We’ve been seeing images all day of U.S. Coast Guard helos rescuing victims on rooftops; but to where? The swamped Superdome? Hopefully this will answer the questions as to where next, as getting out of the city by land is virtually impossible.
While it’s doubtful — OK, quite unbelievable, really — that the Navy will be able to fix up New Orleans, it’s nice to see them mobilize. CNN is reporting that a fairly large relief effort is underway, with ships steaming from Baltimore and Norfolk. On the list are the USS Bataan (reported earlier), its sister ship the USS Iwo Jima, and the USNS Comfort, the Navy’s floating hospital, complete with NNMC/Bethesda Naval Hospital crew.
125,000 National Guardsmen have been activated in 19 states, 550 Coast Guard reservists are being recalled, and the Air Force is bringing in a C-5 Galaxy and a C-17 Globemaster III, along with the ubiquitous UH-60 Blackhawks. (So I guess it’s not just the Navy. :) ) This represents a significant effort, and I’m quite happy to see the military used for humanitarian efforts as well as defense.
(U.S. Navy Civilian in Washington D.C.)
There’s nothing like having your own mayor spreading misinformation (possibly because he’s pissed off — see here, 8:04 PM).
Not surprisingly, the area where the devastating 17th Street Canal levee breach began is underwater.
If Tulane has trouble opening its doors in the near future, that could lead to a football team playing without a university. That may be a first, and brings to mind all sorts of issues regarding not only rescheduling, but academic progress.
“That’s the type of situation that doesn’t come up very often, thankfully,” NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson said Tuesday. “We’d certainly work with one of our members to be as flexible as possible. It will really depend on what transpires at Tulane.” …
[Now that the Sept. 11 game between at Southern Mississippi has been postponed,] Tulane’s next scheduled football game is Sept. 17 in the Superdome against Mississippi State.
Banowsky said he was aware of damage to the Superdome plus the prospect of a continuing evacuation of New Orleans, but added it would be premature to speculate whether the Green Wave’s entire season is in jeopardy or at the least the team might play all of its games on the road. …
“We’re just trying to figure it all out right now,” he said. “This is obviously a terrible catastrophe for everyone and we will just adjust to the situation as it develops.”
Just when things seemed bad enough . . .
CNN reports of looting, carjackings and shootings near the hurricane shelter.
(by Guestblogger Em)
UPDATE BY BRENDAN: The looting is proving extremely difficult to control, according to NOLA. “People are leaving the Superdome to go to Canal Street to loot,â€šÃ„Ã¹ said New Orleans City Council President Oliver Thomas. â€šÃ„ÃºSome people broke into drug stores and stole the drugs off the shelves. It is looting times five. I’m telling you, it’s like Sodom and Gomorrah.â€šÃ„Ã¹
UPDATE BY EM: NOLA reports, at 11:45pm, that the looters are trying to break into the children’s hospital.
Late Tuesday, Gov. Blanco spokeswoman Denise Bottcher described a disturbing scene unfolding in uptown New Orleans, where looters were trying to break into Children’s Hospital.
Bottcher said the director of the hospital fears for the safety of the staff and the 100 kids inside the hospital. The director said the hospital is locked, but that the looters were trying to break in and had gathered outside the facility.
The director has sought help from the police, but, due to rising flood waters, police have not been able to respond.
Bottcher said Blanco has been told of the situation and has informed the National Guard. However, Bottcher said, the National Guard has also been unable to respond.
Very bad news from WWL-TV:
6:41 P.M. - Efforts to stop the levee break at the 17th Street Canal have ended unsuccessfully and the water is expected to soon overwhelm the pumps in that area, allowing water to pour into the east bank of Metairie and Orleans to an expected height of 12-15 feet.
Essentially, everything that is below sea level in New Orleans will be submerged. The Gulf of Mexico is slowly but surely reclaiming the Crescent City.
UPDATE: According to commenter tagryn:
WWL just reported the mayor said (again) get out of town if you possibly can, but if not, get up on your roof because the water is going to keep rising for the next half-day or so until it reaches the level of the lake, at least on the east bank.
Earlier, city officials said the city was not “filling up like a bowl,” but the mayor said that’s exactly what’s happening now that the 17th St. pump is out.
It seems like they’re going to have to wait until the water level evens out until attempting to fix the levee breach again, surreal as that seems.
And then this: “7:59 P.M. - Mayor Nagin: Pumps at 17th street canal has failed and water will continue pouring into the city. Nine feet of water is expected on St. Charles Avenue that will be nine feet high. Water is expected to spread throughout the east bank of Orleans and possibly Jefferson Parish.”
Also, it seems the reason the sandbag efforts “ended unsuccessfully” is because the helicopters that we supposed to deliver the sandbags never showed up. Awesome.
Have the floodwaters advanced as far as they’re going to? Peter Evans says yes: “Looks like near the main levee breach the water is beginning to flow back into the canal, due to the level equalizing. They just said on WWL that flooding from breaches don’t seem to be that big a problem now as the flood is levelling and flowing back into the source rivers, which have fallen in flood levels themselves. But they added that repair was still a very high priority.”
He adds, however, that “it really looks a lot worse than twelve hours ago, with this latest footage.”
And Katy writes, “A truly scary thought that was mentioned on the news earlier involves floodwaters coming down the Mississippi from the torrential rains Katrina is creating farther north. Hope that doesn’t happen.”
P.S. Regarding Katy’s question about what’s happening with Tulane, I have no idea. She says the president of the university “said something about extensive damage,” which is more than I’d heard. Does anyone else have any info about Tulane?
Mike again. The WWL TV stream reports that the river is now back into normal range of height, and thus is no longer filling the city. The flood waters continue to rise, but it’s not the river anymore, but the lake. While the lake is a large basin of water, it’s still a big deal to remove the river as a source of flooding–the lake is unlikely to gain more water than it already has, but the river is by definition moving water, and thus any flooding from it won’t slow substantially as the water enters, as the source isn’t depleted by the flow.
A prison break? A hostage situation? Or just the Fog of Katrina?
There are bagpipers on the ND quad. Bwuzuh?
James Varney of the Times-Picayune asks perhaps the most wrenching question of all: “Will New Orleans survive?” Excerpt:
On the southern fringe of New Orleans’ City Park there is a live oak with a branch that dips low, goes briefly underground, and comes up the other side still thriving.
It’s ancient and gnarled, this tree, and filtered sunglight slants through its crown at dusk. It’s a sublime thing.
When we talk about these majestic items that dot New Orleans’ landscape we say, “is,” but we may mean, “was.” The reports are still scattered, the news from the ground still incomplete, but Hurricane Katrina may have annihilated New Orleans.
It looks bad to everyone. “It’s impossible for us to say how many structures can be salvaged,” Gov. Kathleen Blanco said late Tuesday. But can the birthplace of jazz truly be wiped from the face of the earth? …
Fortunately - and how odd that word sounds in association with New Orleans today - the French Quarter was still mostly dry, largely intact, late Tuesday. In another Big Easy quirk, the impossibly charming neighborhood Uptown, which is hard against the Mississippi River, is one of the highest spots in the city. …
Other areas, too, may weather the storm. Certainly the fishing spots in the bayous of eastern New Orleans will remain; the fate of the gorgeous trellis of live oak branches arching over St. Charles Avenue is less certain.
Those 19th century trees are one symbol of New Orleans. A 20th century symbol, William Faulkner, was first published in The Times-Picayune while he was living in the city and writing his first novel. He called the city, “a courtesan whose hold is strong upon the mature, and to whose charm the young must respond.”
Now, in the 21st century, the courtesan cries for help. The response from young and old will decide if she lives or dies.
Perhaps this is a stupid thought, something that only a Connecticut Yankee who has spent exactly one day in New Orleans in his entire life would say, but it seems to me that as long as the French Quarter still stands, New Orleans will survive.
As various commenters have been noting, Governor Kathleen Blanco “says the thousands of New Orleans residents who are huddled in the Superdome and other rescue centers will have to be evacuated,” according to WDSU.
Yet another Lord of the Rings movie quote comes unbidden to my mind: “By order of the king, this city must empty!” Of course, the mayor issued that same order almost 60 hours ago (at which time the LOTR analogy would have worked much better, with the Superdome filling the role of Helm’s Deep, but oh well). This time, though, the city really has to empty. It is, for the moment, a cesspool of toxic sludge not suitable for habitation.
Alas, putting Governor Blanco’s words into action will be considerably harder than simply saying them.
Prior to Katrina’s landfall, I posted something on the blog pondering how the New Orleans Times-Picayune would weather the catastrophe. As a journalism grad and someone who still has a lot of respect for the institution of the daily newspaper, I naturally had to wonder. Well, here are two posts on the T-P’s breaking news blog that offer some insight into just what they are doing:
For Times-Picayune employees
Times-Picayune staffers: We are working at the Houma Courier for a few days. If you have news, call 985-850-1182. We plan to set up a longer term newsroom in Baton Rouge. Call the Advocate to find out where we are. …
To readers of The Times-Picayune
The Times-Picayune was forced to evacuate our Howard Avenue newsroom Tuesday. We are setting up bureaus in Houma and in Baton Rouge to continue to provide coverage of this disaster. We will continue to publish the newspaper each day without interruption. We will make it available in PDF form on nola.com each morning around midnight. Reporters and photographers are filing a continuous stream of reports on nola.com.
I can easily imagine how important it is to those editors and reporters to carry on, even — nay, especially — with their city in ruins. Back when I was an editor at the Daily Trojan, I know I would been more than willing, if some sort of disaster struck USC, to go through hell or high water (er, no pun intended) to make sure that we got a paper out the next day. When L.A. Times editor (and one of my journalism profs) Aaron Curtiss told us about the enormous sense of pride he felt in getting a newspaper on people’s doorsteps the day after the Northridge earthquake (despite the fact that the Times’s main printing press was busted in the quake), I knew exactly what he was talking about.
I imagine it must be somewhat galling for some of the Times-Picayune staffers to find themselves unable to produce a physical paper — but then, where would they deliver it? At least they can publish a full-on, PDF-formatted newspaper on the Internet, and that’s a helluva lot better than nothing.
Speaking of which, you know they’ll win Pulitzer Prizes for their coverage, so long as it’s remotely decent. The major daily newspaper of a disaster-stricken city always has the inside track.
The Notre Dame Observer has an article about Domers with New Orleans ties and their fears for their homes, families and friends.
Also… I missed Cyberlaw this morning because I had an OCI interview, but I am told that Professor Amy Barrett mentioned that she is a New Orleans native and most of her family still lives there. Her parents and most of her siblings evacuated to Baton Rouge on Sunday, but she has been unable to contact one of her sisters, a nurse, who had to stay behind. So, please keep the Barretts in your prayers. (Hat tip: Kate Leahy.)
It strikes me that, what 9/11 reminded us about firefighters, Katrina is reminding us about medical personnel. Like firefighters racing into a burning building to rescue people and save lives, doctors and nurses stayed behind in a city they knew was going to drown and crumble, at very serious risk to their own well-being, in order to tend to those who most desperately need tending to. That’s downright heroic.
The Washington Post offers a useful map of the elevations in central New Orleans:
Looks like the French Quarter is actually on relatively high ground.
The article is also a pretty good summary of what’s going on with the levees.