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  • Katrina: East Bank of New Orleans is lost to preventable flooding.

       August 30, 2005


    This includes my house. I knew it was possible, but now that it's happening, I'm still surprised. Well, in fairness, I didn't know before this announcement whether the house was even standing or full of flood water anyway, so it actually may not make a bit of difference. But if it wasn't before, it certainly will be now. I'm grateful that my family is safe. Everything else can either be replaced or done without. But it's still disconcerting to find that all we own is 3 suitcases of clothing, 1 computer, and 1 Fender acoustic. I'd say we own two cats (they are here in Dallas being boarded at a local vet's) but they kind of own me.

    Updated: When I wrote this, I did not realize that it was PREVENTABLE. (Title changed with this update.) Mayor Ray Nagin says he's "very upset" that the sandbagging did not get done by midday as instructed. "The sandbags were waiting and all the helicopter had to do was pick them up and drop them in the breached area." The reason this did not happen? The choppers never showed up, and the water rose to the point that the pumps failed. Where were the choppers? Going from rooftop to rooftop picking up those Darwin Award candidates who refused, in the face of all evidence and reason, to evacuate the city or go to a designated shelter. I'm a little bit beyond "very upset," this is millions, perhaps billions of dollars lost due to stupidity, and a lot longer before we can begin to rebuild. As Nagin says, with the full bowl effect and the pumps covered in water, they now may have to purposely breach the levee in another place to drain enough water to get the pumps out from under and running again. He's going to get with the Army Corps of Engineers and come up with a strategy.

    Click here for more on Hurricane Katrina

    Posted by Laura Curtis at August 30, 2005 09:15 PM

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    #  August 30th, 2005 9:35 PM      kris
    Do you have any longer term plans for the cats? My sister used to be on some lists and I'm sure she could find some info on people that would be willing to foster displaced animals for awhile.  
    #  August 30th, 2005 9:38 PM      Laura
    No, that's a good idea. $30 bucks a day is eating us up - especially since we have no prospect of getting my husband's last paycheck, or me getting any checks from clients in the forseeable future. They are inside cats, though.  
    #  August 30th, 2005 9:38 PM      kris
    I will ask her for any info.  
    #  August 30th, 2005 10:33 PM      Laura
    Thanks. I really appreciate that. These aren't just pets, they're family members, but my sister in law is allergic, so they can't be here.  
    #  August 30th, 2005 10:33 PM      marcus
    Warnings were issued.

    They were warned and the aftermath of Betsy you related to us should have told those people what they were facing.

    I will leave it at that.  
    #  August 30th, 2005 10:42 PM      Laura
    I'm not sure that stupidity is a crime deserving of the death penalty, but so help me, the next time we have a serious hurricane heading our way, if someone tells me he's not going to obey an evacuation order, I'm going to punch him right in the face. I can't *believe* that I'm going to have a houseful of filthy water when it could have been prevented.  
    #  August 31st, 2005 9:17 AM      KVBigSis
    Laura, I no longer post on any cat lists, but I did e-mail a couple people I know in Dalls to see if they know anyone who could help you out. Just a suggestion - why not post an article on the front page of Dummocrats asking for help? I think a lot of people would LOVE to do something to help in such an overwhelming situation.  
    #  August 31st, 2005 11:32 AM      gabrielle
    I've been through at least six hurricanes. I can think of at least two which caused far more damage inland, rather than on the coast of NC, where I lived. People evacuated and wound up in worse situations than if they had stayed on the coast. Point: while evacuation is often a good idea, it is NOT foolproof. In the case of New Orleans- a city which lies below sea-level to start with is a city whose citizens should consider the potential destruction of their homes and belongings by natural disasters such as hurricanes, and understanding that potential, are willing to sacrifice these finite things. If the saving of human life is second to saving a house from filthy water, our position as sentient beings is reduced to something less than the rubble left in the wake of Katrina. Whether or not anyone was "stupid" for staying where they should not have, saving their lives is far more important than anything else. We can only hope that lessons are learned by those who chose less than wisely and survived any ordeal. Hope is positive. Condemnation is not.  
    #  August 31st, 2005 11:55 AM      Laura
    As I said, stupidity doesn't deserve the death sentence. But we've known for years the impact of a category three or higher would have on the city; the effect of a hurricane on New Orleans is nothing like the effect on flat land. It has been well documented and people who live in New Orleans for a hurricane season know it, there are TV specials, brochures, the local news spends hours on it every time there is a storm that threatens us. Those people - and this includes friends I love dearly - are fools who have cost the rest of us untold millions, both in flood damages and the expenses of delaying getting back in and rebuilding. It was completely unneccessary. Thousands of people are mobilized and ready to get the power back on and get people back home, and are now prevented from doing so because of new flooding, which was preventable if resources had not had to be reallocated to rescue efforts. I was prepared to live with losing everything I have to a natural disaster. But please understand that losing it due to human stupidity is a lot more painful, and I won't apologize for my frustration and anger.

    In the future, I sincerely hope that the people who INSIST on staying will be told that they are free to stay, but don't ask for or expect any help. They are adults with the right to make decisions for themselves, but the consequences of those decisions ought to be limited to themselves.

    Added: I said "filthy water" but please understand this is not just a matter of mopping up. The houses you see with water up to the eaves will have to be demolished and rebuilt. Now that is going to be necessary for literally thousands more homes than would be necessary if the levee breach had been repaired as planned, if the helicopters had been there to move the 3,000 pound sandbags to close the breach.  
    #  August 31st, 2005 12:59 PM      james
    im confused - what are you calling a "death sentence?" not helping the people that voluntarily stayed behind b/c resources are too thin?

    if so, how is that different from : "In the future, I sincerely hope that the people who INSIST on staying will be told that they are free to stay, but don't ask for or expect any help"

    #  August 31st, 2005 1:16 PM      Laura
    I'm saying, don't purposely abandon these people forever, but I think if they choose to stay, they can wait their turn for help. Having one helicopter, which is what Nagin requested, stop doing rescues for half a day in order to get those sandbags moved would have meant thousands of previously unflooded, or minorly flooded, homes could have been saved. For the sake of millions of dollars saved, I think those people who chose to stay could have sat on their roofs for a few more hours. Added: I know, I'm not being completely clear - partly because I'm not completely clear in my mind about it - I'm torn between wanting to help and not wanting to encourage future stupidity. I want the pressure to evacuate to be so great, that people will leave next time. And if they fear for their lives, and finally understand that everybody else should not have to drop everything to bail them out of the situation they purposely got themselves into, well then, good.  
    #  August 31st, 2005 2:11 PM      Laura
    I need to quit watching the news. I'm starting to really pity these idiots, the footage is so horrible. I'd rather stay angry. Dammit.  
    #  August 31st, 2005 2:33 PM      james
    i feel for the people that were unable to evacuate - im sure there are plenty of them. but as for the people that were unable but chose not to, let them sit. they made their own beds, let them lie in them. im not talking about withholding help from them, but if there are inadequate resources, they should be at the bottom of the list.

    plus, they should get a bill for the rescue expenses.

    #  August 31st, 2005 2:48 PM      Laura
    Well, yes, you pretty well summed up what I've been too incoherent to express. Thanks.

    There are very few people who were "unable" because there was a massive effort to go pick people up at their homes and take them to pickup points to be taken to a shelter. The people I'm furious at are folks like my friend who stayed because she felt it was more inconvenient to drive with her elderly mother to family out of town, and she had never evacuated before so why start now? And some other friends where the wife wanted to bug out, but her husband didn't. So she and the four kids stayed with the husband. I got word from a friend of a friend that they made it through okay, but their roof was ripped off.  
    #  August 31st, 2005 3:38 PM      james
    In 1992, many, if not most, people didn't evacuate S. Florida for Andrew. For those that did evacuate, traffic averaged a crisp 20 MPH from Miami to Orlando.

    Now, after Andrew, many many more people evacuate - the result is that traffic is gridlocked, and many people are unable to evacuate for that reason. In other words, they could try, but they'd be stuck on the road when the hurrican hit, which is worse than riding it out in your house.

    I have to wonder, "What if everyone DID try to evacuate N.O?" Would they all have made it?

    What was your drive like, Laura?  
    #  August 31st, 2005 4:03 PM      Laura
    It took about 6 hours to go that first 150 miles, then it was clear sailing. But the night before, it only took about 2 hours to go that distance. We chose to sleep first, since Dallas is such a long drive, and paid for it with 4 extra hours in the car. 1-10 was contra-flowed. Next time they will probably contra-flow 90 as well, and I-10 for a longer stretch. The fact is, when you bug out, you know you're going to sit in traffic... if you leave early enough to deal with it, then no problem.

    It all comes down to common sense and acting like grownups. The only good thing about a hurricane is you KNOW it's coming and you can prepare. For the people who wait so long that it's impractical to drive out of town, there are local shelters they can go to. That is not a perfect solution, but better than waiting for a killer storm at home.  
    #  September 1st, 2005 7:35 PM      Kumbaya
    I was going to go off, but I see you revised your statement a little. Plus, you are a kitty lover. I can't get too mad at you and obviously you have SOME compassion.

    Nobody deserves the death penalty for being stupid, or for not owning a car, or for taking the advice to go to the Super Dome. Do you see how your complaint that your property was destroyed only because they were too busy saving lives sounds really horrible? I realize you probably said that out of frustration.

    Some of those people you call stupid could not evacuate because of lack of transportation or because of disability, and there are many many other circumstances that prevented people from leaving. I know that the city had busses picking people up, but they were taking them to the death trap that is the Super Dome, and look what's going on there! Plus, Ive heard that as many as 100,000 people remained in NO, There is no way the busses could have gotten to everyone.

    I've been working in a Red Cross shelter and I know that you and your family are devastated. I've seen this over and over. But please, try to imagine how you'd feel if you were stuck there and hadn't had water or food for a few days. And then try to imagine you are a National Guard or Coast Guard pilot, watching these people dying before your eyes. Could you just fly on by?

    #  September 1st, 2005 7:49 PM      james
    the key to your statement, Kumbaya, is that "Some of those people you call stupid could not evacuate." SOME. Not most. Not all. Most of the people that didn't evacuate were perfectly able to, but chose not to. Don't try to make it seem like 100's of thousands are in wheelchairs or something.

    Second, it's not about property damage - you ask how the helicopter "can just fly on by," let me tell you how: Because plugging the holes in the levy before it broke would have saved a hell of a lot more lives. So your choice is stop to rescue one guy or family from their roof, or fly on by and plug the holes in the levy to prevent the water from flooding the city.

    People were told the leave the city and most of them CHOSE not to. It wasnt a "personal" decision, either, because now people like you are commanding that whatever limited resources we have be used to rescue them. Because of their decision to stay, everyone else has to suffer. Everyone else has to lose more and more of their property, and now spend months more away from the area. Soldiers, doctors and firemen are being SHOT because these jackasses couldn't heed a simple warning.

    As for those people that were unable to evacuate - im not talking about them. But that's not most people.  
    #  September 1st, 2005 11:03 PM      Kumbaya
    James, you are wrong and you are cruel. I see you recieved the GOP "blame the victims" memo. Seriously, what are they paying you for your soul?

    I do not believe the majority of those people decided to stay. Im not going to start believing it because you say so. You have clearly shown the heartless cruelty of a lot of the people who adhere to the Republican party.

    Like most people (Republican AND Democrat mind you), you haven't got a clue about what poverty in this country is like. That lack of knowledge is your choice. Do something about it, or not. It's up to you.

    Personally, I'd rather listen to those who have experience with this tragedy rather than an armchair evacuees.

    This is from AOL:

    I just can't stand it anymore. So many of you are singing the same tune - "they didn't evacuate so they deserve to die" Now who are the real animals here???

    I live in South Louisiana just to the north of New Orleans. My own city was badly impacted by the storm. I speak from FIRST HAND EXPERIENCE when I say that there was not enough TIME for everyone to get out.

    Katrina looked by all accounts as if she were going to swerve toward the panhandle. For the last 20 hurricanes in the Gulf, we've prepared our asses off and then it turns to poor Florida.

    NO evacuations were called for until Saturday afternoon - and those were voluntary. Katrina was still a Category 3 at the time. Sunday morning when she suddenly jumped to a Category 5, officials tried to get the word out about mandatory evacuations but if you weren't watching tv or listening to the radio - you WOULD NOT have known. (Even I didn't know until Sunday afternoon!)

    Okay, let's say you did hear about them and actually found transportation (and GASOLINE!) to Baton Rouge. Your normally one hour drive is now 10 -12 hours because everyone else is fleeing also. At some point it is safer to shelter in place than to be on the road DURING the hurricane.

    But let's say you made it to Baton Rouge. There are no hotel rooms. In fact, everything is booked all the way to Dallas, Texas. Where the $#@! do you think a million people are going to go???? So you are facing a good long stay in your car with no gas to run the a/c or fuel to get to another town. No bread or ice because Wal-Mart was already cleaned out by Baton Rougeans. Even if you could find food, you had to have cash because the credit card machines wouldn't work in the power outages. Your new home is now the Wal-Mart parking lot with no relief in sight.

    And THAT was a best case scenario!!!

    At worst, you live in the Projects and are barely scraping by. You don't have a car or TV and sometimes you can't pay for electricity or running water. This is common among the truly poverty stricken.

    Do you know how I found your site? I have been working in a shelter and I was Googling "new orleans bank" because I am trying to help refugees get information on how to access their local bank accounts. I saw this initial post, and I had to comment because initially I thought it was one of the most awful things I'd ever heard. However, I read down thread a bit and saw where Laura had changed her statement a little, so I'm willing to cut some slack.

    But your statement is really ridiculous. I sometimes like a healthy debate with the "other side" (though I should have known better from a site with this ridiculous url). But this is your site and and if this is your idea of a reasonable statement, you are not only cruel, you are insane and I have no reason to return to this site.

    I expect you will delete this comment anyway.  
    #  September 2nd, 2005 12:09 AM      james
    you rattle in here with your partisan attitude and when you dont get your way you start throwing around stereotypes. i dont agree with you? Gee, i must be a member of the big, evil GOP! clearly i must be a republican. clearly, im rich and know nothing about being poor. clearly, im an "armchair" evacuee with no experience with anything except sipping wine up on high and pissing on peasants, while you and your godly ass are out there helping people. you know what? youre an idiot. get out of here and go back to dailykos.  
    #  September 2nd, 2005 8:45 AM      Laura
    A few comments, Kumbaya...
    1. You may not believe the majority of those people decided to stay, but I assure you it's true. You leave out one critical fact: The choice was *not* a)leave town or b)stay in your home. Every local radio station was broadcasting ways that people could get a ride to a local shelter, without a car. It's true that not everyone had the capability to get out of town - but local shelters - and no one knew that the conditions were going to go as bad in the Superdome as they did so don't even go there - were available, and if people had gone to them, more resources would have been available for other things. A good part of the reason the looting and Superdome conditions got so bad is that every warm body has been devoted to rescue efforts. And you may re-read the thread to find that my criticism has been directed at those who chose to stay in their homes. Just imagine if the hours spent inspecting every rooftop could have been devoted to getting people out of the hospitals and the Superdome. Imagine if all or most of the police could have been stationed in shelters and post-storm, in neighborhoods, keeping order. Quite a different scenario than what we have now... and all because of thousands of man hours have been spent rescuing people who made the choice to stay in their homes.

    2. Anybody who lives in a coastal city, espcially below sea level like New Orleans, knows to watch the news. If they do not, they are a fool. Katrina did not look for all accounts as if she were going to hit the panhandle for around 48 hours before she hit, and it has been common knowledge - even to the point of the annual TV special one news station puts out and re-airs multiple times a year - what a cat. 3 would do, so saying "it was only a 3" just doesn't fly. People in New Orleans have been told repeatedly for YEARS that for *us*, a cat. 3 is a killer storm. People in New Orleans know not to wait for "mandatory" evacuations or even necessarily voluntary ones. My parish president refused to issue a mandatory evac order because he had no way to enforce it. But he stated publicly, repeatedly, loudly, EARLY: Get OUT.

    3. Conditions in the projects are certainly not what white-bread middle class folks like to contemplate. But my church goes in there on a regular basis and a)you'd be surprised at how many Escalades and other SUVs and cars of all kinds are there. Transportation is available to many, and shelter was available within walking distance. b)People do own TVs and most have cable. The folks with kids own playstations and Xboxes. c)Most have electricity. For those that can't afford it, we have a fund to pay their bills, other churches have similar programs. I'm pretty sure that they are not even billed for water, like in most apartments - in any event I don't recall ever being asked to pay a water bill, only electricity, phone and cable.

    4. Red Cross shelters and shelters run by churches were available in every major city. There were signs, radio announcements, people telling evacuess at rest areas, so that whole "your new home is the Walmart parking lot" is just so much drama. And as for it being safer to "shelter in place" - people who thought their home, especially in low lying areas like St. Bernard and Gentilly - could possibly offer more structural shelter than commercial buildings and structures like the Superdome - were stupid, in many cases terminally so.  
    #  September 2nd, 2005 12:29 PM      mbrlr
    Laura, your family will be in my family's prayers.

    And I'll bring myself not to comment on the comments about projects and...well, no comment on the appalling comments about the victims and the conditions in the projects. Although I guess I just did comment, didn't I?

    #  September 2nd, 2005 12:52 PM      Laura
    Thank you for your prayers. I know we disagree on just about everything, but I do believe you are sincere and I appreciate it.

    I don't see what's so appalling about saying that I personally have seen that conditions in the projects are not exactly what you'd expect. Poverty in America is nothing like poverty in 3rd world countries (under ordinary circumstance, not hurricane recovery).  



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