Wednesday, May 31, 2006

From Handson Disaster Response

From HandsonDisasterResponse:

Indonesia Earthquake Relief Project
We are closely watching the reports come out of Indonesia and are reaching out to our contacts in the area to evaluate the level of our response to this event.

If you are interested in volunteering with us if we deploy to Indonesia, please send us an email at and put Indonesia Volunteer in the subject line.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Why not make it your summer vacation?

I just heard from Bill Driscoll (Jr) who is back in MS (Pass Christian and Bay St. Louis). He reports that while the area is getting much cleaner (less debris etc), there is still tons of work to do and virtually no rebuilding has taken place for miles.

You can help! Of course the best way is to go down and volunteer. Make it your summer vacation. Sure it is warm, but it will be something you never forget. But if you can't, consider donating to PersevereVolunteers. They are in the middle of trying to get a truck, bull dozer, and otehr heavy equipment down to help rebuild. Round-trip cost? About $8000. But it will be there for the year, so it will more than pay for itself. You can donate here to help.

Monday, May 29, 2006

93% and rising!

Army Corps of Engineers reports Levees are "93% ready

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the bracket system that flooded much of New Orleans after Katrina is now 93 percent repaired. That's up from 87 percent just last week!
I'll refrain from any weakest link mention.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Are the levies ready?

From NPR's Talk of the Nation:
"A report out this week finds that the levees in New Orleans failed during Hurricane Katrina not because the storm was so big, but because of problems in the way they were designed, built, and maintained. Ira Flatow leads a discussion on whether New Orleans is ready for a new storm season."
Note: at time of posting the audio is not yet online. Be patient and check back, it's worth it!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

New "elevations for flood zones in Biloxi

The Daily Comet from Thibodaux, Lafourche Parish, Louisiana
The Biloxi City Council has voted to require property owners in flood zones to build at least 17 feet above sea level, or 4 feet higher than previously required.

The new elevations, approved Tuesday, will take effect in 30 days
Read the article. It brings up the good point that, while we'd all like to have higher elevations, they come at a cost. And the cost may be too much for some to handle.

Cool idea from Hawaii

From KITV:
"Pushed by a new law, civil defense planners are working with the Humane Society to provide shelters that will welcome both people and pets next time a hurricane threatens Hawaii, KITV 4 News reported."

Also: "For $500,000, the Blaisdell Center parking structure could be prepared for a thick emergency curtain designed to withstand 200 mph winds, city officials said.

People with pets would be able to drive right in, with one parking space for their car and a second to set up housekeeping."

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

More on pet evacuations

From Yahoo News (AP):
""...Rep. Tom Lantos (news) D-Calif., sponsor of the Pet Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act....The House was to vote late Monday on the bill, which requires that state and local preparedness offices take into account pet owners, household pets and service animals when drawing up evacuation plans. Offices that fail to do so would not qualify for grants from the FEMA."

The Battle for Biloxi: new Urbanism?

This past Sunday the NY Times Magazine had a very interesting and troubling article entitled the Battle for Biloxi. (which is will also soon be playing in New Orleans!)

A few key points from the article:

* New Urbanism is in theory the idea that we do not want sprawl and everyone wants a "traditional" town. Thus after Katrina destroyed so much, planners were allowed to redo the regions plans.

From there:

"The forum presented its 11 plans to the 11 communities of the Gulf Coast, and many of the smaller, wealthier towns, like Ocean Springs and Pass Christian, were enthusiastic about adopting them; New Urbanism, after all, reconstructed the kind of life they'd been living all along. But Biloxi is bigger and more diverse: it's perched on the end of the peninsula, so hurricanes roll over it regularly, and the city's casinos generate a lot of cash. Playing posthurricane politics in Biloxi is like trying to sword-fight on a rolling log, and as the months wore on, almost everyone found something to object to...."

* later:
"In East Biloxi, the problem was money. About 12,000 people lived in that part of town, about 50 percent of them white, 30 percent black and the rest predominately Vietnamese. Most of the area is just a few feet above sea level, most of the houses are one-story cottages and most of the people are poor. Katrina came through on a 30-foot surge, destroying about 3,500 homes — perhaps 60 percent of the housing. "

* Of course these new plans and homes will cost money. So the reporter (Jim Lewis) goes out into the street:
""Affordable to who?" That's the first question, and the most difficult to answer. There used to be a lot of ways for people to get by in Biloxi...

Now that much of it needs to be rebuilt, everything is going to cost a great deal more. I asked Andrés Duany what he meant by "affordable," and he said: "$140,000. We can make a really nice three-bedroom house for $140,000, working with mobile-home manufacturers." When I asked Bill Stallworth, a black councilman whose ward includes about half of East Biloxi, he was just as blunt. "That's not affordable for this area," he said. ""
"Besides, Moule and Polyzoides's plan had come down from above, and it felt like a decree....there were public meetings to discuss the rebuilding, but many people didn't hear about them or were too busy picking through the debris that had once been their homes. Stallworth, the councilman, described a process that was already well under way before any of the residents were asked how they wanted to rebuild: "It took into account a lot of great planners and their ideas, but not very much from the people.."
And problems exist even in the rich areas as some of the rules are at best silly. Of course (and I am not sure why it is an "of course" but it is):
"Most of the New Urbanists...seemed vexed by the very idea that anyone could disagree with a creed they found self-evident, but the movement does have its critics, especially among architects."
Whew...that is some article (7 pages)...Highly recommended!

It is a very tough problem: regulation or free markets? Is this a case where mandating codes and what has to be is the "optimal" solution? Or should we just let markets work? As Dr. Bob so aptly put it "it is a Gordian Knot."

Monday, May 22, 2006

Get ready for more hurricanes!

While I have little faith in any long run weather predictions, let's hope they are wrong this time!

From the BBC:
"The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) predicts there will be 13-16 named storms, four of which will be "major storms".

But it says 2006 will be less active than last year's record-breaking season which saw Hurricane Katrina cause widespread devastation.

The US hurricane season starts on 1 June and lasts until 30 November."
And from YahooNews (Reuters):
""For the 2006 North Atlantic hurricane season, NOAA is predicting 13 to 16 named storms, with eight to 10 becoming hurricanes, of which four to six could become 'major' hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher," said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration."

May 11th Video update from New Orleans

There will be several more soon. But for a starter, here is a video from Jazz Fest.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

A report from the MS-LA AP editors meeting

You will want to read this! It is a report from the Mississippi-Louisiana Associated Press Managing Editors yearly meeting. This appeared on the
"A child’s tire swing made from a thick rope and a worn out tire still hangs from the branch of a wounded live oak behind the pile of rubble that once was a home.

The view from the 11th floor of the Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino in Biloxi looking south towards U.S. 90 and beyond towards the Mississippi Sound reveals a patchwork of piles of rubble, homes with blue roofs and homes that appear to be waiting for a demolition crew.

Also in view are dozens of live oak trees showing only a few green leaves on their remaining branches. Where once there was canopy of trees through which only small portions of homes could be seen, now everything is laid bare.

My favorite part:
"Friday morning we boarded the bus for our eye-opening trip along the Gulf Coast. This was the first time I had seen what had taken place east of the Bay of St. Louis. Everything has been in a time-warp since the storm and I literally have not had the time to get along that portion of the Coast. I couldn’t imagine anything as bad as what happened to Bay St. Louis, Waveland and Pearlington.

The damage was truly catastrophic here as well, though. All those beautiful antebellum and antebellum-like homes along the Coast were demolished or were turned into shattered shells of what they once had been. Katrina had done to these homes, including Beauvoir, what all the previous storms along the Coast had been unable to do."

Taking pets when evacuated

Hopefully we are learning from Katrina. From the Miami Herald:
"...both people and pets died as a result of pet owners being hesitant to leave their homes in Katrina, as well as the fact that facilities such as kennels and veterinary clinics on the Gulf Coast were not always reliable options.

The bottom-line truth was obvious: the best evacuation is for pet owners and their pets to get away from the Gulf Coast.

Cooperative efforts of the South Mississippi Humane Society, the Harrison County (Miss.) schools and civil defense has resulted in a much-needed pet-friendly evacuation shelter."

Bottom line?
"If you have pets, you have the responsibility to provide for their evacuation plan as urgently as your own. The lives of both you and your pets may depend on it."

Video of Grand Island Implosion

It went down just like planned---and you can watch! The video of the Grand Casino Island View Hotel implosion.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Biloxi Implosion

From the Biloxi city web site:

Mayor A.J. Holloway will press two buttons simultaneously Sunday morning to bring down the Grand Casino Island View Hotel, south of U.S. 90 on Casino Row in Biloxi.

Cherry Demolition, a firm hired by Harrah’s Entertainment, is imploding the 12-story structure, which housed 500 hotel rooms, banquet rooms, retail shops and a restaurant, to prepare the site for what Harrah’s executives have told Holloway will be part of a $1 billion resort.

Biloxi Police will close to the public a four-block stretch of U.S. 90 – from Oak to Cedar streets and north to First Street

Friday, May 19, 2006

Biloxi in the news!

From the City of Biloxi's webpage:

"Hundreds of major newspaper articles and dozens of nationally televised news reports have chronicled the epic devastation and inspirational recovery efforts in Biloxi and its surrounding communities, and the onslaught of coverage is continuing.

National correspondents from FOX, NBC and CBS have been in Biloxi over the past several days, working on stories covering such topics as “why things are going so well here” (FOX); code enforcement efforts and the growing need for shelter for relief workers (NBC); and the casino resort industry's role in the recovery effort (CBS).

The television news reports about Biloxi, which should be airing over the next few days, are part of a flurry of national coverage over the next few days.

This Sunday, the New York Times Magazine, with an audience of nearly 7 million readers, will feature an eight-page spread of text and photos about the pressing issues faced in the recovery effort."

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

More on Stress

From the Sun Herald:
"What's illogical is to assume that we'll be destroyed again this year and every year by a disaster as bad as Katrina or worse," he added. "It certainly could happen, but it probably won't."

Some people may not feel stress just because it's June 1, but they may feel anxious if a tropical depression or storm forms, even if it isn't headed for South Mississippi, the experts said.

"(People) aren't over Katrina," said Mardi Allen, director of professional development for the state Department of Mental Health. "

Long term stress of Hurricanes

From Reuters:
"Survivors of the1992 hurricane Andrew were not only impacted by the immediate consequences of the storm. New study findings show that the storm indirectly affected their mental well-being up to seven years afterwards.

The findings imply that the survivors of last year's hurricane Katrina, which had a greater economic and societal impact than hurricane Andrew, may need to be assessed and treated for mental health problems both now and in the future.

"If they are not treated for psychological stress, they might experience psychological problems for many years to come," study investigator David Russell, a doctoral student at Florida State University, told Reuters Health."

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Rebuilding with faith Rebuilding with faith:
"The Rev. Edward Murphy wakes each day at 5 a.m., has Bible study, and within an hour is on the reconstruction site of hurricane-battered Shoreline Baptist

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Southeast US still singing the blue roof blues - Yahoo! News

Southeast US still singing the blue roof blues - Yahoo! News:
"Plastic tarps that were meant to be temporary patches still cover many roofs because workers and materials have been scarce, insurance payouts have been slower to arrive and smaller than homeowners expected, and the sheer volume of
repairs has strained local building inspectors and permitting offices, industry officials said

Sunday, May 07, 2006

WDSU's heros of the storm

WDSU proudly announced the "Heros of the Storm" contest winners Thursday.We received hundreds of entrees and it was a difficult decision to single out nine winners.The two big chief winners received tickets for a VIP experience at this year's Jazz Fest.Seven other winners received tickets for a weekend at the fest.

Volunteers still needed!

Some of those from LA who did not lose everything are helping Habitat for Humanity help others, but they need more help!

Habitat For Humanity Helps Rebuild

"...people on the North Shore volunteered to build new ones for at least six families that lost their homes to Katrina.

WDSU NewsChannel 6 is working in partnership with Habitat for Humanity to help rebuild homes for victims of the hurricane. It's an effort called "Six Homes for Hope."

The first of the homes are going up in Slidell.

Volunteers are still in short supply so corporations are helping."

Plan In Works To Evacuate Pets For A Storm

Good news!

Plan In Works To Evacuate Pets For A Storm

"New Orleans is working on a plan to get pets out of town should a storm threaten the city.

All animals evacuated out of town on city buses will get a unique bar code. It will be similar to the bracelets patients get at hospitals."

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Landmark Bay St. Louis Home Demolished

WLOX-TV - The News for South Mississippi: Landmark Bay St. Louis Home Demolished: "I'm just really sad. I just feel like my whole life is being bulldozed.'"

Nagin Outlines New Orleans Evacuation Plan - Yahoo! News

Nagin Outlines New Orleans Evacuation Plan - Yahoo! News:
"NEW ORLEANS - Mayor Ray Nagin unveiled a new evacuation strategy for New Orleans on Tuesday that relies more on buses and trains and eliminates the Superdome and Convention Center as shelters."