Thursday, August 25, 2011

Learning about Katrina

Today was dedicated to learning about Katrina. We began the day with a lecture about the storm itself, the damage it caused and how if afftected the city. I was surprised to learn that the storm never touched down in Louisiana, the eye of the storm was actually over a town in Mississippi. The storm was only about a stage 3 in New Orleans which is manageable. The thing that caused the most damage were the levee breaches, there was over 50 along the river. The levee and flood wall failures caused flooding in 80% of New Orleans and most of St. Bernard Parish. Tens of billions of gallons of water spilled into vast areas of New Orleans, flooding over 100,000 homes and businesses. Responsibility for the design and construction of the levee system belongs to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; the responsibility of maintenance belongs to the local levee boards. It was a very interesting and informative presentation that shed a lot of light on what happened during Katrina.

Then we went to visit the Lower Ninth Ward, nowhere in New Orleans was the devastation greater than in this neighborhood. Storm surge flood waters appear to have poured into the neighborhood from at least three sources. To the east, water flowed in from Saint Bernard Parish, while to the west the Industrial Canal suffered two distinct major breaches. The force of the water did not merely flood homes, but smashed or knocked many off their foundations.  The two pictures below are examples of how the storm washed houses completely away leaving nothing but the foundation, the Lower Ninth Ward is filled with these deserted foundations.  On the bus ride over from the French Quarter our tour guide, Linda, shared her experience what she did during the and after the storm.  She was one of the lucky few that got out of the city before the storm hit, but she did come home to a flood filled apartment and had to move and start all over again in a different area of the city.  It was extremely hard for her to talk about, and Rege, our amazing bus driver never spoke a word of his experience, but from what I gathered from what he did share, he had a very, very sad experience.

These are the signs that organazations would leave on the houses they had checked after the storm. They would draw one line as they entered and one line when they left to form an X.  In the top they would write the date, in the left section they would write what organazation they were from and in the bottom they would leave the number of how many bodies they found inside.  After learning what the signs meant, everyone's eyes would dart immediately to the bottom quadrant, most of the ones I saw had a zero, but sadly not all of them.
This is one of The Doullut steamboat houses, they are famous landmarks in this district.  This one has been nicely restored on the outside.  It was a little eerie to see such a beautiful landmark in such a deserted neighborhood.
We met with the director of, one of the many organizations helping to restore this neigherhood so its residents can come back home.  They are a non profit organization that is doing as much as they can.  All of their workers are volunteers, they also work with residents to help teach them skills on how to rebuild their homes to help bring this neighborhood back.  To check out more of what they are about click here.  Their representatives talked to us about their efforts as well as shared stories about what happened to some of the residents of the neighborhood during and after the storm.  Lewis, who has been a resident of the Lower Ninth Ward his entire life, help with the presentation and the tour of the neighrhood, he never talked about his Katrina experience, it was too difficult for him to talk about.  We toured one of the houses they are currently working on and met some of their volunteers.  They are doing a great job.

Lewis really wanted to use my SLR camera to see what it was like, so this is the picture he took of me in the Lower Ninth Ward.
On December 3, 2007, The Make It Right project initiated a campaign, along with actor Brad Pitt, to rebuild 150 houses in the Lower Ninth Ward. The houses will be sustainable, earth-friendly, and on stilts to prevent later flood damage. Contrary to an oft-repeated yet incorrect notion, the homes being built by the Make It Right Foundation are not free. The homes are financed through a series of available resources: insurance and Road Home proceeds and SBA funding as well as low- to no-interest loans.  The picture below is what Make It Right houses look like.  They are very different from what original houses in the neighborhood look like but they have given a lot of residents nice homes to come home to.

I thought this was a very interesting part of our New Orleans tour.  I think it is important to remember what the city went through and that they are still struggling to come back from such a devastating disaster.  It was a very sobering day but I thought it was good to inform us all about what exactly happened to their city 5 years ago and while they are all postive and happy people, to really see what they are dealing with.
After returning to the French Quarter it was time for lunch.  So the family and I headed to Cafe du Monde to get their famous beignets, these are what REAL beignets should taste like, they are the real deal.  They are thicker, richer and have much more powder sugar on top then any other beignet in town.

After lunch we headed to the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park for a little informative concert the park rangers put on.  They do one every afternoon but they are all different so if you came every day of the week you could learn about something different everyday.  It was a fun, unique activity.  The younger ranger did all of the singing, he had a fabulous voice we were all astounded when he started singing the first song. Later we learned he is studing opera in college.  He also played the guitar, drums and kept time on the washboard, talk about an extrememly talented ranger!

After our concert we had the rest of the afternoon free to window shop and enjoy the atmosphere of the French Quarter.  I loved all the artists that had set up shop along the walk ways, it was like walking through numerous outdoor galleries. 

The Brass Monkey was one of my favorite shops.  It was filled to the brim with the most random antiques.  They also had a huge wall just of limoge boxes, which were facsinating, they had every type of box you could ever imagine.
I also finally got a picutre of Granpa Elliot, he is a New Orleans Jazz legend (he really is, google him).  Now he sits on the corner of Toulousse and Royal every day, sometimes he plays, sometimes he doesn't.

Tonight we dined at the most magical resturant, The Court of Two Sisters.  We sat in their beautiful courtyard that is decorated with thousands of twinkle lights.  It was the most delightful place, so beautiful and the food was, of course, delicious.

For dinner I ordered a shrimp appitizer which was jumbo shrimp wrapped in bacon and smoothered in a sweet and sour tangy orange sauce.  My main course was shrimp and grits, surprise!  Their take on the dish was pretty unique, it tasted a lot like Indian curry, but it was still so good.  Then for dessert we all ordered bananas foster and had it made tableside, very entertaining.

I know these last view pictures seem random but this was one of our favorite stores that we would pass on all of our walking tours but never had time to snap pictures of its fabulous display.  So while we were doing our evening window shopping we stopped to document its fun, creative windows.  I could also see this vintage/ carsoual theme pop up in a party somewhere in the future, so we had to document for possible future inspiration.


  1. I've never really thought of New Orleans as a place to visit, until now. Thanks!

  2. That Brass Monkey store looked awesome! These are beautiful pictures (as always) and it was really neat to read about Katrina, thanks for posting.
    (Why won't your blog let me leave comments?!)