This past weekend’s Hurricane Irene disaster mirrored the Hurricane Katrina six years ago in this respect: In both cases it was not the wind storm but flooding that did the vast bulk of the human and property damage.   Indeed, activists like Harry Shearer (who has created an excellent film) have long insisted that any reporting on Katrina not refer to the catastrophe as caused by the hurricane but a  flood due to faulty levees.

I live-blogged Irene this past weekend but it was not the first time I’ve done that in response to a storm.  Six years ago, for a week or so  after the hurricane, then the flood, hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, I maintained a live blog at the magazine I edited, Editor & Publisher. Here’s what I reported on day three of the disaster, the transition point,  as the massive flooding fully engulfed the city and the true scope of the tragedy became apparent.  It’s updated at the top, so it’s in reverse chronology.

11:40 PM ET. From the Times-Picayune:

"Near Esplanade and Broad Street, attendants sat on the porch of the Bethany Home. The 30 patients, attendants said, were incapable of traveling out of New Orleans before the storm. The home’s supply of drinking water was almost exhausted, and two patients had died.

"Others in Mid-City tried to make the best of the situation. A man sat on his front steps on North Carrollton Avenue, lathering his hair and face and rinsing away the soap suds with the passing floodwater.

"Some stranded residents got relief from a National Guard helicopter that hovered low near Dumaine Street and North Carrollton. The Black Hawk chopper dropped bottles of water in front of one woman’s home. She couldn’t get to it because it fell in the floodwaters, however, and she couldn’t enter the water because of her chemotherapy.

"A neighbor soon waded to her assistance."


8:40 PM ET From the Times-Picayune site, just as the mayor declares marshal law, directing law enforcement to take whatever means necessary to regain control of city:

"Looters went to extraordinary means to get into the Rite Aid drug store on Carrollton Avenue and Oak Street in Uptown New Orleans, where metal storm doors were rolled shut on the doors and windows.

"Looters commandeered a fork lift, which they used to ram into the metal and peel open the protective covering to get inside the store. That allowed a steady stream of looters, many wheeling shopping carts, to stock up, primarily with food, candy, any soft drink or water or alcohol, and cigarettes.

"After much of the store had been emptied, a pair of looters carrying handfuls of candy and chips stopped briefly to talk to a newspaper reporter. ‘They still have come canned foods in there if you want some.’"


"Neighbors in the area near Hickory and Short streets Uptown said a body has been floating nearby in five feet of water since the unidentified man was shot five times on Monday. Neighbors said the shooting was reported, but police and other officials apparently have been unable to respond."


5:45 PM ET: From the Sun Herald in Biloxi:

"The family home of Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre was destroyed in Kiln, Mississippi, by Hurricane Katrina. According to the team, Favre said his mother reported spending the night in the family attic along with his grandmother. That’s after the house filled up with water within a matter of five or ten minutes."


5:20 PM ET. A soldier in Iraq writes:

"hello my name is Christopher Ducote and i am a Sgt. in the U.S army in iraq. I am from Chalmette La. It’s a very hard thing to be here and only be able to watch whats going on there on the tv. luckly my wife and kids got out and went to fla. before it hit, but now i am worried about my father because i dont know it he evacuated or not. I know that with every thing thats going on there its hard to find out anything about anyone, and i know that i am no different, but if anyone has any info please email me.

"And dad if you should happen to read this somewhere i want u to know that i love u very much."

From a Times-Picayune forum:

"I am writing for a friend, Marlena Template who evacuated New Orleans with her family and is safe. She has been in contact with her friend, Kristy Smith, an employee at Kindred Hospital in New Orleans and is concerned about conditions there. The generator is not working and looters are breaking in. Staff and patients need help!! Please try to get authorities there ASAP!!"


3:40 PM ET. The most chilling report yes, long dreaded, just posted(via AP:

"The mayor said Wednesday that Hurricane Katrina probably killed thousands of people in New Orleans. ‘We know there is a significant number of dead bodies in the water,’ and others dead in attics, Mayor Ray Nagin said. Asked how many, he said: ‘Minimum, hundreds. Most likely, thousands."


2:40 PM ET. The Sun Herald reports horrendous news from nearby Gulfport (Miss.):

"Looters are taking whatever their hands can find, creating a sense of lawlessness that has overwhelmed local police.

"Water, food, cigarettes and beer are some of the most sought-after items, but even kids’ piggy banks aren’t safe. In unconfirmed reports, looters have hit homes on Hardy Avenue in West Gulfport where residents reported piggy banks had been broken and robbed.

"The hurricane demolished the main police station, a long-time downtown fixture."


1:05 PM ET. The vital Katrina blog at WWL-TV in New Orleans has just provided these chilling reports from Jefferson Parish emergency services director Walter Maestri:

"Director Walter Maestri: We have no food or water for the evacuees. Says emergency workers have seized the food and water and drinks from Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart and other groceries for evacuees, but he said that is all gone. Says water supply is gone. More water expected, but its not there right now. Says evacuees are getting upset and harried.

"Director Walter Maestri: FEMA and national agencies not delivering the help nearly as fast as it is needed.

"Director Walter Maestri: Evacuees from New Orleans and the east bank of Jefferson are flocking to the west bank, overwhelming the facilities."

It also reports: "Roving bands of looters are breaking into stores in Carrollton area to get food and supplies. They’ve also stolen guns and armed themselves."

The Times-Picayune noted that Maestri made the above comments "tearfully," pleading for help.

12:20 PM ET. From the Times-Picayune, a brief item titled "Floating the Dead":

"WWL-TV reporter Karen Swensen related a particularly sad tale from a region overflowing with sad tales. One New Orleans woman waded through the streets of the city, trying to get her husband to Charity Hospital. He had died earlier and she floated his body through the inundated streets on a door that dome off their home."


12:10 PM ET. The Mobile Register‘s "Storm Central" blog has just posted 100 new "damage" photos, and has a full gallery from the past three days.  The Sun Herald (Biloxi) blog, sadly, remains silent today.


12:05 PM ET. From a reader’s forum at the Times-Picayune, a report from an evacuee:

"We are stranded in Tallahassee. There is absolutely no compassion here whatsoever. The Hampton Inn in Tallahassee is pretty much throwing us out because of a football game. We are running out of money with no way of getting more out of the bank. We cannot use debit cards and our credit cards are maxed out.

"I thought I would encounter a little compassion and understanding here in Florida seeing they have been through similar situations. There is none. People here and the manager of this motel are very cold and uncaring. If anyone out there has any suggestions please email me asap. I cannot get in touch with red cross or fema. Cell phones don’t work. Can’t get hold of any family member for help. Please help!!!!"


11:25 AM ET. Latest item related to the media, from the Times-Picayune:  "It’s an emotional time for everyone in south Louisiana – the media included. During a reading of odds and ends on WWL-TV this morning, Eric Paulson noted that St. Bernard Parish is entirely ‘gone.” It brought a moment of almost stunned silence among him, Meg Farris, and Sally Ann Roberts – followed by a heavy, audible sigh."


10:35 AM ET. Stan Tiner, executive editor of the Sun Herald in Biloxi, has resurfaced with a column on the paper’s Web site, recalling how locals for years have worried that a hurricane could come that was worse than Camille — and now it has come true.


10:20 AM ET. Word on the reaction of two of New Orleans’ most famous native sons, Eli and Peyton Manning, courtesy of the Times-Picayune site:

"Their parents, Archie and Olivia, evacuated to Philadelphia, Miss. And brother Cooper left with his family to Oxford, Miss.  “’It’s pretty devastating, the pictures you see and the stories you hear,’” Peyton said. “’It’s hard to watch from a New Orleans standpoint and from a friends-and-family standpoint. … The Superdome is one thing, but I don’t need to see pictures. When I hear about certain areas, I know where they are. I used to play football in Buras and they’re not prepared for anything like a powerful hurricane.”


9:55 AM ET. The Times-Picayune, which has relocated to Houma, published online only again today, this time with a 13-page PDF version. Unlike the Tuesday issue, which ran 28 pages, the paper this time did not provide an in-the-can Living section. The banner head reads: UNDER WATER.

Latest update from the paper’s Web site:

"The catastrophic flooding that filled the bowl that is New Orleans on Monday and Tuesday will only get worse over the next few days because rainfall from Hurricane Katrina continues to flow into Lake Pontchartrain from north shore rivers and streams, and east winds and a 17.5-foot storm crest on the Pearl River block the outflow water through the Rigolets and Chef Menteur Pass."

7:30 AM ET. 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."

Greg Mitchell’s latest book is "Atomic Cover-Up:  Two U.S. Soldiers, Hiroshima & Nagasaki, and The Greatest Movie Never Made."