Monday, 14 November 2011

Hurricane Katrina

Superdome - sheltered thousands of Katrina victims in spite of suffering some damage also

A reconstruction in progress - note the stilts - most homes now are building in this manner.  One house appeared to be sitting on 10' pillars!

A completed restoration.  Our driver explained that a constant challenge in NO is the shoring up of homes every 5 years or so - including the shoring up of sidewalks and lawns - the ground is very unstable - alluvial deposits - shifting of structures is a given!

This wide boulevard served as a transfer station in the immediate days after Katrina once the mop up commenced.  They had to have a process to dispose of large items - cars, trucks, fridges, freezers etc.  These items would be deposited in designated spots along this Blvd. to be appropriate disposed of by the authorities.

Our Guide pointed out the high water mark on this One Way sign!  Unimaginable!

Not the best picture due to the shadow through the bus window, but it shows the complex pump systems around the outflow canal to control water surges in future.  A core of Engineers worked diligently to improve these systems during the reconstruction!

With the car in the foreground - a better idea of the massiveness of the control pump system!

One of the outflow canals where a barrier wall was breached - note the lighter colored section.  The barrier walls are being installed in a manner that should strengthen their ability to withstand water surges our Guide explained.

Trying to show how the ground is sloping away and down from the canal barrier wall and Levee into a community that was flooded.

Another canal where during reconstruction they created a bit of an S curve to further enhance the ability to buffer water surges!

Part of a devastated and abandoned strip mall.  We passed many of these including abandoned schools, bigger shopping malls. 

Part of the fareway of a golf course (not yet in use).  The city park system had 3 or 4 golf courses - one of which has only just re-opened apparently.  The golf course revenue helped support other recreational areas in the city - parks and playgrounds etc.  So the double whammy - no golfing, no $$ to support other recreational activities - a vicious  circle!

A 400 year old oak tree in the city park.  Not the best picture through the bus window - but wanted to show the massiveness of these stately trees.  The metal posts are supporting the massive branches!

Spanish Moss dripping from the majestic oaks in City Park

Sculptures in City Park

More Sculptures!

And More

I like this one!

Couldn't resist this one!

Cardinal in City Park

Restoring some beauty in City Park

More Spanish Moss

This was a home pre Katrina - now devastated and abandoned.  There were many of these along our tour.  Our Guide explained that the city has a major clean up problem - technically the owners should be addressing some of this and taking responsibility with funding support - but many of these property owners have literally vanished - moved to other parts of the country etc.

This Sculpture by a local artist stands in the community where he lived.  This artists home and studio was looted in the aftermath of Katrina.  The artist did leave the city and has since died - this is to honor him and his work.  Interesting sculpture - a house on stilts!

A rebuilt apartment complex in an outlying area.  Our Guide explained that they are having a problem attracting people back to these districts - a lot of infrastructure to meet their needs has not yet been put in place - shopping malls, schools and hospitals.  A real catch 22!

Another abandoned structure!

Lowes has not re-opened.  Part of the problem in the general corporate troubles added to the devastation of Katrina our Guide explained!

The skeletal remains of a devastated and abandoned amusement park.  This mult million $ park had only just opened and been in operation for one year when Katrina struck!

Shows how the major roadways are elevated above the city.

View from the South East end of NO and the 9th Ward that was heavily hit by the 32' surge wave!

Reconstruction in progress

Unlike Lowes, Home Depot is thriving with outlets all over the city - a booming business supporting the reconstruction efforts - that will go on for years yet to come!  There  were many examples of corporate support during the crisis - Walmart supplied many semis' that brought much needed ice water and food to the victims, Harrahs Casino of course closed - but continued to pay a full salary and benefits to all its laid off employees for 4 months (until they reopened) and dedicated space as a command center for the First Responders!

A 9th Ward property where a home once stood - and an abandoned one in the background.  Our Guide explained that there were funding support schemes in place but not appropriate checks and controls - and some people took these support payments and fled the city - not following through on dealing with their properties for which the funds were intended!

And beside devastated and abandoned properties - we'd see hopeful efforts like this to rebuild

Fats Domino Home - Fats was rescued from his roof during Katrina - the home still needs to be rebuilt inside.  Apparently "de molding" businesses are thriving.  Where it is possible they totally gut the homes and rebuild the interior.  We are amazed that they can restore some of these homes.  We would have thought they'd all be condemned - although many were as evidences by the vacant slabs where a home once  stood.

A restored home beside a condemned home!

Another work in progress!

Devastating!  And we are 6 years after the tragedy!

The remains of a site where a home once stood!

Foundations to support reconstruction have been established by performers like Brad Pitt and Bon Jovi.  Several of these homes - with some interesting architectural design were supported by these foundations!  We loved them - but note the stilts are in place on all.

We also noticed the inclusion of solar panels on a lot of homes.  The area was without power for weeks leading into months I think our Guide said.  Katrina struck during the hottest and highest humidity time of the year!

Innovative - elevated home - incorporating a carport underneath.  Even at our RV Park - their office was elevated in this manner with lots of storage space etc underneath.  Mind you we were parked near a canal leading into Lake Pontchartrain - so this area would have been hard hit during Katrina.  The RV Park was only 3 1/2 years old - built since Katina.  Gave us a funny feeling to be parked in such a vulnerable spot.  We kept an eye on the weather!

A higher base of pillars for this home!

Eerie!  Steps into a home that is no longer there!

The canal barrier wall that was breached by a barge that ended up sitting beside the blue home in the center - in the 9th Ward.

The First Responders would go into each property and label the front wall with what they determined to be the status of the home.  These codes were written in a clockwise format.  By City Ordinance, First Responders were required to live in their community - so these people lost everything too.  Too support them in the role to address the crisis, they brought in cruise ships to serve as homes for the First Responders and their families.

Another condemned property!  Our Guide said that apart from losses through death, the city's population is about 120,000 less than it was pre Katrina!
We took a 3 hour Katrina tour while in New Orleans - and what an incredible tour it was - very sombre as our bus driver/tour guide narrated the horrific events of that disaster that occurred 6 years ago on August 29, 2005.  And when I say narrated - I mean narrated - our guide talked steady for 3 hours while driving through the various sections of the city that were devastated - this has to be cathartic for him.  He did pause for a break at City Park - and I am sure he needed the break too.  We were able to stroll around the park where they have installed some interesting artwork - sculptures etc through the generosity of a donor.  He said they are just now getting around to restoring the aesthetic things that suffered devastation during the storm and flood - earlier efforts of restoration had to focus on the necessities - homes and infrastructure.  Their many beautiful old oak trees for the most part survived, but the Magnolias took a hit from standing in the brackish sea water.  Now that we've been to NOLA we can more clearly understand their geography and how things played out.  As we left Mississippi and dropped down into LA - the countryside dramatically changed - all of a sudden we were driving on an elevated interstate (I 10) (west approach to NO) that went through Bayou's, swamps and marshes - water everywhere.  There is a 24 mile long causeway the crosses over Lake Pontchartrain (not really a Lake as Lakes are bounded by land - and Pontchartrain is not - so is really a Bay off the Gulf of Mexico) from the North into NO (this was breached during Katrina - and has now been rebuilt - higher - in case a similar storm ever strikes again), and then there is an Eastern access - which is likely similar to the I 10 access - through Bayou's, swamps and marshes.  The South is a series of more Bayou;s, marshes and swamps plus the Mississippi River and the Gulf.  NO is 2' to  14' below sea level - the highest part being the French Quarter - which was the only section spared the flood waters during Katrina (only about 6" of water seeped into the streets of the 1/4) - the rest of the city had between 2' to 11' of water.  The counter clockwise winds of Katrina sucked the water off of Pontchartrain into the outflow canals - and the surge of water was too great and the barrier walls were breached in places - the ground Levees held - but the barrier walls did not.  Then the water rushed into the lower areas and was held in there by the walls and Levees that were meant to protect the communities - like one big toxic bathtub!  The pictures will explain it a little better.

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