Tuesday, July 18, 2006

My friend Tanya came for a visit the end of May. As I picked her up from the airport I told her "I feel it's my duty as a New Orleanian to drive you through some of the devastated parts of the city. Is that OK?" She admitted she was curious and wanted to see. (See an excellent animated graphic of the time line of the city flooding and a map outlining the different parts of the city. For a huge array of Katrina and post-K photos go here.) I headed first to Lakeview where the 17th Street levee broke. I wrote about visiting Lakeview New Years day in Part 2 of our Katrina blog. We went back when my father came for a visit in February. We took him through Lakeview on the way to the airport. He was shocked. And he said seeing it first hand really made him understand the situation better. Which is why I wanted to do that with Tanya first. I've never taken photos: the devastation goes on and on for miles and miles and it just seems impossible to capture the magnitude with photos. Tanya did take photos and she sent them to me. Click on any photo to see a larger version. All of these photos were take May 26 - almost 9 months to the day Katrina hit. This is what things STILL look like 60% of the city.

Lakeview, near the 17th street canal break.

You see a lot of homes and FEMA trailers with messages. This house looks freshly painted... If you look carefully, just below the banner, you can see a water line. This isn't the high water mark, but where the water finally came to rest once they plugged the breach. The house to the right wasn't as well built it seems. The breach was just to the left-you can see the retaining wall the Corps has built.

This time, more stuff had been gutted and cleaned up, not so many trash piles and a number of white FEMA trailers. People who have 2 story houses gut the first floor and would live on the second. The plus to doing this is you can protect your house from looters. Yes, unscrupulous people (many from other parts of the country!) break into houses that had been flooded and steal what ever was left, even parts off the house itself. This was one of the reasons the National Guard (God Bless them) was called back in - so they could patrol the uninhabited parts of the city allowing the police to focus on the more populated areas. The criminal element is back.

Anyway, back to our driving tour. After Lakeview we drove through Gentilly. It was eerie how few people were around. Hardly any traffic. Houses standing empty or still boarded up. Businesses still in shambles. There would be the occasional building that had been repaired, some how, and it would stand out like a shiny new penny.

You find boats in random places through out the city. Most likely they were used to rescue people. Here one sits in Gentilly among the gutted houses. You can see the contents of someone's home next to the curb. Zero traffic and people. And those signs for roofers and contractors all tacked to almost every telephone pole.

We drove around NO East and Chalmette. They were like ghost towns with FEMA trailer and debris crews. I had never been to the lower 9th ward before. We were both shocked-it looked like nothing had been done to it, other than clear the streets.

This house "wandered" on to the street and up against the house next to it. The house on the left didn't fare so well. You can see the spray painted marking where rescue teams visited this house many times.

The blue house used to be attached to the porch to the far right - this was a few blocks from the Industrial Canal breach. Water from the breach pushed this house away. Note the steps to the left - what house belongs to them?

Houses on top of cars/trucks is not an uncommon site. You would even see cars stuck on top of houses and in trees!

This was such a small part of what we saw. We drove around for hours. Is New Orleans OK? No. Not yet. People are trying to come back and rebuild. It is a very VERY slow process.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

I wish I had better noted the day-to-day events and changes in the Post-K world. It would read something like: Monday - "traffic light out at Napoleon and Freret." Thursday - "Traffic light at Nap and Freret working again- yeah!" Monday "ARGH! Traffic light at Nap and Freret blinking again"

Our big news today - are you ready? After dinner G comes to get me - "The street light is working again!" I reply "What?!? No way!" and rush to the front of the house to see it for my own eyes. Yep. Sometime in November, I think, the street light stopped working. I thought I should call someone but who and why? The city is broke and we need the streets and water mains fixed first. But we have light once again. We are the lucky one. Parts of the city suffer black outs or STILL do not have power. And water pressure is always hit or miss. Still only weekly garbage pick-up. No recycling. We still only have 3 or 4 hospitasl in operation within the city limits. Mail is much better but still a lot goes missing. We are receiving magazines but it usually requires several phone calls to get them to start mailing again. Oh, and the FEMA "trailer park" behind our house? People finally moved in some time in March. People get trailers ($80,000 per trailer to buy and install) for 18 months AFTER THE DISASTER-not 18 month since they finally got to move into the dang thing. So "supposedly" February 2007 all these trailers will be gone. Like Cinderella and the pumpkin at midnight? FEMA can't get their act together and I'm sure they will extended the deadline like they always do.

What else... oh yeah Jazz Fest was spectacular! Hope you come for next year.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

I decided to start up a new blog. I'm sure many of you remember our post-Katrina blogs Part 1 and Part 2. As life continued on and we made it through Mardi Gras we stopped posting and sending out our emails o' rant. We've both been very fortunate to have plenty of work to keep us busy. I was concern that my company, Creative Zumo, wouldn't have any clients... I'm happy to say we still have our existing clients and have added several more. It seems many people, after Katrina, have decided to pursue the career path they always wanted to try but were afraid and are now starting their own businesses. G is now 100% self employed and having to turn work down. Several firms have approached him with jobs offers but he's quite content being his own boss. If you know any out-of-work architects, tell them to come to New Orleans. The majority of the rebuilding has yet to start as people continue to haggle with insurance companies, FEMA and the SBA. The rebuilding planning process drags on. Houses have stood gutted for months while the owners wait to get money and find out "will my neighbors come back and rebuild?" "Do I have to raise my house." The one-year anniversary of Katrina is less than 2 months away.

Hopefully we won't need to use this to communicate with people again while we sit in exile somewhere other than our home. Which is where the "Casa Verde" comes from, "Green House" 'cause our house is painted, well, green. Instead I hope to continue to comment on the rebuilding of New Orleans, our house, our cats and so on. So thanks for stopping by!