Archive for August, 2005

Media Coverage

Literally on television right now in Memphis:

CBS – Big Brother 6
NBC – Tommy Lee Goes To College
FOX – House
ABC – According to Jim

These are the same networks that were airing commercial free tsunami coverage for days during that tragedy. What the fuck?!?! People need to be informed about this situation. This is quite possibly the worst disaster to ever occur in the history of this country, maybe not in terms of loss of life, but easily in terms of economic impact.

Just to drill it in, nobody is talking about death tolls right now but they are certain to be in the THOUSANDS. Nobody has even begun to consider it because they are still rescuing people, not recovering. It’s bad, people. Get Tommy Lee off the fucking television.

At least they’re not still talking about those goddamned dolphins.

Breakdown

What bothers me this evening, in watching the goings-on on TV and in reading a series of stories, is how quickly the social order has broken down in my beloved city.
I’m a pretty lassiez-faire kinda guy. I know the police, fire, National Guard and other official agencies are more than overwhelmed by this once-a-century type of event.

But damn, y’all….

I am well aware the logistics of providing help in this situation in this city are unprecedented. And the levee breach is potentially catastrophic, even more than the hurricane itself. But it also seems to me that we’ve been overly eager, as a nation, to rapidly deploy needed manpower to just about anyplace in the world to face a perceived threat. From what’s I’ve seen and read so far today, now would be a good time to employ this same kind of quick action to at least provide a little protection to folks who just want to get through the next difficult day.

I know — it’s only been 48 hours or so. And conditions are uniquely staggering. But authorities have to get a handle on, well, their authority.

Please.

Water Rising Uptown

Just got a firsthand account that the water is creeping up Napoleon Ave. A friend who lives at Baronne and Marengo confirmed that the water is just starting to come up Marengo St. towards St. Charles. Four of them there are leaving town as I write this. After reports that downtown has devolved into complete and total anarchy, I am fearing for their safety at the hands of mercenary carjackers trying to get out of town. Fortunately my friends are armed.

1st-hand Account from Michael Siu, a New Orleans Photographer

rayne memorial church 1.jpg

Tree on St. Charles.jpg

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Click images for larger view

I was up to 2nd Street on St. Charles and up to Magazine there is
no water. I went from Napoleon and Magazine to about a mile past St Charles
and I saw no water.

In the first 30 mins of my trek Uptown I saw a between 30-35 people
at some point looting. They were carrying huge bags and boxes of groceries
from the RiteAid on St. Charles and Louisiana. On Magazine they were
carring groceries from the A&P. It was terrible to see this although
I finally saw police cars on Magazine and Napoleon towards the end of
my trek. Although the police were just driving, and one was helping a
lady try to find a way out.

I
just stayed away and I didn’t take any pictures, I felt it was too dangerous.

I
did not experience any looting in homes, maybe I just didn’t see it.
Hopefully everything in your house is ok. I found out earlier my house
in Kenner and my business in Metairie are very under water and are probably
a total loss. So just be thankful.

Michael online: Michael Siu’s
Website
. Photographs © Michael Siu, used with permission.

room with a view .jpg

homed and armed.jpg

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You got questions?….

Just to bring you up to date on some questions being asked over and over at various places….

The damage Uptown is mainly wind damage. High water has not been a problem like in the Bywater and Lakeview areas. Uptown includes the Loyola and Tulane areas.

Lakeview and Bywater, Chalmette, some of East New Orleans, Slidell, parts of Kenner and Metairie all have definite high water problems and will for some time. But parts of the Westbank are okay. Things were okay, by comparison, in the CBD and the Quarter, but they still need to get a handle on the broken levee situation or water will continue to rise.

High water and heavy damage at the Fairgrounds and Lakefront airport, around UNO.

Local officials say evacuees shouldn’t think about returning until Monday at the earliest.

There is no power and no phone service and won’t be. For a loooooooooong time.

The I-10 bridge between Slidell and Orleans Parish is toast. For a loooooooooong time.

The Causeway is open, but only to emergency traffic.

Martial law has been declared. This is to minimize looting and keep gawkers from getting in the way.

There is, of course, a lot more. But these seem to be the major questions.

I think it would be a good idea for someone (TV or some government agency) to begin posting an aerial view of the NO metro area with the flooded areas shaded. More than anything else, I think this would settle the minds of many of the evacuees, who aren’t able to tell from simple video. Just Knowing one way or the other would be a huge help and soothe the agitation.

World War III?

I was able to confirm that my mother is still alive in the quarter. She had literally 60 seconds to call me overseas.

She told me that she was hearing that power wasn’t going to be available for a month. I asked her what the quarter looked like. She said “It looks like World War Three hit.” That was all I heard before the phone cut off.

Unconfirmed, Friend-of-a-Friend-of-a-Relative-Reports

From the Westbank:

  • The Shell station at Manhattan and Westbank Expressway blew up and/or burned
  • The extended-stay motel place next to the Palace Movie Theatre on Manhattan collapsed
  • Debris prevented travel to look at the Timberlane/Bellemeade area
  • The Landmark on the Westbank Expressway (the round hotel near Terry Parkway) collapsed (I’m skeptical…you’d think this would be spectacular enough to warrant helicopter photo coverage given its size and the huge amount of debris that would likely be visible)
  • Damage in Lafitte was “not very much.” Which is great news for my dad, hopefully the camp will only have some water damage and not structural damage.

From Columbus, MS:

This is the fourth time I’ve ridden out the remnants of a gulf hurricane here. Katrina was still packing 50 mph winds when she got here, and she stayed here a long time. However, the damage was probably only the second most severe (after Ivan).

Ivan, last fall, cleared out a lot of dead and dying trees and tree limbs. From a debris standpoint, it was the worst. It also knocked out power for about 6 hours where I live. Results varied around the region I lived in on power.

This season’s earlier two storms both went by further away than Ivan and my power outage was maybe about 2 hours for the two storms combined.

Katrina left more debris than the last two combined, but even that was minor. As far as I know, there were no road closings, even, though you’d have been stupid to be out in the heart of the storm last night. The storm itself really started here about 6pm on Monday and the wind didn’t stop waking me up until about 2:20am. We lost power at 8pm, so promptly went to bed. I had my iPod so I caught up on a couple of Keith & The Girl podcasts while I waited til I was tired enough to doze. Between the wind and the transformers blowing up, I was woken up about once an hour from 10pm on. Power was out when I left for work at 6:45am. Power was out when my parents drove to West Point to eat lunch (and get out of the hot, sticky apartment — I can’t imagine the horror that the Superdome must be right now). Power is still out right now. Two pilots a couple of units down told my parents they spoke with the power company earlier today and were told that “they’d get to it when they got to it.” Whatever, the discomfort here is NOTHING compared to the three-state area of the coast most seriously affected by the storm.

Checking In…

I don’t have any real news to report but just thought I’d check in and give a personal account of what it’s like to be a refugee in the midst of this. My girlfriend and I evacuated New Orleans at 7:00 Sunday morning and got to Memphis, TN in what was actually a very easy and pleasant drive. Right as we left town, the first reports of the storm’s increasing strength began to come in on WWL radio. We began to realize the gravity of the situation, which was getting much worse than we ever imagined it would. As the day went on our stomachs were sinking, and they continue to sink some three days into this ordeal.

At this point it’s pretty clear that nothing will be left when, and if, we return. Right now water is probably up to the roof of our Mid-City house, which I bought last year. Knowing this, the questions in my head are about the future of my job, where I will stay if I choose to return, and of course, how long it will be before any sense of normalcy returns to my life. It will probably be years. I’m seriously considering the option of giving it all up and starting anew somewhere else. Given the heartache that’s going to follow, and the reality that a repeat of this event could happen someday, it’s something worth thinking about.

Despite all this grief, I am actually in very high spirits, knowing how fortunate I am. It’s impossible to fathom how many people are going to be in a much, much worse situation than I am. It’s also very hard to think about the loss of life that’s already occurred and the serious possibility that many more deaths will continue to occur in the wake of a disaster like this. I have been sick to my stomach all morning thinking about the people who are still in the city, a few of whom are close friends of mine. These next few days in New Orleans will be legendary, filled with stories of bravery and heroism, but also of unthinkable tragedy.

I hate to close with such an awful cliche, but to say “we’re not out of the water yet” would not even begin to explain the situation. My thoughts and tears are with everyone in this city, which will never, ever be the same.

Patience, y’all…….

I know it’s easy to get panicky when you’ve not heard from a friend or loved one in the New Orleans area or elsewhere. I’ve got a house and a business there and I’d pay dearly to talk to anyone who has the slightest indication as to their physical condition.

But that’s simply not going to happen today. Maybe not tomorrow. Maybe not for another week or more (at least). The telephone system is in a shambles and the entire power grid is gone. Water is lapping at the eaves of houses, while their occupants are stranded on rooftops. The water level continues to rise and, as yet, there’s no way to stop it. As frustrated as we are and as desperate as we are for ANY information, I can only try to imagine how much worse it is for those who are actually there and facing an enormity far too large to get one’s arms around. As already evidenced by today’s suicide in the Superdome, it’s more than some can handle.

Latest word from police is they are trying to fill the breaches in the levee with thousands of sandbags. Let’s hope it works as quickly as possible.

Updating

There are apparently three breaches in the levee system, according to info from WWL Radio…..

Water is reported rising in Mid-City and in the CBD. There is currently no way to get in the heavy equipment needed to solve this problem in the short term.

Jefferson Parish says evacuated residents shouldn’t come back until at least Monday (Labor Day).

Water covered the I-10 twin span between New Orleans and Slidell. It’s now back below the bottom of the bridge, but there is apparent structural damage that’s still being assessed. “Just like Pensacola,” says one observer about the twin span. If you’ll remember the pictures from last year, the I-10 bridge over Escambia Bay near Pensacola washed out.

The Causeway Bridge is apparently structurally okay, but is closed to all but emergency traffic. No word on the I-10 bridges to LaPlace and up to Baton Rouge.

St. Tammany Parish remains closed. You also cannot enter Mississippi from Louisiana on I-10. Too much damage.

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