Mid-Life Ramblings; Sanity Optional

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

News from a reporter on the Katrina situation

Thought I'd post my brother's last few emails for you guys to see the deteriorating situation in New Orleans through his eyes.

21:11 hrs CDT 08/29/05
Greetings everyone,

As grim as things are here in New Orleans, I can't help but be thankful that I made it through this storm unscathed physically.

I could spend the next few hours writing about what I've seen and done today, but I'm too tired, I'm hungry and I desperately need a shower (the colder the better!)

Many of you are probably curious about how we're managing here at The Times-Picayune main office. We'be been without electricity since 4 a.m.,but a generator is powering a small collection of computers being used by alternating shifts of editors, writers and photographers (thank goodness the picture people do everything digital these days).

About 30 of us reporters fanned out as far as we could this afternoon to assess the damage and start gathering the first elements of the remarkable stories we will be telling over the coming months about Katrina and her aftermath.

I reported on the electricity and telephone situations - bad and likely to get worse before getting better.

The "storm" issue of the T.P. will be "published" on our web page at www.nola.com later tonight, and printed tomorrow in Baton Rouge. I encourage all of you to pull up the edition.

It's remarkable that we produced a newspaper just hours after enduring the most powerful storm to ever hit the Gulf Coast. I think in the years to come we all will look back at this work and the stories we will produce in the coming weeks and months with pride and satisfaction.

I could say much about damage to the city but the pictures on our web site and others do more justice.

Myself and a few other reporters ventured outside for the first time around 4 p.m. and climbed onto the elevated expressway that runs in front of the office for a clear view of the Superdome and high-rise district.

It was a painful scene to view. Most of the buildings look as though they had been bombed. I've never seen anything like it. It was terribly sad - not that the buildings were damaged, but that my city, my home was torn to shreds. It took everything I had not to cry.

One item of continuing concern is the rising water approaching the center of the city. It appears that the flood waters of Metairie and eastern New Orleans are slowly flowing toward us. Things still could get much worse for us.

Here are my immediate plans. As soon as my editors finish editing my story, I'll call Mom and Dad, take a shower, then savor a few bottles of Abita Amber and some smoked salmon that a fellow reporter is sharing with us.

The moment will be hot, sticky, dark, and even sad, but I will eat my fill of it as though it was a fine feast. I'll probably never experience anything like this again. I want the memories to be deep and lasting.

I feel like I've been away on a very long and lonely journey. I miss all of you terribly. I miss my house. I miss Nero and Topaz. I miss Constantine. And I already miss this place I call home.

The truth is that our journey has barely begun. Keep all of us in your thoughts and prayers.

I love all of you,


0744 hrs 08/30/05

The Times-Picayune Building
Downtown New Orleans, La.
Tuesday, Aug. 30

The water outside has risen about three feet overnight, and continues to go up. Our building is an island. Another couple of feet and the water will start flooding our bottom floor.
This is "the worst case" scenario.
Things have turned very ominous here now.
Senior management here is starting to talk about evacuating us. Local officials are pleading with people over t.v. and radio to get out of the city now. Aaron Broussard, president of Jeff. Parish, just said on the radio that he's told his wife not to come back for at least a month.
This is the reality. We're all homeless now because we are cityless.
Kristina and Michele, would one of you call Constantine at XXX-XXX-XXXX. I haven't been able to reach him by phone since early yesterday morning, and I don't know if he's getting email.
Just check on him to make sure he's ok. And give him the latest from me.
Fortunately, I think we're in a better situation than many others. We still have enough food and drinking water for a few days. We have at least three boats here. And the building is located next to the elevated highway.
We can get, by boat, to the highway but getting picked up by vehicles isn't an option because the central part of the city is totally cut off from highway exits. It seems the only way for us to get out right now is by helicopter. That's certainly an option because a helicopter can land on the elevated highway.
Our ability to report is becoming more limited. With only a handful of boats, not many of us can get out to work. I suspect over the next couple of days, we'll start reporting on our website more and more about what's happening in our immediate viewing area and on our own personal experiences here at the building.
But we still have limited power from our generator. We're still able to communicate through some cell phones and computers over the Internet.
We have supplies. We can't drink the water out of the faucet but we can use it for bathroom reasons.
The looting is pretty bad according to the reporters and photographers who went out into the city yesterday.
Things will only get uglier as people start running out of resources and become more desperate.
I'm guessing that at some point, we might get evaculated out of the city to the north shore or to the river parishes to the west.
Its becoming hard to imagine the city proper recovering from this.
With highway damage, companies and businesses are going to have to relocate out of the city. People who can't come back to work - because their businesses and jobs in the city won't exist anymore - at some point will have to consider taking jobs somewhere else and establishing some sembelence of a life somewhere else.
How many of those people will come back?
I'm afraid that the New Orleans we all knew is gone forever.
I know this sounds almost hysterical, but the devastation here is almost unimaginable.
I'm charging my cell phone again but I don't know how well it is working today. I couldn't make any calls in or out yesterday. But many others here are able to use their cell phones.
I'll call out as much as I can. Same with email.
Pray for us.

0845 hrs 08/30/05

We do have another way out right now. We can get on the highway in front of the building and cross the bridge over the Miss. River, then follow the highway west along the West Bank to St. Charles Parish, cross back over the river and reconnect with I-10 and head west.
Our trucks still can get us out of here, but we don't know if they can bet onto the highway from here.
The water appears to be rising about 1.5 inches per hour.
people are starting to make their way to the elevated highway (Pontchartrain Expressway) and presumably walk across the bridge.
The word we have is that the West Bank (on the other side of the river) is dry.
About the only noise outside is from helecopters making constant passes over the city.

0918 hrs 08/30/05

We're evacuating to the West Bank immediately, then possibly to Baton Rouge.
Can't take much. Just my computer bag. not even clothes.
trucks can still get to interstate but window of opportunity to get us out is closing.
also beginning to smell fuel in building, probably from gas, diesel and oil in the flood water.
So safety here will increasingly be at risk.
Will update whenever possible.
Not sure when.

I'm hoping to hear from him that he's safe and here in Baton Rouge soon.

Above quotes (c) Keith Darce 2005


  • At 10:27 AM, Blogger Poppymom said…

    Thank you for posting this. Having inundated myself with hurricane coverage, this is by far the most harrowing thing I've read. Your brother's words have made this real for me. I'll pray for him, and will be waiting to here that he's safe in BR.

    And I'm so glad to here from you. You've been on my mind.

  • At 11:58 AM, Anonymous Katherine Bordelon, Princess Cocktail said…

    I have been watching the news for days now and only from your brother's words have I caught the real devistation of what is happening in my home state.

    I will be praying for your brother and the rest of Louisiana.

    Kat Bordelon

  • At 12:56 PM, Blogger Dixie said…

    God, he's a wonderful writer, isn't he? Even when decribing such horror and despair he's able to make you see just what he sees.

    And it hurts my heart that the place he loves will be no more.

    I'm praying that he stays safe. Praying for all who have been devestated by this storm.

  • At 1:28 PM, Blogger thatfarmgirl said…

    So sorry that Keith and all of you are going through this. I grew up in St. Charles Parish and my family has been in Louisiana since 1720. My immediate family is safe, but we cannot reach others. Thank you, Keith, for your work and your writing, and thank you for posting. All our best wishes are with you all.

  • At 5:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thanks for posting the link on Gumbo. This is just so sad, I feel so sorry for everyone that lost so much in all this. My husband and I visited NOLA for the first time last Aug. and we planned on going back there next Month. We just loved the city and and the French Quarter so much, we will be praying for your brother and the rest of the people, who have been devestated by Katrina.
    84,000 Hugs LucyLov'

  • At 5:52 PM, Anonymous Bop said…

    Your brother's emails have touched me so deeply. He is a fantastic writer and I truly feel his anguish over the loss of his hometown. I'm absolutely thrilled to know he is safe and has made it to Baton Rouge.

  • At 9:35 PM, Anonymous Stephanie said…

    I'm speechless. Keep us up to date and know that the whole gang over there are in my constant thoughts.

  • At 4:13 AM, Anonymous Chelle said…

    Thanks for posting this Barefoot! I am glad that K is safely in BR now. I will continue to pray for all of you. Dix is right, he is a brilliant writer. I think it runs in the family.


  • At 8:32 PM, Anonymous ashley said…

    and everyone in my newsroom were wondering how they were doing it. now i know.

    i wish the best for your brother. tell him AP style deems it necessary for him to be safe.


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