Returning Home to Fauborg Marigny
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.
Residents of New Orleans have been asked not to return to their homes until later this week, but some of them aren't waiting. This weekend they started coming back and cleaning up, even as Hurricane Rita moved through Louisiana. NPR's Jason DeRose visited some residents resettling into their homes in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood near the French Quarter.
JASON DeROSE reporting:
The bewildered goat wearing a rhinestone collar and standing in the middle of an intersection doesn't seem to bother anyone Sunday afternoon. Rather, Faubourg Marigny resident Matt Easley just weeds the lawn in front of his only slightly damaged lavender clapboard house.
Mr. MATT EASLEY (New Orleans Resident): On the back, if we get halfway down the block, you can look up and see I have two or three pieces of tile that are messed up. Let's hear it for 200-year-old buildings, you know. The older ones had the least damage.
DeROSE: Shortly before Hurricane Katrina struck, Easley, a retired parole officer, evacuated to his family home about 80 miles north of New Orleans. He decided to return home despite not having any working utilities, but he says he doesn't mind roughing it.
Mr. EASLEY: They're going to have electricity in the Quarter today, but we're not going to have it here for probably another week.
DeROSE: Power in the nearby French Quarter is spotty at best, and that lack of city services, including a fully functioning police force, has Easley a little nervous about his early return. But since some of his neighbors are also coming back, he feels pretty safe.
Mr. ADRIAN FLORES(ph) (New Orleans Resident): Yeah, if you grab it like this, this is the easiest.
Unidentified Man #1: Yeah.
DeROSE: One of those neighbors, Louisiana State University medical student Adrian Flores' place, didn't fare has well as Easley's. He lives just across the street in an old brick apartment house.
Mr. FLORES: It appears that the roof caved in and the water from the upstairs apartment came in and collapsed all the Sheetrock in my apartment. The walls are all molded and a lot of the ceilings have fallen.
DeROSE: Luckily, Flores' girlfriend lives just a few blocks away, so this semester, when he isn't commuting to Baton Rouge where his classes are now being held, he'll just room with her.
Around the corner, Jim Grigsby(ph), his boyfriend and their four Pekingese dogs are just returning home. During Hurricane Katrina, they fled to Arkansas and then Missouri, all packed into a gold PT Cruiser. Grigsby says now that they've come back, they're prepared to ride out any more storms this hurricane season.
Mr. JIM GRIGSBY (New Orleans Resident): We actually did get a generator and brought some gas, and we got, like, 50 gallons of water with us. We came prepared.
DeROSE: Grigsby, who's standing on his front porch in striped boxer shorts, says they're thankful they have running water.
Mr. GRIGSBY: But we also know not to take a bath in it. We've heard that you don't wash anything above the neck, and if you've got any open sores or cuts, don't use it.
(Soundbite of dog barking)
Unidentified Man #2: Oh, my God. Well, it didn't get broken in or looted.
(Soundbite of door being unlocked; door being opened)
Mr. SAMUEL DAVID McHUSTON(ph) (New Orleans Resident): It doesn't smell bad. It doesn't smell that bad.
DeROSE: Just next door, Samuel David McHuston and his dog, Hebert(ph), are getting their first look inside their home after nearly a month away. The living room and bedroom are fine, but McHuston doesn't even want to think about the refrigerator.
Mr. McHUSTON: Oh, I have no idea what it's like inside. I've got enough stuff to open a crime-scene cleanup, though, in the car.
DeROSE: The only apparent damage at McHuston's is in front of the house. The coffin he uses as a planter for miniature palm trees was overturned.
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin says he hopes to have power and water back up soon and begin returning other residents to their homes--at least those who still have homes--later this week. Jason DeRose, NPR News, New Orleans.