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The Scope of Katrina

I've been struggling for days to express in words what is going in the New Orleans area or to express the scope of damage. I've bashed myself for my writing skills- not being able to use the written word to describe it. I told Kevin on the phone the other day that I really envied people like Andrew Sullivan who, while he might often be an idiot, can indeed write like hell.

I've been a photographer for years and I've taken almost no pictures because even 1000 words at a time, they are useless. Not even the camera lens can do it justice.

Today I finally figure it out. It is impossible. The scope is simply too big to be encapsulated.

As you live down here, you get immune to the sounds of chain-saws, the stench of rotten food and the mountains of debris everywhere. I drove down a street yesterday where the trash piles from people's homes were higher than my car. I noticed it because on most streets it is only half way up the car.

It is the little things that I notice that really show the scope of the storm. I was driving home yesterday and I saw a 20 foot pine tree that clearly used to be a 40 foot pine tree. That sucker was snapped right in the middle. No telling where the top is. I drove past that tree 20 times since I've been home and I was too distracted by other things to notice. Broken tress are everywhere, why should that one stand out? Until you stop and think about it... Imagine for a second, the force required to snap a 40 foot pine tree in half.

As I've tried to go on with normal life, there are little snippets that bring home the scope of Katrina. Like the snippet buried at the bottom of a news story about the burning of tree debris.

A private contractor is hauling the debris to the site, he said. About 10,000 cubic feet of tree debris is being burned daily in a 100-foot by 100-foot pit, he said.

"The flames are kind of high," Thibodaux said. "At nighttime, (people)
can see it at a great distance, so we get lots of calls at night."

The burn site opened Sept. 21, and it is expected to continue there
for at least another month, he said.

The Harvey Volunteer Fire Department has a stationed a truck at the
site and has personnel monitoring the fire, which must be kept at least
900 feet from residential areas, Thibodaux said.

Did you get that? 10,000 cubic feet a day, they've been doing it for 2 weeks already and they expect it to last at least another month. And this is just tree debris AND from only one smaller community.

Now I don't feel so bad that I can't put it down in words.

Comments (6)

On September 9th, I went wi... (Below threshold)

On September 9th, I went with most of my family down to Gulfport to do salvage on my mother and step-father's house. While the house itself was relatively intact, the internal belongings were totally destroyed - flooded up to five feet. Since the moisture inside was percolating in Gulfport heat for seven days without air conditioning, the stench was impressive.

What was more impressive was watching my mother walk around the property and look at things, and just saying over and over how "the light's just not right." At first I thought it was just her expression of shock at the level of internal destruction in her house, then it came to me.

The reason that the light was "just not right" down there is that damn near every tree that didn't get knocked down was denuded of all greenery. In short, it looked like it was the dead of winter, but the sun was in a mid-summer position. Areas of shade were getting full sun. The only shaded areas at the time were shaded because of piles of debris.

It must have seemed to her like she was looking at a picture of Gulfport, only through a photographic negative instead of looking at the true print.

She initially wanted to go down below the CSX tracks, but we were able to convince her that probably wasn't a good idea.

The level of destruction still sticks with me, and I still see it every night when I sleep - and I hadn't been down to Gulfport for better than five years.

Even satellite photos can't... (Below threshold)

Even satellite photos can't capture the immensity of the damage. How the hell do we expect reporters to capture the entire story from their little, 6x6 foot squatting space? How they hell to they expect to do accurate reporting?

it's hard for me to even pi... (Below threshold)

it's hard for me to even picture it, even after all I've read and seen. The city that was my home for three years is, from what I understand, pretty much gone. I really can't process it.

I've been to Mandeville and... (Below threshold)

I've been to Mandeville and Covington north of Lake Pontchatrain and it is unbelievable. There are many pine forests up that way and the trees are down everywhere. I'm talking about trees 2 and 3 feet in diameter knocked down like toothpicks.

I'd like to see a picture o... (Below threshold)

I'd like to see a picture of that bonfire pit. I bet that thing's huge!

My parents live in Beaumont, Texas, which got slammed by Rita (not nearly as hard as lake charles, and neither as hard as NO and Katrina), and they have lots of damage too. I'm supposed to go down for Christmas, so I'll be curious to see how much is cleaned up by then.

I remember when the huge killer tornado hit Wichita Falls Texas in the '70s, that area wasn't fully recovered even a year later.

I live in Gulfport. The pl... (Below threshold)

I live in Gulfport. The place I worked at in D'iberville is gone. Nothing but slab. Most of the debris piles in D'Iberville are higher than my car. Today, I drove into Biloxi, parked my car two blocks from the beach and took a walk. From the Beau Rivage Casino to the Tivoli Hotel, there is nothing left. No beautiful homes over 100 years old, no Church of the Redeemer, no Biloxi Yacht Club, and the lists goes on and on. I have seen the pictures of the Grand Casino barges that were pushed across Hwy 90 by the storm surge. But nothing prepares you for the sight of these massive, 3 story barges. I have become numb in the sense I no longer cry when confronted with new sights of carnage of my beloved Coast. There is just too much that confronts you. The smell of decaying vegatation, rotting garbage, and in D'Iberville the tons and tons of shrimp that were strewn about is a reality which must be lived with.

I still cannot visit my brotehr who lives south of the railroad tracks in Gulfport. The surge stopped at his door and his home was undamaged except for the floorboards that the wind drove water under. Why can't I visit him? The city of Gulfport has strung barbed wire along the railroad tracks and each crossing has National Guard stopping all who do not live there or who are not in the recovery operations.

The destruction is so surreal at times. Especially when you see boats 10 feet in trees or partially blocking the rooad or when you see 2 story houses pushed back like they were toys or the only thing where a house once stood is a steps leading nowhere and a flag.

I have not even seen the hardest hit areas of the Mississippi Coast such as Point Cadet in Biloxi, Long Beach, Pass Christian, Bay St Louis, Waveland, Lakeshore, and the many other towns that suffered so terribly. The only thing that keeps me going is the people here. Smiling at another, at times throught the tears, and saying we are going to rebuild.






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