Katrina Web Log

 

This Web log on Hurricane Katrina's aftermath is designed to help readers stay up-to-date on the various strands of this developing story. NPR.org will update this page throughout the day.


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September 7, 2005

Chief: Voluntary Evacuations Are First Priority

A Dublin, Ohio, police officer speaks to Charmaine Brown during a patrol in New Orleans.
A Dublin, Ohio, police officer speaks to Charmaine Brown during a patrol in the Bywater neighborhood. Officers were advising residents of an impending forced evacuation in New Orleans, Sept. 7, 2005. · Credit: Reuters

Officials in New Orleans are firming up their policy requiring thousands of remaining stragglers to leave the city, NPR's Phillip Davis reports.

Mayor Ray Nagin has ordered a mandatory evacuation, citing health and safety concerns. Police Chief Eddie Compass said officials are focusing first on locating and rescuing those residents who want to leave.

"There's no disagreement between the mayor and I," Compass said. "Once the voluntary evacuees are evacuated, then we will enforce the mandatory evacuation. We'll use the minimal amount of force necessary to evacuate people out of this city to safety."

The evacuations have been hampered by a rash of fires that have spread across the city.

MORE: Hazards Put Pressure on Evacuation Effort

6:15 p.m. EDT | Sept. 7, 2005 | permalink


A Culinary Favorite Spared Katrina's Wrath

People will say, "I just feel so bad about what happened in New Orleans."

"Yeah, I do too. I almost can't believe it."

Then someone will say, "You been there?"

"Sure."

With these memories moods will change and the conversation moves to higher ground. Witness Bonny Wolf's essay in this week's Kitchen Window column on NPR.org. Bonny captures the dynamic and creative response of Louisianans who care about their region's special food. And she includes a dandy recipe for red beans and rice, which gets to simmer on the stove while the wash dries on the line outside.

I'll surely try this soon. I did notice it includes Tabasco and that made me hesitate. "How did Avery Island do during the hurricane?" The McIlhenny Company makes Tabasco on the island, which is located about 140 miles west of New Orleans. I checked the Web site and saw: "Due to the effects of Hurricane Katrina, TABASCO.com sites are temporarily out of service."

A phone number, though, soon led me to Lili Barras (pronounced BAH-ruh) at the company on Avery Island and she said they only got winds of 30 to 40 mph and no damage. Some New Orleans employees had to be relocated, hence the Web site problem. But Lili says there's plenty of Tabasco flowing.

--Noah Adams

5:46 p.m. EDT | Sept. 7, 2005 | permalink


A Watery Disaster Foretold

Last night after work I opened this week's New Yorker, mostly because I noticed John McPhee had a piece about the New Orleans levees. It was McPhee's work that, long ago, helped encourage me into journalism, and a few years later I visited his writing office in Princeton, N.J., for an interview.

His current New Yorker story was written in 1987. It reads brand new, as if he spent a few weeks in New Orleans this summer and got worried about the levee structure and the possibility of flooding.

I called him today to ask about the story and he said he didn't feel especially prescient, that all you have to do is sit in Jackson Square and read the newspaper and look up across the top of the levee at the hulls of the ships going by. He told me he took no satisfaction from the warning in his writing: "It's beside the point. This information is widespread and deep spread."

A McPhee description is always wonderfully visual. About the passing ships he writes: "Their keels are higher than the AstroTurf in the Superdome, and if somehow the ships could turn and move at river level into the city and into the stadium they would hover above the playing field like blimps."

How did he come to do the story? His daughter Sarah, in college, had become, as he puts it, "intoxicated" with the writings of Walker Percy and wanted to see Percy's town. Sarah proposed a spring break trip. "What's in it for dad?" McPhee wanted to know. And soon he was in a canoe in the Atchafalaya swamp with Charlie Fryling, a professor of landscape architecture at LSU -- Fryling pointing, McPhee taking notes. His subsequent article became one-third of a book, The Control of Nature.

--Noah Adams

5:16 p.m. EDT | Sept. 7, 2005 | permalink


Joint House-Senate Probe into Hurricane Response

Congressional leaders plan to hold a joint House-Senate investigation into the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, NPR's Andrea Seabrook reports. Many lawmakers and local officials and have criticized the government's initial response as sluggish and bungled.

A number of congressional committees have announced plans to hold their own investigations. And President Bush has said he will oversee an investigation as well. The rare bicameral probe is intended to limit the number investigations of the response effort, Seabrook says. It's also aimed at preventing the need for relief officials to be called into Washington for extended periods to answer questions.

Meanwhile, lawmakers say the money for the relief effort -- which some senators have projected at $150 billion to $200 billion -- will further swell the federal budget deficit. Congress has approved an initial $10.5 billion, and the Bush administration is seeking a second funding package of $51.8 billion.

5:01 p.m. EDT | Sept. 7, 2005 | permalink


Deaths Tied to Bad Water in New Orleans

Three deaths among evacuees have been connected to a pathogen in waters around and now in New Orleans. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the Vibrio vulnificus bacteria, which was cited in the deaths, is commonly associated with exposure to salt water.

Reports of illness and death are coming from state agencies and have not been confirmed by the CDC. The agency's director, Dr. Julie Gerberding told a news conference, "This does not represent an outbreak."

The CDC continues to recommend tetanus and hepatitis B vaccinations for the emergency workers along the Gulf Coast.

MORE: Q&A: Contaminated Waters in New Orleans

3:45 p.m. EDT | Sept. 7, 2005 | permalink


HHS Opens Mental-Health Hotline for Katrina Survivors

The Department of Health and Human Services has opened a toll-free hotline for people in crisis in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Dialing 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) connects callers to a network of more than 100 local centers committed to crisis counseling.

People who are in emotional distress can call at any time from anywhere in the nation to talk to a trained worker who will listen callers and direct them toward mental health help if necessary... including immediate access to local resources, referrals and expertise.

2:30 p.m. EDT | Sept. 7, 2005 | permalink


One Week Later, Catching Up with Dr. Roig

On Aug. 31, Day to Day host Alex Chadwick spoke on the phone with Dr. Randy Roig, medical director for the North Oaks Comprehensive Medical Rehabilitation Unit in Hammond, La. His hospital, just north of Lake Pontchartrain, was running out of supplies.

One week later, Roig is still on the job, still treating patients and trying to pick of the pieces of his own life. He rarely leaves the hospital.

"Mostly I've been here since the storm struck," Roig says. Besides, there's not much room at home to stretch out anyway -- even though two big pine trees crashed through the roof, it's a temporary home for up to 12 people right now. Most are family members, and all have nowhere else to go.

Back at the hospital, things are slowly getting back to normal -- there's electric power and supplies are getting restocked. The common physical injuries associated with a storm of this magnitude -- the head injuries, the lacerations -- are getting attention. The big issue now is mental health.

"Some of the patients have simply lost everything," Roig says. "Yesterday was the first day I think I cried only once... You just have to pick yourself up and keep going. You don't have a choice."

MORE: Hospital Resources Stretched to the Breaking Point

2:07 p.m. EDT | Sept. 7, 2005 | permalink


Survivors Feeling 'Lost' in Mississippi

House covered with fallen trees.
A house in Hattiesburg, Miss., is covered by fallen trees. · Credit: Mary Beth Applin

Photos and video from Hattiesburg, Miss., nearly 70 miles inland, offer a glimpse of the damage Katrina was still inflicting as the storm moved well inland. Mary Beth Applin, 43, who teaches at the University of Southern Mississippi, has been keeping in touch with relatives as she can. She's spent time since the storm hit working as a Red Cross volunteer, and her off hours trying to keep a chronicle... beginning with notes written by candlelight.

Her brother Mike Applin, a professor at Louisiana State University, delivered emergency supplies to Mary Beth after the storm and tried to bring her back with him to Baton Rouge. She wouldn't leave. She had promised a neighbor she would take care of the neighbor's grandfather until the neighbor returned from her job at the hospital.

MORE: Weathering the Storm in Hattiesburg, Miss.

2:04 p.m. EDT | Sept. 7, 2005 | permalink


Mortuary Set Up to Identify Katrina's Victims

The federal government is establishing a huge temporary morgue near the town of St. Gabriel, just south of Louisiana's capital of Baton Rouge, to handle what could be thousands of bodies recovered from a flooded New Orleans and other storm-ravaged areas.

Teams of forensic specialists from the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT) will try to identify victims of Hurricane Katrina. But the whole enterprise has some St. Gabriel residents on edge.

Day to Day correspondent Mike Pesca reports that at a town meeting Tuesday night, a sometimes angry crowd asked federal officials how many bodies they might expect. The feds couldn't say. What about smells, or overcrowding? No answer, yet.

Still, the spirit of cooperation won the day. "Let's try to do our part to help the country. Let's help New Orleans," said St. Gabriel resident Emmanuel Anderson to applause.

MORE: Louisiana Town Becomes Temporary Morgue, Teams Set to Retrieve Bodies

1:55 p.m. EDT | Sept. 7, 2005 | permalink


U.S. to Distribute $2,000 Debit Cards to Victims

The federal government plans to begin handing out debit cards worth $2,000 each to adult victims of Hurricane Katrina, according to The Associated Press. The cards could be used to buy food, transportation, gas and other essentials the displaced people need, according to a state official.

Homeland Security Department Secretary Michael Chertoff described the plan in a conference call with state officials Wednesday morning. The unprecedented cash card program initially will benefit stranded people who have been moved to major rescue centers such as the Houston Astrodome.

12:54 p.m. EDT | Sept. 7, 2005 | permalink


Survivors Feeling 'Lost' in Mississippi

Laurie Johnson and Lisa Wilburn hug amid debris and damage.
Laurie Johnson, left, and Lisa Wilburn hug amid the debris and damage in Bay St. Louis, Miss., Sept. 6, 2005. · Credit: Reuters

"The people are just lost; they don't know where to turn," says Greg Fox of the people he saw in Bay St. Louis, Miss. Fox is an insurance adjuster with National Security Insurance Company and says that he is working to help his policyholders, but that "it's not a good situation at all."

MORE: Determining What to Pay for Katrina Claims

11:43 a.m. EDT | Sept. 7, 2005 | permalink


Advocates for Animals Respond to Disaster

Planning for the rescue and sheltering of pets in a disaster is not a major concern for government agencies. Groups like the SPCA know this and have responded in force to help animals affected by Hurricane Katrina. At an SPCA shelter in San Antonio, worker Kathy Rosenthal says that 10 years ago "we realized that animals are not part of disaster plans, and therefore many people have to leave them behind."

MORE: Pets Wait for Rescue, Too

11:37 a.m. EDT | Sept. 7, 2005 | permalink


Football and Old Houses in Doubt

It's unclear where the New Orleans Saints will play their home games, although the home opener is already set -- at Giants Stadium in New Jersey. Today Los Angeles County offered to make the Memorial Coliseum available, but Saints owner Tom Benson said he wanted to play the home games at LSU's Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge.

This is amid speculation that the Louisiana Superdome -- emergency shelter for thousands during the Katrina flooding -- will be torn down.

Clearly, New Orleans will have a changing landscape. NPR's Elizabeth Blair reported this morning on the storm's impact on museums and other cultural institutions. (See pictures of some of the historic homes that were washed away in Mississippi.) I find myself holding on to the rare bright spot: Elizabeth reports that Tipitina's survives.

But the buildings that stand remain at risk. As you glance at a television during the day it hurts to see smoke rising from fires in New Orleans. All that destruction and loss of life and now fire. Ablaze Tuesday was one of the fine old homes in the New Orleans Garden District, which was largely free from flooding. National Guardsmen cordoned off the area and firefighters battled the blaze by helicopter.

Let me also point you back to a story from The New York Times last week, that talked about the rich architecture that may be lost along the Gulf Coast.

S. Frederick Starr, who owns a home in New Orleans and has authored four books on the city, wrote, "I think, for example, of the 220-year-old Destrehan Plantation along the River Road, a living record of Louisiana's complex and conflicted history, only recently reclaimed from near-ruin by the state… The news reports that all of Destrehan is deep under water. Or what about the wonderful mix of grand homes and well-proportioned freedmen's cottages along Bayou Lafourche, or the old wooden farmsteads in Louisiana's so-called Florida parishes, which stood close to Katrina's ruinous path?"

--Noah Adams

11:26 a.m. EDT | Sept. 7, 2005 | permalink


Confusion in the Air

Couple of Katrina evacuee airplane stories today:

  • Two cities named Charleston got confused. Officials waiting at the Charleston airport in South Carolina found out the 200 evacuees they were ready to welcome had been sent to the Charleston airport in West Virginia. The S.C. notification was in error. "It certainly tested our readiness," a local official said. The 200 people flown to Yeager Airport no doubt knew they were indeed in West Virginia, as they would have seen mountains rather than lowlands. They were then taken by bus to Camp Dawson, a National Guard training facility in the northwest part of the state.
  • And eight evacuees were flying United on Tuesday from Houston to Washington's Dulles Airport. One of them reportedly cut his wrists in an apparent suicide attempt. He was hospitalized in Nashville after the flight was diverted.
  • --Noah Adams

    11:15 a.m. EDT | Sept. 7, 2005 | permalink


    Emptying New Orleans of People

    New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has authorized officials to use force to remove the estimated 10,000 people still remaining in the city. Despite the mayor's total evacuation order, a police spokesman said on Tuesday that no one would be forcibly removed.

    MORE: Some Still Reluctant to Leave New Orleans

    10:53 a.m. EDT | Sept. 7, 2005 | permalink


    Weighing Whether to Return

    The question facing many people forced to leave New Orleans is whether to return to their lives, or start anew elsewhere. "It's hard and I'm torn," says Keeley Carlisle. "Because I feel some sense of responsibility to go back to New Orleans and help to get it all together."

    But Carlisle and her husband Elzy Lindsay, now staying in Houston, are thinking about moving to the mountains of North Carolina. Lindsay is not sure the couple -- with two young children -- has "the fortitude to stick it out" with their city when it attempts to rebuild. He says he's asking himself if he's "just a human being... a mere mortal" who can't go the distance with the city he grew up in.

    MORE: Hurricane Evacuees Debate New Orleans Return

    10:42 a.m. EDT | Sept. 7, 2005 | permalink


    Texas University Takes in Displaced Students

    Many colleges and universities are taking in students displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Bob Wright of the University of Texas at Arlington says that "the phones began ringing Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and we were getting as many as 10 calls an hour with students wanting to register."

    UT-Arlington had expected to add only a handful of students from New Orleans; so far, 200 have registered. "We're just doing it on student IDs," says Wright, explaining that his school is not requiring transcripts or tuition.

    MORE: New Orleans Colleges Cancel Fall Classes

    9:49 a.m. EDT | Sept. 7, 2005 | permalink


    Oil Industry Not Out of Woods Yet

    Gasoline prices are easing as more oil industry capacity returns to the market with each new day. Forty percent of oil production in the Gulf of Mexico is now online.

    But "it's premature to say the oil patch is out of the woods yet," says Ben Rockwell of the Oil Price Information Service. That's because the oil platforms, pipelines and refineries that have returned to service were the ones that suffered little damage.

    Now attention must be turned to facilities that flooded and suffered structural damage. "It's just like if your car was under water; your electrical system is pretty much shot," explains the Energy Department's Tancred Lidderdale. And repairs like that take weeks, at a minimum.

    MORE: Oil and Gas Prices Fall Slightly

    9:36 a.m. EDT | Sept. 7, 2005 | permalink


    Compiled from NPR News sources and The Associated Press

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    Photos: After Katrina

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