Early morning Monday, August 29, 2005
Monday at 3 a.m., the eyewall of a slightly weakened Hurricane Katrina was beginning to cross Southwest Pass at the mouth of the Mississippi River on its way due north at 15 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. Katrina now has maximum sustained winds of 150 mph, still a strong Category 4 storm. With a track that's slightly eastward of earlier forecasts, local emergency preparedness officials said early Monday that it could result in less flooding in leveed areas of the metropolitan New Orleans area later today. But it's still too soon to say how much of the area will be flooded by the combination of storm surge and waves in Lake Pontchartrain and over wetlands along both sides of the Mississippi River. Indeed, the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for Jefferson, Lafourche, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles and St. John the Baptist parishes until 10 a.m.
The weather service cautioned motorists not to drive on roads covered by water because it's difficult to judge the depth. People in vehicles caught in rising water should abandon them immediately and seek higher ground. Winds of 100 mph have been reported on Grand Isle, and gusts of 70 have accompanied rain squalls in the New Orleans area that have dropped as much as 2 inches of rain an hour. Rain totals of 15 inches are possible in some areas today, as Katrina moves over the area.
Outside New Orleans City Hall, an emergency medical worker surveyed the scene. "That wind is strong," he said. "It just blew the light of the top of an ambulance." A tornado watch has been extended until noon for the New Orleans area, as tornadoes could be embedded in thunderstorms in rain bands surrounding Katrina's eye. The storm's eyewall is about 3 hours away from the city. With Katrina tracking ever so slightly toward the northeast, a monitoring buoy 50 miles east of Plaquemines Parish in the Gulf of Mexico recorded sustained winds of 50 knots and gusts of 63 knots at around 3 a.m., according to climatologist Luigi Romolo of the Southern Regional Climate Center. Waves there were cresting at 47 feet.
HURRICANE DAMAGE: COLLAPSED BUILDINGS, MASSIVE FLOODING
During a morning teleconference, emergency preparedness officials from across southeast Louisiana reported flooding, building collapses, power outages and fires.
Here's a run-down of what they reported:- In New Orleans, water topped a levee along the Industrial Canal. The city's 911 emergency system was out of service and Charity Hospital was on emergency power and windows had been blown out on five floors. The Police Department was operating on a backup power system. Three to four feet of water was reported on St. Claude Avenue at Jackson Barracks. And a 20-foot tidal surge knocked out four pumping stations; only one was able to get back into service.
Also in New Orleans, a bridge connecting a parking garage to Memorial Hospital collapsed. - In Jefferson Parish, there was a report of a building collapse in the 200 block of Wright Avenue in Terrytown. Parish officials could pot provide details other than to say they had been notified that people were inside the building.
- In St. Charles Parish, significant flooding was reported on the east bank.
- In Arabi, up to 8 feet of water was reported, and people are climbing into their attics to escape the flooding. "We're telling people to get into the attic and take something with them to cut through the roof if necessary," said Col. Richard Baumy of the St. Bernard Parish Sheriffs Office. "It's the same scenario as Betsy."
Baumy said 100-plus mph winds were preventing rescue efforts.
At Bayou Bienvenue, water levels were reported at 9 1/2 feet, almost twice normal levels.
- In St. John, massive power outages are reported.- In Gramercy, there was extensive damage to the town's 1 1/2-year old fire station.- Terrebonne Parish reported a fatality from a heart attack
DOME HAS HOLE IN ROOF
The roof of the Superdome, where thousands of New Orleans residents have sought refuge from the storm, was damaged and there are reports of water pouring into the building. Two sections of the roof were missing, about 1 foot wide by 6 feet long. Witnesses said rain was coming through; people were moved from a section of the Dome floor from the 30-yard line to the end zone, up into the concourses of the building.
People inside seemed to take it fairly calmly, witnesses said. The Superdome has no electricity, so in addition to the rain coming in, there is no air-conditioning for the thousands of New Orleanians sheltering there.
The Dome wad opened Sunday as a shelter of last resort for those who could not evacuate the city.
Hurricane Katrina's eye is poised to pass to the east of downtown New Orleans at 9 a.m. with top winds of 135 mph, at the low end of a Category 4 storm, which may help reduce damage in the city, Metairie, the River Parishes and western parts of St. Tammany Parish.
According to the National Hurricane Center, Katrina is moving to the north at 15 mph, and is expected to enter southern Mississippi later today.
The storm's central pressure was 923 millibars, a significant drop from the 904 millibars reported Saturday that placed Katrina among the four most intense Atlantic hurricanes in recorded history. Further weakening is forecast as the storm interacts with land.
Earlier this morning, Belle Chasse reported gusts of 105 and 88 mph, while the Lakefront Airport reported an 86-mph gust.
CALLS TO COAST GUARD
Petty Officer Cliff Roberts from the U.S. Coast Guard command center in St. Louis said they have had about four dozen emergency electronic signals from vessels in Grand Isle, Venice and elsewhere.
They're also getting calls from residents in distress who can't get through on 911 lines. They've had reports of people on roof tops at Villere and Louisa streets and in the 200 block of Almonaster Drive.
The Coast Guard can't respond to these of sorts of calls at this point, so they're passing them along to local law enforcement.
Once the storm is over, the admiral plans to "flood the sky with planes to search for the vessels from which they received signals," Roberts said.
Roberts guessed that the electronic signals means the boats are being tossed around, but it doesn't necessarily mean there are people aboard or that the vessels have gone down.
ST. BERNARD RESCUE EFFORTS TO BEGIN AS SOON AS WIND SUBSIDES
St. Bernard parish officials said they are preparing efforts to rescue stranded residents, as they continue to receive reports of widespread flooding and damage across the parish.
One of the worst hit areas was Arabi, where up to 8 feet of water was being reported. But Parish Council Chairman Joey DiFatta said other parts of St. Bernard were also hit.
"Water is inundating everywhere. We have buildings and roofs collapsing. We're preparing rescue efforts and as soon as the wind subsides we'll start trying to get people out of St. Bernard," he said.
WATER RISES IN LAKEVIEW
A resident inside a camelback bungalow in the Homedale neighborhood in Lakeview on Monday at 9 a.m. watched street floodwaters rise above the porch steps as he also battled water pouring down his stairwell from a second-floor window blown out by high winds from the west. The homeowner said floodwater had not yet come inside his home but was rising. He said he planned to move with his dog to the second floor and pray.
PHONE SYSTEMS FAILING
Portions of the telephone system in metropolitan New Orleans failed about 9:30 a.m., further isolating the city as Katrina's center passed.
Remote phone switching stations and wireless phone antennas, or cell sites, switched to backup battery or generator power after losing power from electrical lines. But many of those backup power sources were temporary. By mid-morning, dialing into and out of the New Orleans area was becoming increasingly difficult.
ST. BERNARD UPDATE
Some people who stayed in St. Bernard Parish were forced up into their attics to escape the floodwaters, said state Sen. Walter Boasso, who heard from local officials that some houses in Chalmette had water rising beyond the second floor.
"We know people were up in the attics hollering for help," said Boasso, who evacuated to Baton Rouge and was camped out at the state Office of Emergency Preparedness. Hopefully rescue workers will be able to get to people who are trapped before the water rises too high, he said.
I The state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has 60boats ready to go out to rescue people in St. Bernard as soon as the winds subside, he said. The agency has 200 boats that can be deployed into southeast Louisiana to look for people who are stranded on top of their houses.
On the north side of Judge Perez Drive, waters had risen as high as 10 feet, he said. Boasso, who lives in Chalmette, said he has been in touch with Council Chairman Joey DiFatta.
People who sought last-minute refuge at Chalmette High School were huddling in the hallways after windows were blown out, said Boasso, who added that the building had sustained some structural damage. The roof of the Civic Auditorium was blown off, he said.
Boasso said extensive flooding in the Lower 9th Board and St. Bernard Parish could be blamed on water going over the tops of the levees.
CHALMETTE, ARABI UNDERWATER
Hurricane Katrina hammered the Lower 9th Ward and St. Bernard Parish, with residents telling tales of stranded people being plucked from their rooftops by passing boaters and flood waters as high as 12 feet well into Chalmette. Residents fled the surging water, which quickly rose as the brunt of Katrina plowed ashore near eastern St. Bernard Parish.
Arabi resident Donald Bordelon told a Times-Picayune reporter via cell phone that at 8:30 a.m. there was just wind damage the homes on his block of Schnell Drive. But 40 minutes later, floodwaters hsd risen over the stove in his kitchen, as he scrambled to ready his boat for an evacuation.
Residents reported high water flooding such institutions as Rocky and Carlo's restaurant at the corner of St. Bernard Highway and Lloyd's Avenue. Others reported that homes on Campagna Drive were nearly underwater. At Chalmette High School on Judge Perez Drive, officials had set up a shelter of last resort late Sunday. By Monday morning, the first floor of the high school was under water and the evacuees huddled in rooms on the second floor, reporting that they could only see rooftops of the surrounding homes.
The St. Bernard Parish government building, also on Judge Perez Drive, was said to have taken on 8 to 10 feet of water. The government building is in a stretch of the highway that comprises one of the parish's main economic centers, with a huge new Super WalMart nearby.
KENNER FLOODING SERIOUS
Willliams Boulevard in Kenner is flooded north of 1-10 to just before the lake levee, officials said. Officials said the flooding appears to be more serious than seen on May 8, 1995. However, Lake Pontchartrain did not overtop levees. Throughout Williams and elsewhere in Kenner, businesses, homes and apartments are dealing with flooding and significant roof damage.
Chateau Boulevard is a zig-zag of trees and power lines blocking one of Kenner's main arteries.
CATASTROPHIC POWER FAILURE
The region's electricity system suffered catastrophic damage Monday from Hurricane Katrina. Entergy customers should be prepared to be without power for a month or more, said Amy Stallings, Entergy spokeswoman. Severe damage apparently occurred to all elements of the power grid, from the plants that generate electricity to the big transmission lines that carry power to communities to the distribution lines that connect to homes and businesses. "This will be a very long and difficult period for our customers and our employees" Stallings said. She called the damage the worst ever seen in Entergy's four-state territory and the most devastating outage in Louisiana.
The utility had hoped to send out initial crews to begin assessing damage Monday, but Stallings said that work will hold until Tuesday. Work crews cannot go out until winds fall below 35mph, or tropical storm strength, for safety reasons. That's expected to happen Monday sometime after 8 p.m., but flooding and other dangers will prevent workers from going out after dark.
Because flooding and damage to roads could severely limit access to remote wires and substations, Entergy workers are planning to fly over the area in helicopters Tuesday to assess damage to power plants and transmission lines. Monday at midday, massive power outages crippled southeastern Louisiana. About 770,000 electricity customers were without power. Entergy Corp. alone reported 700,000 customers, or basically their entire service base in metropolitan New Orleans Stallings said.
That figure easily topped the 271,000 customers who lost power during Tropical Storm Cindy on July 6. To find another outage event in similar scale, look back to Hurricane Betsy in 1965. Cleco Corp. reported around 70,000 outages: 66,000 in St. Tammany Parish, 3,000 in Iberia and St. Mary parishes, 700 in Washington Parish and 350 in central Louisiana.
The utilities said they were hoping to send out workers to begin assessing the damage to the region's power system sometime Monday afternoon, but that work would depend on the speed of improving weather conditions.
RESCUERS CAN'T GET TO THOSE WHO ARE STRANDED
Wes McDermott, from the office of emergency preparedness in New Orleans, said officials have fielded at least 100 calls from people in distress in the Lower 9th Ward and eastern New Orleans. People report they are waiting on roofs and clinging to trees, he said. But McDermott said the city cannot send rescue crews out until the wind drops below 50 mph.
Angela Chalk, a lieutenant with the community emergency response team in New Orleans, said her niece, Brandi Hyde, is one of those people stranded and awaiting rescue. She said her niece is stranded on a roof of a three-story apartment building on Bundy Road, along with other tenants.
Meanwhile, City Hall confirmed a breach of the levee along the 17th Street Canal at Bellaire Drive, allowing water to spill into Lakeview.
Returning from a fact-finding expedition from the newspaper's Howard Avenue headquarters, a group of reporters and photographers stumbled on a parade of looters streaming from Coleman's Retail Store, located at 4001 Earhart Blvd., about two blocks away from The Times-Picayune offices.
The looters, who were men and women who appeared to be in their early teens to mid-40s, braved a steady rain and infrequent tropical storm wind gusts to tote boxes of clothing and shoes from the store. Some had garbage bags stuffed with goods. Others lugged wardrobe-sized boxes or carried them on their heads.
The line going to and from the store along Earhart Boulevard numbered into the dozens and appeared to be growing. Some looters were seen smiling and greeting each other with pleasantries as they passed. Another group was seen riding in the back of a pickup truck, honking the horn and cheering.
The scene also attracted a handful of curious bystanders, who left the safety of their homes to watch the heist. No police were present in the area, which is flooded heavily with standing water two to four feet deep on all sides of Earhart Blvd.
DESPAIR IN THE 9TH WARD
Times-Picayune photographer Ted Jackson waded into the Lower 9th Ward Monday afternoon and reported a scene of utter destruction. The wind still howled, floodwaters covered vehicles in the street and people were clinging to porches and waiting in attics for rescuers who had yet to arrive.
In one home on Claiborne Avenue near the Industrial Canal bridge, Jackson saw a man peering from a window in his attic. The man said rising water in his house had forced him, his wife and two children into the attic.
Jackson estimated the water's depth at 12 feet.
"He was very calm," Jackson said of the man in the attic window.
Jackson said he couldn't get across the street. The water was too deep and the current was too fast. Nearby, three children and three adults were clinging to a porch, trying to stay above the water, which they insisted was continuing to rise.
"They were really scared. They said they had been clinging to that porch since 8 a.m."
EBBERT EXPECTS CASUALTIES
Terry Ebbert, director of homeland security for the city of New Orleans, said Monday afternoon he is positive there are casualties resulting from Hurricane Katrina, based on the number of calls to emergency workers from people trapped in trees and attics.
In some of those cases, authorities lost communications with those pleading for help.
"Everybody who had a way or wanted to get out of the way of this storm was able to," Ebbert said. "For some that didn't, it was their last night on this earth."
Police are currently fanning out across the city in squad cars, trucks and boats to assess the damage and rescue people where possible.
Ebbert said the city has 100 boats currently stationed at Jackson Barracks on the Orleans-St. Bernard parish line. Authorities are trying to get a good look at the situation before dark.
The hardest-hit areas of the city appear to be the Lower 9th Ward, eastern New Orleans, Treme and Lakeview near a levee breech.
Ebbert said it could be two months before electricity is restored to all of the city. He said Entergy will send 4,500 workers to the region, who will be housed in quarters barges on the Mississippi River.
Though damage is extensive, Ebbert said if the storm had passed just 10 miles west of its track, the city would have been inundated with 25 feet of water.
METAlRlE ROAD OVERPASS
At about 4 p.m., a New Orleans Fire Department truck made its way up 1-10 to just short of the railroad overpass where about 15 feet of water brought the truck to a halt. At that point, a firefighter walked to the fence on the side of the interstate, used bolt cutters to cut a hole in the fence and allowed another firefighter and a state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries enforcement officer to pass through the fence. Their destination was their homes in Metairie and they were determined to finish the rest of the trip on foot.
At about the same time, French Quarter resident Ken "Timber" Wulff walked down the center line of Interstate 10 toward the French Quarter after swimming the deluge under the railroad overpass. Wulff said he had left his car about a quarter of a mile on the other side of the flood and was planning to walk back to his house on Royal and St. Ann streets. "I tried walking on it, but I understand that's only for certain people," he said.
Wulff said he had heard the mayor had given the all-clear signal, an assumption he realized immediately was false. When Wulff swam across the flooded underpass he was greeted by a New Orleans Police Department officer who had one question for him: "Are you crazy?"
APRES LE DELUGE
Mound Street is no more. The lakefront cul de sac is now beneath 4 feet of water. Scott Radish, his wife Kyle Radish, and neighbor Brandon Gioe, sat on the porch of their raised cottage, lamenting the damage and the irony. Scott Radish said they had weathered the storm without much damage. "It was scary. Almost all the tree branches fell, but the building stood. I thought I was doing good, until I noticed my Jeep was under water."
The water in the neighborhood had risen only knee-deep during the storm. It was 2 p.m. when they noticed the water was rising rapidly, owing to a breach in the 17th Street Canal levee in Bucktown. As they sat on the porch and surveyed the scene, they could see tops of cars and a submerged boat.
RESCUE IN EAST N.O. AND ST. BERNARD
Twelve boats have been deployed from Jackson Barracks to search for people stranded on the upper levels of their homes in eastern New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish, state officials said at a 3:30 p.m. briefing.
The teams are responding to people who have made calls asking for help, while also looking for people who haven't been able to reach emergency officials, said Major General Bennett Landreneau, A few people have already been reached and taken to the Superdome, while a couple others were taken to Jackson Barracks, he said.
Speaking at a press conference at the state Office of Emergency Preparedness, state and federal officials said the top priority remains rescuing people who are still in physical danger. There are reports of widespread flooding in St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes, as well as in Slidell and the Lower 9thWard.
"First and foremost, we need to save lives and protect property," said Mike Brown, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
As well as looking for the people who need to be rescued from flooded homes, the state is beginning to send medical teams into the areas hit by the storm, said Gov. Kathleen Blanco.
Fred Cerise, head of the state Department of Health and Hospitals and a medical doctor, is heading to Charity to help formulate a plan on how to get patients out of the hospital, which has power problems and five floors of broken windows, she said. Many patients are expected to be sent to the Superdome, which has been serving as an emergency shelter, and then sent by plane to hospitals in north Louisiana.
Federal medical teams will be helping out. Brown said personnel from his agency had been trying to help out with medical assessments at the Superdome, but had been having trouble getting to the area because of the continued hurricaneforce winds. FEMA will be sending its own urban search and rescue teams into New Orleans to help look for people who need assistance.
Brown said he plans to do an aerial search of the area in the morning.
FEMA has water, ice and military meals-ready-to-eat that are ready to be shipped into any areas that need them, Brown said. He said he has "supply lines backed up" to Fort Worth and Atlanta.
Blanco also has deployed teams from the state Department of Transportation and Development to clear access clear critical roads.
The governor re-iterated her request that people from the areas struck by the storm should not try to return. The roads leading back to Orleans, St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson and St. Tammany will be blocked, Blanco said. "Katrina is by no means over," Blanco said. "Wherever you live, it is still too dangerous to return home."
STUCK ON 1-10
At about 4 p.m. Monday Mike Williams and Don Bruce stood on 1-10 East looking down at the people stranded on their rooftops.
The two had set out that morning from Jefferson Parish trying to get to an address on Bundy, they said. But heavy flooding near the foot of the high rise had stopped them. Williams said he and Bruce had been stuck on the elevated portion of 1-10 since about 11 a.m.
MID-CITY: WATER EVERYWHERE
There is some roof damage to several Xavier University Buildings along Howard Avenue and on South Jefferson Davis Parkway. Aluminum panels peeled off the roof lay on the parking lots and in the street. A couple of pieces floated in high water on Jefferson Davis Parkway, where a few palms are completely uprooted and the median is almost invisible.
Jefferson Davis Parkway north of Interstate 10 and streets in that area are filled with 2 to 4 feet of water. There are downed trees and power poles and many traffic signals are bent and hanging from their poles.
Only a handful of undamaged billboards could be seen anywhere in the area. The metal structure for a billboard collapsed onto Yang's Chinese restaurant at Tulane and Broad avenues, while many billboards had only small bits of flapping material left on them.
Homes and businesses with minor to moderate roof damage were common on Tulane Avenue from Jefferson Davis Parkway to South Carrollton Avenue, along with businesses and homes flooded in water up to 5 feet deep. Despite the widespread damage, few broken windows can be seen throughout the area.
There is more flooding on side streets like South Genois and South Cortez streets. Airline Drive on other side of the interstate interchange is filled with even more water - at least 5 feet as far as the eye could see.
While parts of the interstate are clear, the Southern Railroad underpass is flooded almost all the way to the railroad trestle, while nearby, no giant crawfish could be seen on top of Semolina's Restaurant on Metairie Road and water swamped underneath that interchange.
Too many cars to count had water above their doors, some had only their roofs showing like turtle shells above the rising water. Several dogs appeared to be tied to cement posts alongside the old Robert's food store, where water also is on the rise. Several people gathered atop the grocery store's roof parking lot, which is lined with parked cars. A helpless-looking crowd gathered on the steps of the Criminal Court House, facing Tulane Avenue, where more cars are under water. Pedestrians waded through some of the floodwaters in the area, with waist deep water a common sight and a few people struggling for balance in water that is chest high.
Some businesses fared worse than others, such as the Whitney National Bank, 2650 Canal St., where curtains could be seen blowing in the wind from busted panes of tall glass.
The side of the Rentway TV Rental, 124 N. Broad was heavily damaged; severe roof damage and flooding is visible at Fact-0-Bake, 600 N. Broad and the rear of a warehouse at Carl E. Woodward LLC at Euphrosine and S Dupre streets collapsed Many, many other businesses appear to suffer minor to moderate flooding.
NOTHING BUT ROOFTOPS
Treme and the city's 8th and 9th Wards were severely flooded. Eastern New Orleans was inaccessible by car due to the high water on Interstate 10 East. The farther one drove east on Interstates 10 and 610, the deeper the water and the danger. Hurricane Katrina caused the highway to end at the first exit for Louisa Street.
For miles in the 9th Ward, there were only rooftops, with floodwaters lapping at the eves, visible from 1-10. Rows of homes were swallowed by water. Standing outside on the concrete interstate, in the whipping winds, signs could be spotted that so many of the city's residents did not evacuate.
More than 112,000 households in New Orleans don't own cars, the Mayor's Office has estimated.
One man waded up to his chest below, holding an orange water cooler as a buoy. Another single man watched him from the rooftop of a trucking business. Bursts of orange lights could be seen from another house, from the highest window, where at least two people were stranded. Their house nearly swallowed by the flooding, they blinked flashlights to attract attention. But by 4 p.m. Monday, they would have to wait, rescue officials said. Boats were coming, police officers said. Beneath the rain cloud-streaked sky, the visions of destruction were overwhelming.
There would be a yell here and there, a holler from somewhere, but no one in sight. Desperate images filled the neighborhoods:
Small children and a woman standing on their front porch as water licked the raised house's top steps. A black van completely entrenched in the flooding. A drenched dog alone on a rooftop. Household-type items strewn in the dirty flood water. In one case, rescuers used a boat to get a group of stranded people from their roof to the highway. But they left them on the overpass, presumably to make other rescues.
The interstate was a kind of eerie desert. The stranded included an elderly woman in a wheelchair and a small barefoot boy. Both were accompanied by their respective families.
TRAPPED ON N. MlRO STREET
From the elevated 1-10, three men could be seen below paddling a boat near the intersection of Mandeville and North Rocheblave.
The water was so high that the men looked to be dangerously near power lines that were still properly affixed to the top of the poles.
The men yelled that they had just left a house on North Miro Street between Spain and Mandeville where the residents were desperate for help.
Twelve or 13 people were trapped at that house, one of the men in the boat said. Those trapped included some elderly people and a pregnant woman.
When the information was passed on to a police officer driving past, the officer took down the information and said that rescuers were trying to get to the house.
P.H. COPS TO RESCUE
Monday afternoon, Councilman-at-Large Oliver Thomas and Lt. Mike Roussel of the New Orleans Police Department helped Ruby Lockhart out of a boat that had rescued her from a house on Iroquois Street.
The boat brought the elderly Lockhart to a spot a quarter mile west of the Louisa Street exit on 1-10 East. Roussel said the credit belonged to the "Uptown PH Cops," with P.H. standing for public housing. When they saw everything was quiet at their normal stations, those police officers headed east to try to rescue those who needed it.
Rousel then asked for the reporter's notebook so he could write down the name of each officer he said was deserving of praise: Lamont Domengeaux, Emile Blackburn, Jamie Freeman, Greg Hill, Jonal Abdin, Kendrick Allen, Jason Allen and Kenyon Bertrand.
Lockhart's neighbor, Debra Waker, 40, got off the boat swearing to leave the city the next time a storm approaches. She lives in the 2800 block of Powhatan Street, she said, but had joined her mother and others at the house on Iroquois. She said her family from Summerdale, Ala., had tried to come pick them up Sunday but had been turned around before they could reach the city. Summerdale, she said, is 45 miles north of Mobile.
While police cruisers with flashing blue lights turned around people driving the wrong way on Interstate 10, high water on flooded surface streets nearby made law enforcement difficult. People waded through waist-deep water on the way to loot the Shell station at S. Jefferson Davis Parkway and Tulane Avenue. Three people even trudged through the water pulling a blue and white boat down Tulane, apparently to make it easier to haul goods away from the station's convenience store. And they weren't the first to get there. Minutes before, a pair of teenagers floated two rubber trash cans full of beer, hard liquor and other plunder toward the S. Jeff Davis overpass over 1-10. When they reached dry roadway on the span, they abandoned the garbage cans and carried the contents away in blue plastic bags. One of the young men even shucked a pair of wet jeans when they fell to his ankles and walked away in a red bathing suit.
CAUGHT OFF GUARD
Inch by inch, floodwater began collecting inside Don Batiste's Perdido Street apartment around noon. Batiste, 36, lay in his bed listening to storm reports on his portable radio, but he never dreamed that his home would get as wet as it did. "I'm in a low place," he said later, "but I figured the most I'm going to get is a foot of water." But when he felt the murk settling over him at about 5 p.m., he knew he had to take action. That's when the Mid City resident headed for the S. Jeff Davis overpass over Interstate 10, where he sat on the railing munching Fritos and watching people go by.
TREME, BYWATER, GENTILLY, THE 9TH WARD HIT HARD
Even as reports of damage continued coming in Monday night, the full extent of the destruction in Katrina's wake was hard to gauge.
But one thing was clear: Gentilly, Treme, Bywater and the 9th Ward had been swallowed.
The exit from 1-10 onto to Claiborne Avenue - and then Claiborne itself - was underwater. Ditto the intersection of 1-10 and Elysian Fields, where water reached near the roof lines of homes. Homes were also inundated at the 1-10 exit at Louisa Street.
St. Claude Avenue, east of the French Quarter and into St. Bernard Parish, was almost under water.
Oddities abounded: For instance, a house on Kentucky, off St. Claude, was surrounded by floodwater - yet it had just burned to the ground.
In addition to being flooded, many of the stores along St. Claude had their windows front blown out. But some residents still managed to keep sense of irony: One homeowner had painted a sign on plywood. "Take care, \ Katrina," it read.
SEARCH TEAMS WORK INTO THE NIGHT
Search and rescue teams worked into the night to rescue people stranded on rooftops and from attics across metropolitan New Orleans.
Gov. Kathleen Blanco said at least 100 people were rescued from a Metairie nursing home and another 100 or more were plucked from, the water or rooftops by Department of Wildlife and Fisheries boats.
Blanco did not have an estimate on the number of deaths from the Katrina.
State Wildlife Secretary Dwight Landreneau said he has unconfirmed reports of dead bodies in floodwaters but could not say how many.
Blanco said the devastation in St. Bernard Parish was widespread, but at least 1,200 survivors at a local school and the government complex told officials they were OK and to pick up more critically-stranded first. She said National Guard personnel will deliver food and water to them while rescuers pick up those stranded on roofs and attics. "People are being picked up," Blanco said. "People are swimming to our boats."
Landreneau said by dawn he will have more than 200 boars in the water, 120 more than he had Monday. He said he has a commitment from Texas for another 50 boats. He said his boats will remain out as long as possible, working throughout the night if they are equipped with lights.
He said he had about eight boats in St. Tammany Parish, but because of spotty communications could not say how many individuals had been rescued.
TIMES-PICAYUNE / HURRICANE BUNKER EMERGENCY NUMBERS
- The Times-Picayune will soon lose current telephone service as emergency power backup fails. New emergency contact numbers for The Times-Picayune and NOLA.com - for family contacts and other necessities - are as follows:
(504) 821-7977 (504)821-7938
These numbers will go into effect over the next couple of hours.
SCENES FROM A BROKEN CITY
As skies cleared and Katrina's final gusts blew across New Orleans late Monday afternoon, dead pigeons and shattered street lamps littered the empty Pontchartrain Expressway. In the shadow of the bruised Superdome, broken Mardi Gras beads laced a pile of leaves and debris. The number "44" was all that remained of a shredded Louisiana Lottery billboard along the expressway. At the Kentwood water distributorship, plastic crates were still stacked neatly in the back of open tractor-trailers; the Kentwood marquee was toppled. Winds had wrenched the Superdome/Claiborne exit sign into a fresh angle. A man wearing socks but no shoes claimed to have walked from Kenner to the Pontchartrain Expressway in front of The Times-Picayune. Firemen in a passing pick-up shooed him off the highway. Four Crescent City Connection police officers blockaded the expressway near the Dome, turning away the few civilian vehicles. They, too, wondered about the scope of the destruction. "Have you heard anything about Metairie?" one asked.
By 6 p.m. on Monday, looters had shifted to heavy lifting. Young men exited the Coleman's clothing store on Earhart Boulevard, struggling under the weight of fully laden cardboard boxes and plastic bags. When flashing lights appeared in the distance, a man in an orange jersey shouted "Police!," and dropped his box in Earhart's lake-bound lane. He splashed across the opposite lane, tripped and fell in knee-deep water, then ran toward the B.W. Cooper housing development. As the sun set, four young women slipped out of the Magnolia Discount convenience store on South Carrollton Avenue and loaded pilfered boxes into a waiting car. One woman waved at approaching vehicles.
Downed trees completely blocked both sides of South Galvez Street at the entrance to B.W. Cooper. Toppled palm trees littered the neutral ground on Earhart, which was flooded near Carrollton but mostly dry at Galvez. The smell of natural gas wafted across Thalia Street at South Claiborne. A succession of power poles stood at 45-degree angles. Many homes and businesses along South Claiborne lost roofing tiles and shingles, but otherwise appeared undamaged. Destruction was arbitrary. The sign at the Rally's franchise was destroyed; that of the nearby Burger Orleans was not. Blown off its pedestal, the oversize Frosty Top mug at Calhoun stood on its head. Much of South Claiborne had drained hours after Katrina passed. Cross-streets did not fare as well. At State Street, a newly formed creek flowed across the Claiborne neutral ground. More water gurgled from manhole covers. The intersection of Plapoleon and South Claiborne was dry, but water and downed tree limbs carpeted both Versailles and Audubon Boulevards. At Carrollton and Claiborne, the Chase bank drive-thru was inundated. Across the intersection, broad sheets of roofing paper and black tiles draped an oak tree like a shroud. Many residents of the Pigeontown neighborhood opted not to evacuate. After the rain apd wind subsided, they gathered on porches or waded through the flooded streets. A power line swung five feet abovq the water on Dublin Street. Gentle waves lapped at the sandbags guarding the entrance of Five Happiness Chinese restallrant on South Carrollton Avenue. The blue arch across the entrance of Fontainebleau Drive survived the storm. Waterflooded both sides of the street, but appeared not to have reached cars on the neutral ground, or homes. At least 10 feet of water filled Carrollton's dip under the interstate. A waist-deep lagoon swamped the intersection at Tulane. As the sun set, the faint smell of rot drifted up from the water.
Tom Roche, owner of the Elms Mansion reception hall on St. Charles Avenue, bicycled above the flooded Carrollton exchange on the interstate. He and his three sons rode out Katrina on the sixth floor of Baptist Memorial hospital, where his wife works as a( nurse. "She convinced me to stay at the hospital," he said. "I usually stay at the Elms." Earlier in the afternoon, Roche was relieved to find his business largely intact. "It was fine," he said. "We boarded it up well. There was a little roof damage, a little water in the basement, but no structural damage."
With his black suit pants tucked into a pair of wading boots, 74-year-old Charles Smith stood at the corner of Belfast Street and South Carrollton. In generally good spirits, he was on a mission: To find a pack of cigarettes. The storm had tumbled a pecan tree into his home at Apple and Dublin. "The tree messed my whole house up," he said. "I got insurance, though." He looked down the debris-strewn street. "I wonder when the lights are going to come on," he said.
The Times-Picayune's electronic edition for Tuesday is now available online at:
Near the center of the page, look for "PDF Images: CATASTROPHIC" and click through the pages.
Early morning Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005
ONLY WAY OUT OF NEW ORLEANS IS WEST
The only way people can leave the city of New Orleans is to get on Crescent City Connection, head to the West Bank and take Highway 90 to Interstate 310 or 1-10 on to Lafayette, authorities said this morning. Interstate-10 eastbound, toward Slidell and the Gulf Coast, can't be traveled. Several sections of the Twin Spans have washed away and other sections of the bridge are structurally unsound.
The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway has been opened to police, fire and other emergency vehicles after an initial inspection concluded the 24-mile long bridge was sound, WWL Radio reported this morning.
No other vehicles will be allowed on the bridge; and access to St. Tammany Parish remains restricted. The condition of U.S. Highway 11 across the Lake is not known.
SEEKING ANSWERS TO RISING WATERS
"The water continues to rise," according to Walter Maestri, director of emergency management for Jefferson Parish. Maestri told WWL-Radio that parish officials have given engineers the next "three to four hours" to determine the cause of rising water.
Maestri did not specify where water continued to rise. Asked if it is possible that he and parish consultants will not be able to figure out the cause of the continued flooding, Maestri replied, "Absolutely."
However, he cautioned residents "not to deal in rumor."
"Stay with us," Maestri said. "Dealing in rumor won't help you right now."
The Times-Picayune is evacuating it's New Orleans building.
Water continues to rise around our building, as it is throughout the region. We:want to evacuate our employees and families while we are still able to safely leave our building.
Our plan is to head across the Mississippi River on the Pontchartrain Expressway to the west bank of New Orleans and Jefferson Parish. From therk, we'll try to head to Houma.
Our plan, obviously, is to resume providing news to our readers ASAP. Please refer back to this site for continuing information as soon as we are able to provide it.
(THE NEWSPAPER RESUMED BLOGGING IN THE EARLY AFTERNOON TUESDAY, AND PUBLISHED ONLINE PAGES TUESDAY NIGHT FROM HOUMA WITH DISPATCHES FROM OUR REPORTING TEAMS THAT STAYED BEHIND IN THE CITY AND SUBURBS)