Sunday, October 9, 2005.

I didn't get all that much done today.  I finished pulling the weeds out of the side garden, and I finished picking up all the little bits of debris on my property.  All the shingle bits are now in one neat pile.  I started tearing the carpet out of the upstairs bedroom, but then Andrea had to go to the store, and I had to handle Virginia while she was gone.  I took Virginia out for an Icee, exchanged my empty propane tank for a full one - we got the last one they had! - and then we played and had a fun time.  


I've been reading about SBA loans, because we're going to need one before this is all over.  It's a pretty good program.  It covers losses that insurance doesn't cover, including insurance deductibles.  You can't refinance credit card debt, though, and I was hoping to do that.  

One thing I was surprised to discover is that the deadline for applying for an SBA loan for Katrina damages is October 28, 2005.  We only have three weeks left.  I'm not even sure my insurance company is going to tell me what they will or will not cover by then.  I have no idea how much to apply for.  The deadline is going to roll over us and I think a lot of people are going to be unaware that a deadline even exists.  The folks in St. Bernard and heavily damaged areas of New Orleans aren't even going to get an insurance adjuster by then, much less have anything together enough to file for assistance.  

I have a bad feeling about this...


About 50 people have sent me the story about the crocodile caught in New Orleans after the storm.  While the pictures are cool, the story is false.  The first tip off is that we don't have crocodiles in Louisiana.  We have alligators.  For more information, and the pictures, check this out:


Pictures of the day.

Looking over the 17th street canal levee.

A dead deer hangs off a balcony in St. Bernard.

Well, that's not very friendly.

"Nagin got heart, keep on."  My jury is still out on Mr. Nagin.  He wants to turn New Orleans into Vegas.  I guess the next step is to legalize prostitution.  

Hey!  Someone stole my idea!

I like this shot.

This house didn't flood, but the sewer backed up.  Anybody for a bath?

How about a soak in a spa?

Hmmm...  Good question.

Remodeling a-la Katrina.  I'm not sure about the chair in the chandelier, but I'm not too keen on the open ceiling.

Holy ship!

Tug boats tossed onto the batture.

I'm not sure what these guys are doing...  They're supposed to be moving flood damaged cars.  I guess the guy on the hood hasn't had a date in a long time.  Ouch.

I guess this jewelry store is closed for renovation or something...  I do wonder how he managed to nail the door shut from the outside while still being inside...

Airboating down St. Charles.

You'd think the cyclists would learn to stay out of the middle of the street.

What I want to know is this:  Do canoes have to stop at stop signs and obey other traffic laws?

I guess God destroyed everybody else's home?

I guess "STAY OUT, I HAVE A TOASTER OVEN!" wouldn't be as effective.

Even the safe wasn't safe.

Someone mowed 'THANKS' into their lawn with a heart for the helicopter people.  This is right on river road.

A whole new meaning to 'pull up a seat'.

Jesus lost a thumb and a finger.  I'd say something about an eight fingered savior, but then I'd go to hell or something.


OK.  I didn't want to do any more about this, but I just can't stand it...


Second-guessing is not Broussard's focus

But others question Katrina Week moves

By Bob Ross
East Jefferson bureau

With Category 5 Hurricane Katrina bearing down on the southeast Louisiana coastline on Aug. 28, Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard ordered the operators of the parish's huge diesel drainage pumps out of their stations and evacuated to Washington Parish.

Two days later, as parts of Jefferson Parish lay rotting in Katrina's floodwater, Broussard announced that displaced residents quickly would be given a chance to return to the primitive conditions -- no electricity, water or sewer service -- to survey their damage, collect items they needed and leave.

Which, I have to admit, he did right. 

By the end of Katrina Week, Broussard had gone on national television and broken down sobbing as he told the emotional story of an employee's mother who had died while waiting to be rescued, a gripping tale but one that turned out to be greatly exaggerated.

At this early stage in the evolving history of government's response to Hurricane Katrina, these are among the enduring images of Broussard, a career politician who, after Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, occupied the Katrina spotlight as much as or more than any public official, earning him criticism in some quarters and praise in others.

"As a whole, I think he did exactly what the citizens of the parish expected: to take control and take a leadership position in getting us through the disaster," said former Parish President Tim Coulon, now a lobbyist for the Adams and Reese law firm and chairman of the Superdome Commission. "Of course, many of those decisions were very spontaneous and might lead to second-guessing." 

Pump plan criticized

The decision to evacuate pump station operators on the day before Katrina struck, and not to return them to their posts for more than 24 hours, did not originate with Broussard. In fact, he was following a "doomsday plan" developed during Coulon's 1996-2003 administration, when Broussard was Parish Council chairman.
Coulon said the plan calls for pump operators to be evacuated for an approaching Category 5 storm. The plan does not spell out where they are to be taken, he said.

Even as critics now blame the lack of pumping for much of the flooding, particularly in Metairie and Kenner, Broussard stands by the decision to remove the operators and potentially save their lives.

"You could easily be sentencing someone to death by staying at their post," Broussard said in an interview last week. "That is illogical, unreasonable, and we will never do that."

But it was OK to sentence the firemen, police, and other folks to death by abandoning the pumps?  Wonderful logic...

Had the pump operators remained in their stations during Katrina, Broussard said, its storm surge would have rushed from Lake Pontchartrain back through the stations, anyway, and still flooded parts of East Jefferson. And, he said, by the time the pump operators returned the night of Aug. 29, they found many of the stations were damaged and inoperable.

That might be true.  It might not.  Who knows what we could have been able to do with men at those stations.

"I did not create this plan, but this plan has logic," he said.

That logic is lost on Jackie Madden, a neighborhood activist who lives in the Palm Vista subdivision in Metairie.

"My concern is why have the pumps here if people are going to leave, and why bring them 60 miles away?" she said.

Broussard conceded the plan might need tweaking. He said he will consider other evacuation sites, closer to the pump stations than Washington Parish, for pump operators so that they can return more quickly after the worst of a hurricane has passed.

Others suggest more drastic changes.

East Jefferson Levee District officials say it's time to consider whether their employees should run all the pumping stations on the east bank of the Mississippi River, so operators don't leave the area. In Kenner, city officials are planning to ask the parish to train their own employees to work the pumps in the city. 

I'd go for the locals.  I'm not entirely keen on the Levee District, but I'd sooner trust them than trust Aaron to wipe his own butt.

Re-entry worked smoothly

In contrast to the evacuation decision, the decision to let evacuees back into Jefferson Parish one week after the storm was entirely Broussard's. And it was roundly panned -- in the beginning.

"I was absolutely a salmon swimming upstream on this one," Broussard said. "There was opposition from my top administration, law enforcement and even council members, but I refused to back down."

The concern, said a State Police spokesman, Lt. Lawrence McLeary, was for the safety of the Jefferson residents who could find themselves hurt in a car wreck or stranded in a parish without working traffic signals and basic government, medical and retail services.

"There was debris in the roadway and the possibility of injury was there, and with all that debris there was no hospital or 911 service," he said.

Other officials worried that motorists would run out of gasoline in long lines of traffic, and that the congestion might interfere with emergency and utility workers.

"I didn't want people being trapped in Jefferson Parish without these services," Parish Council member John Young said.

I wonder what folks did before those services existed...

Broussard held firm, convinced that National Guard members and parish workers could clear major roads of debris and that letting residents "peek and turn" was crucial to their own recovery.

"People had to learn their lives were altered in a dramatic way," he said. "They had to see they probably would have to enroll their kids in school (elsewhere) for a period of time."

And so the return began Sept. 5, despite the critics, with Broussard explaining Jefferson was basically under martial law and he was the only marshal in town.

"I am not an analysis paralysis guy," he said. "I'm an action guy. If you manage a crisis by committee you are hopelessly inept in reacting to the needs of the citizens. "I was willing to take the bull by the horns."

These days, McLeary and Young concede that the return went smoothly.

"In retrospect, it worked out a lot better than many of us thought it could," Young said. 

Facts wrong on national TV

Six days after Katrina hit, Broussard grabbed the national spotlight again, during an interview on the "Meet the Press" television show. Sobbing uncontrollably, he told moderator Tim Russert about the death of emergency manager Tommy Rodrigue's mother in a St. Bernard Parish nursing home.

"The guy who runs this building I'm in, emergency management, he's responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in a St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said, 'Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?' And he said, 'Yeah, mama. Somebody's coming to get you. Somebody's coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody's coming to get you on Friday. And she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night."

The spectacle capped days of local complaints about Washington's sluggish response to the Katrina, and, as The New York Times reported the next day: "The administration's problems in the crisis seemed to crystallize" with Broussard's TV appearance. Broussard's breakdown also earned a full-page portrait in Vanity Fair magazine's November issue.

But he got the facts wrong.

Eva Rodrigue, 92, did die, along with 33 other people, in St. Rita's Nursing Home in Chalmette. But she did not die on the Friday of Katrina Week, rather much earlier in the week, perhaps Monday, the very day Katrina struck, her son said. She did not have the series of conversations with her son that the parish president described two days later.

Broussard said this week it was on that Friday that he learned about the death, from staffers whom Rodrigue had told. And while he talked to Rodrigue that night, forcing his employee to take time off to grieve and have some personal time, the two did not discuss the details of what happened to Rodrigue's mother.

Still, the death stuck in Broussard's mind: Here was a man charged with safeguarding a parish of almost 500,000 people, and he could not rescue his own mother. And as he talked about abandonment during the "Meet the Press" interview, the thought of Eva Rodrigue came into his head.

"Absolutely I was told she was asking for him. Absolutely I was told by my employees," Broussard said recently. "I could care less if someone thinks I got the facts of Tommy's mother's death wrong. I only care about what Tommy thinks."

Rodrigue said he holds "no animosity" toward Broussard. He said he understands the strain under which Broussard and others in Jefferson's emergency operations center were working during Katrina Week.
He said he told co-workers that he was calling the nursing home before the storm to find out it was not evacuating everyone.

"Somebody may have taken that information and it just go messed up," he said. "(People) have to understand the environment we were operating in. This place was crawling with people."

For his part, Broussard refuses to question individual actions from that hectic and defining week for Jefferson Parish. Not now. Not when there is still so much to do to rebuild the parish.

"I feel I made the best decisions I could make at the time," he said. "I did not have a personal agenda in any of the decisions I made. History will be the judge."

Funny.  That's what all the crappiest politicians always say...





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