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Please forgive the sprawling, unorganized nature of this post. I only had so much time between classes and wanted to write as much as I could.



My school is back up (quite a relief, actually, since that means I'm out of the heat for part of the day), and Sister is back at LSU (her power is on, and minor flooding cleaned up, but no word from the police about the people who broke into several units in her complex and took everything she owns). Brother's starting at the end of the week. The public schools here in Baton Rouge are on complete shut down and no one knows when they'll be back up - they're having to evaluate the issue school by school, as some sustained major damage and many are not projected to regain power for weeks. I'm at the school library now, between classes, enjoying the air conditioning. Good friends P and M have power in their apartment complex, and I have been watching Loveless on their couch for the last two nights. In the last week, I have cooked things on the grill that I did not know were possible (cookies, biscuits, spinach, egg-and-rice, etc,) and Mom has perfected the art of using the shrimp-boiler as a stove (spaghetti and meatballs, crawfish etouffee, grits).

When I can get my pictures up, I now have new and very interesting ones, if you've ever wondered what it looks when a crane rips a chimney off of a house (and swings all 8 tons of it wildly into a telephone pole). The tree is off the house! Yay! We have no fence, so Macie's being a pain (there's so much going on in our neighborhood right now it's hard to keep her constantly in good-behavior-mode). We are not officially storm victims, since we have a blue tarp on our roof. Guy Across The Street is a general contractor and covered the gaping hole for us, and is sending a bricklayer (this is the same man who showed up with a chainsaw and a front-end loader to clear another tree out of our driveway, and then continued for three days clearing neighborhood streets for no pay before attending to his own storm damage). Couple next door was very polite about nearly getting their house smashed by our chimney and the two trees the crane swung right over their house. Elderly Lady Living Alone #1 (wheelchair bound Katrina evacuee) has not even been out onto her porch since the storm, but her son is staying with her, and her grandson the fireman keeps sending his friends with ice and generator fuel. Elderly Lady Living Alone #2 (the one with Alzheimers) has not been home since the storm, but I checked out her property for her and cleared a tree from her yard, in case they ever get around to debris pickup. The property behind us lost a building and the house behind them was completely smashed (but no one was seriously hurt) weeks after they finished a new addition. That's most of the people I know well. All the streets in my neighborhood are now at least somewhat navigable, though they're lined with 8-10 foot walls of debris (except the one around the park, which is still buried by about ten trees).

Citywide, about 60% of power has been restored. The major streets are mostly cleared (or at least passable) and some of the major intersections have proper traffic signals again! Hurray! I think more people have been killed in car accidents this last week than from direct storm damage (though quite a few people were killed by falling trees, masonry, etc). Baton Rouge is a rather sprawling city, impossible to get much of anywhere on foot or bike, and the traffic has been HORRIBLE since Monday, when a lot of people went back to work. It's tempting to see conspiracy in the fact the business districts have been getting their power back before the residential zones, but it only makes sense considering how heavily wooded most of our residential areas are. Baton Rouge is really a city of trees, though I hadn't really pondered how much so until we lost so many. I cried when I found out the last of the 250 year old oaks in front of our capitol building had been lost to the storm. I've got pictures of myself in it as a kid, and if I can find them I'll include one with my storm pictures as a memorial. We lost the other two recently to lightning and disease. They were pretty significant landmarks.

Looking out the window, here, I can see electrical poles leaning out over Government Street (which runs from right by my house all the way down to the levee) in a frankly alarming way. There's a lot of that, though, and not nearly enough people or equipment or hours in the day to fix even the immediate hazards. Private property owners and small business people are having to deal with a lot of stuff like that - very unsafe things they shouldn't be messing with - because there's so much to be done the official workers can't get to all the emergencies in time. We had two trees leaning off our corner over a really busy street, held up by (probably dead) powerlines. They were there for a week before anyone from the city-parish could get around to them, and we had to restrain Dad from "handling it" and getting himself killed. And there's lots of things like my neighbor climbing the steeply pitched roof on our very tall house with no safety equipment (unless you count a couple of couch cushions he was using for grip) to block up the hole where our chimney was. My mom and I watched him do it, and I don't know about her, but all I could think was "What are we going to do if he falls and breaks his back. An ambulance would take forever to get here." I was nearly sick watching them yank the chimney down.

Statewide: I don't know much about how Lafayette fared (except that one friend has power back) or other parts of the state that don't contain family members. Local news has been pretty focused on strictly local issues (maybe five or six nearby parishes) and the national news, as I'm sure you've heard me say by this point, is not covering the recovery. Here is what I do know. This map might help with the next few sentences (As might a family tree, but nevermind that).

Great Aunt + family in St. Mary Parish: Still have a house, some storm damage, didn't flood. Second cousins in Plaquemines (Plack-a-men) Parish (right at the very tip, by the Gulf): Major, major flooding, but their house is fine due to having been rebuilt on ridiculously high stilts after it was demolished in Katrina. East Baton Rouge (Me) you know about, West Baton Rouge and Iberville fared a little better (much more rural, lots of industrial properties, less trees) and schools are starting to reopen there. Livingston (where our camp is) and Assumption badly damaged by winds, flooding in areas, parts of Assumption parish so completely disconnected from the power grid that Entergy is trucking in gigantic generators to serve until they can get the major lines reconnected in a month or more (the entire parish is 100% dark). The Felicianas look similar to the Baton Rouges, if more rurally, though St. Francesville is a mess (and that's where the nuclear station that powers Baton Rouge and the surrounding parishes is located - a lot of the pictures of damaged infrastructure I linked to before came from that area). If you've read Myrtles and Roses, that's where it's set (West Feliciana Parish, St. Francesville), and no, I don't know how the plantation fared. Calcasieu (Kal-Ka-Shew) and Cameron Parishes (which were very badly hit by Hurricane Rita), had some major flooding and wind damage, but Lake Charles (major city in the region and home to several cousins) is doing all right, though lots of people had to evacuate livestock, as with Rita. The rice-and-sugar parishes (the whole coast, basically) lost all their crop to salt pollution. Alexandria (in Rapides), where a lot of people evacuated to, was hit hard, but power is being restored. North Louisiana lost power, too, some places in Morehouse Parish (most of my family lives there) for several days, but power is back on in most places. The biggest issue in Morehouse Parish is the billion + dollars of lost crops. Uncle NoyNoy has lost his entire crop of sweet potatoes (it isn't even worth digging it out) and hopes we aren't loosing the family farm (which one of the larger and more successful farms in the region, just to give you an idea of what most people's lives are like there right now). He told us last night that he's been driving the Commissioner of Agriculture around the area for two days, taking pictures to bring to congress, because federal assistance is the only thing that's going to keep most people on their land (and Louisiana is one of the last places, currently, where family farming still outproduces huge-tract factory farming, which won't be the case if everyone looses their land and it gets bought up by Big Aggro).

 
[livejournal.com profile] starherdasked if there was anything she could do, so I'm going to mention again that we have a huge blood shortage (one hospital was evacuated and another ran out of fuel and lost refrigeration). It also couldn't hurt to send a letter to your congresspeople reminding them just how important Louisiana is for fuel and food production, and that you'd sure be disappointed if they voted against any legislation for farm relief, disaster recovery, or (The Big One) coastal restoration and water use issues. Or, you know, if you've got a big generator or a bucket truck you aren't using? (which is mostly a joke, but Practically-Brother-In-Law's brother drove a generator and a ton of gas down from Tennessee for his mother and sister to use, so hey, I thought I'd mention it!)

This is the best place to get Louisiana news, currently, and this is the place to follow breaking emergency events I've got to head to class, now (I was supposed to be having a test, last Wednesday, and now I don't know what's going on, so wish me luck).

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March 2011

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