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Home Depot: Reclamation, Not Improvement

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Home Depot: Reclamation, Not Improvement

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Home Depot: Reclamation, Not Improvement

Home Depot: Reclamation, Not Improvement

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As people begin to return to their homes in New Orleans area, they're needing lots of cleanup supplies. A Home Depot has reopened in Gretna, across the river from New Orleans.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From cleaning supplies to lumber, the shopping lists are huge for people who are making their way back to their homes. NPR's Jeff Brady talked to shoppers today at a Home Depot that's open for business in Gretna, just across the river from New Orleans.

JEFF BRADY reporting:

Barbara Montgomery(ph) and Dorothy Williams(ph) left during the hurricane, but now they're back and ready to clean up their home of 15 years. Williams says it's a big mess.

Ms. DOROTHY WILLIAMS (New Orleans Resident): Everything leaked on the inside. The carpet was soaking and sloshing. My carport was in my pool.

BRADY: The women push an orange cart around the store. Montgomery says they've been living in the house for a couple of days. She recently started coughing and worries about what might be growing in the wet muck.

Ms. BARBARA MONTGOMERY (New Orleans Resident): We're trying to get stuff to get the stink out of my house. It smells like mildew and mold. Trying to get stuff to kill it.

BRADY: What do you have in here?

Ms. MONTGOMERY: Ah, this is supposed to be a air purifier. This is supposed to absorb up the mildew and Visqueen to put up on the ceiling itself. I'm going to get a staple gun right now.

BRADY: Montgomery says she put a new roof on the house a week before the storm, hoping it would hold, but it didn't.

Ms. MONTGOMERY: Nothing you can do except put it back, you know.

BRADY: Hurricane Katrina was random in its destruction. Some in this store lost almost everything; others were luckier.

Mr. OSCAR RICO (Belle Chasse, Louisiana): I'm Oscar Rico. I live in Belle Chasse, Louisiana; my wife Tanya(ph). And we're actually trying to clean up my father's house right who's in Algiers, Louisiana.

BRADY: What did it look like?

Mr. RICO: It wasn't quite that bad. They had some roof damage, fences down. They had to leave some pets inside of the house so they've ruined the inside of the house. We have to kind of do that cleanup.

BRADY: So what do you have in your cart here?

Mr. RICO: Some masks so that we don't breathe in anything we don't want to. Some rubber gloves, some bleach, contractor bags and then a fan to kind of help deal with the smell.

BRADY: Rico says it's difficult to know where to start.

Mr. RICO: We're going throughout this without a game plan at this point. We're just running around saying, `Oh, that looks like something we could use' and just buying.

BRADY: Store manager Christian Rohn(ph) says cleaning supplies are the most popular items right now, and he says Home Depot didn't raise any of the prices, even though it's the only store open for miles around.

Mr. CHRISTIAN ROHN (Manager, Home Depot): These are the same prices of two weeks before the storm, probably two months before the storm, and maybe even six months before the storm. So there hasn't been any price changes at all.

BRADY: Rohn says he stopped trying to sell roofing supplies from the shelves inside the store because they were selling so quickly. Instead, he's taken over a section of the parking lot outside where, he says, customers are buying tar paper and shingles not by the bundle but by the pallet. Jeff Brady, NPR News, New Orleans.

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