Two Friends in New Orleans Reflect on Hurricane Katrina’s Anniversary As Isaac Makes Landfall

Hurricane Isaac made its second landfall around 4 a.m. this morning near Port Fourchon, Louisiana with winds sustained at 80 mile-per-hour.  It first made landfall Tuesday evening near Plaquemine Parish, Louisiana, about 95 miles from New Orleans.

While there is flooding and damage, this tropical system pales in comparison to Hurricane Katrina that made landfall on this date back in 2005.  More than 1,800 people lost their lives and many more left New Orleans and never came back making their new home elsewhere in the United States.

I visited New Orleans in the spring of 2010 and even after almost five years, there was still much work to be done and many of the damaged and abandoned homes in the Ninth Ward remained standing.

A friend of mine from Murray State University, Crystal Craddock-Posey and her husband, Anthony, live in New Orleans.  At the bottom of this blog, check out some of Ants’ incredible photos of the aftermath of Katrina and how much still needed to be done more than a year later.

PREPARING FOR “ISAAC”

I talked with Crystal back in 2008 on the three-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and I blogged about it then.  You can find that at the bottom of this blog, too.  However, I sent Crystal a few questions earlier this week as Isaac was still churning its way through the Gulf of Mexico as a tropical storm.

Q: What is the feeling now that a “state of emergency” has been issued and the storm could move closer to New Orleans?

The concensus in the city is that Isaac won’t be too bad. It’s not a strong system. The city (and its residents) are much better organized and prepared to deal with Isaac. Local area officials are working together and with the State in a much more efficient way than they did during Katrina. Even if Isaac turns out to be not so bad, it dredges up Katrina stress in differing degrees for people here.

Q: In the seven years since Katrina (and four since we did the previous blog), what changes have you noticed?

The city has improved by leaps and bounds, since the devastation of Katrina. There are so many new shops and restaurants post-Katrina. The city just “runs” better. There is still room for improvement, though.

Q: How is the “new” (current) NOLA different than the old NOLA?

So many people moved to New Orleans after Katrina, that it’s taken on a “newer” feel in some ways. E.g., new tech-centered businesses, younger entrepreneurs. The old-world charm is still very much present here, however.

Q: Since the Gulf has been relatively quiet for years, are you afraid that this could the season of big hurricanes?

One never knows, but I don’t think this will be a season for big hurricanes. We had a three-year lull between 2005’s Katrina and 2008’s Gustav. Now, four years later, we have Isaac approaching.

Here is the blog that I posted on August 28, 2008, on the three-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and it also features some background information (current at the time):

New Orleans: Three years after Katrina

Friday, August 29th, 2008

HURRICANE GUSTAV MAKES LANDFALL:   Gustav made landfall early Monday morning, September 1st, near Cocodrie, Louisiana, which is about 70 miles southwest of New Orleans or 100 miles southeast of Lafayette, Louisiana.  Winds were at 110 miles-per-hour at landfall making Gustav a Category Two storm.  (Top winds peaked at 150 miles-per-hour Saturday.

UPDATE:  Saturday, August 30th, noon.  My friends, Crystal and Anthony, have decided to evacuate New Orleans in advance of Gustav.  (You’ll read Crystal’s interview below.)

ORIGINAL POST:  Friday, August 29, 2 p.m.

Friday, August 29th, marks the three-year anniversary when Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana causing levees to breach and submerging 80 percent of New Orleans.

Now, residents are becoming uneasy and are closely watching the Caribbean Sea as Hurricane Gustav gains strength and threatens with a possible landfall early Tuesday morning somewhere near the Crescent City.

Once the storm makes it into the Gulf of Mexico this weekend, forecasters will be able to pinpoint more accurately and precisely the intensity and where Gustav will make landfall.

KATRINA HISTORY

Hurricane Katrina now stands as the sixth strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded (this is based on the central barometric pressure, not winds).  However, its peak winds hit 175 miles-per-hour.

Although Katrina’s winds had dropped to 125 miles-per-hour (still a very strong Category Three storm) when it made landfall near Buras, Louisiana, it was what happened after the storm began to move away from New Orleans that we will always remember.

The winds, rain, and the storm surge (estimated to be at least fourteen feet), caused 53 different levees to breach.

This allowed additional water pushed into Lake Pontchartrain from the Gulf during the hurricane to flood New Orleans.

For months, the rest of the nation and the world watched the horrific watery images from the city so rich in history and culture and wondered if it would ever return to its glory.

The death toll in the United States from Katrina is at least 1,836 (1,577 from Louisiana alone).  There are still 705 people considered missing from the storm.

Three years later, many people still consider the slow reaction time to the disaster from local, state, and federal levels of the government, a complete failure.

While it is still too early to tell where Gustav will make landfall, many people in New Orleans are getting ready– just in case.

NEW ORLEANS– THREE YEARS LATER  (From my 2008 blog on Katrina’s anniversary)

Thursday night, I emailed a friend and former classmate of mine, Crystal Craddock-Posey, who has lived in New Orleans since 1992 with her husband, Anthony, and I want to share her responses with you.

Q:  With a projected landfall still days away and a possible track that could include New Orleans, what is the mood at this point?

“People are on edge here.   Local stations have begun broadcasting at 4:30 a.m. and extended regular noon and evening broadcasts to an hour to cover the issue of the approaching storm.

Some folks in areas which did not flood are saying that they are going to stay for Gustav unless it gains more strength before landfall.  Some who were here for Katrina are staying again; most are not, and have begun leaving already.  

People in our area are already boarding up windows and filling up their tanks.  At this point, people don’t know whether to go buy a bunch of hurricane food and supplies, or just pack up and leave.  

It brings to mind something my grandmother used to say, ‘Nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs!’   I think Saturday will be the point when most make the decision to stay or go.”
Q:  Are people taking this storm seriously there knowing it could quickly develop into a major hurricane in the Gulf?

“I think this storm is being taken seriously by most.    No one wants another Katrina.   My mailman received eight feet of water in his home after the levees failed following Katrina.   He is back in his repaired home now, and is seriously worried about a repeat performance.”

Q:  When Katrina submerged 80% of the city with water, how much damage did you encounter and where are you in relation to the ninth ward, one of the hardest hit areas?

“We were fortunate to have lived in the 20 % of New Orleans which did not flood.  We are higher up near the rim of the “bowl-shaped” city, so the water didn’t reach us.  We had water damage from above, though.  The high winds and tornadoes took off sections of roof and boards from our rear dormer, so we had water damage in the form of fallen ceilings, damaged floors, and mold everywhere, etc.   

We are a few miles from the ninth ward.  The ninth ward is behind the Central Business District, the French Quarter and Bywater areas of the city, going toward Chalmette/St. Bernard Parish, where the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, aka “Mister Go” failed.”

Q:  Describe the feel of New Orleans now with the three-year anniversary Friday.  Progress is being made slowly, but what is the ”new” New Orleans like compared to the “old”.

“There were supposed to be certain ceremonies held to honor those who perished in Hurricane Katrina.    One local cemetery has planted small white flags, one for every person who died during Katrina, with a name on each flag.  (By the way, a client of mine lost her dad, her stepmother, her aunt and her 12-year-old brother; they drowned in their home.  She also lost everything she owned that she hadn’t taken with her during the evacuation.)   

That was supposed to last through Labor Day Weekend.    The anniversary is today, and it seems to be adding fuel to the fire of distress.   

“New” New Orleans in the French Quarter, Garden District and Uptown areas, the 20% that didn’t flood, is much like it was before the storm– at least from the street level.  

Other flooded areas are rebuilding and coming back.   The hardest hit areas still are mostly desolate patches where homes used to be.   

Financially, the effects of Katrina have been hard on everyone.   People who came back after the storm have been struggling for three years with $10,000 per year homeowner’s premiums and $5,000 per year flood premiums, an increase in property taxes in Orleans Parish, increased labor and material expenses for repairs, shady contractors who take money and never show, etc.”      

Q:  Where do you see New Orleans in the next few years, barring no more hurricanes or disasters?

“With the right leadership and funding, it’s possible to make New Orleans a great example of how to rebuild after a disaster, e.g. green projects, solar panels, etc.  It just hasn’t happened thus far.” 

Crystal works now as an attorney in New Orleans.  However, back in the 1980s, she was in the radio and television program with me at Murray State University in Kentucky.  She then went to law school in New Orleans when she moved there in the summer of 1992.

PHOTOS BY ANTHONY POSEY FROM 2005-2006

New Orleans, my thoughts go out to you and I’m glad Hurricane Isaac was only a category one storm.  I hope that’s all of the excitement you see this year and that the only hurricanes you experience are ones like these shared by Ray, Crystal, Ants, and myself in April 2010.

Anthony

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