The Rural Patriot remembers the victims, events, and stories from Hurricane Katrina. May those who have perished rest in peace, and may those who have been affected by loss of any sort continue on their healing path.
WARNING: Graphic images are posted below the folds of these Katrina posts.
Today. August 29, 2006. Exactly one year ago. The lives of hundreds of thousands of people along the Gulf Coast changed forever. The heartbreak of Katrina’s effects will linger for years; for many, it will linger for the rest of their lives. Some have returned from their involuntary exile; some will never return. Rebuilding efforts in these areas have varied.
(Above photo credit: [anonymous], Object #214, Hurricane Digital Memory Bank: Preserving the Stories of Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, 20 November 2005, hurricanearchive.org. A friend of mine took this picture in St. Bernard.)
A report prepared for Congress last November estimated that 189,000 children were dislocated by Katrina; about 110,000 still do not live where they did nine months ago. Some children have attended as many as nine schools since August. Those who have returned to school in New Orleans often do not attend the same schools with the same students or teachers as before.
Ten months after Katrina, its emotional effect on children is proving to be long and lasting. Two studies of children affected by the hurricane have found high rates of depression, anxiety, behavioral problems and post-traumatic stress disorder.
More than 75 percent of the children at a Metairie preschool failed a recent hearing test conducted by the New Orleans Speech and Hearing Center. Executive Director Lesley Jernigan said the problem can mostly be attributed to “allergies brought on by all the crud that’s in the air since the hurricane.”
(Above photo credit: William A. Morgan, Object #1997, Hurricane Digital Memory Bank: Preserving the Stories of Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, 11 March 2006, hurricanearchive.org. Lower Ninth Ward)
Hurricane Katrina’s official death toll is 1,695 people, 1,464 in Louisiana. The bodies of about 50 others – about half in New Orleans alone – have been found in the last year but remain unidentified. Orleans Parish Coroner Frank Minyard said the quest to match bodies with lives would continue until each one had a name.
1,464: Total number of deaths in the state
135: Still missing
75%: Amount of the city that was flooded, with water as deep as 4.3 metres. It took 53 days to pump it all out
200,000: New Orleans is at less than half its pre-Katrina population
1.3 million: People displaced in the state
3 of 9: Number of New Orleans hospitals that have reopened
81,688: Number of FEMA emergency trailers being used across the state
43%: Percentage of displaced residents that went to Texas. The rest are scattered from Georgia to Illinois
$367,546,737: Total worth of disaster food stamps handed out.
26 per 100,000: Suicide rate in New Orleans. Before the storms, the annual suicide rate in New Orleans was less than 9 per 100,000 residents
50%: Increase in the murder rate in Jefferson Parish, as drug dealers have been pushed into the suburbs
$2,000: A rental apartment in the city which cost $500-a-month a year ago can now run four times that.
(Above photo credit: Barbara Agar, Object #1884, Hurricane Digital Memory Bank: Preserving the Stories of Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, 6 March 2006, hurricanearchive.org. Rats Nest Road or Lakeview Dr. Slidell Louisiana)
Those who choose to return do so in spite of the city’s broken infrastructure, which a year later remains in tatters: Nearly 60 percent of homes and business are still not receiving electricity or heating gas. Only three out of nine New Orleans hospitals have reopened. Only 56 of 128 public schools will enroll students this fall.
The job of clearing debris left by the storm remains unfinished, and has been plagued by accusations of fraud and price gouging. Tens of thousands of families still live in trailers or mobile homes, with no indication of when or how they will be able to obtain permanent housing. Important decisions about rebuilding and improving flood defenses have been delayed. And little if anything has been done to ensure the welfare of the poor in a rebuilt New Orleans.
The city of New Orleans, 80 percent of the city of New Orleans, was underwater for 57 days. That’s an area seven times larger than Manhattan. There was more debris in the Gulf Coast than all of Andrew and the World Trade Center, combined. There was 1,500,000 people affected by this storm, of which 800,000 of those were displaced citizens.
… the New Orleans metropolitan area, and not just the city, remains vastly shrunken in population four months after the storm, having lost 378,000 people, and that those who remained were more prosperous and were far more likely to be white.
I then drove to West End near the 17th Street Canal where the water came in. I began to ache inside, wondering how the people survived, if there were survivors there.
Storm victims who need to rent an apartment will find themselves paying 39 percent more than last year, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s estimate of fair market rents. Flood victims who decide to purchase another home in the metropolitan area will pay about 26 percent more than they would have last year for a non-flooded property.
… the city set Tuesday – Katrina’s first anniversary – as the deadline for homeowners to gut or otherwise clean up properties damaged by the storm.
City officials hope to accelerate the cleanup with the Tuesday deadline for homeowners. People who don’t comply with it after being put on notice face a range of possible penalties, from liens being placed on their property to the seizure or destruction of homes.
The Lower Ninth Ward is exempt from the gutting deadline, although residents will be expected to take care of their damaged houses by an unspecified date.
The sad thing was that even though there was no house to go home to, whatever these people found made them so happy.
CLEANUP: The job still isn’t done. More than 100 million cubic yards of debris have been cleared from the region affected by Katrina. So far the government has spent $3.6 billion, a figure that might have been considerably smaller had the contracts for debris removal been subject to competitive bidding.
The state finally won funding in July for the $9 billion ‘Road Home’ program, which pays homeowners up to $150,000 either to repair their damaged property or rebuild elsewhere in the state. People who leave the state are eligible for a 60 percent buyout. The money, which is being distributed through escrow accounts to prevent fraud, is just becoming available a year after the hurricane.
LEVEES: The federal government hasn’t broken any promises with regard to flood protection — mostly because it has assiduously avoided making any.
(Above photo credit: Jeff Romney, Object #572, Hurricane Digital Memory Bank: Preserving the Stories of Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, 13 January 2006, hurricanearchive.org. New Orleans, Garden District. )
From the 19 page report: US House of Representatives Committee On Government Reform – Minority Staff; Special Investigations Division; August 2006; Waste, Fraud, and Abuse in Hurricane Katrina Contracts:
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Bush Administration turned to private contractors to provide relief and recovery services worth billions of dollars. In response, Democratic members of Congress urged that fundamental reforms be enacted to protect Gulf Coast residents and federal taxpayers from waste, fraud, and abuse in these Katrina-related contracts. On September 20, 2005, Rep. Waxman joined with Minority Leader Pelosi in introducing the “Hurricane Katrina Accountability and Clean Contracting Act” (H.R. 3838), stating: “We cannot allow greed, mismanagement, and cronyism to squander billions of taxpayer dollars as has happened too often over the last five years.”
These calls for reform were rejected. On September 21, 2005, President Bush promised: “We’ll make sure your money is being spent wisely. And we’re going to make sure that the money is spent honestly.” A spokesperson for the White House Office of Management and Budget similarly asserted: “We feel that we have the controls in place to prevent abuse and fraud.”
Now, one year later, it is apparent that the promised controls never materialized, allowing waste, fraud and abuse in federal contracting to flourish. The issuance of billions of dollars in no-bid contracts, combined with inadequate contract management and oversight, led to pervasive overcharging and wasteful spending in Katrina-related contracts.
It finds that the contract spending for recovery and reconstruction in the Gulf Coast was hindered by the lack of advance planning; that the competitive contracts were the exception, not the rule; that contract mismanagement has been widespread, due in part of shortages of trained contract; and that the cumulative costs to the taxpayer are enormous. The report and its appendix identify 19 Hurricane Katrina contracts worth $8.75 billion that have experienced waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement.
The lack of a comprehensive rebuilding plan and shortages of housing and labor are crippling New Orleans’ recovery from Hurricane Katrina, while other communities in the Gulf Coast region are coping with a windfall of economic growth, according to a storm-impact study released today by independent researchers.
One in three children in FEMA-subsidized shelters has at least one chronic illness such as asthma requiring medical care.
Half of the children who had access to medical care before the storm no longer do.
Nearly half the parents in the shelters report that their children exhibit symptoms of emotional or behavioral disorders (and treatment is unavailable)
Nearly one in four school-age children is either not enrolled in school or misses 10 days of class every month.
NEW ORLEANS – Despite aggressive efforts to repair the New Orleans levee system following the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, it isn’t clear yet whether it could withstand a hurricane with heavy storm surge this year, the head of the Army Corps of Engineers conceded Saturday.
So, for people who were not a part of Katrina, think about the people who lived there, their whole life everything they had loved and kept for many years is not there and is irreplaceable. Think about that every time you come across a resident from New Orleans. When see them, I hope you give them your blessings. Even though I’m from New Orleans that’s what I do every time I see someone. Because that’s what we need.