New Floods Leave New Orleans 'Dispirited' Storm surge from Hurricane Rita creates fresh flooding in New Orleans' Ninth Ward. It's a discouraging blow to a city that had managed to drain most of the water left by Hurricane Katrina.
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New Floods Leave New Orleans 'Dispirited'

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New Floods Leave New Orleans 'Dispirited'

New Floods Leave New Orleans 'Dispirited'

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And it's no longer raining in New Orleans today, but areas of that nearly empty city, which has been struggling to right itself after Hurricane Katrina, flooded again yesterday in the advent of Rita. The city could not escape the storm surge. The Lower Ninth Ward is flooded once again, as are areas near Lake Pontchartrain. NPR's John Burnett has been driving around New Orleans.

John, thanks for being with us. What have you been able to see?

JOHN BURNETT reporting:

Scott, I think the word to describe conditions in New Orleans this morning would be dispiriting. So many of the areas that flooded after the epic storm Katrina are underwater again. The areas that we're now familiar with--the Lower Ninth Ward, the Lakeview area, certainly St. Bernard Parish under four to six feet of water. All these areas have taken on fresh flooding. We understand that--the storm is really leaving New Orleans now. We're actually seeing glimpses of sunlight between the feeder bands now. There's not much rain anymore. So we understand the police are going out with a couple of boats to putter through some of these flooded streets to see if anyone is out there. But it's really--it's a deserted city. There are no residents here.

You can see--you can really see the anxiety and the fatigue in the faces of the police, who in some cases are the only ones who are out.

SIMON: Yeah.

BURNETT: Eight-five percent of the police force lost their homes. They're still on the job. And when you ask them, you know, how things are out there, sometimes they just shake their heads. It's really knocked the wind out of them.

SIMON: Yeah. Well, even at a time when they were just beginning to be able to see their way clear to beginning the recovery effort, they have to worry about flooding once again.

BURNETT: Exactly. And what it's going to mean is there really hasn't been new, significant damage in the city of New Orleans. What it's done is it's set back all the recovery efforts from one to two weeks. It just means that now the city, sewerage, water board, Army Corps of Engineers are going to have to pump out this city one more time, which is going to take a long time.

SIMON: And that's based on the assumption that there won't be another storm that could have other rain that comes in over the next few weeks.

BURNETT: God forbid.

SIMON: Do you know anything about Lake Charles on the southwestern tip of the state? They seem to be hit very hard.

BURNETT: Yes. We've been monitoring reports about Lake Charles. Obviously, as Adam said, the storm is just now leaving the Louisiana coastal area, and so its emergnecy crews are just beginning to get out to assess the extent of the damage. Interstate 10 might not even be passable in southwestern Louisiana. It's possible to say that certainly there's flooding; Lake Charles--the lake that the city derives its name from--has clearly jumped over its banks and there is flooding in that immediate area. There's a lot of wind damage, roof damage, trees down. It doesn't appear that it has reached the catastrophic level of Hurricane Audrey in 1957, another Category 4, which took a direct hit on Lake Charles; caused 390 deaths. Initial reports appear that the devastation is not equivalent to Hurricane Katrina three and a half weeks ago either.

SIMON: NPR's John Burnett, who's on the job speaking with us from New Orleans this morning. Thank you very much, John.

BURNETT: My pleasure, Scott.

SIMON: And it's 18 minutes past the hour.

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