HURRICANE KATRINA RECOVERY UPDATE
September18, 2005 (Weekend Edition)
∙As of this morning, the official Hurricane Katrina death toll is 646, up from the 579 reported Friday afternoon. Of this number, 490 are at the morgue in St. Gabriel, 63 in East Baton Rouge Parish, 30 in Jefferson, 20 in Tangipahoa, 14 in Terrebonne, 7 in St. Tammany, 6 in Iberia, 5 in St. Charles, 4 in Livingston, 3 in Plaquemines, 2 in Assumption, and 2 in West Baton Rouge. The numbers have been reported by local coroners. DHH explains that any death caused as a result of the hurricane will be counted as a hurricane-related death. This means people who required life-support but had it cut off and died as a result of power lost during the storm will be counted.
∙Vice Admiral Thad Allen, the man in charge of the federal governments emergency operations along the Gulf Coast, plans to meet with Mayor Ray Nagin Monday about the mayors plan to bring back over 180,000 people to the dry areas of the city over the next 10 days. Business owners began returning over the weekend and Algiers residents are scheduled to return Monday. Admiral Allen is concerned about the lack of services in the area - no 911 service; limited health care services; no potable water in some areas; no power restoration in many areas where an electrical inspection will be necessary before power can be reconnected and a weakened levee system.
∙Mayor Nagins plan to bring back residents to New Orleans hit another snag over the weekend when two of the hospitals he hoped to have up and operating pushed back re-opening plans. Touro Infirmary officials say they will not offer emergency services until Wednesday and Childrens Hospital officials say their facility will not re-open for 10 days or more.
∙Jefferson Parish is now allowing all residents to permanently return as of Sunday. A curfew remains in effect from 8:00 PM to 5:00 AM. Some areas will still experience power outages and problems with the sewer system.
∙Some Plaquemines Parish residents will begin returning Monday to retrieve valuables. For 10 days, residents from the east bank, from the St. Bernard Parish line to Bohemia and the west bank from Ironton to Home Place can return. A decision on when residents further south may return should be made soon. Parish President Benny Rousselle says the next focus is getting schools reopened in at least the northern part of the parish.
∙Texas officials estimate that over 390,000 Hurricane Katrina evacuees are in that state. They expect that number to rise as better information is available. HUD is providing 100 rent-free, furnished homes for evacuees in the Dallas and Houston area for up to 18 months.
∙Evacuees with insurance are urged to make a claim with their insurance company before filing for FEMA assistance since FEMA does not duplicate assistance provided by an insurance settlement. If a person receives FEMA assistance first, he or she may end up having to repay FEMA if a determination is made that an insurance settlement also covered the assistance.
∙FEMA officials now say they are uncertain whether they can meet the presidents goal of providing temporary housing for 100,000 people now in shelters by the middle of next month.
∙FEMA is also reminding residents planning on rebuilding or making repairs on property located in flood hazard areas that they have to obtain floodplain development permits in addition to other required building permits before they can begin work.
∙Beginning Monday, workforce centers in East Baton Rouge, Ascension East and West Feliciana, Iberville, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena, Tangipahoa, West Baton Rouge, Washington and St. Tammany parishes will take applications from evacuees for some 10,000 temporary jobs connected with Katrina recovery efforts. The state will initially use some $20.7 million from the $62 million available from the Workforce Investment Act to pay people $9 an hour to work up to 40 hours a week for 12 weeks. Evacuees should bring two forms of identification and, if possible, proof they have lived or worked in one of the parishes. For additional information, applicants as well as government entities and nonprofit groups looking for workers should go to www.laworks.net. Information on statewide job fairs can also be found at the site.
∙The Bogalusa Career and Job Center has re-opened for Unemployment Insurance claims assistance. The center is located at 438 Avenue B, Bogalusa, La, (985) 732-6630.
∙The Louisiana National Guard has set up a new Website to aid families and soldiers affect by Hurricane Katrina and to provide information about guard activities in the recovery effort known as Joint Task Force Pelican. The address is www.la.ngb.army.mil/pelican .
∙The U. S. Department of Education has announced $2.6 billion for schools and districts impacted by the hurricane as well as those receiving displaced students. Districts receiving students displaced by the hurricane will receive $1.9 billion of the money. These districts can receive 90% of the states average per pupil allocation, up to $7,500 and can use the money for various things from teacher salaries to transportation and school supplies and other educational expenses. Although Superintendent Cecil Picard says he is grateful for the money, he is concerned that the proposal does not include money for displaced teacher salaries. He says he will continue working with the federal, state, and local officials to make certain all educational needs are met.
∙BESE will meet September 27th to discuss how LEAP testing will be handled in the 2005-06 school year with over 20,00 displaced students expected to enroll in Louisiana schools. One option under discussion is removing the high stakes component of LEAP that determines a students advancement to the next grade.
∙The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) working with the Sloan Foundation has created a catalog of free electronic courses available to displaced students. Students may visit the Web site, http://www.sloansemester.org , to search for available courses, participating colleges and universities, and to begin the enrollment process.
∙Displaced students re-enrolled at other Louisiana public colleges and universities was 8,629 as of Friday, September 16. The Board of Regents information hotline for displaced students is 1-866-415-2269, and the web address is www.regents.state.la.us . The Louisiana Community and Technical College System has also established a new information line for students. It is 1-866-310-1586.
∙State correctional facilities continue to house about 4000 inmates from Orleans and Jefferson parishes while parish facilities house approximately 2500 inmates. Secretary Stalder has visited several parish and state facilities to ensure that staffing, equipment, and other needs are being met to keep the facilities and communities safe.
∙Probation and Parole officers who have been providing security for the New Orleans Fire Department will wrap up operations and return to their home districts this weekend.
∙The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway will officially re-open Monday at 5:00 AM, according to Causeway General Manager Robert Lamberts comments on WWL radio Sunday morning.
∙DOTD officials will meet with members of the congressional delegation and other congressional leaders in Washington D.C. Tuesday and Wednesday to brief them on needs and costs.
∙DOTD reports that the repair and replacement of traffic signs and signals is progressing. Status of operational signals are:
St. Charles - 97%
Plaquemines - 71%
Jefferson - 55%
Orleans - 3%
St. Bernard - 0%
St. Tammany - No information available
∙DOTD has secured a contractor to sweep I-10 and I-610. Abandoned vehicles are being towed from the interstate. A DOTD contractor began hauling debris Saturday in St. Tammany, Washington and Tangipahoa parishes.
The Algiers/Canal and Gretna/Jackson Ave. ferry crossings will open to pedestrian and vehicle traffic Monday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pedestrians will use the vehicle ramp until the pedestrian facility is repaired.
Several contracts have been secured to repair moveable bridges and all moveable bridges should be operable within two months, with the exception of Bayou Liberty in St. Tammany. It will take six months to repair. DOTD estimates $10 million in damages to the moveable bridges.
Dutch experts from the Directorate General for Public Works and Water Management are in Plaquemines Parish establishing mobile pump stations.
Volunteers from Jacobs Engineering are conducting assessments of the facilities at Jackson Barracks, the Louisiana National Guard headquarters. The facilities were flooded with 10 feet of water for several days and initial assessments show substantial damage.
Port of New Orleans officials say they expect roughly 125,000 tons of steel and aluminum and several container ships at the port next week. Three of the four gantry cranes at the Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal and the Nashville Avenue Complex are working. The fourth should be repaired by September 25th.
The loss of hotel/motel rooms across the Gulf Coast because of Hurricane Katrina is much worse than industry officials originally thought. A survey by Lodging Econometrics shows nearly 46,000 rooms are now unavailable. As of September 15th, Louisiana had 160 closed hotels with 28,481 rooms.
Higher education officials estimate as much as $5 billion worth of damage to buildings, equipment and lab materials. A request for federal aid could be officially introduced in Congress as early as Monday.
Federal officials have now approved more than $700 million in federal public assistance for Louisiana parishes, cities and various state agencies to help cover the costs associated with responding to Katrina. Louisiana officials expect the total requests for public assistance will exceed several billion dollars.
Lafayette officials plan to ask for $7.8 billion in state and federal funds for regional infrastructure needs to accommodate the tens of thousands of evacuees in that area.
The Southeast Louisiana Business Center has activated a disaster assistance response plan to aid area individuals and firms needing temporary business services or assistance in completing applications for business disaster loans. The center is offering free workshops over the next several weeks throughout the North shore area. To register for a workshop, call 985-549-3831 or e-mail to email@example.com .
DEQ has approved a request from the LA Department of Agriculture to establish temporary wet log storage areas across the state for up to one year. The temporary yards will allow for storage and use of some of the estimated 3 billion board feet of timber destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
∙EPA released the results of air sample testing conducted last week in the New Orleans area. The results show low levels of volatile pollutants. However officials note that the contaminants may still be bound to sediments and that general conclusions should not be made regarding air safety based on results from this initial testing.
∙FDA officials are asking Louisiana to ban all fishing in Lake Pontchartrain until fish, crustaceans and other marine life can be tested to ensure that polluted floodwaters have not turned the lakes seafood into a health hazard.
∙State and federal agencies, including DHH, the Department of Agriculture & Forestry, and EPA will implement a plan to reduce mosquitoes and flies in the areas affected by the hurricane and will continue aerial spraying. Aerial spraying of the Greater New Orleans area began last week and spraying in Plaquemines, Tangipahoa, and Ascension parishes and Grand Isle will take place this week. The spraying of pesticides routinely used in this area, primarily Naled, will be done by the U.S. Air Force during the last 2-3 hours of daylight. DHH Secretary Dr. Fred Cerise said timely initiation of preventive measures is needed to reduce the risk of diseases. DHH also said Naled is routinely used in Louisiana and is approved by the EPA. Studies have shown it does not impact human health or the environment when used for mosquito control. More information about the plan is available by calling the Department of Agriculture and Forestrys pesticide hotline at (225) 925-3763.
∙DHH Secretary Cerise says he is concerned for the health and safety of some residents returning to St. Bernard Parish. He said elderly residents, children, those with health conditions such as asthma, allergies or those who are immune-compromised should avoid returning at this time. Those who do return should wear protective clothing , including long plants and sleeves, gloves, proper footwear and masks. Tetanus shots will be available at entrance checkpoints. Anyone who has not had a tetanus shot within the last 10 years should get one prior to returning. No other immunizations are necessary for returning. He also cautioned those returning to use mosquito spray, to be aware of stray animals, to drink only bottled water, to not eat food washed with anything but bottled water, use restroom facilities before returning, and to be cautious around buildings and homes where structural stability has not been assessed, do not use machinery and be on the alert for any possible danger.
∙DHH Secretary Cerisse said according to disease surveillance conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and DHH in the New Orleans area, unintentional injuries pose the greatest current health risk for those remaining in the area.
∙DEQ and EPA began curbside pickup of household hazardous waste in St. Tammany and Jefferson Parish. Pickup began September 17. There is no street-by-street timetable due to the large amount of materials expected. Materials to be picked up include electronics, batteries, computer hardware, paint, cleaning solvents, and lawn and garden products. These materials should be placed in separated piles. Containers should be clearly marked. Leaking containers should be put in plastic bags to prevent spills. Refrigerators should be emptied. If food cannot be removed, it will be handled by qualified contractors. They will not pick up animal manure and carcasses, human waste and other biological items, needles and spoiled food or damaged items. Call 1-800-401-1327 for more information.
∙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.
∙Entergy customers in the Baton Rouge area who lost power during Katrina should not necessarily expect lower electric bills this month. Entergy pulled meter readers from the area to help respond to power outages in the hard-hit areas and is billing customers based on their July usage. Adjustments will be made on the next bill. Cleco is prorating bills for customers for the days they were without power. They are also waiving late fees for 60 days for customers in St. Tammany and Washington Parishes.
∙In a sign of returning to normal, Ochsner doctors are scheduled to perform their first transplant operation since Hurricane Katrina on Monday, a live donor kidney transplant.
∙The Department of Wildlife & Fisheries announced that deer and rabbit hunting seasons are closed in Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes until more detailed surveys of the impact to these species and their habitats can be conducted and a review of the findings is evaluated. Other seasons will follow their announced schedules although Wildlife and Fisheries officials caution people to expect limited services, difficulty in reaching certain areas and drastically changed landscapes.