Updated  Monday, June 02, 2014

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Hurricane Katrina - 2005 and 2006

Enough time has passed that I can relate what happened as I spent 15 months after Hurricane Katrina in the disaster area.

Above is a photo of New Orleans, only a small part of the 250 mile swath of Katrina

Hurricane Katrina. 


Skip To Chapter 1

Skip To Chapter 2 Responses

Skip To Chapter 3 My letter

Skip To Chapter 4 Kids

Skip To Chapter 5 Up a tree

Skip To Chapter 6 Food

Skip To Chapter 7 Money in pocket

Skip To Chapter 8 Hole in roof

Skip To Chapter 9 Dale and Death

Skip To Chapter 10 Mrs Gold

Skip To Chapter 11 Mother, flag, dog

Skip To Chapter 12 Doctor's wife



Chapter One. 


It was a bad one.

I had decided to write a story about my experience after Katrina, and provide an update 10 years later. I wanted to tell people's stories, both of what they went through, and what happened during the past ten years, and so last November (2013) I wrote a letter to 100 of the people I had met after the storm. I asked if they would share with me their experiences, the experiences that they had told me about - how they had fared during and after the storm. All the crazy stories of survival through the worst of times. And as 2015 (the ten year anniversary) is fast approaching, tell how they had survived and grown, or failed, whatever was the case.

I sent the 100 letters out on November 13, 14, and 15. I received back half of the letters - "Not Deliverable As Addressed", "No Such Number", "No Mail Receptacle", "Forward Time Expired". The other half did not reply, nothing, no one wanted to participate. I guess I should not have been surprised, I had read about a guy who was there at the stadium. After five years he wanted to get together with those who had survived the storm in the stadium. He sent out ads, newspaper articles, everything to invite any of the 30,000 people who were there to come to the stadium on the 5th anniversary. He stood outside the stadium in the rain, alone. No one came.

I did receive one phone call. From a lady who was interested in the book. She had left her house well before the hurricane. She owned three houses and so they went to their house in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Not much of a story there! She then sold the home that was destroyed, it was on 12 acres of land, and thus she was not out much.

One other response I got this 8 years later was from Domino's.

A few weeks after getting to the devastated area, I had my first opportunity to go to downtown New Orleans. That was interesting. There were no stores, hotels, or gas stations within less than a four hour drive, so my drive was a long one. I started at 5 AM. By the time I got there I was hungry and ate the lunch I had packed. The city was interesting. There were no civilians visible there. The only people around were hundreds of firemen and many, many, many military. All of the firemen and the military had their own food, but I did not. I was walking around exploring, but I was too afraid to take photos of the military, the military presence was very intimidating! 

As I walked around, about noon, I saw a trailer marked Domino's! 

They had a line of firemen in front of it. Also on the curb side was a sign indicating that the pizza was free, but also asking for you to show a badge. I had no badge. I had a letter from the City saying I had a right to be there, but no badge. I asked if I could have some pizza but was told no, but another black away around the corner was a Salvation Army trailer where I could eat!

I was very impressed to find Domino's there so soon, feeding the troops! I had contacted Domino's about the book I had hoped to write and got this reply:

John I heard from Tim McIntyre at DPZ you are writing a book about Katrina 10 Years later.

We own 135 stores in MS/LA/AL and on August 29, 2005 hurricane Katrina closed 86 of our stores. It took us 2 weeks to determine 16 were wiped out or flooded. It also took us 10 days to confirm all 3,000 of our Team Members were alive; however over 400 lost their homes/flooded out or their parents lost their homes. Only 1,700 returned to work. Further my wife, 5 children and wife's parents stayed in our Long Beach, MS. home. We were fortunate to be a 1/2 mile from the storm surge.

The story of our recovery is a miracle. We opened stores within 72 hours without power or water. We donated pizzas to emergency workers and survivors. I could go on and on about the 36,000 pizzas donated and volunteer efforts of people from around the world. Let me know if I can help. We have pictures, books, videos and stories.

Have a great day-- Glenn Mueller
Franchise Owner
RPM Pizza, LLC

>>>I was impressed, I called Glenn and we discussed getting his stuff together by March 2014 when I planned to go there (that trip was since cancelled as no one wanted to meet with me). Then a short while ago I got the following email:

April 2014
John I hope you are well. Did you get my info and was it helpful? Also you mentioned you would be calling this spring so I am reaching out to see if you would like to meet or discuss further our stories. We did our own company book with 100’s of pictures taken before, during and after the storm. We also helped in the filming of the movie Cat 5 which was filmed here in Gulfport last June. In fact my daughter had a small role. Burt Reynolds is in the movie also and the movie references Katrina, etc. It is a fictitious story about a “perfect” storm that is worse than Katrina. The movie has been released internationally.

Let me know your thoughts--
Thanks Glenn Mueller
RPM Pizza/Domino’s Pizza

>>>I had not received anything from him and so was mystified. Then I got this email on the same day:

Hi John,
I tried to call you at [my cell phone number but there was no record of the call] and was unable to get through, please give me a call at XXX-XXX-XXXX when you can to address some questions we had on who you are licensed through and what type of print this will be credited to. I believe we sent you an email back in November with pictures and our press release on RPM Pizza after Katrina but can resend! [none of which was received]

Thank you!
Meaghan Farrell
Assistant to Glenn Mueller, Sr.
RPM Pizza, LLC.

>>>> Obviously I was unimpressed, but as the project was not going through, I did not care.

I still am impressed with what Domino's did, and has continued to do:



Below is the letter I sent out to so many people but got no replies:

Dear xxx,

My name is John Herrick, I spent 18 months after Katrina in the devastation that Katrina left behind. I am attempting to create a book called the 10th Anniversary of Katrina. I hope to honor our shared history and successes, and invite you to help shape what happens in the book. One of the things that makes our communities great is the way we support each other, tackle daunting challenges together, and thus I wish to bring ever-more people into the fore in this book, displaying our determination and how we met the challenges!

I had taken photographs of your property soon after Katrina hit and will be incorporating them into my book. What I am hoping for (if you can) is for you to provide me with photos of “before” the hurricane. I hope to be in your area in February to take photos of the 10 years after status – to document what you have accomplished! Thus on one page we can have the before, after, and ten years later. I hope that you would give me the honor of allowing me to use these photos in the book.

I also hope to have stories of what you went through, how you coped during the ravages of the storm, where you went, how you lived when you were absent, and how you bounced back, or please relate what has kept you from returning to what you had. I hope to tabulate more personal stories - I interviewed 200 people after the storm and wish to add your experiences too.

I hope this finds you well and able to assist in this worthwhile project. You can call me at XXX-XXX-XXXX, fax me at X, email me at X, or write to me at X. I would love to hear from you and to include anything you can provide. This work belongs to you, to me, and to all of us and I hope to display to the world what we can do.

All the best,

John Herrick

Unfortunately the letter was not taken seriously or otherwise and ignored.

One page 4. 

23 kids, FEMA

Twenty three kids decided to have a Hurricane Party. They were in a housing complex that had been built four years earlier in accordance with all the rules.

On April 1, 1979, President Jimmy Carter signed the executive order that created the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). For years when disasters hit people would apply to the Federal Government for help, and they would get it. In an area which flooded by a river for example, Sam would get flooded out. The Federal Government would send money, Sam would rebuild. Five years later Sam would get flooded out again. The Federal Government would send money, Sam would rebuild. Five years later Sam would get flooded out another time. The Federal Government would send money, Sam would rebuild. 
Someone in Washington decided enough was enough. FEMA was directed to make up maps where flooding occurred and make up rules as to how people were to be allowed to rebuild. Sam would have to rebuild in such a manner that he would not have to come back every time it rained.

My coworkers at Camp Dresser and McKee (CDM, an engineering firm) in 1980 were making up such maps. I was the President of the Board of Adjustment and Appeal in Oldsmar, Florida. We received the maps and, as people realized the impact on their property, they would come to us and ask for relief. One case was a line on the map that indicated that the applicant's house had to be raised 3 feet higher than his neighbor 12 feet away. We discussed it with CDM, and if appropriate, made adjustments. 
FEMA did not administer the rules (such as houses had to meet the new elevations shown on the maps), the local cities did that. After a disaster, if structures had been damaged 50% or more, the new construction had to meet the flood elevations or the cheap insurance offered by the Feds would not be available. The FEMA flood insurance rates were less than half what commercial insurance rates were in most cases, and banks required flood insurance where the FEMA maps showed flooding was probable.

When I was City Engineer for Tarpon Springs, people would come in with building plans wanting to build 3 to 5 feet below the FEMA map elevations. I refused to sign off on those permits. The City Manager at the time and the Building Official were not as strict. Many homes were being built in violation of FEMA rules. A few years after I left the City, FEMA became aware of the violations and dropped all of Tarpon Springs from the program. Ouch. The City made a lot of changes and were able to get back into the program.

On came Hurricane Katrina. Katrina exceeded the impact any flood map anticipated. CDM had modeled the impact of a storm of an intensity that would have had a 1% chance of happening any given year (known as a 100 year storm). Katrina far exceeded that. Homes that were below the FEMA map elevations as well as many houses at or above the elevations were destroyed. FEMA came along and created "Advisory" maps soon after Katrina, these showing a much higher elevation structures were to be built at.

Katrina hit August 29, 2005. Four days later I was in the disaster area. My first task was to inspect a housing complex that had been built in 2001.

It was 65 miles from New Orleans. All the codes and rules had been followed. The structures exceeded the FEMA flood elevations. The structures had steel bars embedded in the floor slab running up to the roofs to hold the roof on in case of hurricane winds. One structure that had four homes down and four homes upstairs was at elevation 20, about 10 feet higher then what was required. It also was a quarter of a mile from the Gulf of Mexico. This is the home the 23 kids decided to have the party at. All the rest of the 600 plus inhabitants of the complex had evacuated. The kids elected to stay, they were well away from where the hurricane was to hit they thought, why not have a big party. 

At 5 AM on the 29th, after a night of partying, I suspect all the kids were asleep. The winds picked up. By 6 AM the winds had reached hurricane strength and I suspect they still were asleep in that sturdy house. 7 AM the winds were at Category 2 strength, really whipping. No one, if they were awake, would have wanted to go out in the 100 mph wind. 9 AM, the wind was up to 120 mph and looking out the windows (if the windows were intact) they would have seen water covering the lawn. It was not rainwater as they might have suspected, but the Gulf of Mexico had come knocking. By 10 AM, with the winds still blowing at 120 mph, the water had risen to 5 feet above the floor of the building. 

Looking outside from downstairs they would have seen the water up to eye level outside the windows. By 11 AM, with wind still blowing, the building imploded from water 10 feet above the floor level. Debris from all of the buildings between them and the Gulf was washing by. The building they were in was nothing but splinters floating in a flood moving inland. The kids did not have a chance. The water kept coming. The water was full of debris, the winds blowing so hard they would have had a hard time breathing if they could get their head above water. By noon the water had piled up a 20 foot high pile of debris during its inward pass, then the water started to rush back into the Gulf. In an hour all the water was gone. Anyone still alive would be swept out into the Gulf. I do not know if any of the bodies were ever recovered.

Red circle indicates building the kids were shown to be in.

We were there picking through the debris. It was eerie. So silent you could hear the innocent sounding surf a quarter mile away. We were there for 5 days. One day, all of a sudden there was a beep. Soon thereafter was another beep. The smoke detector batteries were failing. It scared us to death until we figured out what was happening. There were no birds, no traffic noise (the roads were gone), and it was so silent it was startling to all of a sudden hear a military helicopter go by. We broke down the doors of all the units that had not been destroyed (further inland) to make sure that no one had been trapped. Of the 46 buildings 18 building did not exist anymore. 

If the kids had gone further inland they may have survived. Of the building they were in, we found a screwdriver and a door knob. The steel bars that had held the roof on were there, but there were only wood splinters left where they were attached. On the side lawn was the drum of one of the washing machines, not the rest of the washing machine, just the concrete weighted basin. Nothing else. The contents were scattered – some in the huge pile to the east, the remainder went out to sea. As did much of that which was lost.

One page 5. 

Tracking the wrack line; Up in a Tree

The company I worked for put us up in very nice apartments overlooking the Gulf. Our rooms were in a resort on the Florida/Alabama border. We drove west to where were working (through Mobile and west for two hours drive) every morning. we had full air conditioning, a swimming pool, restaurants, stores, everything was normal every night. Mornings we would drive into desolation.

One of my jobs shortly after arriving was to determine how far inland the surge had gone. I had a hand held GPS. What I did was start at Biloxi and drive up each street leading away from the Gulf until I found in the street the line of floating debris (the wrack line). I then took a photo of the GPS. I then plotted each coordinate on a map. I continued this all the way west 60 miles to Slidell. During this time I was able to see all of the destruction and meet with many of the people who had survived the storm. I drove with the AC on and the windows open to talk with anyone left. Many were incoherent, wandering around.

I spoke to one lady, she did not respond. She was in front of what looked like was the slab where her home had been. There was a patch of grass that had not been covered with debris. All of the rest of the area as far as you could see was covered in wreckage from the adjoining houses. Her house was also destroyed, washed away. She had found a rake somewhere and was raking that 6 foot by 3 foot opening in the debris. I was there a few minutes making my way and taking my measurements, she just raked from one end for the six feet to the other end of the grass area and then turned and started again. There was little else she could do, no home, no car, nothing visible left. As she was lost in her mind I could not get her story. I have no idea what happened to her, I just had to drive on.

A short while later I passed an apartment building that had been submerged. A lady was in the parking area behind the building. She asked if I was hungry or thirsty. She had water and what was left of her breakfast of canned corn. She was a student, she said and had returned to her apartment as she had no where else to go. I told her that I was fine and gave her my lunch. I felt so bad that I was living so well and was employed, where these people had nothing, and no job left. The college she had been going to was gone as well.

Not only were houses gone but even the ones on stilts were gone, only the stilts were left. Many of the homes on higher ground were lifted by the water and dropped back down in a different location, sometimes a half mile away.

As I approached Pass Christian I knew it was bad because there was no wrack line. The entire town had been under water, the surge had exceeded the highest point and went over the town. Even the houses on the highest point had been moved five feet back from where they were. The evidence on the north side was of debris running down the hill to the swamp north of town. There were no people in the town at all.

Going around the destroyed bridge between Pass Christian and Bay St. Louis/Waveland was a long trip. Bay St. Louis/Waveland had also virtually been wiped out as well as Pass Christian. Finding a wrack line was impossible. Wreckage was everywhere. Waveland had been rebuilt after an earlier hurricane. It was gone again, this time, only slabs. The steps to the city hall were all that was left. A structure that was built of concrete walls and steel rafters for a roof was rubble. There were few people about. A tent had been set up to be used as a grief counseling post for those who had returned.

The next town was Pearlington, Mississippi. Pearlington is on the border of Mississippi and Louisiana, the boarder being the Pearl River. The eye of Katrina passed here. I exited the Interstate and went through what was left of the town looking for the wrack line. None to be found, later I determined that it had gone under. I then moved inland. I turned down a side street, as usual with my windows open. A boy of about 10 years old ran from in front of a tent up to my car. "What are you doing here" he demanded in a loud commanding voice. As usual I said that I was looking for how far inland the water had come. He said "it came up to that branch in that tree." As I was about eight miles inland at this point I was wondering if I had gone too far, and he had been making up a story. I was 2/3 miles away from the Pearl river as well. The boy returned to the tent and I continued. It turned out that the street was a dead end so I turned around. As I passed the tent the father (I will call Sam) came out. "I understand that you wanted to know how far the water came." he said, then continued to tell his story.

Sam and his wife have 6 kids. When word came that Katrina was coming Sam and his wife took the kids to relatives inland for safekeeping. They went back to their home, one of many nestled in clearings in the woods north of Pearlington. It turned out to be a windy but otherwise unexceptional night when they went to bed. Then about 11 PM they woke up, the bed was wet. They realized that the water was up to the top of the bed in their house! They wind was blowing but they grabbed a clothesline and swam out to the big dump truck in the yard, quite amazed at all the water! The water kept coming though, and soon they had to leave the submerged truck and make it to the oak tree across the road. The water was still coming and it helped them get there. Using the clothesline to slow them, they were able to catch and climb up onto a huge branch that was normally 12 feet above ground. Sam's wife, he said, was sitting on the branch, and when the water was up to her neck he was really worried. Thankfully the water stopped there! It was about 3 AM by that time and the wind was getting really fierce. He was worried that the tree would blow over and they would drown. As day broke the winds were still strong (over 125 miles per hour per records and the eye of the storm passed less than a half mile east of them) however the water did not rise any more. Then about noon or so the water started to go down. Slowly at first and then faster. Sam said that as the water went by, dogs were going with it. He was very proud to have saved seven dogs! He got them in that tree. He had used the clothesline, tied it to himself and swam out to get each dog as it passed. I asked him how that he was able to get all those dogs to hold onto the tree? He said "You would be surprised at how a dog that scared will hold on!"

Man, one of six kids, one dog, two tents.

Tree with the branch on which they survived.
By afternoon all the water went away and they, and the dogs, got down from the tree. I did not ask how they managed after that but they got the kids and two tents and were living there in the heat with no running water or electricity. Six kids in one tent and two adults in another small tent. The town was gone so there was no school and he had no job, but they were managing. The kids were having fun though. The state had set up a center and town he had heard, they could get help there. He was hoping that someone from FEMA would come help. I left and cried on my way back to my resort. I had thoughts of going to Florida and renting an air conditioned RV to take to them, but I did not. FEMA soon would get them a trailer I was sure.

Chapter Two page 1. 

Evacuation, WHY?   Food

At a news conference at 10 a.m. on August 28, shortly after Katrina was upgraded to a Category 5 storm, New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin ordered the first-ever mandatory evacuation of the city, calling Katrina "a storm that most of us have long feared."

Evacuation orders had already been given for Alabama and Mississippi. Everyone on the coast should have been long gone.

Several months after Katrina, a utility company that had lost all of its customers wanted to know how to plan when they would come back. I divided the City of New Orleans and the outlying areas into pods of about 8 blocks square. In each pod I wanted to find at least one person to interview about his coming back and how he viewed his neighbor's coming back. In many of the pods there were no people, but I had to try.

I interviewed approximately 200 people who had stayed behind and experienced Katrina, most in Louisiana but some in Mississippi and Alabama. Two of my questions were "Why did you stay?" and "Would you do it again?". The answers to "why" ranged, but for the most part were to "protect my stuff". 199 said that they regretted staying, only one however said that he would do it again.

"Pete" lived in a small house a block from the Gulf in Mississippi. He had a strong house and decided that he would stay. He had watched the news and knew that Katrina was coming, but he also knew that there was a group of people out there that were using the evacuation as a means of enriching themselves. People who rented U-Hauls and went the other way. They knew that most homes would be unprotected, and that the police would be hard pressed to catch them. I found evidence for that when I was in New Orleans inspecting beautiful homes that had been broken into and all the wide screen TV's had been taken off the walls. All other valuables that the homeowner had not taken were also gone. Pete decided to stay and protect his stuff.

Pete said that he watched as the water came across the block and into his yard. He was not worried. Then the water started to rise into his house. Not to worry. Then it became 6 feet deep in his house and the house began to shake. Pete swam out of the house and was swept into his back yard where he was able to climb into a tree. Then his house floated into the tree he was in! Slowly the house disintegrated and the parts floated away. Debris from the direction of the Gulf came floating past. A large credenza came up and bumped his tree. He had a thought about dropping down and riding the credenza inland out of there but the credenza continued on its journey. The rain and wind were awful, but he held on. Finally the water reversed course and lots of floating debris started its journey out to sea. The credenza - or pieces of it, as it had been crushed - passed by and he was very glad that he had not tried to ride it. Would he do it again? Yes. He was living in a tent set up in his driveway. I wished him well.

The area Pete lived in was supposed to have been evacuated and remain vacant after the storm. This was easier said then enforced. For the most part the railroad running from Florida to New Orleans was the dividing line between the devastated area and that portion that just got wet. When the Mississippi National Guard arrived they put up roadblocks at every road going over the railroad tracks. Those of us who were working could get a written pass which the military would recognize and let us pass. Homeowners were not yet allowed to go to their homes. People then started finding ways to go over the tracks and get there. The National Guard responded by putting out miles of concertina wire. The people then responded by taking debris that had floated out, including mattresses, and building paths over the concertina wire.

Finally, as those in power decided there was no way to keep the bad guys out without keeping the large population who wanted in out as well gave up and opened up the area. As we worked, many times we would hear a loudspeaker getting louder and louder. It was the Salvation Army food truck. All over the devastated areas, Salvation Army trucks would patrol the streets, calling out anyone there to come get a hot meal. As there were no stores open, and no where to get any food, that as a welcome sight. Even I, once in downtown New Orleans, partook of their services, a lunch of hot rice with a few kernels of corn in it, two slices of bread, potato, two Graham crackers, a candy bar and a drink. Got my tummy full.


Chapter Two page 2. 

Evacuation, Where?   Money in pocket not worth anything.

Katrina redistributed over one million people from the central Gulf coast elsewhere across the United States, which became the largest diaspora in the history of the United States. Houston, Texas, had an increase of 35,000 people; Mobile, Alabama, gained over 24,000; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, over 15,000; and Hammond, Louisiana received over 10,000, nearly doubling its size. Chicago received over 6,000 people, the most of any non-southern city.

Some of that redistribution came after the storm. I was down southeast of New Orleans, the location where Katrina actually hit, interviewing people there when I pulled up in front of a house where a gentleman was cooking using a huge pot over a propane burner. He was the first person I had seen in two days. You could look right through his home, all the walls were just studs, all the wall coverings had been removed and the windows were gone. He had a tub that he had salvaged from somewhere - placed where the bathroom used to be - and a cot where the kitchen/dining room used to be. He had fixed a hose-bib onto a pipe and had it over the tub. There was no water yet but he was ready! The house had a new roof! The first new construction I had seen to date! "Fred" invited me in to his home. There was no furniture other than the cot, but I asked about his experience here.

Fred said that he was 78 years old and until the storm he had lived in the Parrish all of his life. He had never been outside the Parrish in fact. His daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter had come to be with him to wait out the storm. His neighbors had left but he did not want to, so he stayed. The neighbor called him about 4 times to ask how his home was. Fred asked him why he was calling, it was windy but nothing out of the ordinary. The neighbor said, "Haven't you been watching the TV, there is flooding all over!" Fred said that there was none here. When his neighbor called the fifth time Fred asked his son-in-law to go out to check the neighbor's home. When he got back he told Fred, "You will not believe it, but water is coming up the street." Two sets of dikes to the north had failed and 14 feet of water was rushing in to the bowl where his house was. The front door had a glass storm door and within a few minutes the water was five feet high outside the door. Fred said that he did not want to go into the attic as there was no exit, so he used a chair to break a window. The water came rushing in. When they could, the granddaughter, daughter and son-in-law swam out the window. Fred said that he went last, the water was at the gutters by then. They all swam to the floating pickup truck, and then climbed onto the roof. They were freezing in such high winds and went over to the back of the house. The huge fan that was used to cool the house had been blown out, so they climbed in the attic that way. Fred was worried that the water would engulf the house, but as he was sitting on the air handler, the water stopped when it got to his calves. They spent the night there and waited until morning.

Morning came and they heard a motorboat! They climbed out of the attic and hailed the motorboat. The boat took them to the City Hall. City Hall had been built on the highest ground in the Parrish and so the water was only a foot deep inside. They could get up on desks and counters and be dry at least. Fred said that he had $1,000 in his pocket but that was of no value as nothing in the Parrish survived. About 400 people gathered at the City Hall, but with no food or water it was pretty bad. Several of the men went out and dove into houses and retrieved whatever cans and bottles of food and water they could find. One fisherman had a satellite phone and he got through to the Governor's office. He was told that the cruise ship that had come into port in New Orleans was loading up with 3000 passengers and was going to take them to Mobile, Alabama. After they had discharged the passengers the cruise ship would come back and pick them up.

So they waited, found more food in the submerged houses and waited. Day two, no cruise ship. Day three, no cruise ship. The contact at the Governor's office said that the cruise ship had made it to Mobile, but that the Coast Guard had refused to let them return. The cruise ship had many bullet holes in the side of it. Coincidently, on one of my flights in and out of New Orleans later when the airport was opened, I happened to sit beside the wife of the New Orleans Police Chief. She told me that many of the police cruisers that had gone into the City in the early days had come back with bullet holes in them. Several deputies quit right then, they did not feel that it was worth their life to go into the City at that time.

Finally, on the fourth day, starving, hot and tired, they were picked up by a boat that serviced the oil platforms in the Gulf.


Chapter Two page 3. 

Evacuation, not for me?   Hole in the roof.

Of the 60,000 people stranded in New Orleans, the Coast Guard rescued more than 33,500, a total of 12,535 of them were saved by Coast Guard helicopters.

In three days the Coast Guard helicopters had made a total of 2,859 rooftop rescues. By this time the District reported that there were 57 Coast Guard aircraft flying Search And Rescue response to the New Orleans area.

"One of his rescue operations pointed to the problems many of the responders were facing—the stubborn intransigence of the people who chose to remain in New Orleans. People at that point, had been either talked to or seen the rescue helicopters but they just didn’t want to leave."

"When the rescue swimmers determined that many residents were trapped in their attics and were unable to reach their roofs, the swimmers began chopping trough the roofs with the small crash axes carried aboard the helicopters. When these proved to be problematic due to their small size, the swimmers would ask for an ax from any nearby firemen when they landed to offload their rescued passengers. I think it was the XO [Executive Officer], ordered folks to go out to Home Depot and that night we bought every wood ax and saw we could find."

>>>>>>Peter, Paul, and Pat owned a home together in New Orleans. It was a small house but the three of them lived there together. When the news came that Katrina was bearing down, Peter and Paul decided to leave. Pat decided to stand pat. Peter and Paul tried to convince him to leave, but he was not going.

Peter and Paul luckily made it to Baton Rouge and stayed with family there. Pat remained. During the storm a large tree that was adjacent to the house slowly blew over, the roots however lifted up the rear of the house! The house now was ramped up to the rear. The water then came, rising fast. Pat had no tools in the attic, but he lowered the ladder and climbed up. Up came the water, six feet deep in the house. He was trapped in his attic.

Pat was lucky, the tree that had lifted the rear of the house opened up gaps in the siding on the end of the house there in the attic! In the morning on the third day, Pat took his shirt and poked it through an opening and waved it as usual. A Coast Guard helicopter finally saw his flag. A Coast Guard swimmer was lowered, and using a chain saw, cut a hole in the roof. Pat was then lifted out and was saved. Hungry, scared, and alone, he had made it.

Many more did not make it, paint sprayed in an "X" on a house indicated how many had died in the home. Stuck in the attic with no escape, or drowned when they tried to escape. Common knowledge in New Orleans was that you keep an axe and other tools in the attic, you one day will need them.

Hole in roof he escaped from.


Chapter Two page 4. 

Dale and Death.

During my stint there in the devastated area, I was sent on the case of the "missing house". According to the report, a tornado had picked up a 100 year old house and placed it unharmed 300 feet away onto the neighbor's property (the neighbor was a university). Then the State of Mississippi had picked up the house and left with it. The lady who owned it said she was going to sue the state for reimbursement of the value of her house.

I got to the property. First, the foundation of where the house had been was still there, and so was the canopy of about fifty trees which covered her entire property, including where the house had been. If there had been a tornado, it was very selective and reached down and plucked the house up without hurting the canopy of any of the trees. Next, there were scrapes and marks on the earth leading directly away from the Gulf of Mexico, along with the water hose (still attached to the hose bib) and electrical and TV cables all in the same direction. All the marks of the 25 foot surge that had hit in that location and had washed the house away. The marks led up to a very small pile of trash. As the trees had not been damaged, and as there was a record of the surge, all pointed to the house being totally destroyed by the surge and, as the university was cleaning up their property and the destroyed buildings there, it was most likely that there was no distinction between the rubble from her house and that from their buildings, and away it went into the huge lots where FEMA had set up land for all the rubble to be placed.

I decided to measure where the trees were and plot the trees on a drawing to show how many and the size of the trees, with photos, to show how they had survived the storm. As I was measuring, a crew was working next door. One of the crew members, Dale, spoke to me. "I love trees" he said. OK, I thought, another loony. Then he continued "A tree saved my life during Katrina." I was interested. "I can show you my scars" he said. He opened his shirt and there were a number of scars and scrapes on his chest. His story was that he lived not far from here. He and his roommate Jim had decided that, as they were a long way (75 miles) from New Orleans, they would stay put and watch as the storm passed. They lived upstairs in a house away from the beach. The storm came and they watched out the window. The water came up and up. When the water filled the downstairs, the house shuddered. They realized that to live they would have to swim for it. Dale could swim but Jim could not. They jumped out the window and into the water. They immediately were swept inland, Dale holding on to Jim and keeping him afloat. When they passed a tree, Dale caught it and they held on. Their home went sliding past in a huge floating pile of broken jumble. They were really glad they gotten away in time. The water after a while started to go back out. Dale said that he saw 21 bodies float past, but there was nothing that he could do. One 70 year old woman was still alive and he caught her though. The debris was awful as it went past. Finally the water was gone and they were deposited back on land. He had lost one shoe, but otherwise they were OK. They decided to walk inland to find help. He cut up his bare foot on the debris, but they continued walking all day. The first person he saw was a lady policeman on a horse. She said that they were setting up an aid station nearby and that they should go there. His roommate and the lady they saved headed off with the policeman, but he decided to go another mile to a friend's house. He got there and slept the next 36 hours, he was so exhausted he said.

21 bodies in that one spot in eastern Mississippi, floating out to sea. One small town on the Gulf of Mexico. What was the death toll of Katrina? Officially 238 for all of Mississippi. How do they make that determination? Counting bodies and correlating that with reports of missing. What about the bodies that went out to sea? If they were not reported missing, how would their deaths get counted? I sent out 100 letters to home owners, 50 came back not deliverable. Were they dead or did they all just find someplace else to live? There were huge blocks of apartment buildings that had chain link fences around them. All the renters were gone. In addition, anybody that was homeless and was living on the street may not have gotten the message to get out, and would have had no reason, or funds to go anywhere. In New Orleans they advertised on radio and TV, if you had no way to get out, there were busses stopping every 4 blocks on all routes to pick up anyone who wanted to get out, but not here 75 miles away! I have 200 aunts, uncles and cousins. I do not keep track of them, some could have been there. People who did not want to be bothered. If the apartment they were living in got flooded and they drowned - then swept out to sea, who would know? Many times there was no address left - 'RETURN TO SENDER" "NO SUCH NUMBER" "UNABLE TO FORWARD". Who would follow up? The apartment building owner would not follow up, he had nothing to rent, besides where would he look? A million people moved out to almost every State, where would you start?

The surge on the east side of the storm washed away 200 miles of human civilization. The surge came in and took out to sea anything that would float. Evacuations had been ordered. How many did not, could not, would not, or could not be bothered to get out in time? "I lived through Camille and another hundred storms, this will be no different." was a common thought. The OFFICIAL count: "The confirmed death toll is 1,836, mainly from Louisiana (1,577) and Mississippi (238). However, 135 people remain categorized as missing in Louisiana." That is the official word. But the 21 people Dale saw floating out to sea? Did he report them? Where would you report them to?

I was in Diamondhead, Mississippi looking at buildings. The town was wiped out. I came home one weekend and was reading the Hurricane Katrina site on WIKI. The writer had listed Biloxi, Gulfport, Pass Christian, Bay St. Louis, etc. as having been badly hit. I added Diamondhead. A short while later someone removed Diamondhead. I asked why they would have done so as the town was destroyed? The answer was that there was nothing in the news to corroborate my story. A quick search now shows that the population went from a population of 6000 in the year 2000 down to less than 3000 in the census of 2010. My guess was that after Katrina the population was less than 50. There were no police, fire, school, or any organization standing, none of their phone numbers worked. Who would you have reported a death to? There was no one there. All municipal buildings were damaged or destroyed, there was no one working there to report anything to. Even the local newspaper was no longer in existence. How could I get a news organization to corroborate me? There was none. There were 6000 people living there in 2000, now 3000, where are the other 3000? Does anyone know? Does anyone care? Gulfport lost 5000, Bay ST. Louis lost 1000, Pass Christian lost 2000, Biloxi lost 7000, where did they all go? How many of just those 18,000 are unaccounted for - dead or just moved away? No one knows.

A Google search comes up with guesses of 3,500 and 4,081 people died during Katrina. No one knows. Now, almost 10 years later, no one is looking or following up. Too much else to do.




Chapter Two page 5. 

Mrs. Gold and the plight of the New Orleans residents.

On one of my forays I ran across Mrs. Gold. When I met her, Mrs. Gold was in her night dress holding a small tray of storebought cookies. She was a grandmotherly looking lady about 75 years old and was talking to a group of college age students outside of her home. "I have cookies for you." she said. It turned out that Mrs. Gold had come back to her house shortly after the water had been pumped out of her neighborhood - people were allowed to return to their homes in stages. Not that any of them were expected to stay!

Many of the refugees were staying in hotels: 600,000 REFUGEES LIVING IN HOTELS: Spending $11 million a day, the reliance on hotels has been necessary because FEMA “has had problems installing mobile homes and travel trailers for evacuees.” [New York Times, 10/13/05] ...that was not for Mrs. Gold.

NEW ORLEANS STILL NOT SAFE FOR DISPLACED: “The bottom line: it continues to be a very risky decision for many of the displaced households to return to the area, since all of the key necessities are in scarce supply, and it is not at all clear when or if they will be brought back online.” [Brookings, 01/04/06]

....but Mrs. Gold came back to her home. The home was, like any home that has had 6 feet of saltwater in it, a mess. It stunk. Driving down any street with your windows open you could tell which houses had been cleaned out and which had not, by the smell. It was not any place a normal human would ever decide to live in. All of the furniture was stinking and rotting away. The moldy carpet smelled awful. The refrigerator stunk to high heavens. With no electricity it was hot, humid and terrible. Mold all over the place. Black mold in the kitchen around the stove, gray mold in every other room. But she refused to leave. The college age students did not speak English. They had gloves and some had on masks. I do not know how they managed with such awful smells. The bus driver told me that they had come from Norway. They paid their own way to come to a stinking cesspool and provide needed help. They lived in tents in what we called the "tent city" in one of the parks. They came in two buses to the homes on a list. Each community had a list that you could put your name on for help wanted. Another list for FEMA trailers, etc.

"I only could move a small amount every day" Mrs. Gold said, "It is so wonderful that you came to help!" Except none of the students could understand English. In two days, the students cleaned out the home and placed a pile 50 feet long, 6 feet high and 15 feet wide out where the sidewalk was. FEMA contractors then removed the pile. Later on, when the volunteers no longer came, the Mexicans came to help. At first they only asked for food and $50 a day. Later, as more people came back, it was $200 per day and you had to pay for their cousins as well.

FEMA had leased tracts of land where ever they could find land for the debris. Several large tracts (100 acres or so) were for wood (trees, smashed houses, etc. to be ground into mulch), smaller tracts were reserved for all refrigerators (300,000 refrigerators are a LOT of refrigerators) so that they could remove the freon in them, and other tracts were for other metal home furnishings such as washers, dryers, stoves and TV's. All of the automobiles were placed under the elevated expressways.

There was nothing left of Mrs. Gold's memories. Everything was steeped in salt water. Even the DVD's her granddaughter had made for her were useless after the soaking. Photo albums had all the photos stuck together. Records were warped, there was so little to recover it was sad. Stuff stored in plastic bins (to keep them safe) were the worst, water had entered and did not leave. Soaking in salt water is not kind to keepsakes. I did not ask her where she was intending to be sleeping, there was no furniture (as bad as it was, she must have been sleeping on the soaked moldy furniture) to sleep on after the kids got through. But she was HOME. No car, no electricity, no banks open (it took years to break into the safes at all of the banks), and only one convenience store 5 miles away. I only hope that somebody convinced her to leave.

The first to arrive after the storm was the convenience stores: gas stations and food. What a wonder of wonders to see one open up. No longer did you have to rely on your lunch bucket - you could find a store 20 miles away rather than hundreds of miles! Cold drinks, gas, what more could you want! There were no doctors, no dentists, no hospitals, no police, no fire stations, but heck, people began to come back. One hospital I went to had not been damaged by the storm. It had its generators running the air conditioners. I talked to the guard in the lobby. He was the only one around. He said that the company that owned the hospital also owned three other hospitals, and that they were not going to open the doors until the City ponyed up $100 million, and the State paid them $200 million. Then they would consider opening. Nice of them. One dentist opened his office for 4 hours on Friday afternoons. I traveled too much to find him in, but I give him credit! Mrs. Gold would have had a tough time finding help if she needed it. No clinics, no health facilities of any kind.

The FEMA trailers were a godsend for many. They were new, clean, air conditioned and a safe place to sleep at night. FEMA would only provide a requested trailer if there was water, electricity, and sanitary sewer. Mrs. Gold really needed one. FEMA had contractors bringing in the trailers left and right, they connected the water and sewer, the electricity was run but no meter was installed, that was the homeowner's responsibility. There were neighborhoods that refused to allow FEMA trailers however. The upper class neighborhoods said, fix you home, then move back, we do not want those eyesores!

According to FEMA, the response to Katrina and Rita was the “largest housing operation in the history of the country, providing THUs (travel trailers, mobile homes and park models) to approximately 92,000 families throughout Louisiana. The last one to leave New Orleans was in 2012, they were only supposed to keep them for 18 months and give them back. FEMA did give many away though, they were so beat up it was better to get new ones built. I hope Mrs. Gold got one soon!

Chapter Three page 1. 

Mother, flag, and the dog.

Dateline August 29, 2005. Location, New Orleans

"But mom, we need to go, New Orleans may flood"

"I have been here all my life and have had NO problem, I am not about to run scared now. I am going to stay."

"But mom...."

"I mean it, you can run, but I am 80 and I am not going anywhere, besides where would we go with your dog?"

"We need to get out."

"No, and that is final."

And they stayed.

Leap forward a month. My boss had required that all of us in the field retrieve any American flag we came across. He then mounted them all around his office. They were dirty and torn, but he loved them. I had found a flag that had an American flag on it (and a picture of the Statue of Liberty on it) floating down a street (and I have it still) and an American flag mangled in a huge pile of trash in the detritus of what had been Gulfport that a coworker took an hour to retrieve, but today in early September my driver and I were at a duplex. The owner Tom was to meet us there but he had not arrived yet. We circled the duplex and came to the back yard. On a stick tied to a tree was an American flag. My driver started to go get the flag, but I stopped him. "This has been placed there since the storm." I said. "Let's wait."

Shortly thereafter the owner pulled up and we went inside one half of the duplex. Tom said, "I lived in this half and my mother lived in the other half. When Katrina came she refused to leave. I decided to stay here with her." We went room to room until we came to a room with a view of the back yard. "What is the story with the flag." I asked. "When I returned to my home after being gone for weeks." Tom said with a quiver in his voice. "I saw the flag in the debris and the mud. I had to raise the flag. This nation means so much to me."
.............Did I ever step back then. I was SO, so very glad that we did not take his flag.

We climbed over the furniture, the fallen ceiling, and the mess left by 7 feet of water in the first floor. Then we went upstairs. In the front bedroom there was a semicircular water stain by the front window. "Did you forget and leave this window open?" I said. "No." Tom patiently replied. "That is where we tried to get my dog out the window and into the boat that had come to rescue us."
.....Boy did I feel like a cad......

"When the storm came my mother, my dog and I stayed put. She would not leave. So I stayed with her, me and my 125 pound dog. When they came with the boat we tried very hard to get my dog into the boat, but we were unable to get her to go. We had to leave her behind."

We went into the back bedroom. There was a hole in the wall leading into the other half of the duplex. "When the flood came I brought a bag of dog food and some boxes of food upstairs. Then I broke the wall to get over to my mother. When no one came to save us the next day, I came back and tried to get more food from downstairs. I opened the refrigerator and retrieved what I could. Most everything either was ruined or fell to the floor, out of my reach. I did the same at my mother's, swam around and got everything I could. We stayed here three days before a boat came to rescue us. We did not have any water, but we did have food. When the boat came, we were able to get aboard, but my dog would not. I was able to leave her food, but no water. Three weeks later when we were allowed to come back my dog was alive! She had lost 25 pounds, but she was alive!"

During our time in the disaster area, we were approached in the field by people driving around in cars filled with cages and marked up with "Animal Rescue" signs. The odd thing was that we did not see any animals running around New Orleans. No dogs, no cats, no birds, no insects even. The only "life" were the dead fish in some areas. The fish had washed ashore but did not make it back to the ocean. In addition there was a bear lying on the Interstate south of where the I10 bridge had been destroyed. It stayed there for weeks. The salt water had set in the suburbs so long that all plants were dying as well, except for a very few salt tolerant species that were starting to take over! Now almost ten years later the birds and animals are back, but for months there was not an animal or bird in sight.

Photographs in the albums on this site show how the Navy had rescued a number of dogs. One group rescued 8,000 of the 250,000 estimated animals left behind and found homes for 1,000 of them.

Television screens carried images of dogs stranded on rooftops. One video clip showed a dog swimming through the foul water desperately trying to reach a rescue boat after its owners were forced to abandon him. Other scenes showed sad starving animals on balconies or staring out of windows. Such mournful sights stirred the emotions of many who saw them and questions began to be asked. In one press conference, Michael Brown, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), was asked by a reporter "What about the dogs and cats that have been stranded?" His response began "They are not our concern..."

"A short while before Katrina hit, FEMA had gone through a disaster preparedness exercise which involved a mythical hurricane, "Pam," hitting the U.S. Gulf coast. Extensive computer simulations and hands-on practice by search and rescue, police, military and civil authorities, engineers, and medical experts were involved. When Ivor Van Heerden, a hurricane researcher from Louisiana State University who helped direct the simulation exercise, was asked about preparations to save pets, he answered, "They were not part of our plans because they are not considered to be important."

The actual disaster that followed would prove such planners to be wrong. Many people who live with animals consider them important enough to risk their own personal safety to keep their pets from harm. The rescue planners had forgotten that saving the human body is not enough. People need affection, comfort, family (or something that serves as family), as well as a feeling of being needed. These emotional needs often must be met before people can motivate themselves to try to survive physically. For many people, such requirements are filled by the companionship of an animal. Pets are part of their family, and such people would no sooner think of abandoning them than abandoning a child. One exhausted National Guard officer explained to General Russel Honore, who was coordinating the rescue efforts, "We estimate that 30 to 40 percent of the people who refuse to leave the affected areas are staying because they want to take care of their pets."

Dealing with animals in an emergency is very difficult. Luckily some shelters have changed the rules and pets are allowed, but not all, and not all pets either.

Navy guys trying to keep animals safe.

Chapter Three page 2. 

Doctor's wife, despair

Dateline September, 2005. Location, New Orleans

As residents affected by Katrina head back to their homes, most were to face an unpleasant reality: Homeowners insurance does not cover flooding.

Only people with flood insurance are covered against the kind of storm surges that cascaded through Louisiana and Alabama. Those with homeowners insurance alone are likely to be compensated for their losses ONLY when the damage was caused by wind or water pouring in from the sky, rather than from ground level.

October, 2005.

My driver and I approach a home in New Orleans. The insurance agent had told us that the homeowners had homeowners insurance but, like 60% of homes in New Orleans, they did not have flood insurance. "Please tell me that the damage came from rain or wind." he had said. "They have paid a lot for insurance for many years and I want to give them something back." From the street it appears not damaged at all except for a brown lawn. A beautiful home with a brick parking lot hidden to the side. We get out and go around to the back. A huge swimming pool has been cleaned out. A tremendous old oak tree shades the back portion of the property. The awning over the deck between the home and the pool is still there, intact, even though the hurricane passed a short while ago. The roof was not damaged at all, the wind turbines were turning effortlessly. It had been a very beautiful area, now marred with the dead vegetation.

Back to the front door to meet the owner who just arrived. The wife of a doctor she proclaimed. Upon closer inspection, the front doors were warped and the lamination was coming apart. The doors no longer closed properly. Stepping through the front door we were greeted with what only can be described as beauty gone to terrible. The hardwood floors were coming up all over. The grand piano was a grotesque version of its former self with the keys no longer in a straight line, they were all warped and muddy. The insides were swollen, all bent and rusty. The laminated wood surrounding the piano was falling apart. Grand piano's do not like being soaked in water. Passing through into the dining room you could feel the opulence. Silver wallpaper now in tatters from eyelevel down. Beautiful ornate chairs warped and nasty. The huge table was covered in mud, it was like a horror movie set. The table was large enough for 12 people to sit around comfortably. To the side in an alcove was the waiter's station, stacks of plates, warmer oven etc.

There were two kitchens, a professional kitchen with gas ranges and ovens, and to the rear the original kitchen now used for vegetables, etc. All now destroyed. Back to the front, the living room carpet and all furniture were drab and sad, all having been soaked in salt water. Walking up the stairs, on the eighth step you instantly realized what had been lost. The first seven steps were sickly, the eighth step was heaven. From there on up into the immaculate second floor it was like walking on a cloud. I had never walked on such nice carpet with such a light feel to it. The four bedrooms were elegant, like a fine hotel.

I asked the doctor's wife if we could get into the attic. She led us to the access panel. It was flush with the ceiling with a brass finger pull recessed. The brass latch had two screws loose. "Someone must have let the spring loaded door go up without holding onto it, that has caused the two screws to be pulled out." I said. Amazing how many times I open mouth and put foot in. On came the tears. The doctors wife broke down. For the next hour we were there she was crying, screaming.....in great despair, inconsolable. Sobbing she said "You are calling me a terrible person, not keeping the house up. I am not that terrible. We bought this house for our retirement. Now it is all gone." then between tears, "My husband is now in his late sixties, and we have to start all over. But we cannot start over, his practice has all left. There is no one left." then, "We have spent all we had on this home, now it is gone. I am not a bad person,.... " and on and on. What can you say? We felt so, so bad for her.

I could envision the garden parties there. Heads of state brought in. World renown pianist invited to play. Well known chefs coming by to prepare sumptuous meals for the guests. Now destroyed by the insidious water. The sudden transition from wonderful hostess in a beautiful inviting home, to having nothing, and no hope to ever recover was devastating. Her crying was so pitiful, you could feel her loss.

I had to report that there was no wind or rain damage. That hurt. She had just lost a million dollars of improvements to her home, and was not going to have any check from the insurance company.

Chapter Three page 3 

Oil Survivor

Dateline September, 2005. Location, New Orleans

An oil tank floated, ruptured and emptied its contents into the streets.

Skip forward to January 30, 2007: (AP) - NEW ORLEANS-A federal judge on Tuesday approved a settlement between Murphy Oil Corp. and about 6,000 St. Bernard Parish homeowners over an oil spill that happened during Hurricane Katrina.
In a three-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon called the $330 million settlement "fair, reasonable and adequate." He also approved more than $36 million in attorney fees and costs to be paid by Murphy.
The settlement puts to rest the vast majority of lawsuits filed after a huge oil-storage tank at Murphy's flooded refinery near New Orleans floated off its foundation and broke in 2005, unleashing about 25,000 barrels of oil in the surrounding neighborhoods.
The settlement spells out four levels of compensation, from a flat $15,000 for damages to homes farthest from the tank to buyouts of the closest houses: $40 per square foot of living space, plus $19.25 per square foot in damages, plus $3,375 per occupant.

Back to November, 2005.

I was driving in St. Bernard Parish. A Parish east of New Orleans 50 miles wide by 6 miles north and south. The eye of Katrina went through the east extent of the Parish, through an area where no one lives, it is all swamp on the east half of the Parish. On my travels I saw crews in full white suits and masks washing down buildings. There was black up on the sides of the houses in the area where they were working. They were using a soap solution and a large pump and fire hoses. The black was coming off pretty well, but the crews were not too happy that I was taking photographs. I learned later that the work was being done because a tank partly full of oil had floated and the oil was spilled.

The next day I spoke with a man on the street. The back of his property was the Murphy oil tank farm. Wayne told me that he was going to get $75,000 from the oil company for his house. I did not believe him. The house was very old and in very poor repair. It had had at least 9 feet of water in it with the ceiling fallen down, just like the rest of that disaster area. Wayne told me that, even though he had been offered a ride out on a bus, he had filled his bathtub with water and figured the food in his freezer would get him through anything. He had lived through Betsy that way and he would be fine. The water had come up in his house and he got into the attic. He stayed there for a day pounding on the roof but no one came. He finally decided that he had to get out on his own or he would die there. He took a deep breath and jumped down into his flooded house. He swam down into the house and out the front door under water. He tried to get up on the roof, nut he was slippery Swimming in water covered with oil was terrible. He did not know if he was going to make it. One boat passed him, but he was all black with oil and was not able to het their attention. Finally he swam to the Fire Station. After Katrina hit he thought that it was a place to find help out of there. The fire station however was no longer there, it had been destroyed by the storm.

Wayne fortunately was picked up by another boat and joined a thousand people who were seeking shelter in the two story buildings. Unfortunately the school he was taken to had no food or water. Wayne said that they got him some clean clothes (wrong size, but dry), but since he was hungry, he and another guy saw a canoe, grabbed it and started swimming down into homes to gather as much food and water they could find. They brought it back to the school and shared it. Finally after two days being there they got to the levee and was rescued. He went to the SuperDome and was transferred to Houston. He finally got back to visit and was living in the devastated home! No electricity, but he had water. It was sad the living conditions he was living in, garbage and destroyed materials everywhere, but he had no where else to go and no money to stay there.

Luckily a year later, as reported above, he was reimbursed for the home, but he had lost everything.

Chalmette, La., December 28, 2010 -- FEMA Deputy Director of Programs Andre Cadogan participated in ribbon cutting ceremonies for St. Bernard Fire Station No. 5. A storm surge associated with Hurricane Katrina submerged the building. The building received damages from winds that destroyed façade and fenestration elements.

Chapter Three page 4 

Wind vs Water

Dateline September, 2005. Location, 165 miles west of New Orleans

"It Was a Miracle" screamed the headlines in a local newspaper. A reporter had come out to a home to interview the homeowners. "The home had been picked up by a tornado and put back down on the other side of the road, with nothing damaged inside" the homeowner reported. They premise was that the incident happened during Hurricane Katrina. Most homes in the area had gotten flood damage, but this home had been picked up and placed up and out of the rising floodwaters on the other side of the road. How lucky for the owners, the newspaper said. The insurance company was asked to pay for new supports under the house, but the house had no reported flood damage.

As I discussed in Chapter 3 page 2: Homeowners insurance does not cover flooding. Only wind and rain damage. Damage from water from the Gulf of Mexico being driven far inland, rising and flooding millions of acres and filling up homes is only covered by special FEMA or private FLOOD INSURANCE. This poses a severe hardship on people who failed to purchase the special insurance. It is sad that many times the mortgage company does not require it, but it would help the homeowner in those times. "But I had home insurance!" was the typical refrain I heard over and over. But you failed to heed the articles in the newspaper recently that told you to check and make sure that you have flood insurance, I would be thinking.

I tried to explain it this way to one person who went on and on about his having insurance. If you purchase an insurance for a car that covered bent fenders only, then you have a brick through your windshield, would you expect that insurance to cover the windshield? If you have comprehensive insurance on your car it would cover both, but you only had body damage, not glass insurance. Home insurance only covers wind and rain. Flooding needs special flood insurance.

The lack of flood insurance, but having Homeowners Insurance, made for a lot of interesting contrivances by homeowners. In one case a lead sleeve over the sewer vent on the roof was cut off and thrown down to make believe water had come in that way - unfortunately for the homeowner I found where the waterline, which had been run through the attic from the icemaker to the water source, had been leaking and caused the ceiling stains. Additionally, if any water had actually come in from vent area it would have gone down inside the concrete block wall, not up and over to the place the stain was. About 80% of the calls we got to investigate were of contrived claims.

The above "tornado" having moved the house was a contrivance past the normal ones. I drove way out there, a three hour drive to the west from New Orleans. It was amazing to see the flat lands of the area. At times you would see houses a quarter mile from the road, floated there by the tidal surge. Houses off their foundations everywhere. Boats out in the middle of nothing. It was had to imagine that Katrina had done so much damage so far away.

I located the house mover in the area. He had not heard the homeowner's story. The actual story was that the floodwaters had floated the house off of its foundation and dropped it about fifty feet from where it originally was built. When the floodwaters had receded he had picked up the house and moved it across the road to where it currently existed per the homeowner's request. He had cleaned up most of the flood damage inside the home.

Upon inspection I found marsh grasses under the structure where they had collected as the water rose. Inside the structure I found a high water mark 10 inches inside the bedroom and 18 inches under the kitchen sink where they had not been completely cleaned off. The home had floated slightly at an angle as the bathroom and kitchen were heavier than the side where there were no facilities.

The homeowner tried over and again to tell me that it was a miracle. All you can do is listen and not respond, even as you find evidence that the story is a lie, and no check will be in the mail.

Chapter 3, Page 5 Hurricane Katrina by John Herrick (15)

Source of destruction of New Orleans East Bank

During my time in New Orleans I had an opportunity to drive most of the levee system that protected the northern 2/3rds of the city, the main levee along Lake Pontchartrain, the levees to the east and southeast. The Army Corps was working feverously to fix all of the problems.

New Orleans can be divided into several sections. Sometimes divided by Interstate 10 which runs east and west. To the south of the Interstate is New Orleans proper. To the north, the area up to Lake Pontchartrain is divided into three sections with Metairie and Kenner on the west, what I call New Orleans East Bank in the center and New Orleans East to the East. The center (New Orleans East Bank) received a major hit, as well as New Orleans East.

New Orleans East Bank was a swamp ages ago called the "back swamp". It ran from the Interstate north to Lake Pontchartrain. A dam (called a levee) was built on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain to stop water from flooding south. The land was under water and this was compounded by rains filling it.

Following studies begun by the Drainage Advisory Board and the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans in the early 1900's, (and a threat of mosquito borne Yellow Fever) engineer and inventor A. Baldwin Wood enacted his ambitious plan to drain this area of the city, including installing large pumps of his own design. These pumps are still used when heavy rains hit the city! Wood's pumps and drainage allowed the city to expand greatly. The pumps were installed in three large canals, the London Avenue Canal, the Orleans Canal and the 17th Street Canal.

The area saw great growth in the second half of the 20th century, and it was in the post-World War II period that the suburb developed. It only became clear decades later that the problem of subsidence had been underestimated. Much of the land in what had been the old back swamp has continued to slowly sink, and many of the neighborhoods developed after 1900 are now below sea level. Some as much as 10 feet below sea level. I have seen houses that were built on deep pilings that have had to add steps every few years due to the land subsiding, in one case the house floor was six feet above the yard and four feet higher than the garage, a structure not built on the deep pilings (and thus had sunk three feet).

Houses had also been built along the canals, houses where people had boats that they put in to go out into Lake Pontchartrain. Over the years the houses and land had sunk, and the Levee Boards had to build up the sides of the canals to increase the resistance to flooding. The hurricane of September 1947 caused a storm surge 5.5 ft. along the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain which overwhelmed the levees in the drainage canals. The state’s congressional delegation asked the federal government to assist in protecting the city (culminating in the Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity Hurricane Protection Plan passed by Congress in 1955). The Orleans Levee Board spent $800,000 to raise its levees, including both sides of their drainage canals (with the exception of 17th Street, the west side of which is owned by the Jefferson Levee Board). Now the people no longer could put their boats in as the levees were about 10 feet higher than their back yards.

The drainage canals had settled as much as 10 feet since their initial construction in the mid-19th Century. This settlement had necessitated two generations of heightening following hurricane-induced overtopping in 1915 and 1947. Each of these upgrades likely added something close to three additional feet of embankment height to keep water trained within the drainage canals and provide sufficient freeboard to prevent storm surges emanating from Lake Pontchartrain from overtopping the canal levees.

The Corps had several non-federal partners in the task to protect the citizens: the Orleans and Jefferson Parish Levee Boards, and the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans. The levee districts maintained the canals and the S&WB maintained the pump stations and controlled the discharge in the drainage canals. If the S&WB pumped at maximum capacity, the increased flow could accelerate erosion of the unlined canals, which floors were in extremely soft soils. If they didn’t pump much water, then the canals could fill up with sediment, and thereby experience diminished carrying capacity. By the time the Corps got involved, a dense network of single family residences abutted the drainage canals along their entire courses (the canals are 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 miles long). The encroachment of these homes adjacent to the canal embankments circumvented any possibility of using conventional methods to heighten the levees, which is usually accomplished by adding compacted earth on the land-side of the levees (which would require the condemnation and removal of hundreds of residences, which would be costly and time-consuming (not to mention unprecedented).

In 1960 the Corps of Engineers New Orleans District office issued its initial report detailing their plan for remedying the ongoing problems with the slowly sinking drainage canals. The Corps plan opted to solve the drainage canal freeboard problem by installing tidal gates and pumps at the drainage canal outfalls along Lake Pontchartrain. This obviated the need for condemning all the homes built along the canal levees. The Corps soon found itself
embroiled in a clash of cultures and goals with the levee districts, the S&WB, and the local citizenry, who flatly opposed the Corps’ proposal.

The levee districts and the Board took the Corps to court to stop the construction of the gates. In 1977 the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the Corps of Engineers plans for tidal gates at the mouths of the drainage canals. From this juncture, the Corps was forced to heighten the drainage canal levees using concrete walls, which was what the opposing groups desired. These walls were designed by the levee boards but they were deemed insufficient by the Corps. The Corps hands were tied, they had to build what the courts stipulated. The court did not understand the risks! The flimsy walls supposedly were designed to withstand a Category 3 storm surge with 12 ft. tides and 130 mph winds, however this proved not to be the case. Construction began in 1993, but the wrong benchmark datums were selected for the contract drawings, so some of these walls were constructed almost two feet lower than intended. Although the concrete flood walls were completed by 1999, concrete skirt walls on several of the bridges crossing the drainage canals had not yet been completed when Hurricane Katrina struck on August 29, 2005. So, the drainage canal system was not fully “tight”. In addition the levee boards had not stopped the growth of trees in the levee banks, trees that could easily undermine the levees.

That said, what happened? The levees failed in three places and water overtopped in a fourth. The Corps was exonerated. The Corps took the situation into their own hands, and within a year of Katrina, the construction of the gates planned in 1960 was completed. In the mean time Katrina had flooded 50,000 homes unnecessarily. People were trapped in their homes, the Coast Guard had to rescue them. People had to swim. Billions of dollars in losses. One would have expected to have seen a lawsuit against the Orleans and Jefferson Parish Levee Boards, and the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans for their inept handling of the situation and their failure to follow the Corps 1960 plans, but so far I have not seen that.

Chapter 3, Page 6 Hurricane Katrina by John Herrick (16)

Source of destruction of "New Orleans East"

The citizens of the north portion of New Orleans East should sue the Orleans Levee Board.

To the north, the area up to Lake Pontchartrain is divided into three sections with "New Orleans East" to the east. "New Orleans East" also received a major hit. New Orleans East also was a swamp ages ago called the "back swamp". It ran from the Interstate north to Lake Pontchartrain. The area saw great growth in the second half of the 20th century, and it was in the post-World War II period that the suburb developed. It only became clear decades later that the problem of subsidence had been underestimated. Much of the land in what had been the old back swamp has continued to slowly sink, and many of the neighborhoods developed after 1900 are now below sea level including New Orleans East.

As I indicated, during my time in New Orleans I had an opportunity to drive most of the levee system that protected the city. The main levee along Lake Pontchartrain was an interesting drive. During the storm surge that accompanies a hurricane, New Orleans, Louisiana, is
a below sea level island, and owes its very existence to the 350-mile long system of hurricane protection levees and walls that surround the city. The Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS) protects the area from storm surge. East New Orleans is protected on the south by a 5.5-mile long levee section of the Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity (LPV) Hurricane Protection System called LPV-111. It was designed and constructed by the United States
Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

As I was driving west along the levee adjacent to Lake Pontchartrain, the levee road stopped and a paved road on the south of the levee started. I came across a lot of debris in the road and adjacent to the road. Debris that was flotsam, that is, debris that had been floating for a long time. The debris lead up to a location where there was a floodgate and a triple box culvert. The huge culvert was leading north to the Lake. The floodgate was open. That got me curious. This was not the only floodgate in New Orleans, but it was the only one for many miles. I decided to investigate.

First the history: New Orleans East includes the easternmost suburbs of Orleans Parish. It is located between the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal (IHNC) (also called the Industrial Canal) on the west and Lake Pontchartrain to the north. MRGO (another canal) Reach 1 and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) form the southern boundary. Orleans East consists almost entirely of drained wetlands and is the “deepest of the drained marsh polders (reclaimed lands), having subsided to 5.8 ft below sea level on average in the area flooded during Katrina. The federal levees that surround Orleans East have impounded a formerly tidal marsh that covers nearly 22,000 acres now at or below sea level.

Levee walls breached.

The reports on the flooding of New Orleans East show flooding from the south and east: MRGO water first entered New Orleans East from MRGO Reach 1 over the Citrus Levee, and to a lesser degree from overtopping of floodwalls on the east side of the IHNC. Floodwaters also entered this compartment later when the federal New Orleans East Back Levee LPV-111 was breached from the GIWW. . . . Case 2:05-cv-04182-SRD-JCW Document 19415 Filed 11/18/2009 Page 56 of 156

Maps showing the sources of the flooding for this area show only levee breaches.

Even in a court case the flooding was attributed the flooding to the south and east: Although plaintiffs argue in their brief that the 10 feet of water that impacted the Franz’s house is all substantially attributable to the MRGO, the Court finds to the contrary. The Franzs live near the floodwall of the IHNC which breached in two places. Plaintiffs contended that the MRGO was a substantial factor in the breaching of the IHNC floodwalls. This contention is
directly contradicted by the unequivocal testimony of plaintiffs’ own expert, Dr. Robert Bea. Dr. Bea testified in trial that in either Scenario 1 or 2c, the east walls of the IHNC would have failed regardless of the MRGO. The Court finds the destruction of the home was caused by the six feet of water that rushed through the breaches of the IHNC floodwall causing the destruction of the foundation of the Franz home.

Levee gates not closed.

The levee along the north side along Lake Pontchartrain was several stories high. In many cases where the levee was not directly on the shore, people saw dry land on the other side. Land that they could have for nothing, and yet it could be used for industry. In many cases ramps were built to allow roards to go over the levee, but in other cases, the levee was just cut and the road or railroad went through. In those cases floodgates were built to replace the levees. In other cases storm water culverts were built under the levees, along with their floodgates. It was the resposibility of the Levee Board personnel to close those gates in the event of a storm as part of their maintenance. I think however that it would be in the interest of the citizens of New Orleans East to sue the Orleans Levee Board, the entity responsible for closing the gates because the gates were not all closed.

"Until the end of 2006, the Orleans Levee Board was a major governmental entity that functioned independently of municipal government in and around Orleans Parish, Louisiana. The purpose of the agency governed by the Orleans Levee Board, the Orleans Levee District, was to protect New Orleans from flooding, and to protect and operate the equipment placed and assigned for that purpose."

That included closing the flood gates. As I said I decided to investigate, I had my GPS and wrote down the coordinate of the open flood gate. I went on the internet and pulled up the aerial photo of the area taken a couple of days after Katrina. There it was, a collection of floating debris at that very spot. If the gate had been closed prior to the surge of Katrina there would have not been any flotsam, there would have been no water flow! There was a ton of flotsam, on both sides of where the gate should have been closed! There was my smoking gun.

I decided to take my evidence to the Army Corps. I went to their trailers. The engineers were all working at their desks, they directed me to the communications officer. I introduced myself and explained why I was there. After I had shown him my evidence and he checked his data, he was very excited, "I need to find where else they failed to close gates, this is important." A week went by. I decided to call him to see how far he had gotten with furthering the investigation. He was no longer with the Corps, he was gone!

I discussed taking this to the newspaper with my fellow engineers. "If you value your life you may not want to do that." Was the reply. To prove that many lives and billions of dollars in damage was due to the Levee Board's negligence would have gotten me killed they were sure.

Now that Orleans Levee board has been abolished, too late now.

Chapter 3, Page 7 Hurricane Katrina by John Herrick (17)

They blew up the levee!
Source of destruction of the New Orleans Lower Ninth Ward (named Lower because it was downstream)

The vertical concrete levee wall on the west side of the Lower Ninth Ward was now laying flat. There was a huge barge that had gotten loose sitting up on land at the breach, the break in the wall.

Villain #1, the barge caused all the flooding when it broke the levee. In truth:

The exemplar BARGE suit was tried to the Court from June 21, 2010 through July 9, 2010. Briefing was completed on October 1, 2010. The Court issued its Findings of Facts and Conclusions of Law today. Judgment was entered in favor of Lafarge North America, Inc. and against Josephine Richardson, Holiday Jewelers, Inc., John Alford and Jerry Alford dismissing Plaintiffs claims in their entirety with each party to bear its, his or her own costs. The Court found that the overwhelming physical and scientific evidence proved that the Barge did not cause the North and South Breaches to the eastbank floodwall at the IHNC and thus did not cause the cataclysmic flooding of the Ninth Ward.

So, it appears that, no, the barge just floated there after the levee failed.


The next villain: the government blew up the levee to save New Orleans. I heard that one a few times!
On live TV:

DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS: This is the actual levee that runs along the canal on the eastern side of the city. And when the hurricane hit, the water came through at such force, it was apparently too much. You can see the massive breach here, and when you look around the corner you can see what the water did to the Lower Ninth Ward. It completely destroyed neighborhoods.

JOE EDWARDS, JR., 9TH WARD RESIDENT: I heard something go BOOM!

MUIR: Joe Edwards rushed to get himself and as many neighbors as possible into his truck. They drove to this bridge, where they've been living ever since

EDWARDS: My house broke in half. My mother's house just disintegrated. It was a brick house. All the houses down there floated down the street like somebody's guiding 'em

MUIR: Was it solely the water that broke the levee, or was it the force of this barge that now sits where homes once did? Joe Edwards says neither. People are so bitter, so disenfranchised in this neighborhood, they actually think the city did it, blowing up the levee to save richer neighborhoods like the French Quarter.

MUIR: So you're convinced . . .

EDWARDS: I know this happened!

MUIR: . . . they broke the levee on purpose?

EDWARDS: They blew it!


Of course "they" did not blow it up! No ninja's were waiting that night with explosives in anticipation that the canal would fill up by Katrina. In fact the government was not there, they were relieved that Katrina did not hit New Orleans, "they dodged a bullet" was the excuse:

"Director of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff "told Meet the Press's Tim Russert on Sunday, September 4, 2005, that one reason for the delay in getting federal aid to Katrina victims was that 'everyone' thought the crisis had passed when the storm left:

"I remember on Tuesday morning picking up newspapers and I saw headlines, 'New Orleans Dodged The Bullet,' because if you recall the storm moved to the east and then continued on and appeared to pass with considerable damage but nothing worse. It was on Tuesday that the levee--may have been overnight Monday to Tuesday--that the levee started to break," Chertoff told Russert."
Interestingly enough, no newspaper ever had that headline, but the FEMA response was catatonic.


The real villain was Katrina and the surge she developed, and not negligent design:

"Indeed, the levee was designed according to the best practices at the time, and the breaches did not result from instability attributable to a negligent design." Court Case 2:05-cv-04182-SRD-JCW

Brian Jarvinen, an expert in hurricane storm surge and previous head of the Storm Surge Unit at the National Hurricane Center, testified concerning the parameters of Hurricane Katrina. Clearly, Hurricane Katrina was one of the most devastating hurricanes that has ever hit the
United States, generating the largest storm surge elevations in the history of the United States.
(Trial Transcript, Jarvinen at 3632)

As the north side of the Lower Ninth Ward was only protected by a five foot high levee, water came in from that area as well.


Another misconception was that the black community (the Lower Ninth Ward was 99% black) was not treated well and thus they lost more lives. New Orleans was 66% black in all and only 26% white. The lives lost however were over 36% white, mainly because the white population was older.

So, an immense surge came from the west and north sides and flooded the Ward.

In 2010, five years after Katrina, the population of New Orleans is now 60% black and 30% white, yet the Ninth Ward is still 98% black. Even though there was considerable push to get people back to the Ninth ward by Common Ground and others, only 20% have come back. Shortly after Katrina Common Ground posted a notice “Welcome Home 9th Ward!” to homes in the Lower Ninth Ward. “Cooperation and Mutual Aid” and “Solidarity not Charity” it screamed. “Our lives are dedicated to working towards social justice for all peoples.” it says “We see that there was great inequality before the storm in the ninth ward. We believe this inequality continued during the storm, and we see that this inequality is continuing to be perpetuated NOW after the storm.” “Contact Common Ground’s 9th Ward Organizer Brandon Darby at (512) 912-8000 to get involved."

Since there was no inequality during or after the storm, this was pretty poor.

Chapter 3, Page 8 Hurricane Katrina by John Herrick (18)

The levee did not fail with Betsy, it will not fail now. More than two thousand people in St. Bernard Parish believed this.

MRGO did it, caused all the destruction, the Army Corps messed us up.

The Weather Bureau was proud: "The devastation along the Gulf Coast from Hurricane Katrina was staggering. The physical destruction and personal suffering surmounted that of any U.S. weather disaster in recent history. The loss of life and extraordinary damage made Katrina the costliest hurricane in U.S. history and one of the five deadliest hurricanes to ever strike the U.S. However, without NOAA’s National Weather Service forecasts, warnings, communication, outreach, and education, the impacts and loss of life would have been far greater. The evacuation rate during Hurricane Katrina was near 80 percent. This is an impressive public response to an approaching threat. This remarkable response resulted from a long-working relationship and open communication between NWS, the emergency management community at all levels, and the media."

This was not the case in St. Bernard Parish. St. Bernard Parish had a population of 67,000 in 2000, mostly white, workers on boats and oil rigs - 96% of the people got out, and they were the ones that had the most distance to travel to escape. Those that refused to leave would amount to 2,800 people who needed to be evacuated after the storm, luckily not 14,000. That evacuation lasted more than four days, four days of hot living with no electricity in wet clothes that you had on at the time of the storm, barely finding food or water. Fred in my Chapter 2, Page 2, his daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter were some of them, and so was Wayne I told about in Chapter 3, Page 3.

The portion of St. Bernard Parish that is protected by federal levees is about 5 miles north and south and about 13 miles east and west. Less than half of that area is developed. On the north edge of the smaller developed area was the 40 Arpent canal with a levee rising about 5 feet above the swamp. In Louisiana, the land was divided into parcels of land known as arpent sections or French arpent land grants. An arpent is a French measurement of approximately 192 feet in length. French arpent land divisions are long narrow parcels of land usually found along the navigable streams of southern Louisiana. A typical French arpent land division is 2 to 4 arpents wide along the river by 40 to 60 arpents deep. The 40 Arpent canal thus was about a mile and a half north of the Mississippi River, the land between the river and the 40 Arpent canal is where people built their homes. North of the 40 Arpent canal was swamp for the next 3 1/2 miles. On the edge of the swamp a 30 mile long navigational canal was dug, it was called the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO). This was dug at the request of the US to allow barges better access to the Gulf, they then would not have to go a circuitous 100 mile route down the Mississippi.

History of the Construction of MRGO:
In 1943, Congress requested a report from the Chief of Engineers, Secretary of the Army, on the viability of the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet which report was authorized by the River and Harbor Act and was approved on March 2, 1945. DX-0573 (H.R. Doc. No. 82-245 (1951)) at 1. The genesis of this request was apparently two-fold. The activity experienced at the Port of New Orleans during World War II made clear that an expansion and dispersion of those facilities was necessary in case of future hostilities.Id.at 41, ¶¶ 75-76. In addition, a shorter route to New Orleans would provide savings to the maritime industry by decreasing the distance from the Gulf of Mexico to New Orleans by about sixty miles. Id. at 35-36, ¶¶ 56-57.

Army Corps: Three studies have been performed to examine the influence of MRGO/Reach 2 on flooding in New Orleans and vicinity. The first of these studies, Bretschneider and Collins (1966), was performed for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District (USACE-MVN). The primary objective of the study was to determine the effects of the MRGO channel, and dredged material placement banks, and associated works, on the hurricane surge environment of an area to the east of the Mississippi River from the southern end of the MRGO to the IHNC. The study looked at Hurricane Betsy and six synthetic storms. Based on simplified one-dimensional numerical computations and estimates of channel conveyance effects, the report concluded that Betsy would have produced essentially the same surge elevations with or without the MRGO.
The remaining two studies show that MRGO has little hydraulic effect.

Once the water had been pumped out, people moved back in, but the population in 2010 was only half the 2000 population. A lawsuit was instigated, suing the Corps for causing the flooding by building MRGO. The Federal judge in the case (according to his writings) did not like the Army Corps, and disliked the head of the Army Corps in New Orleans in particular. Looking at the map of the area, and the computer models of the storm, one finds that the winds from Katrina came off the Gulf of Mexico and down Lake Borgne, fifty miles of open water. MRGO sits at the edge of Lake Borgne. MRGO adds .01% to the fetch of the wind resulting in a change of the wave height from 1.493158 meters to 1.493194 meters, a rise that is not measurable it is so small.

The lawsuit was conducted as follows: "The Court conducted a 19-day bench trial of this tort suit brought by six plaintiffs seeking compensation from the United States based on their contention that as the result of certain defalcations of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps” or “Army Corps”) with respect to the maintenance and operation of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet ("MRGO"), the United States is liable to them under the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2671, et seq. for damages incurred in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina."

The judge said that the US must also have considered the protection of New Orleans (a fact not supported by any evidence at that time, the intent was to build a navigation canal, nothing to do with hurricane surge.). The piles of dirt adjacent to MRGO was not designed to be a wall to stop water, it just was a spoil pile.
In 1952 it was then decided to take the levee created by the construction of MRGO into an overall protection plan. In 1965 Hurricane Betsy arrived. St. Bernard Parish was flooded. As the MRGO was substantially completed at the time of Hurricane Betsy, an action
was brought against the United States for damages arising from that flooding alleging that the United States was negligent in designing, constructing and operating the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet. Ultimately, the district court found that plaintiffs failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence any fault or negligence by the Government.

In 2003 there was a report that the soft soils along the perimeter of MRGO were eroding away into the canal, and more dredging was needed. "Lateral displacement along the MRGO is not unlike the myth of Sisyphus and his rock.
Here, the channel was dug through soil that has a known propensity to laterally displace." the judge says caustically. The canal was getting wider and was almost wide enough on the north side to open into Lake Borgne. The judge in the 2010 lawsuit quoted Mr. Podany who opined that they [the Corps] were concerned about large, mile wide breaching [into Lake Borgne], not the “small” breach at Lake Borgne that was present at Hurricane Katrina. The judge used this small breach into Lake Borgne and the fact that MRGO was wider than it was originally to find in the favor of the people who were suing the US. In my engineering experience he used very flimsy not relevant information to make this judgment.

Some of the judge's ruling was very harsh: "Implicit in Mr. Podany’s testimony is the sense that these decisions [on side protection of MRGO] were all based on policy considerations. However, when the safety of an entire region is at stake, negligence cannot be masked by policy. Indeed, his testimony rings hollow considering the Corps had acknowledged that south shore foreshore protection was [needed]." But this had nothing to do with Katrina with its tidal surge of 4 feet over the levee breaching the levee at MRGO! The judge said they the Corps could have planted trees. Trees? In salt water? And what would planting of trees have done when an 18 foot surge came? Nothing, the levee would have been breached nonetheless. The judge recited from studies that showed the results of a hurricane passing west of New Orleans and cited them as reasons he was ruling against the Corps.

The judge ruling included:
(1) loss in protective elevation;
(2) more water area for wave regeneration
and (3) the removal of vegetation on the foreshore that would reduce the effect of incoming waves.

The judge indicated:" With the increased fetch caused by the Corps' negligence, wave regeneration occurred making the forces against the levee scour out the front of it (which would not have occurred in the absence of the widened MRGO).

1. The berms were constantly subsiding, that is a given, they also were raised continuously using the dredged material.
2. The "more water area for wave regeneration" is a joke. Waves traveling fifty miles are not larger due to crossing a canal as the calculations shown earlier depict!
3. Vegetation 6 feet tall and 200 feet wide will have very little if any reduction of wave height effect on the top of an 18 foot high surge!

The judge was persuaded by arguments that have little value. "Just if you would assume that we had 10 kilometers of wetlands between the Central Wetland Unit and Lake Borgne, based on that relationship with Katrina, the surge alone would have been reduced by 4.5 feet." Yes but when or where would you find 6 miles of vegetation? To get that you would have had to fill Lake Borgne, and that would never happen!

"During the trial, a videotape was shown of the 40 Arpent Levee being overwhelmed at 8:35 a.m. on the morning of August 29, 2009. PX-2121 (Videotape Footage from Security Camera at 40 Arpent Levee). It was recorded by a remote security camera that was time stamped operating on back-up batteries at the transmitting tower for a television station."

"The Court heard the testimony of (the plaintiff's) experts, and reviewed each of their expert reports, and finds that each provided clear and competent evidence."

"Between 5:00 and 8:30 am the erosion of the MRGO levee takes place, and after 6:30 a.m. substantial volumes of surge water from the MRGO flow into the wetlands bowl between the MRGO and 40-Arpent levee. In the simulation the 40-Arpent levee starts to overflow at 8:00 a.m. and at 8:30 the first water enters Chalmette from a northeastern direction as a consequence of overtopping the 40-Arpent levee."

The Corps showed how they created their model, adjusting it to fit the actual conditions. The plaintiffs had done the same thing but did not show the court haw it had been dome. Thus the judge said: "Mr. Ebersole's [Corps] convenient, yet inconsistent multiplication of outputs by different percentages without any other justification than the need to make it fit to empirical evidence, makes these findings suspect in the Court's estimation." WHAT? Fit the model to actual facts? How dare they!
The judge trivialized the Corps witnesses: "While Mr. Fitzgerald [Corps] would not agree that these differences would have a dramatic effect on his calculations, the Court finds such testimony less than forthright. Common sense dictates otherwise. Furthermore, Mr. Fitzgerald did not calculate how fast the breaches evolved; again that information came from the ever present hand of Bruce Ebersole." The judge did not like Ebersole at all.
Everything the Corps brought to the table was rejected: "(1) [The] Levee [failure] was primarily caused by overtopping; (2) the primary factor that led to the erosion and breaching from overtopping was construction of the levee using hydraulic placement of soil; and (3) the erosion and breaching of the levee and the subsequent flooding that occurred was more severe because the protective elevations of the levee were below the authorized elevations. (Trial Transcript, Mosher at 2964-65). However, the Court is skeptical with respect to these opinions.
The judge's dislike of Ebersole was shown in spades: "as to Mr. Ebersole, the Court found his testimony less than credible. He often made sweeping statements of fact and when questioned on specifics, he would "defer" to the "expert" in the area, would be obstreperous, or simply could not explain himself. For instance, even though he admitted that he had to "scale up" the results of the ADCIRC SL15 modeling results for the surge level at Reach 2 by 12 percent, when asked to comment on the efficacy of the model, he deferred to Dr. Westerink."
Wow, defer to an expert, how crazy!

The judge was correct in one aspect, the funnel effect of the Intercoastal and MRGO intersection: "Moreover, this Court has already held that the Corps is only exposed to liability for negligent operation and maintenance of the MRGO and is not liable for any negligence relating to the original design and construction of the channel. To the degree that plaintiffs’ claims rest on the proposition that a “funnel” caused an increase in volume of surge and velocity, that funnel was inherent in the original design."

In all, the prejudice shown by the judge was a major factor in the results of the trial, not the facts in the case. The fact that the MRGO levee was after the fact incorporated into the security blanket around St. Bernard Parish was not pursued. St. Bernard is at risk, there is only a five foot high levee protecting them...oh, look, there is a pile of dirt out at MRGO, we can say that that will protect them. It did not, either for Betsy or Katrina. What is going to happen now? Only 20% have returned, I guess the people know, nothing can protect this spit of land out there under sea level.

Chapter 4, Page 1 Hurricane Katrina by John Herrick (19)

FEMA failed us.
FEMA was not prepared.

FEMA works under the authority of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (the Stafford Act) authorizes the President to issue major disaster and emergency declarations, which in turn enable federal agencies to provide assistance to states overwhelmed by disasters.

Stafford Act assistance is provided through funds appropriated to the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF). Federal assistance supported by DRF money is used by states, localities, and certain non-profit organizations to provide mass care, restore damaged or destroyed facilities, clear debris, and aid individuals and families with uninsured needs, among other activities.

Prior to a Disaster.
Three types of declarations (or commitments) may be made under Stafford Act authority before a catastrophe occurs.

First, at the request of a governor, the President may direct the Department of Defense (DOD) to commit resources for emergency work essential to preserve life and property in “the immediate aftermath of an incident” that may result in the declaration of a major disaster or emergency (discussed below).7 The statute does not define the term “incident.” According to regulations, upon receiving a gubernatorial request for such assistance, the FEMA Associate Director may determine that DOD aid is necessary to save lives and protect property and may authorize such assistance.

Second, the Stafford Act authorizes the President to provide fire management assistance in the form of grants, equipment, personnel, and supplies to supplement the resources of communities when fires on public property or on private forests or grasslands threaten destruction that might warrant a major disaster declaration. Implementation of this authority, which has been delegated to FEMA officials, requires that a gubernatorial request be submitted while an uncontrolled fire is burning. To be approved, state applications must demonstrate that either of the two cost thresholds established by FEMA through regulations has been reached. The thresholds involve calculations of the cost of an individual fire or those associated with all of the fires (declared and non-declared) in a state each calendar year. FEMA officials determine whether a fire management assistance declaration will be issued.

Third, when a situation threatens human health and safety, and a disaster is imminent but not yet declared, the Secretary of DHS may pre-position employees and supplies. DHS monitors the status of the situation, communicates with state emergency officials on potential assistance requirements, deploys teams and resources to maximize the speed and effectiveness of the anticipated federal response and, when necessary, performs preparedness and preliminary damage assessment activities.

But, in the 2004 National Response Plan it is suggested that federal responders will aggressively pursue a “push” approach for incidents of national significance. This seemed to set the stage for rapid response to Katrina, where the federal government had adequate warning and could predict that state and local responders would be overwhelmed. This was not the case, however. Individuals frame current problems by events from the past, limiting their ability to make sense of new events until it is too late. The terrorist attack of 9/11 was clearly central to the thinking of DHS leadership, and framed their view of Katrina. As a natural disaster, Katrina did not match their image of an incident of national significance. DHS leaders had designed post-9/11 crisis response policies, and expected that their full activation would be reserved for another terrorist attack. This mindset limited their ability to recognize the seriousness of Katrina, and led to a sluggish federal response.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had been weakened during the Bush administration. The DHS was also an untested organization, unsure of how to deploy its authority and resources. A key failing of DHS leadership was an inability to understand Katrina as an incident of national significance on par with 9/11. Instead, they responded as if it was a routine natural disaster until it was too late.

It is clear the federal government in general and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in particular were not prepared to respond to the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Katrina. There is also evidence, however, that in some respects, FEMA’s response was greater than it has ever been, suggesting the truly catastrophic nature of Hurricane Katrina overwhelmed a federal response capability that under less catastrophic circumstances would have succeeded.

When Colonel Terry Ebbert, the Director of Homeland Security & Public Safety for the City of New Orleans, DHS, submitted a request to purchase a number of inexpensive, flat-bottomed, aluminum boats to equip his fire and police departments, with the intent of having them available to rescue people trapped by flooding, the request was denied. It did not fit the requirement that it would be used to counter terrorism. The FEMA of old had been turned into a terrorism force, not a disaster force.

Former Office of Domestic Preparedness (ODP) Director Suzanne Mencer stressed the dual use capability of many grants: “The grants don’t prohibit a city from buying equipment for use in a natural disaster if it can also be used in a terrorist attack.”

Given FEMA’s response mission, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 specifically assigned FEMA responsibility for “consolidating existing Federal Government emergency response plans into a single, coordinated national response plan.” However, instead of assigning this function to the organization responsible for executing the plan during a disaster (i.e. FEMA), the department initially assigned it to the Transportation Security Administration, which then relied on an outside contractor. The resulting plan made a number of departures from the existing Federal Response Plan, including the introduction of the:
1. Incident of National Significance (INS),
2. the Principal Federal Official (PFO),
3. the Interagency Incident Management Group (IIMG),
4. the Homeland Security Operations Center (HSOC), and
5. the Catastrophic Incident Annex (NRP-CIA).
The emergency management community expressed concerns about each of these newly created structures, which ultimately proved problematic or experienced difficulties achieving their intended purposes during the response to Hurricane Katrina.

The tremendous damage and scale of Hurricane Katrina placed extraordinary demands on the federal response system and exceeded the capabilities and readiness of DHS and FEMA in a number of important areas, including staffing. Hurricane Katrina consisted of three separate major disaster declarations, three separate statewide field operations, two directly-affected FEMA regional operations, and the full activation of national level resources such as the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC), the HSOC, and the IIMG. In addition, most FEMA regional offices were actively supporting Katrina operations or assisting their regions receive Gulf Coast evacuees. These operations required large numbers of qualified personnel from what had become a relatively small agency of approximately 2,500 positions.

FEMA response officials in both Mississippi and Louisiana testified that the department’s inability to field sufficient numbers of qualified personnel had a major impact on federal response operations. The Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) in Mississippi, Bill Carwile, described how managing the personnel shortfall was perhaps his most difficult challenge. While he was able to deploy division supervisors to the coastal counties, he needed similar qualified employees for the devastated cities of Gulfport, Biloxi, and Pascagoula. Ultimately, FEMA officials turned to federal agencies like the U.S. Forest Service and city firefighters from across the country to staff FEMA positions in the state. Once they got going, FEMA provided about 150,000 travel trailers and mobile homes for victims of Hurricane Katrina. I spent a month going over all of the devastated area counting the FEMA trailers. I also checked to see if the owners had hooked up the electricity. Many seemed to have applied for the trailers, but did not move into them as evidenced by the lack of electrical meter. FEMA would only approve an application for a trailer if water, sewer and electricity were available. FEMA was forbidden in many subdivisions to bring in the trailers, the residents were supposed to fix the homes and return, they did not want the stigma of trailers in their neighborhoods.

In addition to having an inadequate number of qualified personnel, FEMA had lost a number of its top disaster specialists, senior leaders, and most experienced personnel. Both critics and supporters of FEMA’s merger with DHS have acknowledged “FEMA brain drain” in recent years and its negative impact on the federal government’s ability to manage disasters of all types. Since 2003, for example, the three directors of FEMA’s preparedness, response, and recovery divisions had left the agency, and departures and retirements thinned FEMA’s ranks of experienced professionals. At the time Hurricane Katrina struck, FEMA had about 500 vacancies and eight out of its ten regional directors were working in an acting capacity.

The critical period of response lasted just over a week, from the point where it became clear that Katrina might not be just another hurricane, to the point where almost all the evacuees were accounted for. Given limited time, poor decisions and an inability to coordinate the network of responders had dramatic consequences. In one case, FEMA had contracted with a bus company to send in busses to pick up the SuperDome evacuees. The bus company sent down a number of busses. The drivers heard about the flooding and the lawlessness in New Orleans. They decided it was not worth their lives, so they got to within about 50 miles, pulled over and parked. If someone had thought ahead and sent in some military to escort them, the evacuees would have been much less inconvenienced.

As a crisis takes on a larger scale, more responders will be needed, and as the crisis creates more tasks, a greater variety of capacities will be required. The Katrina network was so large that there was a failure to fully comprehend all of the actors actually involved (partly because of a large voluntary component), the skills they offered, and how to use these capacities. One study counted over 500 different organizations involved in the weeks after landfall.

These organizations responded to a central goal: reducing the suffering and loss of life that resulted from the hurricane. Consistent with this overarching goal, there were many more specific goals during the response phase: e.g.,
1. evacuation;
2. delivering materials (food, water, ice and medicine);
3. recovering bodies and providing mortuary services;
4. providing medical services;
5. restoring public safety;
6. restoring communications and power;
7. search and rescue; and
8. providing temporary shelter.
A network was affiliated with each of these specific goals. There were, therefore, multiple task-specific networks inside the broader Katrina network, although membership of these networks tended to overlap a good deal from one task to another. I picked up a six-pack of 12 oz. water supplied by Anheuser-Busch from Georgia and was supplied water by the Salvation Army and by the military. I have the packets the military Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) came in from Sopakco in Mullins, South Carolina. There were loads of water, food, and clothing all around. Unfortunately the huge pallets of donated clothes were just placed on the ground at convenience store parking lots. Rain and sun destroyed most of it. There were few people around who wanted it.

While many of these task-specific networks provided an unprecedented response, there were basic problems in coordination both within and across these networks, and disagreements between actors about what to do and who was to do it. One such example is the responsibility to collect dead bodies. FEMA pushed for the state government to take charge, but state and local officials were overwhelmed, and Louisiana Governor Blanco blamed FEMA for the delays in body recovery. The state would eventually sign a contract with a private organization. The federal Department of Health of Human Services is supposed to take the lead in victim identification and provide mortuary services, in coordination with the Department of Defense, but was slow in doing so. Eventually, Defense took the lead. The lack of coordination further delayed body recovery.

The failure to respond to early warnings also characterized the federal response. Federal responders lacked urgency, treating Katrina as if it was a normal storm. Senior White House staff had not reconvened in Washington when the disaster appeared imminent, and seemed out of touch with what was happening. Even after landfall, the response was marked by inertia. Levee breaches were reported the day of landfall, but officials at the DHS initially treated such reports skeptically, and did not utilize Coast Guard resources in New Orleans to verify the extent of the flooding. It was not until the day after landfall that DHS and White House officials, along with the rest of the world, would learn the extent of the damage. The knowledge and response of federal officials seemed to lag behind the media reports of the disaster. For example, neither the FEMA Administrator Michael Brown nor DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff were aware that a convention centre was sheltering thousands of victims until informed of the fact by reporters.

FEMA undertook a logistics response that moved 11,000 trucks of water, ice and meals into the region after Katrina, more than three times as many truckloads as were used during all of the hurricanes that occurred in 2004. The Department of Defense produced the largest domestic military deployment since the civil war, and the National Guard deployment of 50,000 troops was the largest in US history. The Red Cross led a $2 billion 220,000 person operation, 20 times larger than any previous mission, providing services to 3.7 million survivors. But these efforts fell short of needs, often dramatically.

The size and scope of the disaster converted many local responders to victims. The size of the disaster also eliminated much of the communications systems, limiting the ability of responders to gain situational awareness, or to communicate operational plans. Over three million telephone land-lines were lost in the affected states, including many 911 call centers. Wireless phones were also affected, with approximately 2,000 cell sites out of service, and few places to charge the phones because of widespread power loss. I saw temporary cell tower trailers set up in the middle of streets to try to help. The physical locations of Emergency Operation Centers were rendered unusable due to flooding or other damage, eliminating a base for command operations and resulting in poor coordination and wasted time as responders looked for new locations. What operational sites that remained were insufficient. The Louisiana Emergency Operation Center was vastly overcrowded, with hundreds of people trying to cram into a meeting room with an official capacity of 50.

The intergovernmental nature of crisis response in the US assumes a gradual expansion of government involvement as local and then state responders need help. But this “pull” approach struggles when state and local capacity is seriously damaged and immediately overwhelmed. In Katrina, federal responders waited too long for specific requests for aid from state and local authorities rather than taking a more aggressive “push” approach. The dispersed responsibility also complicated efforts to foster a central command. Confusion about responsibilities was increased by the existence of three major federal operational commands in the field during Katrina: the Joint Field Office and Federal Coordinating Officer; the Principal Federal Official; and Joint Task Force Katrina.

The Red Cross, worked closely with FEMA, but still had difficulties in coordination. The Red Cross communicated logistic needs to FEMA, but found that FEMA often failed to deliver promised supplies, or delivered inadequate amounts too slowly. For example, the Red Cross requested 300,000 meals-ready-to-eat for Louisiana on September 1. The order was cancelled by FEMA, then reordered, and finally delivered – on October 8. The Red Cross was tasked with housing and shelter and depended on FEMA for information on the number and timing of evacuees. But FEMA did not supply reliable information. Scheduled arrivals were cancelled at the last minute, negating the preparations that took place, while in other instances large numbers of evacuees would arrive without advance notice to locations where no preparation had occurred. The problems between the Red Cross and FEMA are indicative of more serious challenge in incorporating non-governmental organizations into the response network. The Red Cross enjoys a relatively privileged position, with official responsibilities identified by the National Response Plan. Even so, it struggled to coordinate with FEMA.

I received a packet supplied by the Red Cross to the victims. It contains a note saying that items in this Personal Care Kit have been provided by the manufacturers and the Red Cross. The Red Cross paid for the assembly and distribution:
1. A facecloth
2. A 2 oz. tube of "Fresh Moment" hand and body lotion
3. A 1.5 oz. tube "Care" moisturizing shave lotion/shave gel
4. A 8 oz bottle of "Fresh Moment" mild shampoo
5. A packet of 10 three ply tissues (Red Cross)
6. A razor
7. A comb
8. A 8 oz bottle of "Fresh Moment" liquid soap
9. A toothbrush
10. A 0.5 oz stick deodorant (Freshscent)
11. A 0.85 oz tube of "Freshmint" fluoride toothpaste imported to Tennessee
12. A plastic protector for the brush of the toothbrush

All in all a welcome sight to those who escaped with nothing. This kit and some warm fresh water and you could start to feel human again.

Reduced resources also directly impacted FEMA’s planning efforts. FEMA sought $100 million for catastrophic planning in FY04, and asked for $20 million for a catastrophic housing plan in 2005. Both requests were denied by the DHS.

The DHS did not pursue a “push” approach until Tuesday evening, when Secretary Chertoff formally declared an incident of national significance. Given the early warnings, the DHS could reasonably been expected to have moved into “push” mode three days earlier [House Report 2006]. Chertoff also never utilized the Catastrophic Incident Annex of the National Response Plan. DHS officials would explain that this was because the Annex was relevant only for “no-notice events” (i.e., terrorist attacks). However, the Catastrophic Incident Supplement says that the Annex is also for “short notice” events, and explicitly identifies hurricanes. This inertia delayed the application of the full force of federal government capacities until after New Orleans was submerged by water.

A month after Katrina there was still a lot to be desired for the folks like Sam and his family living in tents (Chapter 1 Page 5), Pete (Chapter 2 Page 1) also living in a tent, Fred (Chapter 2 page 2) living basically outdoors with a roof to keep out the rain, and Mrs. Gold living in filth. These are only a few of the hundreds of people left impoverished after the storm, people FEMA, the Red Cross, and others had yet to get to. One description of a loss: Every building on site was flooded with ten to fourteen feet of water and nothing was left undamaged. To add to the misery of the devastation, a forty foot refrigerated van was dumped onto the front gate by the floods. Filled with four week old rotting meat, the area became a haven for flies. Polluted water, mold, rust and mildew were rampant throughout the buildings, and with no electricity or running water, recovery would be an incredible challenge.

The task to clean up was immense.

Brenda and my weather:


Amy and Darren's weather:


Darrell and Marilyn's Weather:


Susan and Al's weather:

David and Jean's weather:

Donald and Jeanne's weather:

Daniel and Missy's weather in Maine

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