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.’"