Some 80 percent of below-sea-level New Orleans, the city of jazz infused with a joy of living, is now reportedly under water — almost turning it into a 21st century version of Atlantis. And there are now predictions that due to rainfall and water back up the flooding in New Orleans over the next few days will actually get WORSE.
Meanwhile, Katria beat Mississippi up with a brutal fury, reportedly gobbling up whole neighborhoods.
How bad is it? An this AP report notes a message from the governor of Louisiana: Get out of New Orleans now:
NEW ORLEANS (AP) – The governor of Louisiana says everyone needs to leave New Orleans due to flooding from Hurricane Katrina. “We’ve sent buses in. We will be either loading them by boat, helicopter, anything that is necessary,” Gov. Kathleen Blanco said. Army engineers struggled without success to plug New Orleans’ breached levees with sandbags, and Blanco said Wednesday the situation was worsening, leaving no choice but to evacuate.
“The challenge is an engineering nightmare,” Blanco said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “The National Guard has been dropping sandbags into it, but it’s like dropping it into a black hole.”
As the waters continued to rise in New Orleans, four Navy ships raced toward the Gulf Coast with drinking water and other emergency supplies, and Red Cross workers from across the country converged on the devastated region. The Red Cross reported it had about 40,000 people in 200 shelters across the area.
How bad is it? So bad that, the Houston Chronicle reports, “(as) water continued to rise in New Orleans today, Texas officials have worked out a plan to bring up to 23,000 refugees from the Superdome to Houston’s Astrodome.
So how bad it is the death and damage? As New Orleans has been declared off limits, the Pentagon is reportedly stepping in, according to the New York Timesf:
Search and rescue teams in helicopters and boats braved the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina today to look for survivors in the battered city of New Orleans, which was isolated and virtually submerged after water broke through two levees on Tuesday, and efforts were being made today to stanch the flooding with sandbags.
The hurricane has wrought incalculable destruction in the city and other parts of Louisiana, leaving thousands of people homeless and stranded. Today, the mayor said it could be months before residents would be allowed to return to their homes.
With bridges washed out, highways converted into canals, and power and communications lines inoperable, government officials ordered everyone still remaining out of the city. Officials prepared for the evacuation of the Superdome, where about 10,000 refugees huddled in increasingly grim conditions as water and food were running out and rising water threatened the generators.
The mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, told reporters late on Tuesday that it would be three to four months before residents would be able to return to their homes, but in Baton Rouge today, officials questioned that timeline.
“We are not willing to make any assessment at this time because things are so volatile,” said a spokesman for the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security, Mark Smith. “The mayor is down on the ground but I still wonder if that figure is valid.”
Late on Tuesday, the Pentagon ordered five Navy ships and eight Navy maritime rescue teams to the Gulf Coast to bolster relief operations. It also planned to fly in Swift boat rescue teams from California.
A Times editorial articulated what many feel watching a spectacle that is seemingly unthinkeable…yet, has been indeed thinkable since New Orleans residents have feared this kind of big storm and the ensuing damage for many years:
Those of us in New York watch the dire pictures from Louisiana with keen memories of the time after Sept. 11, when the rest of the nation made it clear that our city was their city, and that everyone was part of the battle to restore it. New Orleans, too, is one of the places that belongs to every American’s heart – even for people who have never been there.
Right now it looks as if rescuing New Orleans will be a task much more daunting than any city has faced since the San Francisco fire of 1906. It must be a mission for all of us.
Precisely how big is the problem and devastation? As CNN notes, the storm has created several: rising floods, storm damage — and a formidable refugee problem. (Note that “refugee” problem means people who’ve lost their homes, perhaps jobs, etc and entails everything from housing to money to survive to medical care and stress counseling).
The death toll from the storm is estimated to be at least 120, but officials expect it to be much higher.
In Mississippi alone, the death toll was as high as 110, an emergency official told CNN.
Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco told CNN Wednesday morning that officials were facing enormous challenges as they tried to stabilize the situation in New Orleans, where floodwaters continued to rise.
“We’ve got an engineering nightmare trying to fill the breach of the levee where the waters are pouring into the city,” she said.
The floodwaters also overwhelmed pumping stations that would normally keep the city dry. About 80 percent of the city was flooded with water up to 20 feet deep after the two levees collapsed. (Map)
The Army Corps of Engineers is bringing in heavy, twin-rotored Chinook helicopters to drop 3,000-pound sandbags into the gap, officials said.
Blanco said that conditions were deteriorating rapidly at the Louisiana Superdome — the refuge of last resort for thousands of people who could not evacuate the city. (See the video of conditions in the dimmed and damaged stadium — 3:53)
Authorities have taken hundreds of people rescued from roofs and attics to the cavernous stadium, which had overflowing toilets, no water and no power to air condition the sweltering building.
The LA Times paints a picture of a city also beset by looters:
Crowds broke into stores at will, even making raids on shops in the French Quarter, wheeling off stolen goods in shopping carts while overwhelmed police officials pleaded for public compliance with mandatory curfews. At least 50 people were arrested for looting.
“The looting is out of control,” said New Orleans Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson. “We’re using exhausted, scarce police to control looting when they should be used for search and rescue while we still have people on rooftops.”
News reports such as this story are filled with stories telling of the horrors of the storm, destroying whole neighborhoods and families — in a flash:
Katrina’s winds ripped into Mississippi’s coastal communities, flinging boats onto dry land, sending walls of muddy seawater six miles inland and reducing motels, casinos and docks to mounds of debris.
Rescue teams poked through the crumbled red bricks of Biloxi’s Quiet Water Beach apartments, where bodies were still being recovered. The beachfront complex had 100 units, and officials were unsure how many people had taken refuge inside.
Joy Schovest, 55, was in the complex with her boyfriend, Joe Calvin, when the water began rising. They stayed despite a mandatory evacuation order.
“The water got higher and higher,” she said, breaking into tears. “It pushed all the doors open and we swam out. We grabbed a lady and pulled her out the window, and then we swam with the current. It was terrifying. You should have seen the cars floating around us. We had to push them away when we were trying to swim.”
One storm victim who identified himself to television station WKRG in Mobile, Ala., as Harvey Jackson stood shaking in front of the rubble mounds, clinging to his two children. His voice breaking in despair, Jackson said he was searching for his missing wife, Tonette, who had disappeared as his house split in half.
“I tried to hold her tight as I could, but she couldn’t hold on,” Jackson said. “She told me, ‘You can’t hold me. Take care of the kids and the grandkids.’ I’m lost. It’s all I have.”
In Mississippi, CBS News reports, the death toll is at 110 but the big focus is on rescue at this point:
A helicopter view of the devastation over Mississippi revealed people standing on black rooftops, baking in the sunshine while waiting for rescue boats.
“I can only imagine that this is what Hiroshima looked like 60 years ago,” said Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour after touring the destruction by air Tuesday.
One Mississippi county alone said it had suffered at least 100 deaths, and officials are “very, very worried that this is going to go a lot higher,” said Joe Spraggins, civil defense director for Harrison County, home to Biloxi and Gulfport. In neighboring Jackson County, officials said at least 10 deaths were blamed on the storm.
A subtext in some of the coverage seems to be a feeling that this is the of New Orleans as the world has known it — but San Francisco Chronicle writer Spud Hilton argues that isn’t the case:
It’s a town that celebrates living more than any other — a direct result of New Orleans having mourned longer and more often than most.
No other metropolis has the close, almost loving relationship with death that New Orleans has. It is home to renowned cemeteries, deeply haunted neighborhoods, a history of grisly cruelty and its own unique brand of funeral ceremony that grieves with an exhale and exults with the next breath.
The unique vitality that comes from being closely associated with mortality is a large part of what makes a city that is at once laid-back and hard-partying, a town that Herb Caen would have dubbed Baghdad by the Bayou and is as close to San Francisco as you will find in the South… With Katrina, there has been death and there will be suffering, but New Orleans isn’t ready for the slow march to “Closer Walk With Thee.” It probably never will be.
Meanwhile, weblogs by people impacted by the storm continue to record a variety of thoughts, observations and reactions:
—Metroblogging New Orleans shows some humor amid tragedy:
1) I can imagine the looters going into Whole Foods and thinking, “what IS this crap?”
2) Shipping the Superdome folks to the Astrodome. From the world’s largest indoor stadium to the world’s smallest. I’m sure Houston is thrilled. I say that city needs thousands more impoverished folks wandering around. But at least they’ll have a/c.
3) Those bus rides over are going to be tremendous, ain’t they? They were cooped up for two days in the dome, now they’ll be cooped up for SIX HOURS in an even SMALLER area.
4) It would be a wonderful story if they finally plug the holes in the levee with thousands of cans of Dutch Boy paint.
This is so frustrating! Still out of touch with Patrick, though we did speak once yesterday morning. I know he’s fine, but I don’t know how much food he has, what the conditions are there in Baton Rouge, etc. And not knowing if the electricity is on, or when it will come back on— it immobilizes me. I can’t make a decision on when to head back into BR until I know that. I did find out that Wrenn’s school is in session Thursday, but LSU won’t meet again until next Tuesday.
So, what to do?
Also, I am increasingly concerned about my uncle and his wife. They live in Gulfport, and rode out the storm about five or six miles from the beach. They got a static-y call through to us Monday night and all we could make out was that they are okay. But now, water and food will begin to dwindle, and Kim has cystic fibrosis – and can’t be without her medications and such. She does not need to tax her body AT ALL. Where are they? What are they eating? What are they doing?? Being incommunicado is such a helpless feeling.
National coverage of the devastation in New Orleans sucks! Why they don’t put some locals on the story totally escapes me.
How about some aerials of other parts of the city than New Orleans east and the CBD? And, by the way, when they do put up those few rapid aerial pans of neighborhoods, how about some locals to say what the neighborhoods are?
What the national press doesn’t understand is that, notwithwithstanding the devastating floods in New Orleans East, that’s not the whole picture. It may be the most sensationalist, but the one-foot floods elsewhere around the city – hell, that’s like a biennial event. If it isn’t over your hubcaps, and it isn’t in your house, it’s no big deal. In no way do I mean to diminish the horrible tragedy residents in New Orleans East are confronting – horrible! But for the grace of god there go I. I’m just saying, others MAY have something to look forward to, and want news to confirm that.
On that note, does anyone know if any routes are open now, or will open soon, into the city?
I waited out the storm in Pensacola, but even here, the outer bands of Katrina knocked out power to most of the city. There hasn’t been much phone communication, and cell phones are worthless. This is actually the first time I’ve had access to power, a phone line, and a computer.
Amid the traditional move towards national unity in times of natural disaster, the ever-divisive Ann Coulter reportedly used this tragedy to take a swipe at New Yorkers. A listener reportedly didn’t stand for it.
But many Americans aren’t playing politics with this tragedy — they’re too busy trying to help, as the AP notes here:
Americans are pouring in millions of dollars in donations for disaster relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, rescue organizations said Wednesday.
The Red Cross said it had so far raised $21 million, a figure comparable to the response for tsunami victims following the devastation in Asia earlier this year. Nearly $15 million of that has come from individual donations through its Web site, with the rest representing corporate contributions.
“The outpouring of support has been amazing,” said Kara Bunte, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross, which has set up hundreds of shelters for hurricane victims.
“People are now starting to see the images on TV and want to help,” she said.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP? Plenty.
FLOOD AID RELIEF: Many groups and organizations are helping distribute food aid relief. Among them, you can click here to go to the United Jewish Federation in San Diego which has established a Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund to “accept donations for humanitarian aid for members of the Jewish and general communities touched by the hurricane in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and the Western Florida panhandle. Funds will be distributed by UJC on a nonsectarian basis.”
Visit InstaPundit HERE for a LONG LIST of groups that are helping out — and can use your help.
Due to severe posting problems here our update may be spotty today.
See Bayou Buzz for a good summary update of events.
Michelle Malkin has a great, comprehensive page of updated links to news and blog posts.
And believe it or not, amid the tragedy there are Katrina scams.