Katrina News

Dear Mr. Kalb and Fellow Readers,

If anyone has any questions about the storm, what happened after, and what is going on in the greater New Orleans area, just ask. That is my home. I rode out the storm and spent 15 days in the area afterwards. I am temporarily in Houston because of my job. I was not flooded even though I live only two blocks (as the crow flies) from the infamous 17th Street Canal. Using my main street, it is about four blocks.

I am going to send the White House this little anecdote that the president can use to add a little humor to the uproar over the slow federal, state, and local government response.

I was a little boy during the previous direct hit from a major hurricane. Mayor Vic Schiro was riding through the flood in a DUKW (or “DUCK”), a large amphibious army road vehicle. There were the now familiar charges made about the government and the body count, but the charges seemed aimed at only the local government. Many people still believe the ridiculous idea that the mayor (one of the nicest and best ever) “blew the levees” in working class neighborhoods to save the “rich” neighborhoods. Instead of the working class people complaining about class discrimination, we now have the blacks complaining about racial discrimination.

The mayor made the memorable, comical remark, “Don’t believe any rumors unless you hear them from me.” He was not trying to be funny. So we still laugh about it here.

My responses will be delayed because the only computer I now have use of is at my office. I’ll try to get to a local library computer. I had to evacuate fast and could not take much of anything.


18 thoughts on “Katrina News”

  1. Hey Paul, glad to hear you are alive and hopefully well…
    … and that you still have your dwellings.

    What are your plans? Are you planning to re-locate permanently, or just temporarily? What is the mood amongst people you know; are most hoping to stay / return, or are many leaving?

    What is the predominant viewpoint amongst you, your family, friends and neighbours and colleagues, about where lies the responsibility for the levees bursting, the evacuation process?

    Keep us informed about any pertinent developments! All the best, eh? Take care.

    • Katrina News
      Thank you for your concern.

      I and almost everyone will return as soon as the infrastructure permits. The mood is good. Everyone is resigned to their fate, which is what people usually do when they finally must face their worst fears. We knew it was only a matter of time.

      Everyone here knows for certain the feds acted very slowly, and we suspect the state and local officials acted slowly and stupidly. But the feds seem to be making a major effort to make up for their earlier inaction. I doubt the state and local officials will ever make up for their possible failures. Personally, I am willing to withhold judgment until after a possible investigation. But I was not assaulted or murdered or drowned or left to die without medical care. Nor did I suffer major damage.

      The city was very, very, very lucky it did not catch the east side of the storm (as the Mississippi Gulf Coast did) and that the winds were not as bad as expected. The deaths would have been in the tens of thousands had that happened. For example, five of my cousin’s longtime friends drowned in different locations of a portion of St. Bernard Parish (where the Battle of “New Orleans” was actually fought). He is 25. They all went to the same Catholic grammar and high school together. He was inconsolable for a whole day when he heard the news.

      The evacuation was slow because the storm took the city by surprise, and as a result, everyone left at the same time. I and most others did not hear the storm was coming until Saturday morning, only about 36 hours before the storm hit. 1.3 million people had to evacuate in this short time. In the 1:00 p.m. Friday advisory, the city was not even in the cone of probability, which was centered on the Alabama-Florida border. I learned later that it was not until the 4:00 p.m. advisory that the city was placed at the center of the new cone of probability. The interstate contra-flow plan was not begun until late Saturday afternoon.


      • wow.
        I’m sorry to hear about your cousin’s friends.

        You’re the only person I know in, and for that matter from, New Orleans; it’s good to hear first-hand from you about the situation; world events can sometimes seem abstract, but when they hit people one knows, even if just through an electronic bulletin board, it becomes a bit more real; thanks for sharing your experience and your thoughts.

        I may not know you personally, but it’s been a few years that we’ve both been posting here and at VFR; you and your family are nevertheless in my thoughts and prayers.

        Take care.

  2. Thank God you’re safe and
    Thank God you’re safe and sound, Mr. Henri! Now that you mention it, I do remember from your posts here and over at View from the Right that you live in New Orleans. Word around the blogosphere is that millions or even billions of dollars earmarked for maintenance and upgrading of those levees were stolen by corrupt city officials over a period of decades, leaving the levees vulnerable to failure in case of a major hurricane. I’ve also read that New Orleans is on average eight feet below sea level, eleven feet on average in some parts of the city, and its depth below sea level deepens to some twenty feet in a few isolated spots. Furthermore it’s sinking at the rate of three feet per century, an alarming rate! I’ve read you can’t dig holes deeper than six feet before you’re stopped by water flooding into the hole. Bodies in some cemetaries are “buried” above ground for this reason. I’ve read the levees are nowadays thought to contribute to the flooding problem by not permitting regular deposits of Mississippi River sediments in the places adjacent to the city where they got deposited on a regular basis since time immemorial, with the result that the city’s sinking is accelerated (through I don’t know what mechanism exactly). I’ve read that residential and industrial development of land around the city to seaward has, by taking away some of the uninhabited barrier islands, made the place more susceptible to damage from hurricanes including flood damage, since those barrier islands naturally blunt a hurricane’s force. Would it make sense to rebuild the city a little further back on dry land which isn’t subsiding?

    Long live free Flanders!

    • Katrina News
      Dear Fred and Fellow Readers,

      Thank you for your concern.

      You are sure well read about New Orleans. One needs to dig only about 2 or 3 feet before hitting water. I know because I tried digging a hole to play in when I was about 5 or 8 years old, and that was only a block from the river. Except for the French Quarter and other areas near the current river location or a former location, the city sits on reclaimed swampland. The Quarter and the other small areas sit on an ancient natural river levee made of sand and clay. For example, I live on a former natural levee about 5 miles from the river, which is why I did not flood. In the former swampland, the organic swamp matter decays, and most of the city and the levees drop to a lower level every year. I do not know the rate.

      After my grandfather retired from building buildings, he served as a board member and the building expert for the city’s most stable savings and loan. He would not approve any loan for a home built without creosote pilings, which prevent a house from sinking by using friction. The land sinks but not the house. He is still well known and hated by many retired builders. Fifty years earlier he predicted the current disaster, according to my mother.

      We cannot move the city because it is surrounded by water. To the north is a large lake. To the east and south is the Gulf. To the west is swamp. These waters actually help keep the city floating by seeping through the organic matter and preventing decay and by buoying up the city. I am sure the cost of the relief effort is going to cost far more than the cost of constructing adequate levees before Katrina. There is an interesting idea to build a concrete and steel barrier that could be lowered prior to a storm to prevent the storm surge from entering the large lake, which is what flooded the city. This is the approach Venice, Italy took.


  3. Yay!
    Hi Paul,

    Congrats on making it through in one piece and with your house unflooded! So is your area one of the ones supposedly to be reopened shortly? Were you actually in the city for the 15 days? Any impressions to report?

    I think David Brooks repeated the “flooding the working class neighborhoods” anecdote in some column he wrote for the New York Times. Nothing ever changes it seems.

    I have a slight family connection to New Orleans, by the way. My mother had an uncle or great uncle or some such named Dominic Patrick O’Malley who was apparently a political figure there in the 1890s. Doubt he ever got to ride around in a DUKW though.

    Rem tene, verba sequentur.

    • Katrina News
      Hi. Sorry for the delay. My place is two blocks outside of New Orleans. People were allowed to begin returning this week. But my parish, like Orleans parish, is still under martial law. There might still be a curfew at night.

      My folks did not leave as I wanted to, so I had to stay also. They live on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain. Their house is 20 feet above sea level. I evacuated to their house on Saturday, but on Sunday we all evacuated to my 7th floor condo on the south shore when a mandatory evacuation was ordered for the north shore because of a feared 15 foot storm surge. The weathermen did not know whether the storm was going to go east or west of the lake. If it had gone west, the north shore would have been flooded because of the counterclockwise wind rotation. We could not leave for the north shore until Tuesday because of the floodwater. We had to leave because there was no plumbing and it was very hot in my condo, which has only two tiny windows.

      I tried to find a way out as soon as the rain stopped on Monday afternoon. On my second attempt, I was stopped by sheriffs with M-16’s because night was approaching. They were nice to me but not to some other people that pulled up at the same time. They told me about the curfew and turned me back. I suspect this is one reason why Jefferson Parish did not experience the lawlessness that New Orleans did.

      The north shore was still very stressful because of the sweltering heat, no electricity, no gasoline, no phones except for sparse cell phone availability, no medicine refills, no natural gas, a tree on the roof, giant trees all over the yard and the streets, little ice, running behind workers and begging them to help repair the roof and remove the trees, pitch darkness at night, low water pressure, unheated showers, worry whether my parents and my aunt could hold up, etc. I lost five pounds in about a week even though I was eating well: barbecued hamburgers and MRE’s. Things dramatically improved after a week when the electricity came on. (The electricity in my condo building did not return until yesterday.)

      My main impression is that our country is weaker than I thought. It took far too long for troops to arrive. The parishes still don’t have their garbage picked up. Three weeks after the storm, where are the thousands of army trucks and troops that could be picking up the garbage? In my parents’ parish, the residents themselves had to hire people to pick up the garbage. It is my understanding there are always one or more military divisions on alert and able to be deployed anywhere in the world within 24 hours. Why were one of these divisions or a part of one not sent? Another impression is when a hurricane approaches, get out early; a hurricane’s effect is unpredictable.

      Many Irish settled in New Orleans. In the 1800’s, a police chief of Irish heritage was murdered, and as a result, several men of Italian heritage were lynched. The president saw that each of their families was given $25,000.

  4. Massive corruption in Louisiana diverted flood control funds
    Sixty million dollars in federal funds earmarked since 1998 for New Orleans flood-control improvements are unaccounted for (hat tip to MoonbatCentral.com):

    “Senior officials in Louisiana’s emergency planning agency already were awaiting trial over allegations stemming from a federal investigation into waste, mismanagement and missing funds when Hurricane Katrina struck. And federal auditors are still trying to track as much as $60 million in unaccounted for funds that were funneled to the state from the Federal Emergency Management Agency dating back to 1998. In March, FEMA demanded that Louisiana repay $30.4 million to the federal government. The problems are particularly worrisome, federal officials said, because they involve the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, the agency that will administer much of the billions in federal aid anticipated for victims of Katrina. Earlier this week, federal Homeland Security officials announced they would send 30 investigators and auditors to the Gulf Coast to ensure relief funds were properly spent. Details of the ongoing criminal investigations come from two reports by the inspector general’s office in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which oversees FEMA, as well as in state audits, and interviews this week with federal and state officials.”

    Long live free Flanders!

  5. PC demanded troops look the other way before rape and murder
    It’s better for a white soldier to remain impassive before raping and killing going on right in front of him than to intervene and risk killing or injuring a Negro culprit. So says one of the strict rules of political correctness. How many knew a National Guard Unit numbering 250 men was encamped right in the Convention Center where so much raping and killing took place? The reason the killing and raping weren’t put down was because it would not have been deemed politically correct if a white soldier doing his duty had shot a Negro thug:

    “He is probably correct that if someone had been shot by the guard it would have looked bad (and it is likely the person shot would have been black and the shooter probably white) and hurt his career.”

    (from the log entry up today here, at the head of the column—this entry hasn’t got its own permalink yet)

    Long live free Flanders!

  6. just wondering how you’re doing, Paul
    and wondering how things are in your neck of the woods these days…

    • Katrina News
      Dear Will and Fellow Readers,

      I am fine. I hope you are doing well. I am using one of the PC’s in my hotel lobby in Houston, which is big and choked with traffic but clean. A friend knew the manager so I am only 15-20 minutes from my “temporary” office. I am blessed compared to so many others. There is so much to do with work and getting trustworthy places to shop, to get a haircut, to launder, etc.

      I have been enjoying the activity here and at VFR. I hope to post something more than a blurb soon, but there is so little time, and I am not a professional writer.


  7. More Katrina News?
    Dear Mr. Kalb and Fellow Readers,

    I will be heading into New Orleans tomorrow on business, and if anyone has any questions that I could investigate or relatives to check on, please let me know. I will be able to enter the city finally. I could not enter earlier because of the Army and the water and my job. I would take a camera to give everyone a ground zero picture they can deliberaterate over endlessly, but I don’t think this Site could accept scanned pictures, not that I have ever scanned pictures, although I have access to a scanner.

    One insight is how weird things are. People have told me of how uncanny it was to enter their homes and find the refridgerator in their bedroom and their bed in their kitchen. It appeared as though a poltergeist had been at work. In addition, their hardwood floors are buckled into two-foot waves, and they must chisel their way into their doors and cabinets. Mold is everywhere.


    • Would it be cheaper all around if they moved New Orleans inland?
      What an incredible nightmare that hurricane combined with New Orleans’ unpreparedness has been. I dunno, I still think they should rebuild the city on solid, above-sea-level ground further back from the water’s edge. The nation of Holland is partly below sea level but they have no choice—they can’t just move their whole country back onto dryer ground but I don’t see why New Orleans can’t be moved further back. To allow ocean freighters and oil tankers to continue to serve the port moved further inland can’t a short shipping channel be dredged, connecting from the present coastline with the new city some miles away? The oil refineries could be supplied either through that, with the ships still coming right up to them, or through a short pipeline from off-load facilites maintained in their present position.


      Long live free Flanders!

  8. Dear Mr. Kalb and Fellow
    Dear Mr. Kalb and Fellow Readers:

    Everything looks halfway normal when coming into New Orleans on the Interstate until one takes, say, the Metairie Road Exit. Main Street New Orleans is Canal Street, half of which is in “Mid-City.” The day of the storm, I saw the Exit was a 13 foot deep lake because it is an underpass, something only a politician would approve in or near New Orleans.

    The City recalls a former Western boom town. Only the tumbleweeds are missing. There is a haphazard boarding of windows and doors, which are covered with graffiti-like codes written with fluorescent paint from spray cans. X supposedly means condemned, but the vertex’s of the X’s have an Arabic numeral or an English letter or a mysterious symbol. Just about every structure has an X. One person every few blocks is about the right concentration. There are no traffic lights, only stop signs or a warming courteousness from the same people who would normally drive aggressively.

    No one seems to live there. There are no signs of normal life. No barbecuing, no children, no mass transit, no lights, no thugs, no police, no smell, and no noise. Routes people took everyday are empty. Dead grass is present in a city that mostly, but not always, has dead grass for only a few weeks during winter (December). The houses and buildings have 3-4 watermarks that a living person would erase immediately if a living person were around. No construction or cleanup is taking place. There is a gigantic 50 foot pile of organic debris in one spot but no evidence it is being added to. It is true that most of the streets have been cleared of debris but not the private properties.

    Few would want to return to the private properties. The properties are not totaled only if one is fearless of mold (theoretically an example of “reverse” evolution). Generally, flood insurance covers reconstruction cost up to ONLY $250,000 plus up to a generous $100,000 for contents. (Many people do not even have replacement-cost coverage but only 70% coverage.) Take the money and run must be going through everyone’s mind. How else can one sell their tear-down without the land? Many in New Orleans live in tear-downs, so many are not coming back. There are no jobs unless one is blessed enough to work for a national company willing to transfer their employees.

    Grotesque and quieting is the scene near the main breach in the 17th Street Canal. Houses pushed off their foundations. Houses are in the backyards of other houses. Gunk covers automobiles and houses like the drywall that covered everyone and everything during 9/11. One still must walk through water flowing over the streets after seeping through the “repaired” Canal. Wordless is the only way to describe the idea of the many people who drowned only blocks from where one lives and went to school.

    Why did they stay when they KNEW a category 4 or 5 would devastate New Orleans? Why did Pass Christian and Gulfport get the worst of the storm and New Orleans thereby avoid 50,000 dead instead of 50,000 evacuated? Why are we failing to evacuate our cities before a nuclear weapon is detonated in one of our cities? “It’ll never happen to me.”

    Pictures were taken and will be shown somewhere soon, but they can never reveal the feel.


    • Thanks for the note, Paul.
      Thanks for the note, Paul. It must be shocking for someone who’s grown up there. I do expect the city to shrink. I hope it can continue to exist as more than a sort of debauched Williamsburg.

      Rem tene, verba sequentur.

      • Thanks for keeping us updated, Paul
        It’s good to hear what’s going on there; your updates on the situation are certainly appreciated.

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