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. Sources include NPR News staff, The Associated Press and other news sources.

September 9, 2005

CNN Suit Seeks Unfettered Access

CNN says it has filed suit in federal court in Houston to ensure that its journalists can have full access to the areas in the hard-hit Gulf Coast region, where many people have been killed in the days after Hurricane Katrina.

9:10 p.m. EDT | Sept. 9, 2005 | permalink

Death Toll May Be Lower than Feared

Authorities say their first systematic sweep of New Orleans found far fewer bodies than expected, suggesting that the death toll may not be the catastrophic 10,000 feared.

8:04 p.m. EDT | Sept. 9, 2005 | permalink

Estimates for Draining New Orleans Shortened

Floodwaters are pumped over the repaired Metairie outfall canal.
Floodwaters are pumped over the repaired Metairie outfall canal in New Orleans, Sept. 9, 2005. · Credit: Reuters

Engineers say it may take less time to drain floodwaters from New Orleans than they originally estimated.

NPR's David Malakoff reports that the Army Corps of Engineers is using a computer model of the New Orleans basin to help guide its efforts to drain the city. Earlier this week, the model suggested it could take up to 80 days to fully drain parts of the city. Now, engineers say most flooded areas could be dry in just 40 days.

Engineers are still struggling to get pumps in flooded areas working. Overall, less than one-quarter of the 174 pumps in and around New Orleans are currently working.

MORE: Q&A: Draining New Orleans

5:23 p.m. EDT | Sept. 9, 2005 | permalink

Tracing the Katrina Disaster

Three days before Hurricane Katrina crashed into the Gulf Coast, public officials knew that the potential for a catastrophe was great. The head of the National Hurricane Center told local and federal officials that the storm would intensify as it moved through the Gulf of Mexico and head straight for New Orleans.

Local, state and federal emergency agencies had been planning for years how to respond before and after this kind of emergency. They even had practice drills where every kind of relief issue was reviewed -- food, water, security and health -- and who was responsible for delivering those services was specifically laid out in numerous plans.

But many of those plans fell apart in Katrina's aftermath. Despite warnings of a worst-case scenario, bureaucratic wrangles prevented soldiers from getting to the scene, the plan for emergency communications left police in the dark and helpless, and truckloads of emergency supplies ended up hundreds of miles away. Four days after Katrina hit, it was still unclear who was in charge of the relief effort.

In a special report on All Things Considered, NPR's Laura Sullivan and Daniel Zwerdling examine how the disaster called Hurricane Katrina unfolded.

MORE: Katrina: What Went Wrong?

4:58 p.m. EDT | Sept. 9, 2005 | permalink

Army Commander: Turn Anger into Compassion

Lt. Gen. Russel Honore at Camp Shelby in Mississippi
Lt. Gen. Russel Honore at Camp Shelby in Mississippi. · Credit: Farai Chideya, NPR

Nearly two weeks after Katrina hit, NPR's Farai Chideya traveled with the general through the nearly deserted streets of the city -- and saw a side of the commander that John Wayne may have found curious.

Honore met criticism the government didn't do enough to help the city's poor, mostly black citizens in his usual way: head on, only with a delicate touch.

"We'll have a lot of critics -- and that's the great thing about a democracy, because you're allowed to do that," he said. "But if we could take that energy right now, while we have a passion, and turn that anger we have into love and compassion..."

He also called on Americans to open their homes and lives to Katrina's victims. "Some people take the easy route -- they write their little check and they can say on Sunday, 'I gave to the needy.'" Honore says people also need jobs, a place to live, training -- an entire life, to replace the ones perhaps gone forever in the ruins of New Orleans.

MORE: Honore on New Orleans Recovery

4:45 p.m. EDT | Sept. 9, 2005 | permalink

New Orleans Orchestra Scattered by Katrina

More missing New Orleans music. The Associated Press sends word that the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra is scattered, the Orpheum Theater damaged by flooding. The orchestra is owned by its musicians, and was born out the bankruptcy of the New Orleans Symphony.

The members are staying in touch by Internet, talking about fundraising. Bassoonist John Fairlie told the AP, "…considering the terrible state of our city, I'm just really worried that the arts will suffer. And without the arts, what makes us human?"

--Noah Adams

4:20 p.m. EDT | Sept. 9, 2005 | permalink

FEMA's Brown is Shifted Away from Katrina Oversight

FEMA Director Michael Brown is being removed from his role managing the Katrina relief effort and is returning to Washington, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced today. Brown will be replaced by Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen, who has been overseeing New Orleans relief and rescue efforts, Chertoff said.

The move comes amid continuing criticism of Brown's handling of the disaster. There are also newly raised questions about Brown's background, including discrepancies in his resume. Time magazine notes that his bio on the FEMA Web site says he served as "an assistant city manager with emergency services oversight." A 2001 White House announcement of Brown's nomination to head FEMA says he "worked for the City of Edmond, Oklahoma, overseeing the emergency services divisions" from 1975 to 1978. But a city official tells the magazine that Brown served as an "assistant to the city manager" from 1977 to 1980 and that Brown had no authority over other employees.

2:25 p.m. EDT | Sept. 9, 2005 | permalink

Katrina Aftermath Magnifies the Digital Divide

Under the headline "Tech Samaritans," Arshad Mohammed of The Washington Post writes about a church in rural Louisiana where a volunteer has set up an Internet telephone service for people displaced by Katrina. The story also mentions AOL, which sent a truck to Mississippi with 20 computers and a satellite dish so that evacuees could log on.

These efforts may be just a splash in an ocean of Internet need. FEMA requires aid recipients to register online, or by phone at an 800 number, which at 12:30 EDT was not taking calls due to high volume. FEMA is reported to be helping with computers and phones at shelters, but it remains to be seen how this works out.

Lee Rainie of the Pew Internet and American Life Project had a raised-eyebrow sound in his voice when I called him this morning. "One of the holes that we see relatively often in thinking by government is that's there's great hope you can encourage interaction online and the undergirding assumption is that everybody's online," he said.

How many American adults are not even occasional Internet users? Thirty-two percent according to Rainie's data. And that percentage would be even higher in poor, minority neighborhoods in New Orleans (before the storm). Rainie also cautions: "There are still people who are reluctant to think of [the Internet] as a way to deal with government. These are complicated problems you're sorting through and in many cases you want a human being to help you negotiate."

--Noah Adams

MORE: Techies Find Solutions to Gulf Coast's Telecom Woes

12:59 p.m. EDT | Sept. 9, 2005 | permalink

Frustration, 'Chaos' in Mississippi

Confusion reigns at a FEMA disaster relief center in Mississippi visited by NPR's David Schaper. "It's so unorganized, you can't even imagine the chaos that it is in there," said Shelly Birmingham of Gulfport. She had just come out of the abandoned Kmart FEMA is occupying in Ocean Springs.

Another hurricane survivor, Vicki Rivers of Ocean Springs, relayed her story to Schaper: "We came yesterday [Wednesday] and they were filled to capacity, so they set us up appointments for today. So when we first got here this morning, it was chaos; nobody knew what was going on. The man that was in charge was saying they should not have given us appointments... it was very frustrating and very chaotic."

MORE: Katrina Victims Struggle to Obtain Assistance

11:31 a.m. EDT | Sept. 9, 2005 | permalink

Bluesman Little Freddie King Escaped the Flood

Little Freddie King
Little Freddie King · Credit: Wacko Wade, Courtesy Music Maker Relief Foundation

The New Orleans country bluesman Little Freddie King -- who we reported missing earlier this week -- has turned up safe in a small town near Dallas. He's staying with a preacher friend.

Tim Duffy of the Music Maker Relief Foundation tells me he's talked with King and the musician is fine. He left New Orleans by car with his friend Alabama Slim, just before the flood. Didn't even take a guitar or an amp. He does have some playing dates lined up, including gigs in Italy, Switzerland and Australia.

His friends at the relief foundation are on the lookout for a replacement guitar; King likes to play a Gibson "Lucille" model.

--Noah Adams

11:20 a.m. EDT | Sept. 9, 2005 | permalink

New Orleans' Uptown: A Place to Restart?

"I am one of the lucky ones; I live Uptown, high ground," says Times-Picayune columnist Chris Rose after returning to his neighborhood in New Orleans. "I searched out my favorite places," Rose reports on NPR's Morning Edition. "I found that Tipitina's dance hall is still there, and that counts for something. Domilise's tavern, where I get my shrimp and cheese po'boys, is intact."

Unlike the Ninth Ward, Uptown did not take the brunt of Katrina's blow. Of his city's future, Rose says, "This is where we'll make our start; this is where we'll make our stand."

MORE: Returning to New Orleans, if Briefly

11:06 a.m. EDT | Sept. 9, 2005 | permalink

A Bus Terminal No One Leaves

Officials have put together a makeshift jail in New Orleans' bus and train terminal. "Without a jail, [there would be] no reconstruction," says the warden of the city's newest holding facility for criminals. An Amtrak locomotive is providing power to the facility. Chain-link pens hold the prisoners. And the Orleans Parish district attorney has set up a temporary office in the gift shop.

MORE: New Orleans Housing Prisoners in Bus Station

10:54 a.m. EDT | Sept. 9, 2005 | permalink

'Massive' Wave Caused Much of New Orleans Area Flood

It turns out that a wind-driven wall of water was responsible for rapid flooding in areas east of New Orleans. That's in addition to the breaching of levees.

An Army Corps of Engineers official says that a "massive, massive wave" swept over the northern levees guarding New Orleans' Ninth Ward, as well as St. Bernard Parish and Plaquemines Parish.

Barges, boats and cars were all swept along by a surge of water estimated at over 20 feet. "We have approximately 30,000 homes; there [are] not 10 homes in this parish that are livable," said St. Bernard Parish President Henry Rodriguez.

MORE: Engineers Say Huge Wave Swamped New Orleans

10:43 a.m. EDT | Sept. 9, 2005 | permalink

A Houston Teacher Takes in Dozens of Family Members

You hear these stories, "They say there's a woman in Houston, a teacher, who's got 41 people in her house and a front yard full of cars with Louisiana plates." Steve Drummond, one of our editors, told me that and sure enough Victoria Douglas, when I reached her after school, said: "There's 37 from my family and my husband's side, too. The youngest came at four days old."

Food? I asked. "Cabbage and rice and corn bread. I bought 40 pounds of chicken one day. I told my people, 'God's going to make a way.'"

Mrs. Douglas said all the children are in school, the adults watch CNN constantly and go out to look for housing -- and FEMA has promised to help with that.

--Noah Adams

9:56 a.m. EDT | Sept. 9, 2005 | permalink

Sources include NPR News staff, The Associated Press and other news sources.

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Photos: After Katrina

Refugees at Houston's Astrodome.
Howard Berkes, NPR

See the aftereffects of Hurricane Katrina, from New Orleans to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

An Aug. 31, 2005, satellite image shows the extent of flooding in New Orleans.
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An Aug. 31, 2005, satellite image shows the extent of flooding in New Orleans. The floodwaters are in green.


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