Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Turning The Corner??

Before I begin, I want to again thank everyone for their support. I also want to mention that, yeah, I've heard the reports that everyone knows when I've been drinking because my spelling suffers... Well here we go.

Exploratory mission through Uptown, Mid-City, Esplanade and the Lakefront. You can actually drive now from the river to the lake in Orleans Parish. The water is receeding rapidly. Uptown is completely dry. Mid-City is mostly dry. Lakeview is under water still. The Esplanade area up to Broad St. is dry.

My biggest takeaway from today's reconnaisance is how many houses actually have not gotten water in them - including in Mid-City. Trust me, there is plenty of water to go around, for example a large area between Freret and Claiborne had water in homes. But there were some areas where I was completely blown away by what appears to be non-inundated homes.

There is a new issue though -- I spoke with an engineer today and he explained that part of the reason that the water has dropped so rapidly, is that at least a few feet of it has been absorbed by the Earth. The problem with this, as Lakeview residents already know, is that this causes the ground to buckle, expand and then after it dries out... to retract. Expect some homes to be off kilter when you return.

Not only can you determine flood levels by waterlines, you can also read this by grass and gardens. Any lawns, gardens, neutral grounds, whatever that were covered by water are now a dark hay brown and completely dead. There is also a inch of skanky muck and silt over everything - especially the closer you get to the lake. This is a sidewalk in the picture on the left.

I drove Claiborne, Tulane, Jeff Davis, Carrollton, Canal St., Wisner, Esplanade, Robert E. Lee, Lakeshore Dr., City Park, etc.

Speaking of City Park... it is really messed up. The park is mostly under water and the world's largest collection of live oak trees has lost plenty. Our trees are a big concern to me. In areas where there was standing water, all the trees are beginning to brown in their extremes. I'm not a tree doc - so I don't know if this means imminent death or is a temporary thing.

Throughout all of my travels in the city, I still have seen NO evidence of private residences having been looted and I would call the businesses that have been looted - minor. There are reports of a large amount of automobile thefts, although I attribute this mainly to individuals trying to flee the city and floodwaters. I am not making an excuse for them in any way, but I guarantee this explanation will make up for a large percentage of these stolen vehicles.

The military presence in all of these areas is massive. I had to drive through at least five checkpoints today showing ID and explaining myself. The traffic in these areas is very light, with the only exceptions military or government agencys.

I am aware that there is a growing outcry regarding rumours of soldiers systematically breaking down doors in order to check for survivors or the dead -- In the areas I was in, this simply is NOT true. Troops are systematically going house by house, but they are banging on the doors and yelling out and then leaving the mow famous markings ON THE SIDEWALKS in front of the homes. Moreover, even if they were breaking down the doors -- there is NO ONE left in the city to loot anything.

I have seen a fair amount of evidence of fire damage, though they may be getting a handle on this issue. To the left is Jesuit High School in Mid-City.

I am concerned now more than ever, especially as I realize that many neighborhoods in New Orleans will be salvageable, that the government will try and come in and bulldoze entire swaths of historic neighborhoods.


Also, with the incredible outcry against beaureacratic red tape, we must be wary of the government bypassing the rules and guidelines of the National Historic Registry and Districts. There are plenty of homes and structures that indeed must come down, but this has to be done surgically and thoughtfully. New Orleanians under the guidance of preservationists must be in charge of this upcoming phase of the rebuilding... I don't know who this goofball developer is that I keep hearing about out of New York, talking about how he wants to come down here and rebuild the city so that it looks like Times Square with all the jumbotrons and fancy shiny lights... Sir, thank you for your interest in helping us, but have you ever been to New Orleans?

Every day I am feeling that New Orleans is going to come back, better and quicker than anyone may realize. In fact, their are large portions of the city which could realistically be repopulated in two weeks.

Until next time...

Below: Intersection of Magazine and Leake.

Below is a military base at Audubon Park/Zoo

Below: Canal St. in Mid-City

Below: Cowboy's House in Mid-City

Below: Tulane Ave.

Below: Another shot of Tulane Ave.

One last comment -- I heard on the news tonight that they are taking all of the downed trees to a landfill to either be burned or chipped... Come on people, we have to think outside of the box here. Remember how we dispose of our Christmas Trees? The parishes take them and use them to rebuild the marshes... Wouldn't this be a great way to discard of all that organic debris and at the same time help to restore some of the marshes?? THINK GOVERNMENT.


Blogger Tracey Rose said...

I hear the nasty, black Metairie goo stinks really bad. Stay out of it! :)

Thank you again for the pictures. It's interesting to see places of familiarity; and we don't really get much of that on CNN. You rock.

11:13 AM, September 14, 2005  
Anonymous Glenn said...

First of all, I have been in awe of your extensive coverage and congratulate you on your efforts - not only to report, but to assist others as well.

That said, I am perplexed at your defiant stance that New Orleans can somehow be restored to its former grandeur. Your own photographs actually work against your arguments.

What is really at issue is whether the spirit of the citizens of New Orleans will survive. A majority of survivors I've spoken with in Houston have said they will not return. If that holds true, New Orleans will indeed become a Venice of the Gulf Coast. Very likely smaller, but perhaps just as spirited. But never the same.

(For sake of disclosure, I'm a native of Jefferson Parish)

1:03 PM, September 14, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your extensive coverage of what is really going on.
You are right to be concerned about a developer coming in and screwing up New Orleans. I grew up in Honolulu in the 60's and moved to CA in the 80's due to how much like Metropolis it had become (complete with evil villians). I hate what all the developers did there. New Orleans is unique and should stay that way (with more safety checks on the waters surrounding it, though)!
Tracey Rose is right - you rock!

1:35 PM, September 14, 2005  
Blogger pulpfaction said...

This is excellent food for thought.

I was wondering, from where you sit what would you say the biggest need from individuals is at this point? I've heard many lament on the fact that aid from the Big Guys (red cross, fema, salvation army,) is being slow to arrive and that in fact it's the proactive citizens that are capable of being the most help. As someone willing and able to donate time, energy, and resources what would you suggest I do?

I will likely be headed back that way to do some guerilla journalism of my own within the next two weeks, but I want to be more useful than putting some useful stories out there.

2:25 PM, September 14, 2005  
Blogger TAG said...

Glenn, I understand the confusion out there. I don't think there is any really good way to convey the two realities down here... One of total destruction and one of only a big wind coming through the city. The tipping point for me IS the spirit and love for the city that New Orleanians have.

I'm even torn down the middle... in the mornings I hopelessly optimistic, the evenings... I'm not so. It's a battle, a war that each of us are going through. That our city is going through.

6:43 AM, September 15, 2005  
Blogger Tracey Rose said...

Today, I described NOLA to someone like this: "where it flooded, it's REALLY REALLY bad, stinky, polluted, destroyed, heartbreaking, etc.

But where it didn't flood (like River Ridge and Harahan), it's not so bad"

That's my take from eyewitness accounts from friends and family from 3 parishes. The hope for New Orleans lies with those who didn't lose everything; and yes, there are those out there.

3:32 PM, September 15, 2005  

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