BLOGGING THE HURRICANE, Day 2: Updates All Day, as Conditions Worsen in New Orleans and Mississippi

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By: Greg Mitchell

All day Monday, E&P published excerpts from remarkable newspaper storm blogs in New Orleans, Biloxi, Mobile, and Baton Rouge, as Katrina (and then the waves) arrived. Now we look at how they are covering rescue and cleanup operations, as conditions appear even more dire on Tuesday.

7:30 AM ET (Wednesday). From the Times-Picayune:

“Late Tuesday, Gov. Blanco spokeswoman Denise Bottcher described a disturbing scene unfolding in uptown New Orleans, where looters were trying to break into Children’s Hospital.

“Bottcher said the director of the hospital fears for the safety of the staff and the 100 kids inside the hospital. The director said the hospital is locked, but that the looters were trying to break in and had gathered outside the facility. The director has sought help from the police, but, due to rising flood waters, police have not been able to respond.

“Bottcher said Blanco has been told of the situation and has informed the National Guard. However, Bottcher said, the National Guard has also been unable to respond.”

11:30 PM ET. From the Sun Herald in Biloxi, after its blog had been down for quite awhile:

“Communications to the Biloxi area are down–phone, e-mail, Internet …. These connectivity issues are what have kept Don Hammack and Geoff Pender from updating this blog.

“If you are from the area, please call 1-866-453-1925 to let someone know that you’re OK. Even if you fled before the storm, friends and relatives might not know you’re safe. We hope to share that information when we can.

“If you work for The Sun Herald, call 1-800-346-2472 to let us know where you are.

“As we know the news, we will post it to We’re in this with you for the long haul.”

9:30 PM ET. From Times-Picayune:

“The New Orleans police officer shot in the head by a looter Tuesday was expected to survive, officials said.
The officer, who has not been identified, was in surgery at West Jefferson Medical Center after being shot in the forehead, police said.

“The officer was shot by a looter after he and another officer confronted a number of looters at a Chevron store at Shirley and Gen. DeGaulle. Jefferson Parish sheriff’s deputies on the scene arrested four people in connection with the shooting. One of the looters reportedly was shot in the arm by an officer during a shootout.”

8:05 PM ET. Just when you thought that things (maybe) couldn’t get worse in New Orleans, The Times-Picayune carries this warning from the mayor:

“Mayor Ray Nagin has announced that the attempt to plug a breach in the 17th Street canal at the Hammond Highway bridge has failed and the rising water is about to overwhelm the pumps on that canal. The result is that water will begin rising rapidly again, and could reach as high as 3 feet above sea level. In New Orleans and Jefferson
Parish, that means floodwaters could rise as high as 15 feet in the next few hours. Nagin urged residents to try to find higher ground as soon as possible.”

But then, in the life-goes-on category comes this:

“Tulane’s football team is expected to arrive at Southern Methodist between 1 a.m. on Wednesday. The Green Wave will stay at the DoubleTree Campbell Center and practice at either SMU’s Pettus Practice Fields or at Ford Stadium.

“The Tulane women’s soccer team, which was scheduled to play in the UAB Nike Tournament this weekend, will bus to Birmingham later today from Jackson, Miss. UAB administrators will assist in providing practice facilities and lodging during their stay.”


6:10 PM ET. Latest from Times-Picayune blogs:

“Many downtown New Orleans hotels who had taken in guests for the hurricane began closing Tuesday, asking their guests to go to the shelter in the Superdome. By Tuesday afternoon, the National Guard estimated that 60,000 people were taking shelter in the Dome.”

–Even a cop joins in the looting

“Law enforcement efforts to contain the emergency left by Katrina slipped into chaos in parts of New Orleans Tuesday with some police officers and firefighters joining looters in picking stores clean.

At the Wal-Mart on Tchoupitoulas Street, an initial effort to hand out provisions to stranded citizens quickly disintegrated into mass looting. Authorities at the scene said bedlam erupted after the giveaway was announced over the radio.

While many people carried out food and essential supplies, others cleared out jewelry racks and carted out computers, TVs and appliances on handtrucks.

Some officers joined in taking whatever they could, including one New Orleans cop who loaded a shopping cart with a compact computer and a 27-inchn flat-screen television. Officers claimed there was nothing they could do to contain the anarchy, saying their radio communications have broken down and they had no direction from commanders.

3:30 PM ET. Some of the most remarkable reading on conditions and mood in New Orleans is found on the readers forum at The Times-Picayune weather blog. Reporters are in the process of evacuating the city, but readers can continue to post.

One evacuated resident asked: “Any word on catina street in between LANE and BRAGG?” The answer soon came: It’s under eight feet of water.

Other posters argued over how much President Bush can be blamed for not rushing to the city for a look around.

Here are some other new posts:

“Trying to find my sister. Last heard from her late Sunday night. She lives at 2711 Gause Blvd West. Any info about the conditions in that area of Slidell will be appreciated. Pls post here…”

“Does anyone have any information on how well the FQ (French Quarter) is being patrolled to discourage looters? Just saw national coverage on Fox regarding the looting of the Winn Dixie near Rampart, and am concerned that apathy on the part of the police might lead to homes near there being targetted. Any information from FQ residents who stayed during the storm would be greatly appreciated.”

“David, please let Dad know you are ok. Or anyone that knows David Baker who works for the newspaper, please let me know he is ok. Thank you.”

“Royal Orleans Hotel–If anyone has any info about this hotel my dad is there Lou Giglio, if anyone has any info please post! He is in room 346 or 356. Thanks!”

“Searching for Steven Kenny of waveland. Last seen at Grosvnor place 1/2 half block from Nickelson on Sunday before the storm. Call Va., collect. Please. Very worried. Need to know you are ok, info on the area after Katrina. Please any one able to help with this.”

“Dome info: Bathrooms are overflowed, no air cond., trash is everywhere, 2 dead but that would be expected, as many of those sheltered were elderly or infirm .”

“People are jumping to their death in the superdome!!!”


2:20 PM ET. The Times-Picayune blog is back and reporting news everyone feared:

“We have received reports from readers that the French Quarter is flooding. One reader report came from the corner of Bourbon Street and Royal Street. FoxNews is also reporting now that flood waters have entered the historic area of New Orleans, which was spared much of the initial flooding from Hurricane Katrina.”

And a further indication of the crisis worsening:

“Local television stations report that Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes are all now under martial law, allowing the military to assume control over civilian forces.”

1:40 PM ET. Sun Herald in Biloxi puts up video of the hurricane as it was happening, shot from the mayor’s office. Elsewhere on site, more dire reports of destruction and possible deaths. Copies of the print edition are heading in from Georgia.

The Times-Picayune site is sadly passive–as staffers evacuate the building. A new AP story documents looting breaking out around the French Quarter. Conditions worsen in the city, even in areas, such as the French Quarter, not so hard hit on Monday.

12:10 PM ET. Dreaded news — ‘Times-Picayune’ announces it is abandoning its downtown New Orleans building as water continues to rise. Here is their Web announcement:

“The Times-Picayune is evacuating it’s New Orleans building.

“Water continues to rise around our building, as it is throughout the region. We want to evaucate our employees and families while we are still able to safely leave our building.

“Our plan is to head across the Mississippi River on the Pontchartrain Expressway to the west bank of New Orleans and Jefferson Parish. From there, we’ll try to head to Houma.

Our plan, obviously, is to resume providing news to our readers ASAP. Please refer back to this site for continuing information as soon as we are able to provide it.”


11:30 AM ET. The Sun Herald in Biloxi advises readers, “We’re trying to get aerial photos of the Coast and areas inland to show people the damage. At the moment, airspace is restricted because of ongoing rescue operations, but we are trying to get those done soon.”

From Sun Herald reporter Margaret Baker:

“Maj. Rodney McGilverry of Biloxi PD said early Tuesday that between 35 and 40 people are believed to have died in that city, with the number expected to rise as search efforts continue. He said the real search and rescue efforts started today because there wasn’t much sunlight left after the storm subsided Monday afternoon.

“The east end of the city has suffered massive damage, with almost total devastation reported primarily south of the railroad tracks near Lee Street, Point Cadet and Casino Row.

“McGilverry debunked reports of 30 deaths at a single apartment complex in Biloxi. He said initial reports that included successful rescues were merged with actual fatalities.”


11:00 AM ET. The Times-Picayune has a “weather” forum for readers to post comments. Here are a few of the latest:

–“I saw on the Today show this morning that the Quarter is flooding? Does anyone have info? My house is on Dauphine st.”

An exchange that brought relief:

“Looking for info on Algiers, specifically old Aurora by Holy Cross College.” Reply: “I’ve heard that around Oxford and Woodland the houses did not flood. Most houses did not get damaged.” Response: “Thanks for the good news.”

Another exchange:

“I can’t seem to find much info on the airport –Louis Armstrong– is it under water?” Reply: “Airports are under water.”

10:45 AM ET. As noted below, the Times-Picayune managed to published a Web-only edition of 28 pages today, with the banner head, “CATASTROPHIC.” The final eight pages are made up of a typical Living section (leading off with a major restaurant article, of cource).

But the first section is all-storm, with dramatic photos dominating most pages. Text covers a broad area and broad concerns. The edition also includes, on page 3, a full-page ad from State Farm, which reads, “State Farm Is Here to Help,” along with phone numbers to initiate insurance claims. Page 9 holds another full-page ad, “The Allstate Catastrophe Team is Here to Help.”

10:25 AM ET. From The Mobile (Ala.) Register’s ‘Storm Central’ blog:

–Alabama wakes up in the dark

The early morning figures (of power outage) from Alabama Power show a daunting image of the powerful blow from Katrina’s fury:

Birmingham 226,202
Mobile 198,221
Tuscaloosa 148, 920
Anniston 41,585
Montgomery 19, 512
Euafaula 214

Statewide , Alabama Power reports almost 635,000 customers without service. Those numbers do not include any rural co-op customers who may be powerless this morning.

10:05 AM ET. The Sun Herald of Biloxi (Miss.) reportedly printed an edition in Columbus, Georgia, with help of Knight Ridder staffers elsewhere, for distribution at shelters and some others sites but with no home delivery. Its blog and Web site, however, have remained very active despite no power. It’s main page is a true chronicle of disaster. The top head reads: ‘Our tsunami,’ a quote from the city’s major. A list of links to stories pretty much says it all:

–Phones out, power gone, roads demolished
–Many died on Point Cadet
–Looting a major problem
–Casino washed across the road
–Familiar landmarks destroyed
–Katrina may have killed 80 in Miss. county

7:55 AM ET (Tuesday). The Times-Picayune of New Orleans reports massive flooding increasing and fears rising as waters surge through a broken levee. It managed to publish a 28-page paper, but only on the Web. Banner head on Page One: CATASTROPHIC.

Here is how they introduced it:

“The Times-Picayune’s electronic edition for Tuesday is now available online at:

“Near the center of the page, look for “PDF Images: CATASTROPHIC” and click through the pages.”

11:35 PM ET (Monday). The Sun Herald in Biloxi (Miss.) reported late in the afternoon that it had survived the hurricane pretty much intact, though without power. Later it presented reports sent along by City Editor Kate Magandy:

“At DeBuys Road at U.S. 90., the Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants were obliterated. In Biloxi at Edgewater Village, most of that shopping strip mall was devastated. The McDonald’s is gone, the Village Sports Pub is gone. The Hard Rock Casino on Casino Row in Biloxi, which was scheduled to open next week, will have to be rebuilt. The superstructure was severely damaged.
There have been reports that there are several casino barges that were pulled out of water and onto land.

“Elvis Gates, a State Farm insurance agent in Long Beach, went to downtown to survey damage. He found nothing left: ‘Everything south of Second Street is gone. The harbor is gone.’

“St. Thomas the Apostlic Catholic Church, which sits on U.S. 90, celebrated its 100th anniversary in August. It is now gone. When Camille hit in 1969, Long Beach residents were able to hold Mass in St. Thomas School gym. There is nothing left of that but the superstructure.

“First Baptist Chruch in Long Beach has been leveled. Other reports indicate that everything south of the tracks received catastrophic damage. Part of U.S. 90 collapsed in front of Edgewater Village.

“There have been reports of looters, and police will arrest people who are driving around, Biloxi Police Bruce Dunigan said.”

11:15 PM ET (Monday). From The Times-Picayune in New Orleans:

–What About My Neighborhood?

“We’re receiving hundreds of requests like this from evacuees, people with families and others concerned about their particular suburb or neighborhood or parish.

“The short answer is that it’s too soon to know, except in the dribbles and bits beginning to come in from The Times-Picayune’s reporting/photo teams and from residents calling or writing in info. Much of the area is impassible . . . huge swaths are under water, and the storm has only recently died down enough to safely get out.

“We urge everyone with questions about their area of concern to post in the appropriate local forum . . . a bulletin board where others in your area can see your questions and share information. The community itself is the best set of eyes to report what’s going on in local areas. As we begin getting information about your local area in, you’ll be able to see it directly on these forums, and later in specific weblogs for your geographical area.”


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