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.

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September 8, 2005

Congress Sends $51.8 Billion to Gulf Coast

Both the House and Senate overwhelmingly pass a $51.8 billion emergency funding bill for relief operations on the Gulf Coast. In a rarity, the bill was approved by both chambers on the same day.

The aid comes after more than $10 billion was approved last week. Congress sent the bill for Bush to sign less than 24 hours after he requested it.

Still, Democrats are not happy about the legislation, and they are questioning the effectiveness of a congressional investigation of the government's flawed relief effort.

MORE: Congress Passes $51.8 Billion in Aid

9:20 p.m. EDT | Sept. 8, 2005 | permalink

In New Orleans, Life on '$1 a Day'

As New Orleans police try to convince thousands of holdouts to leave the city, NPR's Michele Norris talks to three men who have no intention of leaving.

Neighbors Edward Butler, Donald Payne and Kenneth Kinler have good food, water, red wine and medicine. For Payne, the city is a place of last resort for people of little means. "If you can't make it in New Orleans, you can't make it no where," he says.

"We could live on a dollar a day -- red beans and rice and pork sausage or whatever," Kinler says. "We could make a meal out of rice and gravy. We eat well -- very well. We know how to stretch meals. So that's part of the Big Easy because we know we can make it down here."

For Butler, just a few things make New Orleans the place live: "There's happiness here, unity, you know. Serenity, right here. Most definitely..."

MORE: Hear Norris's Report

6:36 p.m. EDT | Sept. 8, 2005 | permalink

Evacuees Looking for Work in Houston

This week, thousands of Katrina evacuees began their new lives in Texas. A big part of that process is the effort to find jobs for them. Ralph Stewart survived the flooding in New Orleans and helped save his family and neighbors. Now he's looking for work in Houston.

"Anything, as long as it's a job -- a hotel job, whatever. I'm willing to work," he tells NPR's Wade Goodwyn in a jobs tent in the Astrodome parking lot.

So is Everett Washington Jr. He used to have his own janitorial service. Now he's looking for jobs paying $12 an hour. "I just want to be able to sustain myself... I don't want to sit around and wait for FEMA, I don't want to sit around and wait for unemployment. I want to get a job."

MORE: Finding Jobs for Evacuees

5:53 p.m. EDT | Sept. 8, 2005 | permalink

Moving to Limit Photographs of the Dead

A flood brings death, but should we be seeing the corpses? In New Orleans, FEMA has moved to limit pictures of bodies. A Reuters story quotes a FEMA e-mail: "The recovery of victims is being treated with dignity and we have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media." And Reuters says FEMA has refused to take news crews along on rescue trips. Space on the boats is a factor, but also the wish to stop the photos.

In response, Rebecca Daugherty of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press told Reuters, "You cannot... give the public a realistic idea of how horrible it is if you don't see that there are bodies as well."

I called a former Washington Times editor, Mark Tapscott, who's now with the Heritage Foundation. He says this does not amount to censorship as no one is trying to stop publication. He thinks pictures of the bodies should be shown, just not identifiable details. Tapscott says news organizations will find other ways to get the pictures, and his advice? "Quit whining about something and go get the news."

--Noah Adams

5:46 p.m. EDT | Sept. 8, 2005 | permalink

Full to the Brim in Baton Rouge

Baton Rouge might more accurately be called Orleans Rouge these days -- the capital city's population has more than doubled in the past week. And the city has been both generous to and suspicious of the new residents -- evacuees from Hurricane Katrina, living with friends and family and in huge shelters across the city.

Even so, some city residents are counting their mixed blessings. There was no organized evacuation from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, no busloads of the Superdome's poorest and sickest unfortunates. Baton Rouge filled up quickly with people who had the resources to evacuate before the storm hit.

City resident Scott McKay's extended family has found shelter in his home. Mike Pesca caught up with him at a local bar -- McKay's own personal refuge from his crowded home. "I hate to say this, but we may have ended up with the better part of all this," he says. "The people that come here, from an economic standpoint, hold their own."

Those with fewer resources than others are finding a temporary home in city shelters. More than a few residents at the River Center complex complained about a type of profiling: waiting in long lines for bag searches, and going through metal detectors.

"The city is groaning under the pressure," Pesca says. "It's secure, but it's stressed."

MORE: Baton Rouge Struggles, New Orleans Residents Turn to Baton Rouge Real Estate

5:02 p.m. EDT | Sept. 8, 2005 | permalink

Help From the Pantry, Phone Company

Peanut butter, milk, granola bars, beef jerky, cans of soups and stews -- plus bottled water and personal hygiene items and cleaning supplies. That's part of what America's Second Harvest is distributing along the Gulf Coast today. I talked with Maura Daley who'd arrived in Mississippi from the group's headquarters in Chicago. She said the main food bank in Gulfport was inaccessible due to debris so supplies are now going to Red Cross and FEMA shelters, and a new challenge is to reach evacuees as they've spread out across the country.

Daley says her group has also raised $10 million in cash from corporations and individuals.

Also helping in the Katrina relief effort is Verizon. I noticed over the last few days that when I called 411 to find a number someplace out in the country I'd hear the familiar recorded greeting from James Earl Jones, followed by a female voice: "Hurricane Katrina has devastated the lives of millions of people. If you're looking for information on Hurricane Katrina, say 'Katrina relief.' Or, for all other listings, please say the city and state."

Eric Rabe of Verizon tells me this service grew out of the frustration of the Verizon operators -- so many people were asking about the Katrina victims, where to send money or food, how to find missing people. Now there's a data bank to connect people more quickly to services. If callers do want to donate money they're referred to the Red Cross, the NAACP, the Salvation Army, among other agencies. Verizon also has a two-to-one matching plan for the company's employees who give to the Red Cross, and the total donation as of this afternoon was just over $6 million.

(And just because we're in radio and curious about voices, the actress who records all the Verizon information announcement is Darby Bailey.)

--Noah Adams

4:27 p.m. EDT | Sept. 8, 2005 | permalink

Preserving the Soul of New Orleans

A statue of a jester is surrounded by litter near the ferry dock in the central business district.
A statue of a jester is surrounded by litter near the ferry dock in the central business district of downtown New Orleans. · Credit: Greg Allen, NPR

Reporter Greg Allen has been covering Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. In an essay for NPR.org, he worries that, along with untold lives, there may have been something else lost when Katrina devastated New Orleans -- the blending of cultures that's at the heart of the city. "Black, Italian, Irish, French, Cajun, Creole, Honduran -- those cultural ingredients and many more were mixed together in the big stew that is, or was, New Orleans," Allen writes.

That blending, Allen says, is evident in everything from jazz to the muffaletta, a "wonderful sandwich with cheese, salami, cappicola and olive salad that could only have been invented by an Italian -- or at least with one close by." An excerpt of Allen's essay is below:

"When I left New Orleans, nine days after the hurricane struck, water and power were already coming back on in some parts of the city. Despite dire predictions, I'm confident New Orleans is going to be rebuilt sooner than many expect…The biggest questions surround the Ninth Ward, a large section of middle-class housing, much of which was totally flooded. There's already talk of razing the neighborhood and rebuilding. Gentrification looms over the horizon. Except for a few holdouts, the people who lived there are all gone now -- living with friends and relatives, maybe in shelters, maybe the Houston Astrodome....

"I don't worry about the French Quarter. I worry about New Orleans' neighborhoods -- and whether the places that created jazz and the muffaletta will ever come back."

MORE: Something Else That Was Lost in New Orleans

3:34 p.m. EDT | Sept. 8, 2005 | permalink

Bush Pledges to Cut Red Tape for Disaster Aid

President Bush pledged the government would cut through bureaucratic red tape to provide an immediate $2,000 in disaster assistance to families displaced by Hurricane Katrina and make sure they continue receiving Medicaid, food stamps, jobless compensation and other federal benefits. He designated Sept. 16 as a national day of prayer and remembrance for hurricane victims.

He said people can register for assistance by calling 1-800-621-FEMA or at the FEMA Web site. Noting the heavy call volume, the president said people may have difficulty contacting the agency.

In addition, he said information on receiving state and local benefits is available at www.govbenefits.gov.

"These are just some of the many steps we'll be taking in what will be a long relief effort," Bush said. "We have much more work to do. But the people who have been hurt by this storm… need to know that the government is going to be with you for the long haul."

3:02 p.m. EDT | Sept. 8, 2005 | permalink

Bush to Speak on Katrina Efforts

President Bush is scheduled to give an address on Katrina Hurricane relief efforts at 2:30 p.m. EDT. The president will announce initiatives aimed at helping people "get back on their feet," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

1:45 p.m. EDT | Sept. 8, 2005 | permalink

Pew Poll: Bush Could Have Done More

Americans are highly critical of President Bush's handling of Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. The poll shows that 67 percent of Americans say Mr. Bush could have done more in handling relief efforts, while 28 percent say he did all he could.

The poll highlights racial divisions over the government's response to the hurricane. Some 66 percent of African Americans said the government's response would have been faster had most of the victims been white. But 77 percent of whites said the government's response would have been no different.

The telephone poll was conducted Sept. 6-7 among 1,000 Americans. This poll included an oversampling of African Americans to ensure there were enough interviews for reporting results in that demographic group, the center said.

NPR's Robert Siegel is scheduled to discuss the poll results with the Pew Center's Andew Kohut later today on All Things Considered.

MORE: Poll: Americans Urge Priority on Domestic Issues

12:47 p.m. EDT | Sept. 8, 2005 | permalink

Death and Racism in New Orleans

NPR Correspondent John Ydstie -- who was our Web log host on this day last week -- has spent his time since then in and around New Orleans. His story on Morning Edition today shed new light on one of the most important tasks there now. John interviewed volunteers going out in boats in the Lower Ninth Ward to try to talk survivors into leaving their homes.

His story has two themes: First, the perhaps necessary disregard the volunteers have for the bodies they come across. One man told him: "When we see dead bodies we've been instructed to tie them off to a tree or to a pole or kick them into a building and close the door. None of us are actually trained to deal with cadavers."

Another man, the only black among hundreds of white volunteers, complained to John: "I often think of how they would treat their own. It's unfortunate that people of color is not given the same reverence of people with fair skin." John was talking with Terry Coleman of New Orleans, a tugboat captain who had ridden through the storm out on Lake Charles.

And Coleman took the story deeper when he talked about being able to convince people to get in his boat and be carried to safety. "I know the streets," Coleman said, "I know how to pronounce the streets. You can't be authoritative because they'll be resistant to that. You have to be sympathetic to that."

--Noah Adams

MORE: Volunteers Search New Orleans' Ninth Ward

12:38 p.m. EDT | Sept. 8, 2005 | permalink

Will New Orleans' Oak Trees Survive?

An uprooted live oak lies in front of the historic St. Louis Cathedral.
An uprooted live oak lies in front of the historic St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, Sept. 5. · Credit: Reuters

Part of New Orleans' Southern charm comes from its green canopy of live oak trees. Many of those trees have been standing in water for more than a week, depriving their roots of oxygen. "You've got trees that are literally drowning or suffocating, if you will, for the lack of oxygen," says Steve Shurtz, the forestry manager for nearby Baton Rouge.

Engineers say it could take up to three months to drain New Orleans. Shurtz tells NPR's Nell Boyce that by then, many of the oaks could die. Moreover, the trees have been standing in water contaminated with toxins and salt water. Bonnie Stine of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry says it's hard to know how the oaks are faring in this chemical stew, because no one is around to check.

MORE: New Orleans' Live Oaks Devastated

10:39 a.m. EDT | Sept. 8, 2005 | permalink

NFL's Saints a Rallying Point for Evacuees

"These people still want a lot of life to be normal, and they're still Saints fans," observes Mike Triplett, a sports writer for the Times-Picayune. His paper did a study showing that the Saints, perennial also-rans, had "the most fans per win of any team in the NFL" over a long stretch of years.

Evacuees in San Antonio, where the Saints are practicing, have been happy to see members of their team helping out at shelters there.

Sentiment among the fans is to have the team play home games in Baton Rouge at LSU's gargantuan stadium. But their fear is that Saints owner Tom Benson will permanently move the team to San Antonio, where he has strong ties.

MORE: NFL's Saints Face Uncertain Post-Katrina Season

10:36 a.m. EDT | Sept. 8, 2005 | permalink

Grim Reality of Medical Care on the Front Lines

Dr. Hemant Vankawala is treating evacuees at the field hospital set up at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. Here are excerpts from an e-mail he sent to family, friends and colleagues about his experience:

"Our busiest day, we off-loaded just under 15,000 patients by air and ground… All we could do was provide the barest amount of comfort care. We watched many, many people die. We practiced medical triage at its most basic -- 'black-tagging' the sickest people and culling them from the masses so that they could die in a separate area...

"We were so short on wheelchairs and litters, we had to stack patients in airport chairs and lay them on the floor. They remained there for hours, too tired to be frightened, too weak to care about their urine- and stool-soaked clothing, too desperate to even ask what was going to happen next... There was no time to talk, no time to cry, no time to think, because they kept on coming..."

MORE: A Doctor's Message from Katrina's Front Lines

10:32 a.m. EDT | Sept. 8, 2005 | permalink

Coast Guard Vice Admiral Directing New Orleans Relief

Coast Guard Vice Admiral Thad Allen, who on Monday was appointed to direct recovery efforts in and around New Orleans, is now on the ground.

Though some estimates put the death count from Hurricane Katrina in the New Orleans area as high as 20,000, Allen tells NPR's Renee Montagne that it would be irresponsible to hazard a guess as to how many people have died. Allen reports to FEMA Director Michael Brown, who has been under fire for the agency's slow response to the disaster. He deflected questions as to why the agency's initial response seemed to be disorganized.

"As far as I know, there are no current issues with problems with distribution of water or food in the local area," Allen told Montagne. "There may have been problems at the outset, but I believe all of that has been stabilized."

MORE: Admiral Coordinating New Orleans Recovery

9:55 a.m. EDT | Sept. 8, 2005 | permalink

Field Hospital Sees More Mentally Ill Patients

Doctors at the Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans say they're seeing more cases of mental illness among patients at the makeshift triage unit. In some cases, people have simply run out of their psychiatric drugs, says Dr. Eric Larsen, director of medical operations at the site for FEMA.

But Dr. Lawrence Hipshman, a psychiatrist also working at the airport hospital, says mental health providers can expect to treat many people dealing with loss from this disaster.

"Imagine yourself in a similar situation," Hipshman says. "Your house is gone, your job is gone, you have a family still, you are then transported to a new city... Let yourself be honest and let yourself think about how you will look at yourself, your family, your place in society, how you might feel about society. Would you feel abandoned? Would you feel marginalized? What would you do? And then you have a sense of why long-term care is important."

MORE: Treating Mental Illness in New Orleans Field Hospital

9:46 a.m. EDT | Sept. 8, 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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