HURRICANE KATRINA and New Orleans - part 1

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cover new england

This is an extract of the article, with small photos. You will find the complete article with full-sized photos in my e-book View America: South West

In the travel series View America, South West covers Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas. It is not a traditional travelogue, but a non-commercial and more or less objective chronicle of an in-depth exploration of these states. Each state is described with its own brief historical background and its main sights, tourist attractions and points of interest.

My book does not describe lodgings, restaurants or entertainment, except where these may interact with the narrative. It is illustrated with more than 100 full-sized photos.

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New Orleans

23 August 2005 - all over the United States only one news story rode the media: Hurricane Katrina. Particularly Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana were affected by this very violent storm, that caused a real havoc along the coastline. The hurricane was a category 3, with winds up to 125 miles per hour!

It was the sixth heaviest hurricane ever recorded, and the third heaviest that ever came ashore. The powerful winds tore apart houses and roofs, and debris was turned into deadly projectiles. Windows broke by the hundreds, and wind and rain further damaged the interiors.

Another unexpected catastrophe was that the wind raised a six-foot high tsunami-like tidal wave, that carried with it thousands of tons of wooden debris. This gigantic ram pounded on mostly wooden homes, that collapsed like card houses and joined the ponderous flow of fracas.

New Orleans 2005 - 1
New Orleans 2005 - 2

In two places the levees had been ruptured by the high water level, and almost immediately some 80% of New Orleans was flooded, sometimes by six feet of water. Already thousands of victims were mentioned, even though most of these were caused by the flooding and not by the hurricane itself.

With most residents being away from their home and an almost deserted downtown, life almost immediately turned into a complete chaos, with widely spread theft, looting, rape, shootings, carjackings, and in short all the unsavory acts that a complete state of lawlessness brings forth in a mob.

More than 2.5 million people went without electricity and water for at least two weeks. Furthermore, officials already foresaw that it would take up to four weeks before the residents would be permitted to return to their homes.

The Louisiana Superdome

In the New Orleans Louisiana Superdome, more than 35,000 people were packed like herrings in a barrel. The city authorities had set up this sports center as a shelter for those who didn't have the means to leave the city.

New Orleans 2005 - 3However, the hurricane had partially destroyed the stadium's roof, and it rained almost as much inside as outside. The bathrooms almost immediately broke down, and the water supply quickly ran out. Nor had any food or water been foreseen for such a tremendous mass of people, since it had been presumed that people could just go home once the storm was over.

Inside the building, total chaos reigned. There were numerous reports of drug abuse, theft, fights and rapes, and simply unthinkably filthy living conditions.

Originally, more than 100 deaths were reported in the Superdome itself, most of them by heat prostration and dehydration. But these initial reports were rapidly "sanitized", and only 6 "official" deaths remained, of which 4 were attributed to natural causes, one to an overdose and the last one to a suicide...

The aftermath of these events will eventually far outweigh the hurricane itself, since most of the city will have to be rebuilt !

Video : Before, during and after Hurricane Katrina

** Continue reading with part 2 **