Katrina . . . Photos of a devastated city
You thought I was exaggerating, when I said that Hurricane Katrina turned modern reinforced concrete buildings into rubble, didn’t you?
Although they look like they were taken a couple of days after the hurricane, most of the photos you are about to see were made in the last week in February or March 1, 2006. One could not ask for a professional more qualified to deal with storm damage than a historic preservation architect. I had also brought along the materials that I needed to show people how to use the sun to distill drinking water, construct temporary toilets and build water tight shelters from debris. There was still a terrible shortage of potable water in New Orleans. All of the water lines were contaminated and the pumps weren’t working. However, I was never allowed to tell anyone in a position of authority how the people could create their own water and build their own shelters.
In my first trip to New Orleans in early October 2005, I was not allowed to visit Houma and not even allowed into the core city by National Guardsmen. Even five weeks after the storm, there was still no one for me to offer my services to. Everyone was running around like chickens with their heads cut off and the police were trigger happy . . . assuming anyone without a uniform on was either a looter or a mugger.
The first National Guardsmen checkpoint rejected my letter from the Houma Nation, asking for my assistance. I then walked to the next check point a couple of blocks away and told the soldiers that my dogs were experts in finding cadavers. The dogs and I were immediately given special ID tags. I thought I had told a fib, but my two herd dogs turned out to be very good cadaver dogs . . . but such an experience is the making of nightmares. Only people with press credentials were allowed to walk around the city and take photos, so I was only able to take a few photos, when there were no cops or soldiers around.
Virtually nothing was done in New Orleans the first six months. As of March 1, 2006, most of the city still had no electricity, no operating traffic lights, no garbage pickup and for that matter . . . few human occupants outside the French Quarter and affluent neighborhood around Tulane University. East New Orleans would look like Hiroshima for several years. Until February 27, 2006, the nearest gasoline pumps were 38 miles away. On that day, a convenience store reopened in Slidell, 33 miles from the French Quarter.
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