removal
support before it can be received.

Temporary roofing

1-888-ROOF-BLU (888-766-3258) now provides local service information. The corps has been assigned this FEMA mission. Operation Blue Roof
service
centers are now open in Jackson, Harrison, Hancock, Forrest, Stone,
and Pearl
River counties. Over 3,000 requests have been received in the past
few days.

Thirty-five contractors are now on the ground and completed 100 roofs
in the
past 24 hours. At peak, several hundred roofs per day will be
repaired. Plastic staging operations are in Hattiesburg.

Temporary housing

Temporary housing is being handled using a national/regional approach
through
the FEMA Housing Area Command.

Technical assistance

RFO technical experts are providing technical assistance as request
from the
state through FEMA. In the past 24 hours, 8 hospitals were
evaluated, 1
bridge, and one hotel for emergency responded lodging.

Water/waste water restoration

The corps has been assigned this FEMA mission and it is continuing.
Forty-six
systems are known to need assessment. We have begun assessment of the
state's
prioritized list. Chlorine tablets are being procured through the
General
Service Administration.

Temporary classroom sites and emergency facilities

The corps has received a mission assignment to place approximately 450
temporary
classrooms on school property in the impacted areas. This mission
also tasks
the corps provide portable buildings for public facilities such as
fire
stations, police stations, and emergency centers. Current focus is
coordinating with the state to identify and prioritize structures.

Three New Orleanians arrested in Mississippi

Saturday, 3:08 p.m.

By Leslie Williams
Staff writer

Three New Orleanians have been arrested for preying on victims of Hurricane Katrina at a shelter in Laurel, Ms.

“How low can you get when you take advantage of people who don’t have anything,” said Jones County Sheriff Larry Dykes. Dykes said the trio posed as representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in an effort to get personal information from some of the more than 1,700 people from the Mississippi Gulf Coast and Louisiana who sought refuge at the Magnolia Center, a multi-purpose venue in Laurel used for concerts and horse shows.

All three were arrested Monday and charged with identity theft and are being held without bond because they are considered a flight risk, Dykes said Saturday. The three are Edward Charles Francis Jr., 44, of 1121 Bartholomew St., Michelle Davis, 39, of 1440 Caffin Ave. and Danielle Marie Doyle, 36, of 3125 North Miro Street, Dykes said.

The trio may face federal charges as well, he said.

Dykes said the three New Orleans residents asked refugees at the shelter for their names, dates of birth and social security numbers.

He surmised the two women and one man wanted the personal information so they could illegally obtain credit cards, Red Cross vouchers and reimbursements from FEMA.

Jones County “hasn’t had a whole lot of problems” with people trying to take advantage of hurricane victims, Dykes said.

“But when we find them, they’ll be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” he said.

In city of melted clocks, scribes paint Dali scenes

By Chris Rose
Columnist

You hear the word “surreal” in every report from this city now. There is no better word for it.

If Salvador Dali showed up here, he wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails of it. Nobody could paint this.

He did that famous painting of the melting clock and our clocks melted at 6:45 the morning of Aug. 29. That’s what the clocks in the French Quarter still say. That’s when time stood still.

The Quarter survived all this; you’ve probably heard that much. Most of what remains unscathed – and I’m using a very relative term here - is a swath of dry land from the Riverbend through Audubon Park, down St. Charles and Tchoupitoulas to the Quarter and into the Bywater.

It’s like a land mass the size of Bermuda, maybe, but with not so many golf courses.

There are other dry outposts in the great beyond – little Key Wests across the city – but I haven’t seen them.

The weather is beautiful, I don’t mind telling you. But if I wrote you a post card, it wouldn’t say Wish You Were Here.

There are still hearty rose bushes blooming on front porches and there are still birds singing in the park. But the park is a huge National Guard encampment.

There are men and women from other towns living there in tents and who have left their families to come help us and they are in the park clearing out the fallen timber. My fellow Americans.

Every damn one of them tells you they’re happy to be here (despite what you’ve heard, it still beats the hell out of Fallujah) and every time I try to thank them – on behalf of all of us - I just lose it. I absolutely melt down.

There is nothing quite as ignominious as weeping in front of a soldier.

This is no environment for a wuss like me. We reporters go to other places to cover wars and disasters and pestilence and famine. There’s no manual to tell you how to do this when it’s your own city.

And I’m telling you: It’s hard.

It’s hard not to get crispy around the edges. It’s hard not to cry. It’s hard not to be very, very afraid.

My colleagues who are down here are warriors. There are a half-dozen of us living in a small house on a side street Uptown. Everyone else has been cleared out.

We have a generator and water and military C-rations and Doritos and smokes and booze. After deadline, the call goes out: “Anyone for some warm brown liquor?” and we sit on the porch in the very, very still of the night and we try to laugh.

Some of these guys lost their houses – everything in them. But they’re here, telling our city’s story.

And they stink. We all stink. We stink together.

We have a bunch of guns but it’s not clear to me if anyone in this “news bureau” knows how to use them.

The California National Guard came by a wanted an accounting of every weapon in the building and they wrote the serial numbers down and apparently our guns are pretty rad because they were all cooing over the .38s.

I guess that’s good to know.

The Guard wanted to know exactly what we had so they would be able to identify – apparently by sound – what guns were in whose hands if anything “went down” after dark here at this house.

That’s not so good to know.

They took all our information and bid us a good day and then sauntered off to retrieve a dead guy on a front porch down the street.

Then the California Highway Patrol – the CHiPs! – came and demanded we turn over our weapons.

What are you going to do? We were certainly outnumbered so we turned over the guns. Then, an hour later, they brought them back. With no explanation.

Whatev. So here we are. Just another day at the office.

Maybe you’ve seen that Times-Picayune advertising slogan before: “News, Sports and More.”

More indeed. You’re getting your money’s worth today.

Chris Rose can be reached at noroses@bellsouth.net.

Serving up food and encouragement to law enforcement

Saturday, 3:01 p.m.

By Coleman Warner
Staff writer

Eddie “Eddie Boy” Woerner -- an Elberta, Ala. sod grower well known to the New Orleans Saints as a supplier of turf -- fires up the his big grill at gatherings of his family and friends. Last year he fired it up to cook for emergency workers in Orange Beach, Ala. after Hurricane Ivan hit there.

And he didn’t hesitate last weekend to go into New Orleans when a friend called to say New Orleans police desperately needed fresh meals at the foot of Canal Street, a general staging area for law enforcement. He and a few others arrived at 1 p.m. Sunday with big cookers and 1,000 pounds of meat, and their mission of serving 800 police officers has swelled dramatically.

On Friday, the group—its ranks swelled to about 10, with volunteers from Arkansas and Georgia pitching in—served at least 8,000 meals to police officers, soldiers, homeless people and news reporters. Donations of money and food for the gargantuan private kitchen were flowing in, including a $50,000 donation from the singer Cher and a large batch of sausage from the Elberta Little League.

“Instead of selling the sausage for their new uniforms, they donated the sausage for this,” Paige Benson, one of the volunteers from Foley, Ala., said Saturday morning. Benson stood in the shadow of Harrah’s New Orleans Casino as she served up sausage sandwiches and peach slices. She wore a NYPD cap and Pensacola Beach shirt, and offered cheer along with food to passers-by. The ad-hoc group won’t stop cooking until the need for emergency feedings subsides, Benson said. “My husband and I have to leave tomorrow to go back to work, but we’re going to be here until no one’s here anymore,” she said.

For more information about the nonprofit feeding operation, call (251) 943-3540 or 1-877-659-9011.

Breaux, others to look at rebuilding New Orleans

Kadee Krieger
Staff writer


Former U.S. Sen. John Breaux, along with other former Louisiana congressional members, engineers, urban planners and economic developers, are banding together to examine Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, Breaux said Saturday.

The Hurricane Katrina Commission will focus on how New Orleans should be rebuilt, not whether it should be rebuilt, he said. “Just as the commission formed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center never sought to recommend whether the twin towers should be rebuilt.”

“We must have the attitude that things can be done. We are meeting with contractors, working on fundraising, looking at ways to re-build New Orleans and the other Gulf Coast areas,” Breaux said. “There should not have to be a decision on whether it should be rebuilt. It is no more difficult a decision than whether to rebuild San Francisco after its earthquakes or Chicago after its fires. We as a nation must help people rebuild their lives.”

Speaking at the Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge, Breaux said the commission also plans to point out that the Army Corps.
of Engineers needs its full funding to adequately protect the region from another disaster of Katrina proportions.

He said in 2004, the corps asked for $27 million for its projects, but received less than $5 million.

“As a member of Congress, I was part of that decision. I put
Congress in the same boat as those who could have done better,” said Breaux, whose third term as U.S. Senator expired Jan. 3. “But no other state has the wetlands loss issues that we have. No other state has the issue of catastrophic results if a hurricane hits.”

Breaux said the commission will look at issues such as whether congress appropriated adequate funding for protecting New Orleans, “and the answer is clearly not.”

But Breaux said despite what could have been done before Katrina hit to protect New Orleans from the massive flood waters that blanketed the city when its levees failed, neither he nor the national commission he is working to form will be part of “the blame game.”

“This is not the time or forum,” he said, to blame local, state or federal officials. “Blame does not save lives, feed families or compensate for loss.”

He praised city officials for working with Gov. Blanco and the National Guard to evacuate the thousands who were evacuated before the storm and continue to be evacuated and said that each day, the situation is improving.

“Today is better than yesterday, yesterday is better than day before.”

Breaux rejected the idea that food, water and supplies were slow to reach those stranded at the Superdome and Convention Center because of racial motivations.

“Mayor Ray Nagin is an African American, almost the entire New Orleans City Council is made up of African-Americans. To suggest that these African-American leaders would shortchange their own citizens is a suggestion that is absolutely without merit.”

Breaux said areas surrounding New Orleans with a higher percentage of white were just as slow to receive supplies.

“The commonality in all of this is people who are poor and did not get out because they did not have a car. It is more an issue of poverty,” Breaux said.

Breaux served seven terms as a U.S. Congressman and three as a U.S. Senator. In 1990, he was instrumental in getting passed what is knows as The Breaux Act, The Breaux Act the single largest federal legislation to date that addresses the coastal wetland loss in Louisiana.





Red Cross seeks volunteers

Saturday, 2:30 p.m.

The Red Cross has put out an appeal for 40,000 new volunteers to help with post Katrina recovery efforts.

The agency currently has about 36,000 volunteers nationwide, including 4,000 in Louisiana, said public affairs director John Degnan.

Volunteers, who undergo training and are typically deployed for three weeks at a time, are needed to work in shelters and help prepare and feed thousands of people still housed in shelters in Louisiana and along the Gulf Coast.

For more information, call 1-877-568-3317.

Mayor Nagin speaks out

By Gordon Russell
Staff writer
In a stark reminder of how drastically Hurricane Katrina has impacted the lives of New Orleanians, Mayor Ray Nagin has purchased a home for his family in Dallas and enrolled his young daughter in school there.
Nagin, who spoke with The Times-Picayune by telephone from Dallas, where he has been since Wednesday, said he planned to return to New Orleans on Saturday. He said he will remain in the Crescent City while his family lives for the next six months in Dallas, making occasional visits to his family when possible.
It’s not clear where Nagin will be living: His home along Bayou St. John suffered massive flooding, the mayor said, although he has not inspected it.
In a brief but wide-ranging interview, the mayor reflected on the tragedies of the past two weeks, acknowledging that he may have made some mistakes but said that he hopes others in positions of authority – including President George W. Bush and Gov. Kathleen Blanco -- are scrutinized as closely as he and his staff have been.
“I’m not pointing any fingers at anyone,” Nagin said. “But I was in the fire. I was down there. Where were they? I’m confident the truth is gonna come out. But I want everybody’s record analyzed just as hard as mine.
“Listen, this was unprecedented. Nothing has ever happened like this. For people to sit back and say, ‘You should have done this, you should have done that’ … it’s Monday morning quarterbacking. They can shoot if they want, but I was there, and I will have the facts.”
Nagin’s biggest frustration, and his biggest source of puzzlement, is the slow pace with which relief arrived. He said state and federal officials made repeated promises that weren’t kept.
“This is ridiculous,” he said. “I mean, this is America. How can we have a state with an $18 billion budget and a federal government with an I don’t know how many trillion dollar budget, and they can’t get a few thousand people onto buses? I don’t get that.
“All I saw was a huge two-step, if you will, between the federal government and the state as far as who had the final authority. Promises made that weren’t really kept. It was frustrating. We’d analyze things, double-check them, and then, later in the afternoon, we’d find out that someone was changing the plan, moving resources around.”
Some officials at the state and federal level have suggested that part of the reason for the slow response was a lack of awareness about the level of devastation the city had suffered. They have faulted city officials for not sending out a stronger SOS.
While Nagin has previously said he didn’t think the slow response was related to the demographic of the overwhelmingly poor, African-American crowd that needed rescuing, his thinking has evolved.
“Definitely class, and the more I think about it, definitely race played into this,” he said. “How do you treat people that just want to walk across the bridge and get out, and they’re turned away, because you can’t come to a certain parish? How do resources get stacked up outside the city of New Orleans and they don’t make their way in? How do you not bring one piece of ice?
“If it’s race, fine, let’s call a spade a spade, a diamond a diamond. We can never let this happen again. Even if you hate black people and you are in a leadership position, this did not help anybody.”
As hearings on the Katrina response start to crank up in Washington, Nagin said, those questions, among others, need to be asked.
“ I think the government ought to be asking itself, ‘What happened to the resources?
Why were people promised resources and they didn’t show up? Where were the military resources? Where was the National Guard? Why were we left with a city on the verge of collapse, fighting for the soul of the city, with 200 National Guardsmen and 1,200 police?
“It was a serious breakdown,” the mayor continued. “Make sure that whether it’s Ray Nagin or the governor or the president, we take a serious look at this and make the changes that need to be made. I’m afraid some of this was a tug-of-war about who gets to spend the money at the end of the day. And I don’t appreciate that.
“I saw too many people die, and a lot of people didn’t see any of that. They had a press conference and left. I’m looking up, fighting this incredible battle, and they’re doing press conferences and lying to the people. They’re telling them 40,000 troops are in New Orleans. It was all bull.”
“Analyze my ass, analyze everyone’s ass, man. Let’s put the facts on the table and talk turkey. Why was there a breakdown at the federal and state level only in Louisiana? This didn’t happen in Mississippi. That’s the question. That’s the question of the day.”
Nagin acknowledged that the city’s communications essentially shut down, but said that state and federal officials were likewise at a loss. Within a few days, city officials, including chief technology officer Greg Meffert, aided by outside volunteers, including a crew from Unisys, were able to patch together a rough network.
“All communications broke down,” Nagin said. “I got cell phones from as high up as the White House that didn’t work. My Blackberry pin-to-pin was the only thing that worked. I saw the military struggle with this, too. No one had communications worth a damn.”
Even if communications were challenging, Nagin noted that officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency were up in helicopters inspecting the damage from the storm within about 24 hours after it passed. So the message should have been clear, he said: Send in the cavalry.
“I think they realized the magnitude of what was happening,” he said.
Federal officials have also faulted Nagin’s administration for not marshaling its own buses and those of the School Board to start ferrying the tens of thousands of evacuees stranded at the Superdome and the Convention Center out of town.
Nagin said perhaps some of the criticism is fair. But he said there were various logistical hurdles that made it hard to use that equipment, and the buses would have hardly created a dent in the size of the crowds anyway.
“It’s up for analysis,” he said. “But we didn’t have enough buses. I don’t control the school buses, and the RTA (Regional Transit Authority) buses as far as I know were positioned high and dry. But 80 percent of the city was not high and dry. Where would we have staged them? And who was going to drive them even if we commandeered them? If I’d have marshaled 50 RTA buses, and a few school buses, it still wouldn’t have been nearly enough. We didn’t get food, water and ice in this place, and that’s way above the local level.
“Our plan was always to use the buses to evacuate to the Dome as a shelter of last resort, and from there, rely on state and federal resources.”
Those resources took way too long to arrive, Nagin said – in fact, much of the help didn’t arrive until after the mass evacuations from the Dome and the Convention Center had occurred. As a result, people suffered and died needlessly, a truth that has been weighing heavily on his mind.
“I saw stuff that I never thought I would see in my lifetime,” he said. “People wanting to die. People trying to give me babies and things. It was a helpless, helpless feeling.
“There was a lady waiting in line for bus who had a miscarriage. She was cleaning herself off so she wouldn’t lose her place in line. There were old people saying, ‘Just let me lay down and die.’ It’s bull...., absolutely bull..... It’s unbelievable that this would happen in America.”
While a number of people in the sea of refugees that packed the Dome and Convention Center complained that Nagin had not come to address them, Nagin said he did visit both facilities and speak with people.
“I went there,” he said. “I went through the crowds and talked to people and they were not happy. They were panicked. After the shootings and the looting got out of control, I did not go back in there. My security people advised me not to go back” after Wednesday, he said.
By Thursday, crowds had gotten increasingly restless. At one point, a crowd surged dangerously around Police Superintendent Eddie Compass, and a knot of police officers had to help him to safety.
Part of the discomfort in the Dome and Convention Center owed to the lack of toilet facilities after the city’s water system went down late Wednesday. The city’s hurricane plan calls for portable toilets at shelters, but none ever arrived. Nagin said his understanding was that the National Guard was in charge of providing them.
Also, he added, “Our plan never assumed people being in the Dome more than two or three days.”
Nagin saw a few bright spots amid the rubble of the city. He said the New Orleans Police Department – at least, the majority of it, given that there were a number of desertions – should be hailed for fighting an almost impossible fight, handling search-and-rescue missions while trying to keep an increasingly lawless city in check.
“They were absolutely heroic,” he said. “The stuff they were dealing with, man … they spent the first two or three days pulling people out of the water. When the looting started to get to the point that it was a real concern, they had to get involved in serious firefights. I mean, we had radio chatter where police were pinned down in firefights and ran out of ammunition. That’s never happened.”
Nagin also expressed cautious optimism about the city’s future.
“I think we’ll be a better city,” he said. “I think we’re going to see an unprecedented construction boom, and some better-paying jobs. Small businesses will start thriving, and I think the tourist industry will bounce back stronger than ever.”
Many people who were stranded for days at the Dome and Convention Center told reporters they were never coming back to their devastated city. The mayor acknowledged that some of them probably meant it, including some of the displaced New Orleanians he’s met since arriving in Dallas.
“I think some people will probably not come back,” he said. “You know, Texas is treating people very well, probably much better than we treated people.’’
“But I think once people start to see the rebuilding, and that the culture of the city will not be materially affected, they’ll be back.”
How things progress will depend largely on the level of federal aid, the mayor acknowledged. And it’s still unclear whether entire neighborhoods will have to be razed – and whether some areas should be abandoned because of their propensity to flood.
“The longer those neighborhoods stay underwater, the harder it’s going to be to rebuild
them,” he said.
Meanwhile, there are going to have to be serious conversations about changes to the housing codes and improvements to the levee system, whose inadequacies were laid bare by Katrina.
“I’ve been been talking to some people in Texas, and I think may be some better designs for housing that can handle some of this,” Nagin said. “And the levee system is designed only to withstand a Category 3 storm. Obviously, we have to do better than that.”

Motorist help available

Saturday, 2:09 p.m.

Anyone driving in Baton Rouge since Hurricane Katrina hit two weeks ago has had to face slow-moving traffic and gridlock. To help ease the situation, the state Department of Development and Transportation is stepping up its Motorist Assistance Patrol program.

The program can offer stranded drivers a gallon of gas, help changing a flat tire, a jump-start, water for a radiator or the use of a cell phone.

The idea is to get any stalled vehicle off the road so traffic can flow as well as possible, said Craig Melancon, project coordinator.

Beginning Monday, a tow truck will be staged from 6-10 a.m. at the Range Road on-ramp to remove some disabled vehicles from Interstate 12, such as in the case of an accident or stalled car.

The tow truck, which can take up to two vehicles at at time, will take them to O’Neal Lane for pickup by a regular towing service.

From 3 p.m. -7 p.m., the tow truck will be staged on O’Neal Lane and the drop-off point will be on Range Road.

Studies by the Federal Highway Administration estimate that an average of four minutes of traffic delay is created by every stalled vehicle blocking a lane, Melancon said.

The motorist assistance vans patrol to find stranded motorists on Interstate 12 from Range Road to the Interstate 10/Interstate 12 split; on Interstate 10 from Highland Road to LaPlace; and from Interstate 110 to U.S. 61.

Six Catholic schools opening Sept. 19 in St. Tammany

By Christine Harvey
and Karen Baker
St. Tammany bureau

Six Catholic schools in St. Tammany Parish will open Sept. 19, two weeks before the anticipated opening of public schools, officials said.

After a meeting of church pastors and school principals on Friday, they announced the Sept. 19 school openings of Mary, Queen of Peace in Mandeville; St. Scholastic Academy, Saint Paul’s School and St. Peter’s School in Covington; and Pope John Paul II and St. Margaret Mary in Slidell.

The schools will not have bus service until the public schools open
Oct. 3. Meanwhile, information on registration at the Catholic schools can be obtained by calling the individual schools.

St. Margaret Mary will work to accommodate students from Our Lady of Lourdes in Slidell, whose opening date is uncertain due to storm damage at the school.

Meanwhile, Our Lady of the Lake School in Mandeville will open Oct. 3 if not sooner, officials said.

The plan for Catholic schools was given the OK by Parish President Kevin Davis.

In the public school system, several St. Tammany schools received moderate to
severe roof and water damage as a result of Hurricane Katrina, forcing
school system administrators to begin devising contingency plans for
student enrollment in case some schools are unable to re-open early
next
month.
Superintendent Gayle Sloan announced this week that she hopes to
begin classes Oct. 3. However, a handful of schools, particularly in
the
Slidell area, may not be ready in time.

Members of the system’s maintenance crew have visited the
parish’s 52
schools in the past week to determine the extent of damage to each,
Sloan
said. Initial reports indicate that Salmen High and St. Tammany
Junior High sustained the most severe damage, including significant
water
damage and downed trees at both campuses. Sloan said Salmen had a few
feet
of water inside, while St. Tammany Junior High had about 2 1/2 feet.

Slidell Pathways also had significant water damage, while Brock
and
Abney elementaries, also in Slidell, had water damage as well as damage
to
their roofs. Most of the system’s other schools had some degree of
damage,
including minor damage to roofs, gutters and windows, though others
simply
require debris removal.

Sloan said Friday that she hopes to know in the next week or so
whether particular schools will be ready to re-open, as inspections are
in
the process of being conducted.

If certain schools are unable to re-open, she said the system
could
open temporary school sites in the parish, incorporate affected
students
into other parish schools or institute a platoon system, in
which
some students attend school in the morning and others in the afternoon.

“We really think it’s important to get the schools up and running
as
soon as possible,” Sloan said, noting that families who did not
evacuate
have children who are not attending school elsewhere.

She is also working on a plan to salvage the system’s athletic
program, including football, volleyball, cross country and swimming,
which
take place in the fall.

Sloan said she believes students can make up the 24 or so days
that
they have missed by attending classes
during
holiday periods. If so, summer vacation should be unaffected, as would
graduation dates.

The system has received a number of calls from evacuees
requesting
placement in the system when school re-opens, said Linda Roan, the
system’s
spokeswoman. Officials have yet to assess how many students may need
placement, though they expect to begin a looking at those inquiries
next
week.

“We’re going to welcome students who have been displaced,” Roan
said.
“We’re going to fold them into the student bodies and give them the
best
education we can.”

System administrators, principals, and members of the maintenance
and
custodial staff returned to work Friday, meeting with Sloan to discuss
the
best way to get the system ready for the start of school.

Hundreds of troops from the National Guard and the Marine
Corps
are assisting the system with its clean-up effort, Roan said.

About half of the system’s schools had power restored as of
Friday,
with assurances from CLECO that returning power to the remaining
schools is
a priority, Roan said.

“I think we came out pretty well, considering,” she said. “We’ve
got
our work cut out for us.”

Principals also were asked to begin trying to locate displaced
employees. Roan said. Employees, all of whom are being paid for
September,
are asked to call the central office at 985-898-3223 or 985-898-3264
Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

In addition , the School Board is returning to work, with plans
to
hold its first meeting since the hurricane this Thursday at 7 p.m. in
the
C.J. Schoen Board Room at the system’s central office in Covington.

Christine Harvey can be reached at charve1@lsu.edu.

Pelican Park suffers significant storm damage

Saturday, 1:59 p.m.

The staff of Recreation District #1 returned to work at
the Pelican Park last week to begin the clean up process, Pelican Park director Kathy Foley said.

The park and Castine Center, for the most part, suffered significant
but not devastating damage. There are between 300-500 trees down in the
park, Foley said in an email Friday.

All of the light poles in the park are standing but some are leaning.
While only eight light fixtures were completely blown away, the lights at all fields must be re-aimed, she said. Fencing, goals, netting and various
out-buildings were also damaged.

The Brown gym and Castine Center have moderate damage to the roof but
the White gym had the west side roof panels and insulation blown away.

Since Sept. 1, the Castine Center and all of the parking lots have been home to TXU, a utilities company from Dallas. More than 400 workers are being housed in the buildings. More than 300 trucks are being parked in the parking lots.

Because of this, the park will stay closed until at least the end of September, or until Cleco/TXU leaves the community, Foley said.

A decision has not been made about the fall sports season or events
scheduled at the Castine Center at this time. Check the website, www.Pelicanpark.com, for updated information and pictures of the park.




Mosquito spraying to begin Sunday

Saturday, 12:45 p.m.

To reduce an expected post-Katrina surge in the fly and mosquito population and the diseases they carry, the state health department is coordinating the spraying of the east bank of the New Orleans area, starting late Sunday afternoon.

The spraying by Air Force jets will be conducted in the last two hours of daylight, when the insects are most likely to swarm. Pesticides will be those normally used, primarily Naled, which does not harm the environment or affect human health, according to the state Department of Health and Hospitals.

Spraying is necessary to reduce the possibility of spreading West Nile virus and such diseases as St. Louis encephalitis and eastern equine encephalitis, said Dr. Ali Khan, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's malaria branch.

Despite his specialty, there is no danger of a malaria outbreak in the wake of the storm because "malaria doesn't occur in the United States anymore," said Khan, the leader of the 40-member multi-agency team evaluating the New Orleans area's public health needs.

Continued monitoring of the area will help determine where and how frequently spraying will be continued, state Health and Hospitals Secretary Fred Cerise said.

John Pope

SLU to offer academic counseling, advice

Saturday, 1:18 p.m.

Southeastern Louisiana University students who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina can get advice, academic counseling and information about registration Monday beginning at 4:30 p.m. at the Southeastern Student Union.

The university will offer a compressed, two-month semester, called the “Term II” semester, beginning Oct. 20, primarily for those students, according to the university web site. The Term II semester will allow students to obtain some college credits even if they cannot attend the entire regular fall semester.

Displaced students also can visit the admissions office, North Campus Main Building at W. Tornado Drive off University Avenue.

Area schools update

Saturday, 12:28 p.m.

While some school districts in south Louisiana already are planning reopening dates, others are still trying to assess the damage to their schools.

The state Department of Education released condition reports Thursday from district superintendents assessing damage in at least some of their public schools.

Meanwhile, state Superintendent of Education Cecil Picard urged parents to enroll their children in schools where they are taking shelter. Picard also urged displaced teachers and school support employees to apply for jobs at those schools.

In Orleans Parish, eight of the district’s 126 schools have been inspected. All eight are in Algiers and have some damage, but are useable.

All 15 schools in St. Bernard Parish are flooded and have extensive damage, authorities there said, while officials in Plaquemines Parish said six of nine schools are completely flooded.

In a written message at the state Education Department web site, St. Bernard Parish schools Superintendent Doris Voitier said it is unlikely any schools will fully reopen this year, and she encouraged teachers and other employees to seek employment or file for unemployment benefits.

She said school officials are meeting with state and federal officials in an effort to get money needed “to take care of our employees and our children.”

Otherwise, she said, St. Bernard Parish school employees with direct deposit should have received their Aug. 31 paycheck, and will receive an additional check on Sept. 15. Employees without direct deposit should call the state Department of Education at 1-877-453-2721, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday. They should be prepared to give their social security number and address so that checks can be forwarded to them.

“At this time, we cannot answer questions concerning additional payroll, insurance benefits or credit union issues,” Voitier said, however, she said answers should be available in two weeks, along with an e-mail address where employees can contact school officials.

Officials in Plaquemines say they are not able to estimate yet when their schools will reopen.

In Jefferson Parish, 57 of 84 schools have been inspected. Nine schools are not useable, 11 need repairs but can be used, and 37 have little or no damage. School officials have set Monday, Oct. 3 as the target date for reopening some schools in Jefferson Parish.

In St. Tammany Parish, five of 51 schools are too damaged to be use, but school officials said the 2,600 students who attend those schools will be enrolled in the parish’s other schools. Officials said schools will reopen Oct. 3.

Only one out of St. Charles Parish’s 19 schools was damaged. The school had minor roof damage over the cafeteria and auditorium and the school is useable. No date has been set for reopening the parish’s schools, but officials are planning to meet Monday, said Diane Rochelle. Rochelle, a former principal, is helping coordinate temporary housing for district employees, and donations for displaced students enrolling in the district’s schools.

About 800 student were enrolled Thursday and Friday, and registration will continue through Wednesday at the school board office in Luling from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Students must be residing with St. Charles Parish residents.
Parents will be further updated via the school district’s phone messaging system, Channel 8 and the district web site, www.stcharles.k12.la.us.

Rochelle said school officials also are requesting the loan of travel trailers and motor homes, as well as spare rooms in houses to temporarily house some displaced employees, at least 50 of which are from the east bank of the parish. To loan a trailer, contact Rochelle at (985)764-9626 or (504)491-5063, or Edie Sirmon at (985)785-0416, or (504)559-5770.

Meanwhile, teachers and support employees should report to work Monday at their regular time, and bus drivers should report to the district training center for a meeting at 8 a.m.

All nine schools in Washington Parish had damage, including three that need major repairs, however, school officials said those schools are expected to reopen Sept. 19.

The City of Bogalusa school district had some damage to all 10 of its schools, and the school system’s central office was destroyed. Officials tentatively plan to reopen schools on Oct. 3.

Kuwaiti sheikh to help New Orleans

Add another far-flung spot that’s helping New Orleans. A ritzy shopping mall in Kuwait City will donate one-day’s worth of the mall’s proceeds to help the flood-ravaged city.

The owner of the mall, Sheikh Majed al-Sabah, said "We as a whole Kuwaiti nation will never, ever forget the time when the U.S. sent all their troops in 1991 to liberate my country. Many U.S. troops died for the sake of liberating my country and this is totally unforgettable."

Majed is not only the nephew of the ruling Kuwaiti emir, but he’s an accomplished retailer who’s been called “the sheikh of chic.” His glass tower waterfront shopping center called Villa Moda houses ultra-high end retail shops. A Travel + Leisure magazine article in 2002 called it a “see-through society playground” in which patrons “relax on white leather couches beneath the atrium's 65-foot-high ceiling (and) make calls on their platinum-and-sapphire Vertu cell phones (cost: $21,240).”

Although there’s no word on how much money could be raised through the one-day event, it could be considerable, given the money spent at the center. One report said the average customer spends $600 per trip, and makes three trips per week.

In an e-mail, Majed said he will turn the proceeds over to the U.S. Embassy, which will handle disbursement. He said he is striving to get American schools, companies and others involved in his effort.

“It’s my pleasure to be as supportive as I can to help the victims of New Orleans,” he wrote.

Gretna gets help from its friends

Saturday, 12 p.m.

By Joe Darby
West Bank bureau

Gretna Mayor Ronnie Harris said his city relied on help from friends in other cities in the first harrowing days after Hurricane Katrina because no assistance from federal or state governments was forthcoming.

“We got help from people that I made contacts with, not from the bureaucracy for four or five days,’’ he said.

“I kept trying to get the director of (Louisiana) Office of Emergency Preparedness and he never took my call. We never saw anybody from FEMA or the Red Cross,’’ Harris said.
“I understand the national media focus was on New Orleans but we had needs too.’’

City officials in Lake Charles, Gonzales, St. Martinville, Plaquemine, Vinton, Jennings and Iowa (La.) as well as Baltimore rendered vital aide with gifts ranging from food, water and radios to powerful generators, the mayor said.

More than 150 city workers from Baltimore, including police, fire, medical and public works personnel have set up headquarters in Gretna’s Mel Ott Park and are assisting city employees. What help Gretna did get from the federal government almost caused more trouble than it was worth, he said. Two aircraft drops of food supplies in a parking lot on Lafayette Street and on the Gretna Green behind the police station, set off scrambles and pushing, just the kind of thing city officials wanted to avoid, Harris said.

“Some people ended up with three packages and some with none,’’ he said.

Of Gretna’s 17,500 residents, Harris estimated that 4,000 to 5,000 rode out the storm. The city initially went house to house to check on residents and distribute food and water before later setting up distribution points for those goods.

Centers at 1900 Lafayette St., and 1700 Franklin St. are still open.

Two relief ships, named Hope and Mercy, from the private Friend Ships sent through the influence of Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach, are docked at Gretna wharves, supplying needed goods.

Harris said he agrees with an earlier plea from Police Chief Arthur Lawson to return home as quickly as possible. Most buildings have power, many streets have been cleared of debris and a few businesses are open. The situation in Gretna has improved to the extent that the city has sent four or five truckloads of supplies to the town of Jean Lafitte, Harris said.

Harris praised Lawson and police officers for their work in keeping the city safe during the chaotic days following the hurricane. The one known fatality in Gretna was police Sgt. Sue Laughlin who was asphyxiated by fumes from a generator inside her home, Harris said.

All city utilities are functioning but residents will have to boil drinking water for another week or so, Harris said. Reports that diesel fuel had entered the water system were incorrect, he said. At the height of the storm, the water plant lost power, causing back flow and possible contamination. There was a diesel leak from a ship, but most of that oil sloshed over the levee by huge waves from the Mississippi River, Harris said.

Roots of overturned trees broke many water mains, but Herculean efforts by city workers repaired those breaks, he said. Harris and other city officials are operating out of the city water plant adjacent to the police station on Fifth Street, but they expect to return shortly to a battered City Hall building.

The City Council will hold its regular meeting at City Hall on Monday at 5:30 p.m.

Twin span contract awarded; work to begin Monday

Saturday, 11:37 a.m.

Kadee Krieger
Staff writer

BATON ROUGE- Work will begin Monday to repair the extensive damage to the Interstate 10 twin span, which Hurricane Katrina twisted and shifted in her path.

The state Department of Development and Transportation awarded Boh Bros. Construction Co. of New Orleans the contract after it submitted the lowest bid of $30.9 million, said assistant secretary of the department Gordon Nelson. Two other bids were submitted, with the next lowest coming in at $40 million.

Gordon said that the initial job will put the east bound bridge back together in 45 days and open the twin span to two-way traffic between Slidell and eastern New Orleans. He spoke at the state Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge Saturday.

“This will have a significant impact on travel as Interstate 10 connects traffic in New Orleans with the rest of the country. It is a major corridor for ports, oil and grain. The twin span is a crucial part of the interstate that connects California to Florida,” Gordon said.

The state used a fast-track method to award the contract, dispensing the requirement that bids must be advertised for 30 days before they can be awarded.

Gordon said the work will be completed using federal transportation dollars that the state expects to receive in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

He said crews will work around the clock, seven days a week to repair the bridge.

After the east bound lane is repaired and opened to two-way traffic, Boh Bros. will have another 75 days to construct a temporary lane on the west-bound span. It is has not yet been decided how traffic will flow on that third lane, Gordon said.

Gordon said the entire project should be completed after 120 days, but that Boh has a $75,000-per day incentive for the job to be completed up to 15 days ahead of schedule.

Ultimately, he said a new contract will build an entirely new span at a higher elevation.

Gordon said work crews must repair more than five miles of the eight-mile span, where Katrina threw parts of the bridge into Lake Pontchartrain and twisted other parts out of sync.

He said the damage was similar to what Hurricane Ivan inflicted on infrastructure along Florida’s Gulf Coast after that 2004 storm, and that a team of Florida engineers assisted with that the awarding of the twin span contract.





Roof damage threatens priceless WWOZ record collection

By Dave Walker
TV columnist

The studio equipment and irreplaceable record and CD
collection at noncommercial WWOZ 90.7 FM, the public
radio outlet that beamed New Orleans music and culture
to the region – and, via the Internet, the world –
survived Hurricane Katrina but might not survive the
city’s current lockdown.

David Freedman, the station’s general manger, surveyed
the station’s Armstrong Park headquarters on Thursday
and discovered significant damage to the roof.

Freedman attempted to return later with a roofer, but
was turned away on the city’s outskirts.

Friday afternoon, he was looking for someone in
authority to approve access to the city long enough to
preserve the volunteer-run station, which was knocked
off the air by the storm and which operates on a
listener-supported shoestring in best of times.

“I just don’t know who to call,” he said.

Freedman can be contacted at wwozdavid@yahoo.com or
(504) 782-0933.

DHH puts storm dead at 154 so far

Saturday, 11:10

State officials have confirmed that 154 people died as
a result of Hurricane Katrina, according to an update
provided by the Department of Health and Hospitals on
Saturday.

State and local officials had earlier predicted that
the loss of life would be catastrophic, as high as
10,000 people. But in New Orleans, officials are now
cautiously optimistic that number is a vast
overestimation of the people who perished during the
storm or its aftermath.

There are 90 bodies at the morgue in St. Gabriel,
three at the St. Charles Parish coroner’s office, 25
in the coroner’s office in Jefferson Parish and three
at the Iberia Parish morgue. The other 33 deaths were
attributed to Kenyon Worldwide Management Services,
the company hired by the Federal Emergency Management
Agency to assist in the recovery of the deceased.

Anybody who died as a direct result of Hurricane
Katrina will be counted as a death caused by the
storm. This would include people who drowned in
floodwaters, as well as patients who died when they
could not receive needed medical treatment.

Plaquemines allows residents to return

Saturday, 9:55 a.m.

Plaquemines Parish is allowing residents to return to their homes starting Sunday from Belle Chasse to Alliance Refinery, Parish President Benny Rousselle announced.

He warned that services, particularly utilities, such as water and sewer, are limited. A boil water order is also in effect. In addition, the parish is instituting a mandatory curfew from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., and no vehicle will be allowed south of the Alliance Refinery.

Returning residents must have identification showing that they live in Plaquemines and should use enter the parish via U.S. 90 to Lapalco Boulevard to Louisiana 23. Rousselle also said that residents should bring their own supplies, including gas, food and medicine with them, because stores are not open and 911 emergency services are not available.

EPA has floodwater data posted on website

Saturday, 9:14 p.m.

The Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Environmental Quality have posted data from New Orleans flood water samples collected from 12 locations from Sept. 3-5. The data has been reviewed and validated through a quality assurance process to ensure scientific accuracy.

Initial biological results indicated the presence of high levels of
E. coli in sampled areas. Environmental and health agencies advise people to avoid contact with the flood water.

EPA in coordination with federal, state and local agencies will
continue to release data as it becomes available. A map displaying sampling
locations is available on the EPA website. To view the data, please
visit: http://www.epa.gov/katrina/testresults

Utility update

Saturday, 8:45 a.m.

Entergy President Dan Packer said that crews could begin work next week on trying to restore power to some areas of Uptown and Algiers.

In an interview with WWL-TV, Packer said that workers are employing boats to try to assess the condition of equipment and power lines in flooded areas elsewhere in New Orleans.

Meanwhile, Cleco announced that it had restored power to 43 percent or more than 34,000 of its 80,000 customers in St. Tammany Parish. In Washington Parish, 54 percent or 444 of its 800 customers had electricity.

Spokeswoman Susan Broussard said that Cleco has 3,000 workers spread out in the affected areas. Customers can check on the status of their neighborhood at the company’s website, www.cleco.com or call 1-800-622-6537.