Posted: 3 December 2005
In August of 2003 Betsy and I went to New Orleans to visit Tony and Donna and partake of the city's many pleasures and wonderments. The photos and commentary here chronicle that visit.
Since Hurricane Katrina struck the area in August of 2005 much has changed in New Orleans and the city will never be the same.
The geography of New Orleans is such that much of the city is below the water level of the Mississippi River and Lake Ponchartrain.
Currently, some of the businesses in the French Quarter are open. However much of the city is still in disarray. The Louisiana Office of Tourism reports that New Orleans has lost $1.5 million in tourist revenues every day since the levees broke, and only 25 percent of its 3,400 restaurants have reopened. In September, the unemployment rate hit 14.8 percent.
Some of the larger businesses, like UPS and Chase Bank, have reopened but have few customers, and local officials expect they have lost up to half the city's 115,000 small businesses.
Some businesses area already calling it quits. Mervyn's will shut down its three New Orleans area stores and completely pull out of the Louisiana market.
Tulane University, like many other institutions suffered damage and major setbacks to it's research and education program.
But surely the most devastating blow to all New Orleanians is the loss of thousands of home and jobs, to say nothing of the lives lost.
Damage estimates are now at $125 billion. A staggering sum and one which is difficult to comprehend.
Unfortunately some of that damage need not have happened as this looting report below explains:
The police officer who was shot in the head by looters the day after Hurricane Katrina hit was assigned to the Algiers district and the shooting occurred in Algiers about two miles from our house, at the corner of Shirley Drive and Gen. DeGaulle Parkway. He is recovering at a hospital in Dallas. There are no hospitals open for acute care in the City of New Orleans or in any of the surrounding parishes--all were either destroyed by the flood or were looted and ransacked after the hurricane.
The shopping mall on our side of the river was set on fire by looters and about one fourth of it burned down--the rest of it is closed due to smoke damage. It is not expected to reopen before the Christmas shopping season.
Every store in the shopping mall beside the ferry landing on the other side of the river from us was looted and destroyed. The looters broke every door, smashed every counter, relieved themselves on the floors, threw live lobsters from a restaurant's tank against the walls to kill them, and stole everything from digital cameras to perfume.
The shopping mall just above the ferry landing on Canal Street was looted, ransacked, and set on fire. Saks Fifth Avenue, the fanciest department store in Louisiana, sustained $20 million in damage from looting.
And today it was reported in the news that the city's public housing authority is lobbying for money to reopen the housing projects that the criminals who did all this damage lived in before the hurricane, and they want to bring back these people to help repopulate the city. I say, let Dallas and Houston take them forever.
Here are some other bits of info from my source in New Orleans.
Xavier University has laid off even tenured faculty because of Katrina--that's almost unheard of in academia. Tulane still has all its tenured profs.
Ruth's Chris Steak houses, founded in NOLA and unflooded, ran off to Orlando the week after the storm. By contrast, the American Coffee Company, flooded and transplanted to Texas, came back as soon as it could. Employees are grateful to have their jobs back!
You should add a link to www.nola.com. That's the best daily snapshot of life in the new New Orleans. Other ones worth linking to are www.wwltv.com and www.cityofno.com.
FEMA is a four-letter word in this city. Nobody knows what it's doing, where, or when. We appreciate the good it has done, such as handing out $2000 emergency grants, but if they don't soon get some temporary housing down here there will be nobody left here to turn out the lights that still haven't come back on in more than half of the city.
Not all areas of New Orleans suffered significant damage. The West Bank community of Algiers was spared the flooding and massive structural damage seen in other parts of the city, most notably the 9th Ward.
As bad as things are here in NOLA, at least the weather is fine. We had a second summer this year instead of fall--vincas, impatiens, purslane, cosmos, hibiscus, all are still in full bloom in our yard. Some cold air blew in overnight, so today it's sunny and expected to hit 60 this afternoon (yesterday,Nov 15th, it was 85). This will be good for the pansies I just set out.
Had three major milestones to pass before we can leave NOLA again: insurance assessment, FEMA inspection, and refrigerator delivery. That last one happened Monday and was the most important! No more treks to Algiers Point to get FEMA ice and food.
Here is a report of conditions along the Gulf Coast near Pass Christian, Mississippi. This area is about 60 miles east of New Orleans.
We entered US 90 just east of Pascagoula, Miss., yesterday at about 1 p.m. and saw some wind damage to buildings and trees from there to Ocean Springs. The bridge to Biloxi from Ocean Springs was knocked off its supports by the storm surge and much of it is lying in a jumbled mass that looks like something from the California earthquakes, only with water. We backtracked up to I-10 and came back down into Biloxi via D'Iberville. They have US 90 barricaded there, so we went through some residential streets, drove across a deserted bank parking lot, and ended up on 90 anyway. From there, the eastbound lanes are open to two-way traffic all the way to the Bay St. Louis Bridge at Pass Christian, although there are no working traffic signals and the National Guard has checkpoints every few miles.
The damage along US 90 is, take your pick, total devastation or absolute destruction. All that's left of the many houses, businesses, motels, and casinos are the foundations and piles of debris. Exceptions to that include Beauvoir, the home of Jefferson Davis (who says God wasn't on the Rebs' side?), the ship-shaped casino in Biloxi, the Grand Casino in Gulfport, a Wal-Mart in Long Beach, and about three dozen antebellum mansions in Pass Christian. These buildings are still there, but water has hollowed them out. Everything else is GONE, including that great seafood restaurant I took you to--Chappy's in Long Beach.
We turned north in Pass Christian to return to I-10 and the devastation inland for about three or four miles is total. All of it is storm surge flooding. Beyond that, many homes are severely wind-damaged and the residents are living in tents and trailers in the yards. This continued all the way to I-10, about six miles from the shoreline.
We arrived in New Orleans at sundown, passing through the completely dark, devastated New Orleans East, Gentilly, and upper 9th Ward before reaching the lights of the Central Business District and finally good old Algiers.
Locally, here in Morgantown, West Virginia the effect of Katrina were felt as well. Some refugees have relocated and found work here. One such person is Tony Fletcher.
The migration of some of these refugees is being documented by students of the West Virginia University P.I. Reed School of Journalism. Some of their work can be seen at their website:
Starting Over - Loss and Renewal in Katrina's Aftermath.
Click on the images below for a larger picture.