January 22, 2006

Months later, couple learns son died in Katrina

Image: Julia and Eldo Allen

Joe Hermosa / AP
Julia and Eldo Allen stand in front of the coffins of their son, John David Allen, and their daughter-in-law, Susan Allen, at the Combes Rest Lawn Memorial Park in Combes, Texas, on Jan. 18.
Son’s and wife’s bodies, left unclaimed, were going to be ‘disposed of’
The Associated Press
Updated: 9:10 p.m. ET Jan. 20, 2006

HARLINGEN, Texas - After Hurricane Katrina socked the central Gulf Coast, Eldo and Julia Allen watched the news and waited in vain for word from their son in Biloxi, Miss.

They waited for nearly four months, not knowing the horrific truth: that their son and daughter-in-law died as the storm surge swallowed their Beach Boulevard apartment. That their bodies had long since been found and identified at the Harrison County, Miss., coroner’s office. And that they were about to be “disposed of” after going so long unclaimed.

The agencies the Allens had been calling all those months hadn’t contacted the coroner, and the coroner hadn’t checked with the agencies.

“Nobody talked to nobody,” Eldo Allen said, his voice wrapped in grief. “That’s why we just was almost too late. If we’d been a little later they would have disposed of the bodies with ‘next of kin unknown,’ and that would have been ... “

He bowed his head over a dining room table laden with family photo albums, sympathy cards from the retirement community, and the black box holding his son’s ashes, before completing his thought: “That would have been more than I could stand.”


October 20, 2005

Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Wilma Comparisons

This is a comprehensive analysis and pretty cool interactive from CNN, comparing Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. You click through the interactive to compare the strength and movement of these three powerful storms during the days before and after landfall.

October 03, 2005

Interactive Map of New Orleans Repopulation & Recovery

Interactive: New Orleans repopulates

I am just crazy over CNN's interactive maps. The highlighted ZIP codes on the map indicate areas in New Orleans that have been reopened; click on the links for more information about the status of recovery efforts.

September 23, 2005

NO 9th Ward Floods

Image: Ninth WardJ

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Homes in the Ninth Ward were submerged in flood waters Friday after a breach in the Inner Harbor Canal in New Orleans.

There has been a good bit of Katrina aftermath news today. For one, the levees have breached again & the lower ninth ward (where Charmaine Neville lived) is six feet under water. The good news is the city is virtually empty. The approach of Hurricane Rita had already stopped Search & Rescue, this is going to set that back even more. I am so dismayed at the way the collection of the deceased is taking so long.

Hurricane Rita has begun her assault on the Gulf Coast. The weather here in Baton Rouge is fierce. Even though Hurricane Katrina made landfall closer to us & was a more powerful storm, we are on the east side this time -which is the harsh side of the storm. We have had torrential rains all day, and the wind is extremely gusty. Katrina had split a tree in my yard & Rita's early winds have knocked it down. The lights are flickering and power may go soon...I am primarily blogging at www.hurricane-rita.org tonight. Come visit me there!

To see an MSNBC article on the current N.O. levee breeches, go here.

Water Flows Over New Orleans Levee

Image: New Orleans' levee

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana -- Water wash over a levee in New Orleans' hard-hit 9th Ward today as Hurricane Rita sweeps towards the region

Read the Article

September 20, 2005

New Orleans die Hards Refuse to Leave


Resident Scott “Hound” Peterson walks on his rooftop, on which he has painted “Defend New Orleans” on Tuesday. Peterson stayed in his home during Katrina and intends to stay and ride out any future storms in defiance of Mayor Ray Nagin's plea for residents to leave the city.

Margaret Checking In



A hand-written sign urges people to clean storm grates as officials warn that Hurricane Rita could possibly strike near New Orleans, on a street near downtown New Orleans, Louisiana September 19, 2005. Since yesterday new forecast models have come out indicating that Rita will bypass a direct hit to New Orleans. Still if Rita hits the Texas Coast, this puts her on the west side of Louisiana indicating we could be impacted by  heavy rains, wind & tornadoes.  A Louisiana official said the levees in New Orleans  would fail again if the city were smashed by a new storm surge. I am also concerned about other areas that will be impacted in Western Louisiana.

September 19, 2005

Traffic Jam Into New Orleans


This is what traffic looked like today going into New Orleans. This provides some perspective on some of the challenges inherent in evacuation. This traffic jam is only representative of a small percentage of residents trying to get back into the city. Imagine then what a suddenly called mandatory evac "looks" like. Our neighbors in Texas are doing the right thing - asking residents to start evacuating as early as today. I heard they were allowing people to take their pets with them as long as they are in cages.  Hurrah for Texas! It's a shame that Louisiana has provided our neighboring states with so many lessons on what NOT to do in prep for a Hurricane.

Someone Got Cute with the Signage!



At an Interstate 10 checkpoint of traffic heading into the city from the north, cars were backed up for two hours. Tractor-trailers, emergency vehicles and National Guard trucks shared the highway with cars towing trailers full of hurricane gear and pickup trucks with their beds loaded with water, cleaning materials and coolers. It was clear that at least some of the traffic was headed to sections of the city that have not yet officially opened.

September 18, 2005

Images of Flooded St. Bernard Parish





September 14, 2005

Levee Failure Reason for "Complete Destruction" of St. Bernard Parish


St. Bernard Parish

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Officials say the "complete destruction" of Saint Bernard Parish apparently was caused by levee failure along the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet -- a 76-mile-long shipping channel opened in 1963.

Colonel Duane Gapinski, who is in charge of pumping out the area, says the levee is 17.5 feet high.

Gapinski said Colonel Richard Wagenaar, the Corps' chief district engineer, believes that up to 90 percent of the levee is damaged. That levee is in front of Saint Bernard Parish.

The parish president says nobody will be allowed to return to that parish for four months.

September 06, 2005

Today's Headlines


Advocate staff photo by Bill Feig Members of the 82nd Airborne Division march down Canal Street on Monday to enforce the mandatory evacuation of the French Quarter.

Source: www.2theadvocate.com

Blanco coolly greets Bush
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour got a hug. Gov. Kathleen Blanco was lucky to get a hello. The friction between state and federal officials has been brewing for the past few days and bubbled to the surface with President Bush's visit to Baton Rouge on Monday. Read the story

Schools ready for evacuees
Public and private schools throughout the greater Baton Rouge area, with the exception of those in Tangipahoa and St. Helena parishes, are reopening today after being closed for the past week because of Hurricane Katrina.

N.O. bus station now first stop on way to jail
After another night of sporadic gunfire, military troops escorted truckloads of police Monday through the narrow streets of the city as law enforcement tried to wrest control of the Big Easy from armed looters.

Jefferson residents get look at damage
Marlena Kristapovich's hands shake as she sits in a pickup truck at the flooded intersection of Labarre Road and San Carlos in Jefferson Parish. She tucks a photo of her teenage daughter back into her wallet and sighs.

Morgue ready for grim work with respect for Katrina dead
The sign written and hung by Dr. Corinne Stern bears a lesson worth remembering: "Mortui Vivis Praecipant," or "Let the dead teach the living."

Local experts say feds should have expected scenario
Though top federal officials argue that government planners did not expect both a powerful hurricane and a breach of levees that would flood New Orleans, local experts say such a scenario should have come as no surprise.

1/21/06 - Sorry. Having to rely on a cached copy as this  article is no longer available on the web...

Advocate staff writer
Though top federal officials argue that government planners did not expect both a powerful hurricane and a breach of levees that would flood New Orleans, local experts say such a scenario should have come as no surprise.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff on Saturday called Hurricane Katrina a "perfect storm of catastrophes" and it exceeded the foresight of the planners, and maybe anybody's foresight.

In an exercise last summer, state, federal and local emergency responders were faced with a fictitious "Hurricane Pam" which created a similar scenario to the reality of Katrina.

"People have known for years that a hurricane could swamp New Orleans," said LSU Professor G. Paul Kemp, who participated in last year's exercise.

He and other LSU researchers have created models showing the storm surge from various strength storms on various tracks. Flooding is often the biggest cause of hurricane damage.

Click Here to beat the heat!

Pam was "a Betsy-like storm that flooded New Orleans," Kemp said. In 1965, Hurricane Betsy swamped parts of New Orleans, some of which flooded again with Katrina.

"What do you do when the city floods?" Kemp said of the question he raised with emergency officials.

He was surprised at the lack of depth in the response. "I was amazed there was no Plan B," he said. He said officials talked about the possibility of having a lot of supplies in position to use on the spot -- something that doesn't appear to have happened.

Louisiana's Republican Sen. David Vitter was critical of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's plans. The flooding "has been part of every scenario that we've studied for the last 20 to 30 years," he said.

Response was so slow that earlier last week New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin had this message for the federal government: "Get off your ass and get down here to fix the goddamn biggest disaster in the nation's history."

On Friday, President Bush admitted the problems and promised to fix them. John Pine is chair of the LSU Department of Geography and Anthropology and director of graduate and undergraduate programs in disaster science management.

While Pine wasn't present for the exercise Kemp talked about, he has been involved in others.

Emergency planners have known a hurricane can "overwhelm the pumps, and the fact that we can't minimize that is hard to understand," Pine sad.

Emergency response plans need to adapt and change as conditions evolve, Pine said last week. "Has the system responded and adapted to a changing event? I don't know enough about what is going on. But what I see is enormous confusion in New Orleans and that leads one to believe there has not been the kind of communication or the kind of response we saw in the World Trade Center event" in 2001.

The fact that emergency officials are still faced with responding to the event doesn't really help the recovery effort get fully started, Pine added.

Pine and Kemp were not the only ones amazed.

David McEntire is the coordinator for the Emergency Administration and Planning program at the University of North Texas in Denton.

"I don't want to be too critical, but we have known this was coming for quite some time. This is not a surprise," McEntire said. More preparation should have been in place.

"First of all, evacuating people to the Superdome was, in some people's minds, questionable. It is a wide-span building. The general rule is: You don't put people in that type of structure," McEntire said. He said smaller buildings would be safer.

"If there was a realization the city of New Orleans was going to be flooded", then there should have been a stronger effort to use city buses to move people out to safer locations.

Still, he said, the disaster created by Katrina is unprecedented.

"In a hurricane, normally, the water comes in and goes away. In this case, the water stays and it is difficult to do anything," McEntire said.

LSU's Pine said the scope of the disaster is a challenge. "Just the sheer size of it and complexity of it, it is beyond what anybody has seen -- not just in Louisiana but anywhere."

The current situation is almost exactly what the models have told planners to consider, Pine said.

He also was surprised so many people heeded evacuation orders, but he said planning still needed to assume there would be many who could not or would not get out.

On Monday, Deputy Police Chief Warren Riley estimated that about 10,000 people were still left in New Orleans and many were continuing to refuse to leave despite being surrounded by water.

People who did evacuate probably weren't overly prepared, either, Pine said. "Most grabbed some stuff thinking we would be back in three days. They never expected this."

For the lucky residents of southeastern Louisiana, it will be weeks rather than months before they can return home.

National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield said his federal briefings and even forecasts predicted that flood protection levees probably would be overtopped by flood water, so emergency response agencies had much advance warning of the potential for catastrophe.

Repairs on 17th Street Canal Complete


Link: Repairs on 17th Street Canal Complete.

September 04, 2005

Scenes of Devastation - Newsweek Hurricane Katrina Coverage - MSNBC.com

Link: Scenes of Devastation - Newsweek Hurricane Katrina Coverage - MSNBC.com.

These interactive aerial views of Mississippi and Louisiana's Gulf Coast—including the Superdome and a broken levee in New Orleans—reveal acres of destruction in residential areas and miles of shoreline dramatically altered by Katrina.

September 03, 2005

New Orleans Before & After - Interactive Map

This is a great aerial overview of New Orleans Before and After Katrina in this EXCELLENT interactive map from Reuters/Digital Globe.

September 02, 2005

Could use a little humor...


Image - President Bush in Mobile


President Bush speaks during a briefing with government officials on damage from Hurricane Katrina in Mobile. Bush is touring the Gulf Coast communities battered by Hurricane Katrina, hoping to boost the spirits of increasingly desperate storm victims and rescuers.

September 01, 2005

Breaking News - Check on N.O. Neighborhoods Via Satellite Image

NEW YORK (AP) - The Associated Press is offering Internet access to a satellite image that covers most of New Orleans, detailed enough that viewers can zoom in to check on particular neighborhoods and streets.

The image's resolution is high, at 2.4 meters per pixel. It is posted in a format that allows quick viewing of any area a user zooms in on. Users can quickly see what areas are under water and what structures are still standing.

The initial image was taken Wednesdayday and supplied by the company DigitalGlobe. AP will offer updated satellite images as they become available. The image is available at:


Slidell, La. - Aftermath Image


Advocate staff photo by Mark Saltz
Vincent McCormick, left, Tony Nata, center, and his wife, Edith Nata, navigate debris Wednesday strewn by Hurricane Katrina on U.S. 11 in Slidell after checking on their homes in the Eden Isles area.

August 31, 2005

Levees Fail - N.O. Submerged


Advocate staff photo by Bill Feig
Flood waters surround buildings near Interstate 10 at the U.S. 90 interchange into downtown New Orleans.

We have learned that the levee has failed - It has been breached in two major areas and the city of New Orleans is rapidly filling up with water. Governor Blanco said the situation is deteriorating and  the entire city has  to be evacuated today. Emergency Management is considering putting people in  cruise ships, tent cities, and other floating dormitories. The Interstate 10 bridge over Lake Ponchartrain has been smashed to pieces "stretching out across rising water like puzzle pieces".  Fema Director Bill Lokey said this is the most significant natural disaster to hit the United States. Governor Blanco has asked people to spend today in prayer.

August 30, 2005

Aerial Shots of Flooded New Orleans


Aerial Shot of Flooding in New Orleans


People Sitting on the Rooftop of Flooded Home

Image of Flooded New Orleans


Officials say that 80% of New Orleans is underwater.

Aerial Photo of Superdome Roof Damage


80,000 people flocked to the New Orleans superdome to wait out Katrina. At some point the roof started leaking bringing water in. One storm refugee said being a little wet is not the same as being dead, so he was still glad to be there! Reports have it that the moods are starting to wear thin inside the Superdome tonight. The bathrooms are filthy, trashcans full, it's getting uncomfortable for folks going into Day 2. One family tried to leave and were stopped by Security. Refugees are being denied exit & told that it is still not safe to leave yet. The online version of our local paper has been posting all of the closings - roads, businesses, etc. I chuckled when I saw the headline :New Orleans is closed! It was not meant to be funny - they really mean it. New Orleans is closed - nobody can go in or out. The evacuees here are ready to return but aren't being allowed to.

August 29, 2005

Some Images of Rooftop Rescues



AP Newswire


That big green blob is a powerful Hurricane! It is hovering directly over the city of Baton Rouge (where I live) as I write.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Hurricane Katrina slammed ashore early Monday and charged toward this low-lying city with 145-mph winds and the threat of a catastrophic storm surge. Katrina edged slightly to the east shortly before making landfall near Grand Isle, providing some hope that the worst of the storm's wrath might not be directed at the vulnerable city. Martin Nelson, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center, said the northern part of the eyewall came ashore at about 5 a.m. It was moving northward at 15 mph.

Dangerous Hurricane Katrina Set to Make Landfall


Here is a current look at Katrina as she moves inland. As you can see, she's a little bit more disorganized but still a very powerful storm.

3:30 a.m. ET 8/29/2005
M. Newman and C. Dolce, Meteorologists, The Weather Channel

As of 2 a.m. CDT, Katrina has been downgraded to a strong Category 4 hurricane with top winds of 155 mph. Much of the western half of Katrina has degraded as dry air has been drawn into the cyclone allowing weakening to occur. Although Katrina has been downgraded, it remains a strong and dangerous hurricane.

Latest Satellite Image of Hurricane Katrina

12:09 Am CDT (8/29/05) Here it is. The latest sattelite image as Katrina approaches the Louisiana/Mississippi coast:


August 28, 2005

Hurricane Katrina is on Her Way!


Potentially Catastrophic Category 5 Hurricane Katrina Taking Aim on the LA/MS Coasts ***

Folks...the news continues to get worse for the north-central Gulf Coast as it pertains to Hurricane Katrina.  The storm has once again rapidly intensified early this morning and now has maximum sustained winds of 175 miles per hour, making it a Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale.  The minimum central pressure reported by the Hurricane Hunters on the 9:50 a.m. advisory makes Katrina one for the record books:

From, NOAA Hurricane Tracking Center in Miami, Florida

For more info & stats click here.

The Category 5 storm is expected to come ashore in the Barataria Bay-Grand Isle, Lousiana area about 6 a.m., move over New Orleans, across Lake Pontchartrain, cross to the North Shore around Mandeville and Slidell, La.  and then begin to move northeasterly toward Jackson, Miss.

5:19 PM CDT: Greetings this is Margaret Saizan reporting on Hurricane Katrina from Baton Rouge Louisiana. The city of Baton Rouge is expected to feel the impact of the storm even though we are a bit inland. New Orleans (our neighboring city 70 miles to the northeast) are expected to take a direct hit.

At present skies are overcast, the wind is still and it is very hot.  I wil continue with live updates on the storm as it makes its way inland for as long as we have power. I am not new to hurricanes having lived in this area for 49 years.  Weathered Hilda, Betsy, Camille and Andrew.  The reports are that this storm will be worse than Andrew but maybe not as bad as Camille, which destroyed the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Mood is upbeat in Baton Rouge - most everyone is prepared, but we are gravely worried about our friends, family, and business colleages in New Orleans who couldn't get out. New Orleans is an entrapped soup bowl - a city below sea level completely surrounded by water. The ground there is so marshy that they bury their dead in above ground tombs. Dig a few feet, and the ground fills with water. The entire state has been dreading the day when a Hurricane of this magnitude would make a direct hit to this area- which at present is what NOAA is predicting.   I saw a computer simulation once of what the storm surge would look like in the event of a hurricane of this kind, and it is pretty frightening.

I  have been cooking all day in preparation of power outages which may last up to six weeks. Although the Governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco lives a few doors down from me, and I am hoping that our neighborhood will get power quickly so that Ms. Blanco can have power! I have shrimp thawing and will make a shrimp casserole later. I have baked cakes, brownies, and stocked the pantry with all kinds of great food for a Louisiana Hurricane. In Louisiana we do good food here, no matter what else is going on.

My husband just came in from the hunting camp with a borrowed generator - thank goodness. He's battened everything down in the yard and we're ready to ride out the storm.

My 20 year old daugher who is an LSU student - GO TIGERS! -  just came in with a load of wash. Once the power goes out we won't be able to wash.  My son who is also an LSU student is off at a Hurricane Party. A friend from Shreveport, La. called worried about one of her LSU students who decided to stay in town and ride out the storm. My younger child and a friend are out riding the four-wheeler around the neighborhood.

Right now everything feels pretty normal - literally the calm before the storm.

Stay tuned for updates. For updates via the local Baton Rouge news channels see http://www.2theadvocate.com/, and www.wafb.com.