Wed, 28 Sep 2005
Got some new pics from Greg of our house up. Surprisingly, the tree that leans over the rear of our house did not fall in. So that's a tiny bit of good news.
There's an extensive set of unlabelled pictures from Greg starting here as well. I may label some of them later. Mostly pics of damage inside Greg's house two blocks up S Pierce from ours. There are some street pics of Tulane Avenue and other areas.
We're planning to go in for a looksie tomorrow.
This post from another blog hits the nail on the head. Some of the political squabbling and national news media coverage has been infuriating. There's been little in the way of context or perspective in most of it. There's plenty of blame to go around for the failures post-Katrina but there's been no discussion of what went right. Make sure you read the comments too.
When I hear the talking heads lambaste local officials for not sounding the alarm early enough, I want to hit one of them. For the entire 48 hours before the storm, there was nothing else on the local TV and radio but Katrina. Even before they made evacuations "mandatory" things were discussed in dire terms. On Saturday, this storm was described as "a life changing event". Residents who chose not to evacuate at that point were already being advised to have a hatchet or axe handy to hack through their roofs. This wasn't just local news media saying these things, it was the local officials. From Saturday morning on we were urged in the strongest terms to get out of town.
Contraflow was enacted on Saturday at 3pm, an hour earlier than we were told it would be. It was made abundantly clear that the terms "voluntary" and "mandatory" evacuation were designations with particular legal ramifications. It didn't matter what the evacuation was called technically, it only mattered that we board up, pack up, and get away. The advice only got more dire on Sunday when the technicalities were sorted out and the Orleans parish evacuation was deemed "mandatory". It's not often you hear a state governor telling people who choose to ignore the evacuation order to write the social security numbers on their arms so they can be identified later.
I should also note that calling the Orleans Parish evacuation mandatory "late" on Sunday morning, roughly 21 hours before landfall, was in keeping with the staggered evacuation plan that had evolved out of the painful Georges and Ivan events. Low lying areas were evacuated first and Orleans and East Jefferson last. It would have been called for sooner in keeping with the state plan's timeline, but they couldn't make the evacuation order at 4 in the morning. My guess is they wanted people to actually hear it. I should also note that the storm both sped up and enlarged, cutting the planned evacuation time that much shorter.
As the Gulfsails blog points out, getting 80% of the Greater New Orleans area population out in roughly 48 hours is rather amazing (the 80% figure is a current common estimate). Especially when you consider the small number of routes out and the minimum distance we had to travel to get "safe". Watching the Houston/Galveston evacuation -- without any contraflow or staggering in place -- there's plenty to learn from Louisiana about what we did right as well as what we did wrong.Sun, 25 Sep 2005
Jennifer recently received some pictures from her Mid-City office location. I spotted this posting on nola.com's Mid-City forum. It clearly referenced Jennifer's office. The lawyer with the office next to hers had been there. Jennifer responded to the post and the lawyer sent her these pictures. I left out two more pictures since they were of the lawyer's office and didn't want to identify her unnecessarily. They showed pictures of brown and moldy files and water up to the top of her desk. Here's the direct link to three pictures from Jennifer's office at North Clark and Iberville.
So Jennifer and I have been sick the last few days up here in Madison and not sleeping so great. We woke up Saturday not long after Rita made landfall and flipped on the TV. Of course they had the usual shots of reports standing out in the wind and rain trying to impress us with their macho heroics and scenes of signs and lightpoles bending and crashing.
Then anchors Tony Green and Catherine Calloway are interviewing Rep Gene Green of Texas and Tony decides to veer off the script a bit:
HARRIS: Representative Green, all right, let me go off the beaten path for a second. Evacuation drills, why not institute as a civil exercise -- you just mentioned that we learned something from all of these storms. Why not find out ahead of time if our evacuation plans will actually work? Why not institute an evacuation drill? We give everybody a half a day off or whatever is necessary and we try the plan out?
Jennifer and I never even heard Gene's answer we were giggling so hard. Tony made this goofy face at the end of the question as if in speaking it aloud, he suddenly realized how rediculous this was.
We laughed a good bit at the notion of everyone just leaving work one day and driving to Dallas for no reason other than seeing how it works.
Actually, as Rep Green pointed out, there's no need for drills. While LA didn't do such a good job of getting folks out who didn't own cars, the "contraflow" evacuation for those that did have means of transport worked better than it had in the past. We generally didn't have those scenes of misery on the highway. We had already done it during Georges in '98, and Ivan last year and worked out some of the kinks. I'm not saying that nine hours to Jackson was pretty, but it was within the realm of reasonable expectations.
The inane questions some of these goons ask kills me. I'm getting tired of hearing these guys try to foment controversy by asking if Nagin's plan to repopulate the city is at odds with the National Guard and FEMA. Earth to moron journalists: Our homes were flooded. It's been a month since most of us have seen them. We'd like to get in, assess the damage, deal with our insurers, and salvage what little we can. We're not talking about moving back in tomorrow.
This set of pictures came from early in the crisis. The photographer was working with Search and Rescue and is a native of New Orleans. He talks about passing specific locations where he was born or where his parents went to school. I'm looking at the pictures and not being there but feeling the same things. Got the link form corknola.blogspot.com.Tue, 20 Sep 2005
From the LA
For some reason, I found that interesting.Fri, 16 Sep 2005
First picture of our house. 9/15/2004. Water line about a foot
More at http://www.scottharney.com/album/Katrina/. Not much else to say....
I go through a range of emotions, but basically there are two sides to it. On the one side, I am hopeful and optimistic. Yes, our home was damaged, but it doesn't appear to be totalled. We have flood and homeowner's insurance. We evacuated with all of our photos, important papers, clothes including suits and Jennifer's wedding dress. We got all of our pets out with us. I still have a full time job and a full time paycheck. We are staying with friends who have been soooo kind to us and not in a shelter. My family and friends are well and many of them have undamaged homes waiting for them. We are so much more blessed than so many others out there and we know it.
Yeah, this is putting on a brave face but you've got to try and find the positive in all of this. By putting on that face, you help yourself stay up. My wife's a pychologist, so I know how this works.
flip. On the other side.....
Enormous frustration and despair. We LOST OUR HOUSE. It's only one story and three rooms. We took a foot of water but it might as well have been 10 feet because who knows when or if we'll be able to live in it again. The longer we're out, the worse the mold gets and we can't get in to clean it or even assess the damage. We can't get an insurance adjustor in and no matter how much coverage we have, they'll be out to minimize claims any way they can. Where the heck are we supposed to live? How are we going to pay rent and a mortgage on a house we can't live in?
We lost our other car. No, it wasn't a great car, but it's gone now. Jennifer lost both of her offices. Chances are she won't be able to cover the physical losses with insurance or FEMA and how on Earth is she going to rebuild that business?
Yeah, I've got a full time job. For now. For how long? Sure companies are going to put on a brave face and I know my employer is genuinely motivated to help us out and keep things running. But this is an enormous and expensive strain. Good intentions may not be enough to usurp financial realities.
Every time I speak to an insurance company, FEMA, or some service we owe monthly bills to like our cell phone company, I leave the conversation on the verge of rage. Everyone's out to protect their own assets. It's every company and every man for themselves.
Life is tough. Get over it. You're on your own. You've got it better than other folks so you can just tough it out and pull yourself up by your bootstraps. What's your problem anyway? You're upsetting me. Can we change the subject? I've got my own problems to deal with. Stop feeling sorry for yourself.Thu, 15 Sep 2005
Jon at Cork and Bottle hits the nail on the head with his comments yesterday morning. Click here to read them. Definitely know how you feel Jon (I'd link straight to it, but there aren't anchors on the page to individual stories. As Jon notes at the top, MS Word is a lousy HTML editor).Wed, 14 Sep 2005
Our neighbor, Charlie, was able to get in because his company supports Cox Cable in the city. Charlie lives about 2 blocks down from us, so there's no pictures of our block or house here. No surprises in these pictures based on what we've read so far from corknola.com and elsewhere. Charlie's been a good neighbor, taking the time to shut off gas and power to all the houses in the neighborhood to prevent potential fires. His wife has sent out detailed emails to all the neighbors so we know what's going on.
Woke up last night at 3:30am as I have every night since the Saturday before the storm. This was one of the nights that I couldn't get back to sleep, though, probably because of the impact of these pictures. So many thoughts surging through my head -- all questions. When can we get in? How bad will it be? What do I need to buy now to start cleaning up? Will we really be in Metairie by next week? How long will we be out of a house? How much will we get for our insured losses? Should we stay in New Orleans? If not where can we live? Will we love another place as much as we love New Orleans? And how can New Orleans really recover? Can we really leave our friends, neighbors and my family in the city? When do I get Callie and Tobey from Kentucky? etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.....
Anyway, here's the direct link to the first pictures, so close to our house.Mon, 12 Sep 2005
Last pic before leaving, Sunday August 28, ~11:20am.
Sat image of flooding from NOAA.gov. Still have a roof by the look of things. From the floodmap at http://mapper.cctechnol.com/floodmap.php and information gleaned from http://www.corknola.com, we've got a few feet of water in the house. *sigh*Sun, 11 Sep 2005
So I guess I'll start at the beginning. Or at least where I perceive that to be. Friday was a normal day for us. Katrina was in the Southeastern Gulf and all indications were that she was heading to the already well-battered Florida panhandle. By late in the workday, some of my coworkers were fearing that the models were starting to show a NOLA landfall. But the models were changing widly at that point. The lack of consistency in the models at that point was worrying, but not too much. Not yet.
Jennifer and I grabbed our Cafe Degas coupon from the Gambit and headed out for a great dinner. Late that night, I got home and took a peek at the noaa.gov NHC page and the forecast track had moved. The storm was projected dead center over NOLA. I felt a ball in my gut. I didn't say a word to Jennifer hoping that it would be moved by the time the 5am or 11am Sat morning tracks came out.
It was not to be. At 7:45am my phone rang. It was work. We needed to batten down the hatches and transfer our operations to the disaster recovery site. The fact that we hadn't done so as soon as Katrina crossed Florida is in an indication of how low the expectation was that she was heading towards New Orleans.
Work was frantic and tense. We'd tested this numerous times and even done a few real runs, such as for Danny earlier in the year. But this felt much different. People were tense. Many folks I called to coordinate with were already on their way out of town.
I scrambled to get things set up. I managed to pack a box of tapes that were missed and have those sent out of town too. Probably should have loaded up the tape drives as well but you just don't think that fast.
I got home and consulted with my friend and neighbor Greg about our wood stash. We spent the rest of the day boarding up his house and part of mine. (I have some shutters) We commented on how alarmingly routine this was all becoming as he had boarded up several times now since moving in.
Greg would actually leave overnight. Jennifer and I wanted to hang in and see if the storm would do as all the others have and veer off to the east. We were tense. At this point I was more anxious to just go than Jennifer. We went out for Sushi and actually found Sake Cafe on Magazine was open and fairly busy. We argued over evacuation at dinner. We had a glass of wine at the Bridge Lounge on Magazine and headed for home. I wondered if those bartenders, waiters, and cooks had begun packing.
3:30 am and we were both wide awake. Jennifer went to the front room to read. I got up and tiptoed to the back bedroom to check all the weather details and forums at wwltv.com. There would be a morning news conference and it was speculated that Mayor Nagin would order the first ever mandatory evacuation of Orleans Parish. The storm had blossomed in the hot waters of the Gulf to what would be it's highest strength: A Cat5 with 175mph sustained winds and central pressure at 908mb. There was no more debate or even discussion, we knew we'd start final packing at first light. It was monsterously huge and unlike other powerful hurricanes, the eye was an expansive 30 miles across with hurricane force winds extending something like 125 miles out from the center. This was the storm they'd always warned us about. It was close enough that New Orleans would inevitably take a severe hit.
At 6am Jennifer and I hopped in the car and drove out to her office in New Orleans east hoping that we could get in and get her license and diplomas off the wall. The roads were empty at this point. Surprisingly, we got in to the building and got the critical stuff. All the while planning what we would pack from the house
The news was on. Even as we began loading up suitcases and making decisions, the time of our departure kept moving up. The storm was moving faster and enlarging. We would have left later to dodge traffic but that strategy didn't seem smart anymore. We got all our important papers, photo albums, work clothes, wedding dress, and suit. You make some pretty quick decisions about what stays and what goes. Of course we also had a German Shepherd (Callie), our pug(Bugsy), our friend Jimbo's pug (Etta, he had already been out of town) and my cat Tobey. All of this to pack in a 4 door Saturn.
Even as I was doing the last minute boarding up and yard clearing, the neighbors behind us were relaxing in the yard and seemed to be snickering at me a bit as they smoked a joint. By 11am we were loaded down. My parents were running too. Everyone in my family. I boarded up the front door and even as I did various characters were pedaling by on their bicycles, eyeing us up. I wouldn't be surprised if we weren't looted before we even left.
We started to get on the I-10 before Elysian Fields heading north to the contraflow on I-59 and then up through Hattiesburg to Jackson. But Nagin had delivered his mandatory order and roads that were clear just an hour before had filled up. I exited I-10 at Franklin and we took Hayne as far out east as I could before entering the fray. That little trick probably saved us an hour off of our evacuation.
I was worried about two things now. Gas and our tires. We were heavy loaded with us, 4 animals, and our luggage. I had filled up two nights before thinking this was a remote possibility and I wanted to have a tank of gas, but we'd done a bit of running about. I knew that sitting in traffic would eat our gas supply down.
The first battle was just getting to the contraflow start point at the I-10/I-12/I-59 split. That trip would've taken 30 minutes tops from New Orleans East but took us somewhere over two hours. Traffic was moving, just really really slow. Just getting over the twin spans and the already surging water was a relief. It was still early but clouds were rolling in. And on the radio we were hearing of the huge tangle now leaving town. How many would even make it out, we wondered.
We hit the split and suddenly we were moving. Our phone worked again and we called family to let them know we were on our way. They'd been trying to reach us but couldn't The relief didn't last, unfortunately, we got 12 miles into Mississippi and hit a huge snarl that held up all 4 lanes of contraflow. We figured that they must've ended contraflow somewhere up ahead. It was only 2:30pm and it wasn't supposed to end until 4 and it was supposed to go all the way to Meridian.
Sure enough at Poplarville the traffic all merged back to normal lanes. People were pulled over everywhere stopping to let kids and pets take a pee break. It was spongy and slow. I was watching the gas tank warily. Clouds were building up behind us. We were starting to hear frantic tales of people running out of gas on I-59. People still stuck hours behind in New Orleans, not even to New Orleans East yet. If we had waited, perhaps we would have been stuck in the dome too....
We were able to talk with John -- we were heading to his home in Madison, MS north of Jackson -- and get some possible alternate routes. I got off of I-59 at Hattiesburg and onto Highway 45. We stopped and got gas and took our first break. We tried to get a subway sandwich but they were out of bread. As we let the dogs take a breather, it started raining hard. We got in the car and started heading north on a surprisingly empty road. The clouds were moving and angry. It felt now like we were literally running away from the storm.
We took a couple of back highways into Jackson and all of it was smooth sailing. Our evacuation took us 8 exhausting hours. John and Stacey and the kids welcomed all of us into their home. We watched TV until after midnight as the rain started up.
Jennifer and I didn't sleep much. The weather started moving in. The storm would still be a Cat2 by the time it got to Jackson/Meridian with 100mph winds. None of us had ever heard of a storm retaining that much strength that far inland. The news had the usual footage of idiot reporters at towns on the outer edges of the storm standing in the street. The only thing from New Orleans we'd heard was about the dome springing a leak and several hotels losing Windows. The Mississippi coast at this point was an unknown.
The winds outside were powerful. I was wondering if we shouldn't close the storm shutters. The most jarring moments came when we first heard the tornado warning siren. John, Stacey and the kids huddled in one closet and us and the dogs in the other. I thought how awful it would be to evacuate all the way up here only to get waylaid by a tornado.
Surprisingly, we never lost power up here. We were one of the few neighborhoods in greater Jackson that did not. Thus we had the internet and news on the whole time. Late in the day reports began to trickle in. New Orleans seemed spared a direct hit. The silence from the MS Gulf Coast, though, was telling. We got raw flyover footage on the news channel up here. I was correcting WDSU reporters on the locations they were seeing, yelling at the TV. Things weren't looking all that bad. Late that night, though, we'd heard about the breach in the 17th street Canal. Whatever hopes we had for our home were fading because we knew what that meant (Even if public officials, apparently, did not).
Of course, we didn't sleep. Sleep has been a rare event since this all started over a week ago. By morning we were watching the news. The 17th street canal breach and the subsequent flood was the big talk. Seeing a CNN meteorologist refer to "Bucktown" as he pointed out the breach brought me to tears for the first time since the storm. I feared that everything I had ever known in the town that I was raised in would be lost. CNN reporters aren't supposed to know what "Bucktown" is, or "Mid City" (some didn't, the called it "Midtown"), or the Marigny, the Bywater, the Ninth Ward ("Ward Number Nine") etc.
Of course, everyone knows what happened next. Or, rather, didn't happen. Everything fell apart. Our personal drama continued and heightened when we discovered Jennifer's uncle Berkley had chosen to remain at his home in Riverbend. He had hoped that his engineering skills would be useful and needed after the storm. Instead he found himself in a dangerous sitatuation. The neighborhood was dry, but now there were gangs of looters. We received intermittent contact from him via 3rd hand information sources. He had a vehicle and wanted to make a break for it down River Road into Metairie but knew he would likely be dodging carjackers.
We posted to numerous online forums, explaining the desperate situation. TV was focusing on the dome and convention center, but dry ground anywhere in New Orleans was unsafe ground. We received numerous offers of help and kind words. Jennifer's Dad and uncle, Berkley's brothers, had other ideas. They started driving towards New Orleans. Berkley, in the meantime, planned an escape. I frantically sent out text messages to both parties, trying to give known routes out of New Orleans, and directions to where we were. Amazingly, they got those messages and eventually we found that they had indeed decided to converge on Madison. They arrived from opposite directions at almost at the same time.
Berkley had hauled another local family with him. When we got back to the house, it was clear he had been frightened by the chaotic scene. He had had more stare downs in the streets in two days than he had had in his entire 20+ years in New Orleans. When I told him he could unload now, he pulled out two separate pistols, and there was a shotgun behind the truck seat as well. We could all sleep for once. In fact, the following night Jennifer and I got our first full night's sleep
Suffice to say, we really haven't rested easy since. The deluge of images on the television and the hard reality that our home is full of water has set in. The anger at useless politicians and government stupidity has set in as well. We have OK days and days that are less than OK. We know how much more fortunate we are than so many others affected by this, but it's still harsh. We'll be fine, though. In the long run, we'll be fine.