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.

No comments: