HURRICANE KATRINA RECOVERY UPDATE
September 19, 2005 (Edition 1)
Mayor Nagin and Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen, head of the federal governments hurricane response, are slated to meet this afternoon with other officials to discuss the possibility of revamping the plan to allow residents to return to New Orleans. In addition to the concerns Allen voiced over the weekend (the lack of drinkable water, electricity, hospital services, and sewerage service) another factor is Tropical Storm Rita, which is in the Atlantic at this time and expected to enter the Gulf of Mexico late this week. The storm could hit Galveston, Texas but areas as far east as Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, are within the forecast path error. Allen said he is concerned that another storm could cause recent repairs to the levees to fail. This morning, President Bush also questioned the re-entry plan citing safety and additional flooding issues. He said he shares Nagins dream to have the city up and running but everyone has to be realistic about some of the hurdles and obstacles. Allen told CNN Monday morning that while he does not have a problem with residents returning to Algiers today, he still considers the East Bank of New Orleans a red zone area and not safe for re-entry.
Brigadier General Robert Crear, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, told CNN Monday afternoon that he has a growing concern about the stability of the levee system in certain parts of New Orleans if another storm, even one with just heavy rain, hits the region. The corps is still in the process of repairing damage to the levees caused by Katrina as well as the breaches purposely created to help drain certain areas. General Crear says the levee protection system is in tact in Algiers where residents began returning Monday morning.
Although contractors licensed with Jefferson Parish can begin emergency repairs without permits, Louis Savoye Jr., director of the parishs department of inspection and code enforcement says they must apply for the permits as soon as possible. Permits can cost from $20 to $1,000 depending on the work being done. Savoye says the permits protect citizens from unscrupulous contractors. He adds that fees have not increased since Hurricane Katrina. Some citizens believe the permit requirement should be waived. Savoye said those who cant afford the permit can apply for a hardship waiver from the parish attorneys office. Those who dont comply with the permit requirement will receive a stop-work order issued by the sheriffs department. A post-disaster building permit can be obtained from the Westbank Office of Inspection and Code Enforcement, 400 Maple St., Harvey from 8 a.m until 4 p.m. Contractors not licensed to work in Louisiana or Jefferson Parish can obtain licenses from the Louisiana Contractors Licensing Board, 2525 Quail Drive, Baton Rouge. Their phone number is 1-800-256-1392.
As the French Quarter continues clean-up, the director of food and beverages at The Court of Two Sisters said it will be several weeks before the restaurant can open.
The Uptown Wal-Mart which survived the storm was destroyed by looters. If not for this, the store could re-open in two weeks but will now have to be gutted and will not open until January or possibly later.
Governor Blanco will tour Folgers Coffee today in New Orleans. The company has set-up 150 trailers for temporary housing for employees and will serve them free meals in an attempt to get the facility up and running. The company, which has been in New Orleans for 45 years, says it is committed to bring all 500 employees back to work. Over 200 employees are currently working at the New Orleans facility. The first boat to enter the Port of New Orleans last week contained a shipment of Folgers coffee.
A FEMA disaster center opened at 9 a.m. today at the John Slidell Municipal Park recreation center, 105 Robert Road, Slidell, the 12th center to open. Eleven of the center are open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. The Plaquemines Parish center is open frm 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. due to curfews. Representatives of state, federal, and voluntary agencies, and loan officers with SBA will be available to answer questions and provide information. Information is also available by calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362). TTY number is 1-800-462-7585 for speech- or hearing-impaired.
National Guard soldiers say as they have been conducting house-to-house searches in New Orleans, they have come across the hiding places of looters. Few arrests have been made so far, but New Orleans District Attorney Eddie Jordan says he will prosecute as many looters as he can. The guardsmen are seizing the goods as found property and writing reports. By doing it this way, authorities can return the goods if they learn where they came from rather than holding them as evidence pending the resolution of criminal cases. The guardsmen say they have even found automatic teller machines that had been emptied of cash, and ammunition packaged in 500-round bundles. Seven rooms in a church-run assisted living home, near the looted Wal-Mart in the Garden District, were filled with new bicycles, stereo equipment, and clothing, all believed to have been stolen.
Joe Cappiello, a top official with the national hospital accreditation organization, says some New Orleans hospitals, including Charity Hospital, are damaged beyond repair. After a three-day tour of the citys hospitals, he said the health care infrastructure no longer exists and none of the citys hospitals have resumed normal operations and may need 10 days before they are ready to open. He is concerned that some hospitals are trying to open before it is safe, before mold and other flood-related contaminants are removed, and that the federal government should ensure that the hospitals are safe before they are allowed to reopen. He also said he is concerned that many doctors and nurses may not return to the area. Dr. Brobson Lutz, assistant Orleans Parish coroner and former New Orleans health director said the citys hospitals will not meet accreditation standards but doesnt believe citizens are concerned about this at this time.
The $3 toll for the Causeway bridge, which is collected only on the north side from southbound traffic, will be suspended indefinitely.
The New York Board of Trade (NYBOT) will conduct on-site inspections of their licensed warehouses at the Port of New Orleans and may say when coffee delivery to the port can resume. In light of Hurricane Katrina, NYBOT said in order to ensure delivery of the September 2005 Coffee C futures contract, all delivery notices issued for the Port of New Orleans with respect to the September 2005 contract to be null and void. The Port of New Orleans is the second-largest coffee port in the country.
DHH, EPA, and the Louisiana Rural Water Association is offering free bacteriological testing (for total coliforms and E. Coli) to the public for private drinking water wells and systems. A flooded water well must first be disinfected with a chlorine bleach solution and thoroughly flushed before taking a sample for testing. Sampling supplies and instructions are available at parish health units. These health units may also be called for details: St. Tammany -(985) 893-6296, Livingston - (225) 686-7017, Washington - (985) 839-5646, Tangipahoa-(985) 543-4175.
The Chandeleur Island chain appears to have lost 80 to 90 % of land mass due to Hurricane Katrina. Tim Osborne, manager of regional operations for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the full effects of the storm to the Louisiana coast will not be known for some time. High water is hiding some of the marsh and debris is covering other areas. Federal and state coastal projects that were under way are being evaluated by the federal Department of Natural Resources . The department says 70% of the Breaux Act projects, for the most part, survived the storm.
Gregory Stone, director of the Coastal Studies Institute at LSU has studied aerial photographs of the barrier islands since Hurricane Katrina. As one would expect, the eastern islands suffered the most damage. Some of the worst hit islands are :
East Timbalier Island - Considerable breaching and inundation. Some parts of the island were completely covered by water at some point during the storm.
Caminada Moreau Headland - Considerable loss of sand from beaches; small ponds that were isolated from the Gulf are now exchanging water with the Gulf. Sand loss has left the marsh exposed to the Gulf.
East Grand Terre - Eastern end is significantly eroded and sand appears to have been washed to the center of the island. Some breaches in areas where a former inland water body now connects with the Gulf.
Chenier Ronquille - Lot of beach sand lost, lot of marsh now in the surf zone. Multiple breaches and the Gulf over-washed the area in some spots.
Chaland Island - Almost all of the beach sand stripped away and up into the marsh area of island.
Bay Joe Wise - Completely over-washed by storm water, plant life looks burned from contact with salt water, and many breaches.
Pelican Island - Breached in several areas and not much sand left.
Scofield Island - Most of the sand has been removed.
Chandeleur Island - 80-90 % of the land mass was lost.
As of 4 p.m. Sunday, 85 % of CLECO customers on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain had power restored. More than 12,400 were still without electrical service.
Two Dow Chemical facilities in St. Charles Parish will re-open today. Transportation and other logistical problems continue to restrict access to materials and delivery at the facilities in Hahnville and Norco owned by Union Carbide Corp., a subsidiary of Dow.
Gov. Blanco said she is looking at October as the time to call a special session of the Legislature to deal with Hurricane Katrina-related issues. She said as soon as she has a clear picture of the kinds of legislation needed, she will call the session.
While Tropical Storm Rita is expected to enter the Gulf of Mexico later this week and head toward Mexico or Texas, forecasters are warning Gulf Coast residents to pay attention because long-term predictions are subject to error.
According to Leah Guerry, Executive Director of the Louisiana Trial Lawyers Association, 42% of their 1,600 members have been displaced by Hurricane Katrina. She said the organization is working to help their members find law partners, temporary office space, and places to live. Dues waivers may be available for lawyers in a hardship situation. LTLA is working with the Louisiana Bar Association and the Louisiana Association of Defense Counsel to have court dates extended. They have also set up a hurricane relief fund for members. Donations may be made through their website at www.ltla.org
The American International Automobile Dealers Association has created an emergency relief auto jobs web portal program to match displaced retail auto workers with temporary job openings at international nameplate auto dealerships. The group estimates that 5,000 dealership employees have been displaced and about 700 jobs have been advertised on their Web site at www.aiada.org/autojobs
HURRICANE KATRINA RECOVERY UPDATE
September19, 2005 (2nd Edition)
∙ As of late Monday afternoon, the official Hurricane Katrina death toll is 763, up from the 646 reported Sunday morning.
∙ Shortly after 6:00 PM Monday, Governor Blanco urged all residents in coastal Louisiana, especially those in the Southwest region of the state, to prepare to evacuate now. The problem is Tropical Storm Rita, which is expected to become at least a Category 3 Hurricane later this week, could threaten Southwest Louisiana and all coastal parishes east including the New Orleans area. Even if Rita does not hit Louisiana directly and stays on course to Texas, coastal Louisiana would still be on the most dangerous eastern side of the storm. The governor advised coastal residents to make definite plans immediately to secure property, prepare enough resources to support your family for several days and determine a place to go. Those leaving the area should not plan to seek refuge in existing shelters in Louisiana, Texas or southern Mississippi.
∙ Earlier Monday afternoon, Mayor Ray Nagin, also reacting to Tropical Storm Rita developments, halted all re-entry into New Orleans and told those who have already returned to Algiers or other parts of Orleans to be ready to evacuate again no later than Wednesday. Nagin says the areas pumping stations are still not fully operable and the levee system is severely weakened. Even a three to six inch rain could flood some areas up to four feet. Generally, New Orleans is still under a mandatory evacuation order.
∙ Early Monday evening, St. Bernard Parish officials halted the return of parish residents and called for a mandatory evacuation starting tomorrow because of Tropical Storm Rita developments. St. Bernard Parish residents began returning to the area over the weekend to check on their property.
∙ Residents began officially returning to Algiers Monday morning. But, New Orleans City Councilwoman Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson, who reopened her council offices in the historic Algiers Courthouse, is now advising Algiers residents who have not yet returned to stay where they are.
∙ Slidell was scheduled to begin broadcasting up-to-date information on Hurricane Katrina recovery operations, rebuilding, business reopenings and loan and assistance aid Monday on Radio Slidell airing on WPOR-FM 94.7 and WSLA-AM 1560. Initially broadcast times will be flexible depending on the conditions of the stations, but will eventually go around the clock. St. Tammany Parish has had a similar operation on WASO-AM 730 for a couple of weeks.
∙ As many as 300 more Hurricane Katrina evacuees started arriving in Monroe over the weekend to join the nearly 1,000 evacuees already housed at the former State Farm building.
∙ Terrebonne Parish authorities say three weeks after Katrina there are still about 662 evacuees staying in the parish, most in the Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center.
∙ In Livingston parish, the last shelter, the West Livingston shelter in Denham Springs, closed Monday. Meanwhile residents in the parish can expect all storm debris to be removed within 60 days. The debris is being removed by local contractors working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
∙ About 14,000 applications for loans due to Hurricane Katrina have been filed in Louisiana with the Small Business Administration, but thousands more may be eligible and have not yet applied for the assistance. SBA provides low-interest federal loans to businesses, homeowners and renters who suffered hurricane damage. Applicants for the loans must show that they can repay the loans and some loans require collateral.
∙ Juvenile corrections officials in Caddo Parish are trying to decide what to do about eight boys transferred to the area from New Orleans area facilities. The eight in question are not in the custody of the state Office of Youth Development. Their records are sealed and can only be accessed by the parish court where they were sentenced or their families, some of whom have not yet been located.
∙ Late Monday afternoon Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti announced the arrest of 6 individuals over the last week in connection with Operation Safe Refuge, an investigation conducted by the AGs cybercrimes unit. Five men and one woman were charged with computer aided sexual solicitation of a minor and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Those charged allegedly entered an Internet chat room and conversed in a sexually explicit manner with investigators posing as a 13 or 14 year old girl living in a shelter separated from her parents.
∙ Three weeks after Katrina tore into the Gulf Coast and with Tropical Storm Rita threatening the Gulf of Mexico, more than half of the regions offshore oil production and thirty-five percent of the gasoline production remained cut off from the market Monday. Also with news of the last storm, crude oil prices soared again above $67 in midday trading. Natural gas prices soared by 14%.
∙ Louisianas congressional delegation hopes the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will help convince the federal government to use some offshore oil and gas revenues to rebuild the states wetlands and barrier islands. The revenue sharing plan will be a part of the reconstruction legislative package. The delegation intends to introduce the legislation, which would dedicate 25-50% of the revenues to coastal restoration, in the House and Senate as early as Tuesday. Restoration costs are estimated to begin at $14 billion. The legislation may also include a multibillion dollar down payment to start the coastal restoration work.
∙ Congress has already passed a bill sponsored by U.S. Sen. David Vitter to allow the federal courts based in New Orleans to continue to operate in another jurisdiction because of Katrina.
∙ Superdome officials now say the Superdome might be salvageable after all. A second inspection of the facility over the weekend revealed less damage than originally thought. The domes roof will have to be replaced and consultants are currently working on a way to temporarily patch the roof until a final assessment of the facility is made. The bad news is the damage to the adjacent arena is much worse than first thought with extensive water damage on the south side.
∙ Intralox, a plastic molding facility in Harahan, is back in business. The company that sells almost $200 million of plastic conveyor belts worldwide, employs about 1000 in Harahan.
∙ The Louisiana Department of Revenue and the Internal Revenue Service extended the deadline Monday for all Hurricane Katrina victims to file and pay certain tax returns until January 3, 2006. A thirty to sixty day extension, depending on the parish in which the business is located, is also granted to file or make payments for sales tax returns. For complete details of the tax deadline extensions, go to www.revenue.louisiana.gov
or contact the nearest state revenue office.
∙ The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers now estimate Katrina may have created up to 75 million cubic yards of ruin - enough debris to fill the Louisiana Superdome 18 times. All refuse from Katrina will likely end up in south Louisiana, in part to protect the rest of the nation from unintentional infestation by the local Formosan termite. Corps officials say there is ample landfill space in the area to handle the debris.
∙ An LSU expert working with the EPAs science advisory board is urging EPA to not only test the sediments outside flooded homes, but to test the sediments inside the homes as well since that is where the residents are most likely to come in contact with the sediments. Chemistry professor Louis Thibodeaux also wants EPA to test for more pathogens than just E. coli and total coliform.
∙ Commissioner of Administration Jerry Luke LeBlanc says an executive order to rein in unnecessary state spending during this time of crisis could be issued tomorrow. Governor Blanco told legislators she would be issuing such an order last week when she addressed lawmakers during a special joint meeting.
∙ For the first time in the history of the NFL, there will be two Monday Night Football games. One of those games is the first scheduled home game for the New Orleans Saints which has been relocated to their opponents, the New York Giants, stadium in New Jersey. Several hundred displaced New Orleanians will attend the game as will New Orleans Police Chief Eddie Compass and other members of the New Orleans Police and Fire Departments. Raymond Coach Blanco, Governor Blancos husband, will also attend. The NFL is also sponsoring a telethon after the game to raise money for Katrina victims.
∙ In an interview with the Times Picayune today, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said New Orleans is not in the running for the 2010 Super Bowl. He said, Yeah, we decided that a month or six weeks ago, that the three cities that lost out to Tampa would be the three cities that would compete for the game we had tentatively committed to New York. Asked whether he thought there would be a New Orleans Saints in 2010 he said that depends on what kind of New Orleans there will be then. He also said a new stadium for the team would have to be a two-way street between owner Tom Benson and the state. He said it was his understanding prior to Hurricane Katrina that it depended on a successful season and that Benson and Governor Blanco were going to talk after the season.
∙ The New Orleans Hornets are posed to sign a lease agreement to temporarily relocated the Hornets to Oklahoma City and to play at least part of their games in the Ford Center.
∙ Tulanes football team will play its next home game against Southeastern Louisiana in LSUs Tiger Stadium on October 1st.
∙ For the first time in its 117-year history, National Geographic magazine is rushing into print with a special issue on Katrina. The magazine is printing 450,000 copies, with no advertising, for distribution in the United States. All profits will be donated to hurricane relief efforts. Governor Blanco delivered the Democratic Partys weekly radio address Saturday, thanking people across the country for their generosity to Louisiana and pledging to rebuild New Orleans.