Sunday, September 11, 2005

From the Baltimore Sun: An article about the Baltimore Nat'l Guard stationed in Chalmette.,1,6414805.story?coll=bal-artslife-society
In some lost towns, Katrina went beyond destruction
Yscloskey, others wiped out entirely

By James Janega
Tribune staff reporter
Published September 11, 2005

A beautifully written and poignant look at "down the road.",1,3817143.story?coll=chi-newsnationworld-hed

Saturday, September 10, 2005

St. Bernard officials: Parish was forgotten
Help slow to come after direct hit from storm.

Jason Brown
Hard-hit St. Bernard Parish struggles to dig out
Chicago Tribune

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

St. Bernard Schools Likely Closed for Remainder of Year

Monday, September 05, 2005

Army Corps of Engineers Reports Positive News in New Orleans Flood Fight
From the Kentucky Herald Reader

Many residents feel neglected in hard-hit St. Bernard Parish

BY CHRIS GRAYKnight Ridder Newspapers
Most Katrina holdouts don't want to leave
Web Posted: 09/05/2005 12:00 AM CDT
Harrowing tales emerge from St. B
from the Times-Picayune

Sunday, September 04, 2005

From the Washington Post

A Commonality of Suffering Binds Suburb, New Orleans
'Mass Destruction' in Town Prideful of Separation From City
In Chalmette, painted numbers tell tale of death
Sunday, 10:47 a.m.
By Jan Moller
Capital Bureau

CHALMETTE - Terry Hendrix's family evacuated before Hurricane Katrina struck this close-knit community with a devastating blow, but Hendrix himself decided to try weathering the storm at his three-story house on Riverland Drive.

On Saturday afternoon, five days after the winds died down, Hendrix found himself at parking lot of what used to be a BellSouth building, but which now has been taken over by firefighters giving "decontamination'' showers to people rescued from their homes. Although floodwaters have receded more than 15 feet and the pace of the evacuation slowed considerably Saturday in

St. Bernard Parish as most of those who stayed have either perished or been brought to safety, search teams were still finding people who had remained in their homes. "I've got 122,000 people in my district, and everybody's been affected (by Hurricane Katrina),'' said state Sen. Walter Boasso, R-Chalmette, who has been helping with rescue efforts since the winds first began waning Monday afternoon.

Although there is no official death toll, parish officials believe it is in the hundreds. St. Bernard Sheriff Jack Stephens said 31 senior citizens died at St. Rita's Nursing Home due to flooding, while another 22 people were discovered dead in a neighborhood subdivision, their bodies bound together. But it is too soon to start an official count, Stephens said, while rescue efforts continue. "We are not in a body recovery mode yet,'' he said.

Search teams from as far away as Canada ride airboats through receding waters in a parish that's become a virtual ghost town except for the rescue workers. They conduct house-to-house searches for anyone who might still be alive. When they finish searching a building, they leave a spray-painted marker to indicate whether anyone was found. An "X" means the house was empty. A number indicates how many bodies were discovered. On one house, just a block away from the Bell South building where evacuees are being taken for decontamination before being transported to the slip, a blue-pained "6'' tells the gruesome tale of what became of those inside.

While several days passed with little or no federal assistance, state and local officials set up their own improvised search-and-rescue operations, with the Mississippi River serving as a lifeline to safety for residents in the close-knit parish who rode out Katrina.

When the wind died down but the floodwaters remained, local government was forced to improvise. While firefighters work from the BellSouth building, the Parish Council set up temporary quarters at the Exxon-Mobil Chalmette Refining and the sheriff's office is operating from the Cajun Queen riverboat that's moored next to the Domino's sugar refinery in Arabi. And the local prison was turned into a hospital until the wounded and sick could be flown to safety, according to Boasso.

While Navy helicopters were shuttling people to hospitals who needed medical care, local officials are angry at the slow pace of the federal government's relief efforts. "We never had any communication from anybody,'' said Parish President Henry "Junior'' Rodriguez. "Anything that has been done in St. Bernard has been done by local people. We never had any goddamned help.''

Boasso, whose homes and businesses were badly damaged by the wind and floods as was just about everybody's home in the parish, said he's frustrated by the pace of the federal government's efforts - which he said he's made clear to Federal Emergency Management Agency officials in Baton Rouge."I don't care about finger pointing,'' Boasso said. "I'm hollering and screaming and you know what? If they can't help us we're going to help ourselves.''

By Saturday afternoon the activity at the Chalmette slip, which was a gathering point for several thousand people at the peak of the evacuation, had slowed significantly. Only a few local police and volunteers were there, surrounded by pallets stacked with water and other basic necessities. After getting a shower from firefighters at the BellSouth parking lot, evacuees are transported to "Camp Katrina,'' as the Chalmette slip has been dubbed by rescue workers. From there they are taken by ferry about five miles upriver to Algiers Point, where school buses were lined up to take them to shelters. At some points last week the slip was home to thousands of evacuees, but by Saturday afternoon the traffic had slowed to a trickle.

At Algiers Point, the ferry landing was home to about a hundred people Saturday morning, including some who said they had waded through water from the Superdome and hitched rides across the Crescent City Connection.

Others came lower St. Bernard, where the floods engulfed just about every home and those who stayed behind relied on neighbors for support - which sometimes brought surprising levels of comfort. JoAnn Robin said she spent four days after Katrina camped out with 25 of her family members in the Mandeville Canal at Elevating Boats Inc., the company founded by former state Sen. Lynn Dean, R-Caernarvon, who is now a St. Bernard Parish Council member. Robin said she stayed at home in Caernarvon as Katrina blew through but later decided to evacuate a few miles west to Poydras While her home and those of her neighbors sat in water up to their rooftops, the Elevated Boats had air-conditioning, a working television and radio and plenty to eat and drink courtesy of Dean and his family. "They treated us like royalty,'' Robin said.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Coast Guard ferries Chalmette evaucees to next destination

from the Tuscaloosa News
The following was taken from a NY Times article.

NY Times

The head of a Louisiana ambulance service said he had been told of one home in lower St. Bernard's Parish where 80 patients had been found dead and of an apartment home for the blind where the staff had abandoned the residents. The reports could not immediately be confirmed.
St. Bernard Parish Website

Saturday, Sept 3

12:00: A.M. - There is an unconfirmed report that "Congressman Melancon's office has announced that the National Guard will be deployed to the parish to increase security, (a major relief as reports have come my way) about looters from the city coming into the parish via the raised railroad tracks and the levees. The guard will be augmented by 57 deputies." --Former Parish Councilman Mike Bayham, Jr.
St. Bernard rescue efforts continue
Plaquemines request to blow levee denied

By Susan Langenhenning and Ed Anderson
Staff writers

More than 10,000 people in St. Bernard Parish have been rescued since Tuesday, and the race is on to reach thousands more there and in neighboring Plaquemines parishes, home to some of Hurricane Katrina's worst flooding.In Plaquemines Parish, Parish Council Chairman Amos Cormier sought permission Friday from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dynamite the Mississippi River levee at Myrtle Grove to relieve flooding in the lower half the parish, a proposal quickly shot down by the Corps.Cormier declined to estimate the number of people killed by the hurricane, but he requested the state provide the parish with 200 body bags."It seems like a good number to ask for,'' he said.Rescuers also snagged more than 500 people off rooftops and levees, officials said. Three people were confirmed dead, and more deaths are expected. And at least more people need to be rescued as soon as possible, said Jesse St. Amant, director of the parish's emergency operations center.Cormier also requested that 50 military police officers, 50 assault weapons and 50 sharpshooters be sent to the parish, where reports of looting of marine vessels are rampant.The parish, from Buras south, is wiped out, officials said.Cormier said marine vessels in the area that survived the storm are being looted, while others are being taken."We have looters coming in by boat,'' he said.Cormier's request to dynamite the levee to relieve flooding was met with disapproval by the corps, which is responsible for levee maintenance and construction."We will have a crater over which we would have no control,'' said Brig. Gen. Robert Crear, of the corps. "Absolutely not.''Meanwhile, in St. Bernard Parish, officials said the race was on to rescue many people still trapped in flooded homes and shelters."We have had people laying in water in their attics for days,'' said Sen. Walter Boasso, who represents the parish. "I need land transportation. I need to get a deuce and half.''Since Tuesday, some 200 boats operated by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and private volunteers have been plucking stranded St. Bernard residents from their homes and bringing them to the Chalmette boat slip, where they wait in a warehouse until they can catch ferries to Algiers, Boasso said. From there, they have been transported to Algiers and then bused to shelters in DeRidder and Dallas, he said."We're constantly rescuing people," said Boasso, who visited St. Bernard Thursday night. "People on the West Bank also are hearing about the buses, so we're helping them, too.''He estimated that more than 10,000 people have been resuced from St. Bernard, which has a population of about 66,000.Chalmette Refining and the Creole Queen, which is docked on the river, are serving as bases for parish emergency operations, he said, adding that one floor of the refinery even had air conditioning."Our whole parish is on lock down. All entrances and exits are guarded," Boasso said, adding that residents who evacuated should not try to return. The state Department of Transportation and Development is trying to set up portable boat ramps so additional boats can assist in the recovery.The senator, who owns Boasso America Corp., a liquid bulk shipping business, said privately owned barges and tug boats have been lined up to bring in additional supplies to St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parish, which he described as "completely devastated from Buras on down.""We're getting ready to fly over to see where we can get the barges into (Plaquemines)."Boasso said almost all businesses and homes in St. Bernard have been destroyed, including his own house. His company's 200 employees are "spread out all over the country," but he has set up essential personnel in Houston.
News of Joshua Gleason, Wife, and Newborn

On his way out of the Astrodome, Joshua Gleason bent over and picked up a wooden cross.Worried about his fiancée and their 3-day-old daughter, Gleason, 21, stuffed the wooden cross into the front right pocket of his shorts. He already had a gold crucifix around his neck and was counting on divine intervention. But at the moment, he headed out of the Astrodome in need of a cigarette.Three-day old stubble covered a sunburned face framed with short blond hair; his blue eyes looked weary. A pack of beef jerky poked out of his left pocket.Four days from his 21st birthday, Gleason described the horror of Hurricane Katrina as reports suggests his St. Bernard home, like most of the others in the parish, is under water - and possibly destroyed beyond repair.Yet his home was of little concern as he searched in vain to find out where his newborn daughter was three days after his fiancée, Tammy Stephens, had given birth at the St. Bernard Parish Prison, where the family had taken shelter.Their exodus from New Orleans started Monday when the couple awoke to find about 18 inches of water outside their home. Within 24 hours, with the home submerged under about five feet of water, Gleason said he broke into a nearby house and took food and water before the family moved to an occupied house down the street.Rescued by a boat, Gleason said, the family's odyssey continued when they were moved from shelters at Chalmette High School, the St. Bernard Parish Courthouse and, as water continued to rise, the prison.It was inside a holding cell Tuesday night that Stephens gave birth to the couple's first child, a daughter. The memory made Gleason swell … with anger."The conditions the baby was born in were disgusting,'' he said, describing blood that soaked several sheets and backed up the toilet after a doctor delivered he baby. "I was holding the IV, wiping my fiancée's head down with a wet rag. I held her down when the doctor broke her water bag and put the baby in position (for delivery)."She didn't have no epidural, they didn't have no pain medicine, nothing.''Gleason said he was worried about the birth because Stephens suffers from epileptic seizures. But a day later, medical officials arrived and said they had to take Stephens and the newborn by helicopter to a hospital. Authorities said they had no room for Gleason because they also were transporting a man injured in a crane accident. And when Stephens objected to leaving without her fiancé, Gleason said things got ugly."They told her if she didn't go that they were going to take the baby away,'' Gleason said. "They threatened her as much as they could to get her in there.''Eventually, Stephens gave in and was taken to an undisclosed hospital.Gleason ended up on a bus that took him to the Astrodome. There, his frustration only grew."I'm definitely aggravated that they can't tell me where my fiancée is, or my baby," he said, adding that he's posted notes inside the Astrodome and asked friends and officials for information to no avail. "Nobody ain't seen her. Nobody's telling us really nothing because they don't know nothing.''But when asked what he and his fiancée had named their first child, a grin crept across Gleason's face.The original plan was to name her Haley. But that changed after the hurricane hit New Orleans."My fiancée wanted to name her Katrina because her water broke on the day of the hurricane and the day after the hurricane she had her,'' Gleason said. "I don't know if she's got it on the birth certificate yet, but that's what she told the doctor.''
East of New Orleans, Heavy Damage, Lost Lives and Pleas for Help

from the NY Times 9/4
New Orleans [Chalmette] man helps neighbors survive for six days
08:52 PM CDT on Saturday, September 3, 2005
By DAVE MICHAELS / The Dallas Morning News
The following report comes from the Times-Picayune website (

Receding floodwaters reveal devastation of St. Bernard

Bodies found as rescue continues
By Paul Rioux and Manuel Torres
Staff writers

As the bodies of Hurricane Katrina's victims in St. Bernard Parish continued surfacing Thursday, local and state officials said thousands of residents had yet to be rescued and at least 2,000 others risked dehydration in a crammed makeshift shelter at the parish port. "It's an absolutely horrific sight," State Rep. Nita Hutter, R-Chalmette, said of bodies found floating in areas across the parish. Officials don't have an estimate on how high the death toll may reach.

But the hellish scenario prompted Parish President Henry "Junior" Rodriguez to send an SOS into cyberspace, imploring President Bush in an e-mail message to contact him and send help."I am in danger of having many citizens die if they are not rescued now," Rodriguez wrote in an e-mail sent late Wednesday to the White House and confirmed Thursday by parish officials. "On behalf of the citizens of St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, I am begging for your help," it read. Rodriguez's plea came as a flotilla of St. Bernard residents using their private boats, joined by federal and state agencies, rushed to retrieve residents stranded in their roofs and attics since Katrina submerged the parish under up to 20 feet of water on Monday.

The storm flooded practically every one of St. Bernard's 26,700 homes. "We are talking about the complete destruction of St. Bernard Parish as we know it," said Parish Council Chairman Joey DiFatta. "Every neighborhood, every street, every home, every building has water - lots of it."DiFatta called Rodriguez's e-mail message an "act of desperation" after several futile attempts to reach federal authorities. He said Rodriguez has yet to receive a response to the message.The White House press office could not be reached for comment Thursday.

DiFatta said Rodriguez and a handful of parish officials are guiding some rescue efforts from an office at Chalmette Refining LLC."It's the only dry spot left," DiFatta said. But illustrating the difficult conditions officials face to manage rescue efforts, DiFatta said a reporter's call Thursday afternoon was the first to get through on his cell phone in nearly two days.Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu, one of the few state officials who have entered the parish, said personnel with FEMA and the state Wildlife and Fisheries Department are working to collect stranded residents. In a parish where many people make their living on the water or own recreational boats, dozens of residents have also been using their vessels to help, DiFatta said.Landrieu said the parish jail at the intersection of Parish Road and St. Bernard Highway has been transformed into a makeshift hospital.

Patients are being airlifted out of the area.He also said the St. Bernard Sheriff's Office has staged a collection point for refugees at the parish courthouse in Chalmette. People are then being moved to a makeshift shelter at St. Bernard Port, from where they are being ferried across the Mississippi River to Algiers, Landrieu said. "We are now starting to go house to house to find the ones we can't see or hear," he said. "Our biggest fear is how high the death toll will be."With 2,000 people crammed into the port's slip, DiFatta said officials are about the wellbeing of the evacuees. He said who are being treated for dehydration after spending up to three days in the searing heat of their attics or exposed to the blazing sun on rooftops.Parish officials said they need food, water and medicine. They also are trying to arrange for a large vessel to begin evacuating people from the port shelter.

The magnitude of the disaster in St. Bernard has surpassed Hurricane Betsy in 1965, which flooded thousands of homes, mostly in Arabi; killed dozens of residents; and forced many to escape the waters by climbing into their attics and then hacking holes in the roofs.Like Betsy, Katrina has produced examples of extreme survival measures in the parish. Rescuers saved a man who lashed himself to a tree to avoid being swept out to sea as floodwaters surged beyond 20 feet. Another resident, Ernie Geraci of Poydras, swam to a boat moored at a nearby house to rescue his wife and two adult children after 7 feet of water rushed into their home."In two minutes the water rose 2 feet. In 30 minutes it was up to 4 feet," said Geraci, who jumped from a second story window to get the boat.

DiFatta said he has tried for two days to reach the Army Corps of Engineers to discuss blowing up parts of the Lake Borgne Basin levee to drain water trapped inside the parish."The levees that used to protect us are now threatening people's lives," he said.In the western half of the parish, water levels have dropped to 10 feet or below in most spots. In the eastern half outside the levee protection system, roads are beginning to emerge from the floodwaters, said Geraci, who is staying on a boat owned by his company, Shallow Draft Elevating Boats.But Geraci said the good news is bittersweet as the receding floodwaters in eastern St. Bernard have revealed the near total devastation wrought by the storm. He said just a handful of structures remain standing in the communities of Hopedale, Yscloskey and Shell Beach.The devastation throughout the New Orleans area has raised questions about how many displaced residents will return. The extreme flooding will even test the resilience of St. Bernard, where many families have lived with severe storms for generations.

Staff writer Robert Scott contributed to this report.