September 8th, 2005


A politician visits the Louisiana Fire Swamp

August 28, 2005: Congressman D.P.R. Westley and New Orleans Times-Picayune reporter P. Buttercup are walking along a New Orleans levee, conducting an interview about the decision to only allocate funds over the years to reinforce the levees to withstand a category 3 storm.

Buttercup: Westley, what about the H.O.U.S.'s?

Westley: Hurricanes Of Unusual Size? I don't think they exist.

[thunder rumbles ominously...]

Feudalism: Serf & Turf

Some of the hurricane's "collateral" damage

Found on indigoskynet's blog:
"Katrina displaced have lost their books. Can you donate?"

Which made me think of another group who's lost books. A small selection from (In addition to all of the good news about libraries that weathered the storm with little to no damage):

Hancock County Library System, Bay Saint Louis: Branches in Waveland and Pearlington are destroyed. The Bay St. Louis library is ruined inside, but still standing.

Harrison County Library System, Gulfport: The Gulfport library is still standing but gutted. The Biloxi Public Library had 8–12 feet of water; the building is standing but the contents are lost.
And most telling are the last two sentences from this paragraph:

Jackson-George Regional Library System, Pascagoula: Unable to communicate with Director Bob Willits, whose home has been flooded out. Believe Pascagoula [Public Library] has lost its roof, but the East Central branch in Moss Point is OK. The system will pay its employees for September and then close down. Funds to rebuild libraries are low on the priority list.
The average main library building will have likely had somewhere in the vicinity of 100,000 to 250,000 books, magazines, videos, CDs, etc. (that represents a moderate to moderately large collection); the average branch, probably around 20,000-75,000 items. Insurance payouts will only go so far to rebuild demolished buildings & replace destroyed collections, assuming it was even possible to afford flood insurance in some of these communities. Of the hardest-hit libraries, those that don't permanently close up shop are going to be hurting for a long, long time. A public library can be a vital link in the local community--a gathering place, a place to learn, a place to go to find escape from everyday life. (Especially for people who can't afford the luxury of buying their own books.) Some of these communities, even after the rest of the town is rebuilt and residents are allowed back, won't have a local library, or may not have one with a really usable collection for a good long while. I'm not saying libraries should be put above, say, police stations on the list of community buildings to replace, but they probably should be above Trent Lott's porch.

Also from that page:

New Orleans Times-Picayune, September 6:

Specialists working for the New Orleans Notorial Archives have been stymied in trying to enter the city and rescue some of the most historic documents in the city’s history, from original land grants to slave sale records and title records. The Notorial Archives hired Munters Corp., a Swedish document-salvage firm that freezes and then freeze-dries records to slowly remove moisture from them. But Munters’s refrigerated trucks were turned away by uniformed troops as they tried to enter the city, said Stephen Bruno, custodian of the archives. The trucks were headed to the Civil District Courthouse on Poydras Street, where many of the city’s real estate documents are housed, and to the Amoco building at 1340 Poydras St., which houses historic documents such as a letter from Jean Lafitte to Washington demanding for his expenditures during the Battle of New Orleans. Eddy Pokluda, head of national sales for Munters in Dallas, said the company tried to get one person in to make an assessment of the damage but was turned away, even though days earlier they had arranged with New Orleans Police Department to have an escort into the city.

“I don’t think people realize the importance of these records. It’s imperative we get in there and see if these can be saved,” Pokluda said.

You think the city's real estate records might be just a teensy bit important to the reconstruction effort? Freeze-drying books & documents to preserve them from water damage is not a particularly fast process, nor will be cataloging which documents survived and which ones didn't, so the sooner they can get started, the sooner the documents will be available when needed to prove residency, determine ownership, and so forth. (1340 Poydras St. is a block east and uphill from the Superdome, by the way.)

And in better news:
"New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans (as of September 2): The Times-Picayune reported on August 31 that NOMA survived Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath without significant damage. Six security and maintenance employees had remained on duty during the hurricane. FEMA wanted them to move to a safer location, but there was no way to secure the artwork inside so the staff continues to stay on site. Museum workers had taken down some pieces in the sculpture garden before the storm, but a towering modernist sculpture by Kenneth Snelson was reduced to a twisted mess in the lagoon. The Wall Street Journal reported on September 2 that the climate-control system was operating at half-power on a backup generator. The museum may relocate some of its more fragile works, if generator fuel can’t be obtained soon."

Feudalism: Serf & Turf