NEW ORLEANS UPDATE

Lewis called with news of a visit to his immediate and extended family in New Orleans and Mississippi. I am excessively fond of New Orleans history and music, and there are suspicions that I may be a lost child of his father's, so this is of some importance to me. Any errors in this casual account are mine.

Everyone in Lewis' immediate and extended family got out before the storm. Most are living northwest of the city or have scattered to six states. Cell phones were out after the storm, so they relayed messages through relatives in Texas and California until they knew everyone was safe.
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The harder hit areas, in Mississippi and New Orleans proper where the levees broke, still look like miles and miles of war zone and devastation. Driving through the area, Lewis doesn't know how it's ever going to be rebuilt. He says the television reports of businesses reopening here or there don't even begin to show the scale of devastation and waste.
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His parents' home, the House of Raging Armadillos, suffered more from wind than water. The wind was strong enough to pop the shingles loose from their adhesive. A favorite Southern Red Maple tree was killed. The water table in Louisiana is too high for a deep root system, and to Lewis' eye, any tree taller than ten or fifteen feet was pulled over or debranched.
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Lewis saw lots of people living in FEMA trailers on their front lawns because their house is uninhabitable, the roof covered with blue plastic tarp. There’s a kind of stench to it all. The traffic signals are gone; they've borrowed stop signs from the residential neighborhoods and posted them on the main boulevards.
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The Lovely Monica's house in Mandeville was okay, a couple of rafters broken by a fallen tree. Monica's husband Steve was at the house almost the next day with a portable generator. Their old house, near the waterfront in the historic district, was destroyed. Two years ago they moved a little bit further inland.
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Sister Peggy and her husband in Slidell were building a house and living in a condo. The condo took two feet of water which wiped out their possessions. They were back the next day gutting everything and starting over.
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A civil engineer friend made it back two days after the storm. Made his way down to the lower 9th ward to upscale homes in Lexington. Entire houses were lifted off their slabs and moved the buildings two or three lots down the road. Water was at least up to the doortops. Marsh grass had been transplanted to the roofs of buildings.
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Lewis' Aunt Clara in Mississippi lost everything. Her family filled out every form required by FEMA and four months later, she not so much as a card from FEMA acknowledging receipt. She’s one of the Mississippi people, and Lewis suspects a class war in who gets assistance when.
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His family members, thank the Lord, have mostly been able to help themselves, with middle to upper middle incomes, private cars, greater education, networks and resources. And minimal damage, except for Peggy and Aunt Clara. More to follow, perhaps with photos from Lewis and Peggy...

See Also: Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil, Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?, The Imperfect Storm, Flaming Assholes If a Social Darwinist Dies, Should Any of Us Care?

1 comment:

Taocat said...

I sent an email to an old friend from Grad School at Western who had moved to New Orleans on completion of her degree. In fact my only visit to New Orleans was a few days spent with her when my beloved Stacy was at OTS in Alabama. I'm happy to report that Sheryl is alive and well - she retreated to Kalamazoo before the storm and reports that her home sustained some flood damage - mostly floors and the bottom 4 feet of drywall...