Saturday, October 8, 2005.
There was nothing particularly interesting to report yesterday, so I took a break and skipped a day. Sue me. ;) Actually, the most exciting thing that happened yesterday is that we got phone service back, so for the first time after the storm we are 100% on services. Water, sewer, power, cable, internet, and phone. We're supposed to be on twice a week garbage pickup too, but we'll see if it happens. Nobody has picked up the branches and logs off the right of way yet - and I was told today that it might take awhile.
This morning was gloriously cool. We opened some windows and aired out the house. There is still a strong mildew smell in the kitchen, and I'll have to try to track that down tomorrow.
Today was too nice not to work outside, so I took Virginia to Home Depot to get a few things and then came home and started working in the yard again. I set the patio back up, put the chairs and tables out of the garage, and put the plants out too. Virginia helped me all along, and we pulled the weeds and vines out of the side garden. We have to tear it all back out because we didn't really do anything with it this summer, and it's overgrown with all sorts of things. Virginia managed to dig up a white grub (which will eventually turn into a June Beetle), named it 'Jeffrey' and build a 'house' for it in a potting saucer. I enjoyed Virginia very much today, she was a real delight.
Andrea took Virginia and Madeline off for a play date with soem of Virginia's friends that she hadn't seen before the storm, and I tackled the front porch and arranged the plants, repotted some, and set the porch back up. I watered everything, hosed off the drive, and felt good about what I had done. It's clean and normal.
I started tearing out the carpet in the upstairs bedroom, but I didn't get very far because Steve and Eileen were coming for dinner and I had to shower and get ready. I managed to tear out a section of the carpet to discover that there is a wonderful wood floor under it. Unfortunately, the wood floor is painted dark green. Nothing a little sanding and a nice coat of urethane won't cure...
One of the things I bought at Home Depot in Houston before I came home was one of those big magnet bars on a handle used for picking up all things ferrous. I've been sweeping the lawn with it every so often, and I collected nearly 100 roofing nails and other nasty things that would have required a hospital visit had they been stepped on. I walked around in the yard barefoot for the first time and enjoyed myself. I just love walking barefoot in the grass. Hmmm... Maybe that's weird... Anyway, my point is that those magnet things are great.
Steven and Eileen came over and we had steak and a nice visit. I was very glad to see them both. They aren't planning on staying in the area, though. Eileen wants to move to Virginia, and Steve is thinking about Oregon. I'll be really sad to see them go.
Well, that's about it except for a few tid-bits. 'Night.
I got a form submission (from the box at the bottom of any page on the website):
Subject: Katrina, before and after
Hey, Shane, I live in Kenner and work in Metairie and really enjoy reading your blog. I shared many of your political and social viewpoints and found great comfort in reading your diary. Those photos of Katrina are very unique and your remarks often reveal philosophical humor. You are indeed an intellectual writer and the style of your writing connects with people. Since our local and state governments are all dysfunctional, maybe you should think about running for the public office and providing better service to the people. Thank you so much for sharing all the info.
Best wishes to you and your family
Thanks, JZ. Since you didn't leave an email address, I couldn't answer back. Thanks for the feedback. I don't think I'd make a very good politician. I say what's on my mind too much. I can just imagine being Parish President and sitting in on a council meeting. Someone would ask me my opinion, and I'd say something like, "Well, what I think is that you are all a bunch of dick-ups and I have no idea how you stole your way into office." Hmmm... I don't think I'd last long...
I got a response from Americas Wetlands campaign about their TV commercial. A good response, I thought:
Thank you for alerting us to the fact that PSAs placed last year are still airing. These were part of a 2003-2004 public service campaign to gain attention to our dramatic loss of wetlands in Louisiana. We regret that with this tragedy, these spots are still airing and have moved immediately to ensure that they have been pulled from all stations. We do not control the airing decisions for individual stations and networks once public service announcements have been delivered, but we have been in touch will all stations and networks with our request that these ads, developed for another time and purpose be removed from service.
America’s WETLAND: Campaign to Save Coastal Louisiana
Here's another article about Aaron and Walter's bumbling. I should also note that nobody has heard a word from these two clowns since we all got back into the Parish.
Frustration, anger grow in Jeff over removal of pump operatorsBy Sheila Grissett
East Jefferson bureau
A sense of outrage and disbelief is growing among Jefferson Parish residents at the decision by Parish President Aaron Broussard’s administration to evacuate drainage pump operators the day before Hurricane Katrina flooded southeast Louisiana on Aug. 29, according to extensive interviews with residents this week.
They are frustrated that they didn’t know of the plan beforehand, stunned that the pump operators weren’t returned to their posts for more than 24 hours and anxious that parish officials have been slow, in their view, to justify the decision in light of the ensuing destruction.
But mostly they are mad.
“This wasn’t an act of God. It was an act of stupidity, and we’re the little guys now stuck between the parish and the insurance companies,” said Danny Callahan of Metairie. “We are the ones who have to pay for the decisions politicians make.”
“Higher insurance rates, deductibles, financial ruin. I don’t want any politician deciding what they think is best for me. When he pays the mortgage on my house or takes my place in filing for bankruptcy, then he can make the decisions.”
Administration officials say they are still analyzing data on the hurricane and its effects, and that the full implications of the decision to evacuate pump operators won’t be known for some time.
But in general they say Jefferson’s drainage systems were never designed to withstand a storm as furious as Katrina, and that the decision to evacuate the pump operators was intended to save the lives of employees who would be unlikely to survive a Category 4 or 5 hurricane in stations built to Category 3 standards at best. Moving the operators to safety, in this case to Washington Parish, ensured they would live to pump out the floodwater quickly after Katrina passed, the officials say.
“The damage is done now. Homes are flooded,” said Charles Miller, a small business owner and president of the West Jefferson Civic Coalition. “To me, the bigger question is: ‘Is this going to happen again, or do we have a plan to keep it from happening in the event we have another major hurricane in two weeks?’ We’re sitting here vulnerable, and the hurricane season isn’t over.”
Kenner resident Jackie Madden said the idle pumps are the talk of the town.
“Whether it’s the beauty parlor or the bank, this is the topic of conversation, and there is such disbelief that the pumps were turned off while we were flooding,” said Madden, former president of the East Jefferson Civic League.
Madden said she understands the desire not to put pump operators in harm’s way.
“But I don’t understand why they sent them so far? If they had stayed closer, perhaps they could have saved some neighborhoods, if not all of them,” she said. “People just don’t understand.”
Broussard and Emergency Management Director Walter Maestri have said that pump station operators were among the caravan of public employees and equipment sent across Lake Pontchartrain to shelters north of Interstate 12 during the late afternoon and early evening of Aug. 28. At the time, Katrina was a Category 5 storm, packing 175 mph winds, although it subsided to Category 3 and 125 mph by the time the eye made landfall Aug. 29 about 10 a.m., according to initial reports from the National Hurricane Center.
It was the first time that the administration had implemented its two-year-old
“doomsday” plan, which calls for evacuating even essential personnel if a Category 4 or 5 storm threatens region.
“It was a matter of saving life,” Maestri said. “You’ve got to distinguish life from property, and I don’t think a lot of people are doing that. I think we’re looking for a boogey man.”
Others say the distinction is not so clear.
“For bedridden people, flooding is a matter of life,” said Coleen Perilloux Landry, a longtime community activist and retired Sheriff’s Office colonel who helped evacuate nursing homes during Hurricane Andrew in 1992. “For elderly people who become easily confused and frightened, rising water is a matter of life. Who’s to say how high water will get, especially when the pumps aren’t on to drain it?
“I believe our homes would not have flooded in Hurricane Katrina had the pumps been running at the proper time,” Landry said. “Now we have the agony -- yes agony -- of trying to meet with insurance adjusters, fighting mold and mildew and throwing our treasured possessions in a heap on the curb. ... What kind of faith can we have in our public officials to protect us?
Parish Council members have not criticized Broussard’s decision, but several have said they are discussing alternatives with the administration in hopes of balancing employee safety with the need to operate the multimillion-dollar drainage system.
Councilman Louis Congemi, who has estimated that at least 50 percent of the homes in his district flooded, predicted that parish officials will fast track plans to build “safe houses” at all 18 major pump stations in order to keep personnel on site during stronger storms. Currently, five safe houses are under construction on the West Bank.
Council Chairman Tom Capella said he won’t second-guess the president’s decision in Katrina: “Now is not the time for Monday-morning quarterbacking. It’s a very difficult balance, a very difficult decision.”
But Capella said he’s told the administration he’s interested in seeing improvements made to the disaster plan wherever possible.
“We’ll sit down with Aaron to see if there’s a closer shelter that could possibly house the operators,” he said. “If another perfect storm hits us next week, it will be another tough decision that the parish president has to make. But if there’s a way to get them closer, I’m sure we will.”
Broussard, Maestri and nine other parish officials rode out Katrina in Jefferson’s Emergency Operations Center in Marrero, which Maestri has said was constructed to withstand Category 4 winds. Broussard said other key personnel were sent north to shelters so that they would be safe – and available to re-establish parish government – had Katrina shifted a few miles to the west and destroyed West Jefferson.
Some emergency first responders, as well as some council members, rode out the storm in East Jefferson General Hospital in Metairie and the West Jefferson Medical Center in Marrero, which also housed medical staff and seriously ill patients. Miller, the Civic Coalition leader, said his father had a leg amputated two days before the storm and spent Katrina in West Jefferson Medical Center.
“Now, if the hospital was safe enough for my dad and all those other people, why wasn’t it safe enough for the pump station operators?” he said. “They could have left as soon as the storm was over and gone to work. But if it wasn’t safe enough for them, then everyone there should have been evacuated.”
Terrytown resident Jeffrey Haupt agreed that the hospitals would have provided close refuge for the pump operators and a quick return to pump stations.
“With no power and no one on there to turn on the standby generators, the suppression systems failed and the lake flowed into the canals,” he said. “Hurricane Katrina presented a perfect scenario for back siphoning to be achieved, and the parish leaders allowed it to happen.”
Callahan said the parish should equip the drainage system for remote control operation if personnel won’t stay on site.
“Whatever that would cost won’t compare to the cost of the massive, massive damage done to homes and businesses in Jefferson Parish,” said Callahan, an electrical engineer whose home near West Napoleon Avenue flooded.
Debbie Settoon, a former East Jefferson Civic League president and a consulting engineer in the oil and gas industry, said the technology exists to automate the pumps system.
“I understand not putting people in harm’s way. We evacuate men and women from the gulf all the time,” she said. “But why not instrument the pump stations to operate remotely? We do that everyday. We operate platforms with no men on them.”
Settoon was in Baton Rouge when she heard the news that pump stations had been evacuated.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I just screamed when I heard it, and then I started crying. It was the first time I cried. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back because I knew what it meant.”
Well, my first response wasn't to cry. My first response was to get damned mad. I'm still damned mad, and I intend to work for whatever campaign runs against Arron and his little drama squad.