I received email from a dear friend who lives in Louisiana. He and his wife left their home before the storm hit and luckily, have a home to go back to…here’s his take on the devastation. These are 3 posts to my old politics list, which Jon forwarded to me (for those who also read Brni’s lj, this is a repeat).
I just want to say, the French Quarter of New Orleans is–was–one of my favorite places to visit. In 94, Brni, Jesse and I took a road trip to New Mexico and on our return we passed through New Orleans. it was about 6am, just after a light rain when I first walked the Quarter. It was all I’d imagined. The wrought iron balconies dripping with ferns and fuschia, banana trees tucked in narrow walkways, their tops peeking out over the high spiked gates, men dragging out tables and chairs outside the Cafe Du Monde. Some years later, we returned to New Orleans for a week long stay. We stayed in the French Quarter Suites on Rampart Street, a couple blocks from the Quarter. After Brni went off to his ISP convention, I would walk the Quarter, taking in the architecture, the atmosphere of the place, poking into nooks and crannies full of flamboyant history. So, even though I’m not of the place, I have special memories and feel a personal loss. Nothing compaired to the intense loss those who are of the place must endure.
my heart is with them.
They’re tryin to wash us away
They’re tryin to wash us away
-chorus from “Louisiana 1927” by Randy Newman.
A few quick notes, facts, rumors, and other things about the storm. I
haven’t seen the news all day, as I returned from where we just moved
a few weeks ago, so I don’t know what is generally known about the
effects of the hurricane.
Most of this info is coming out of the only news escaping New Orleans. The
entire southeast of Louisiana is without appreciable power. Houma, over an
hour to the west-southwest of N.O., has electricity. However, it is
disconnected from the grid and locals are asked to conserve. All other
power sources in that part of the state are on generators–hospitals,
mostly. Diesel that runs the generators is low.
Not only is N.O. without power, they are completely without everything.
The entire infrastructure will have to be rebuilt…once the flooding has
been stopped and the pumps are repaired. Then the toxic waste will have to
be (somehow) removed before repairing leaking gas mains. Once that is
completed, sewage and gas lines will have to be replaced completely. Only
then will poles be repaced and electrical lines re-strung. At the same
time, all connecting power stations will have to be repaired or
reconstructed from the ground up.
The optimistic timetable is a month before they can bring electricity to
the city. Then electrical teams will have to determine what areas and what
blocks get power, and also determine if houses are safe enough to get
plugged back in. This, keep in mind, is for almost all of the city of N.O.
and the ring of towns that make up the greater metro area.
In the majority of the city, inspectors will have to check every home. No
one can estimate how long this will take.
The water continues to pour into the towns that make up the greater N.O.
area. Sheriff’s deputies were staying at a hotel in the city. When the
flooding started, they were rescued by boat. Everytyhing is done by boat.
while this was occurring, a shark was seen cruising under the water. As
someone put it, now N.O. is part of the Gulf of Mexico.
It isn’t the only parish (ie county) to fall into this category.
Plaquemines parish, the finger that follows the river until the land
abruptly ends 100 miles downstream of N.O., has been reduced by half. At
least 40 miles of the lower parish has been ‘recovered by the Gulf.’
Whether or not the land will be there when the sea level drops to normal
levels is unknown. Likewise, areas of Jefferson Parish and St. Bernard
Parish were under as much as 20 feet of water. No one seems to know if
this is still the case.
Louisiana’s battle against coastal erosion appears to have been lost.
Folks who toured by air have said that the maps will have to be re-drawn,
as huge swaths of coastal areas were eroded to muddy water by wave action.
There are no numbers of dead in the city. Bodies have been reported
floating in canals and other water bodies.
There are probably still thousands trapped alive in attics, without water
and food, fighing fire ants and water moccasins for whatever dry ‘land’
I drove back home this morning to check on the rental and see if we would
have a place to sleep, once power has been restored. Our town is about 60-
75 miles from the western edge of the eye of the storm. Our area received
catagory 2-type destruction, snapped tree limbs, shingles gone, etc.
Driving down to work showed cat 3 damage in areas without significant
All I can compare this to in my mind is the flood of 1927. I think there
will be tent communities on the levees this fall around the N.O. area as
the city rebuilds from scratch.
Off to bed. I’ll report back tomorrow with things that I know I’ve
forgotten to write down this evening.
photos and the N.O. newspaper here:
A few final thoughts before we return home now that electricity has been
restored (no cable I’m sure, no this will be the last post for some time).
N.O. is the economic engine that drives the state. There are now no
businesses left in the city. None. The economic impact on the state,
region, and to a lesser extent, country, should be something to contemplate
N.O. is poised to join Chicago and San Francisco in the ‘rebuilt from
Attempts to stop the flooding from failed levees has met with failure.
Failed, too, was the newest pumping system that was installed a few years
Once the salty water is replaced by a layer of freshwater (rains), a new
menace will migrate in – alligators. They will compete with all other
scavengers for decaying corpses. (My grandmother stopped eating crabs
after hurricane Audrey in @1959 for this very reason.)
The effect on the ecosystem will be catastrophic. Toxic water will
eventually be pumped into the Mississippi River to exit N.O. It will end
up in the Gulf of Mexico, where it will follow the coast to the west
towards Texas, shutting down oyster beds indefinately. The commercial
fishing industry will crash, as will shrimping (I’m assuming). Residential
fishing, which brings in a few billions dollars in direct and indirect
costs, will cease to exist until the water is no longer contaminated (given
the stirring of sediments by storms, this will be a recurring problems for
years). Thus, the impact from the storm will cause cessation of rural-
based industries far beyond the ‘city that care forgot.’
See y’all when my cable is restored,
Con (from Lafayette)
Final notes before I leave. First, thanks to all for concern. Second, all
communication with those you know and love is impossible. Towers down,
land lines down, etc. Assume all are ok, since they did get @80% out of
the area before the storm hit. Third, keep inmind the extent of this event
when the begging bowl comes to you via the airwaves. Fourth, Kelly, the
orange jumpsuits will, like in ’27, be used eventually to clean up the
area. At least that’s my prediction.
Last year I sat in on a presentation by Don Davis, a prof at LSU who gives
a great speech that intertwines cultural, geographical, historical info on
cajuns and other ethnicities in the south part of La. At one point in the
presentation, he had this to say, approximately:
“Now, we all know that the models show what will happen to New Orleans
should a cat 4 or 5 hurrican hit it dead on. Normally, the national guard
is sent into restore order. Where is the national guard right now? Iraq.
What happens if a cat 4 or 5 hit New Orleans while the majority of troops
aren’t in La. to restore order?
We’re finding out now. No guard to restore order, no guard to help plug
levees and rebuild the city.
But I hear the Green Zone and Baghdad airport are fairly well protected.
Feel free to quote from this to anyone wanting to know what is going on. again, i haven’t checked the news so I don’t know what is and isn’t common knowledge.