Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Extra: Katrina + 2

Check out an informative new site. From the home page:

"Hurricane Katrina 2007
Your Go-To Page
Everything you need and need to know is right here.

We present here the latest articles of note, and include a brief synopsis and quotes from each below its link, so you need not go any further unless you want to delve deeper about a particular subject. This is not a site not of outdated, archived news items. These pieces include breaking news, highlighting the ongoing debates, resources to better understand the hurricane—what we can do about both healing its wounds and preventing a future disaster—as well as resources for those still in need. Sadly, despite the fact that the storm's second anniversary is approaching on August 29, 2007, Hurricane Katrina's devastation is far from over.

Katrina made landfall just before dawn on August 29, 2005, seventy miles south of New Orleans. Largely because the wetlands that make up Louisiana’s coast had been eroded, the storm surge pushed unabated into southern Louisiana, breaching New Orleans' levees at multiple points, leaving 80 percent of the city submerged, tens of thousands of victims clinging to rooftops, and hundreds of thousands scattered to shelters around the country. Many have yet to return. The devastation to Mississippi and Louisiana by hurricanes Katrina and Rita has been called the greatest disaster in our nation's history.

The images of anguish and anger from Hurricane Katrina have been forever burned into the hearts and minds of all Americans. They must be the catalyst for change. Prevention of a future disaster of similar proportions is both possible and practical. But the United States must act now to restore the wetlands."


Also check out Josh's new book: "Heart Like Water" at


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, August 26, 2007

We Are Homeless ...

The latest installment in a series begun on August 12:

Soon after the storm we were pretty certain that we had lost everything in our New Orleans East home. We also lost a car, and a rental house we owned in NOE. A mid-October visit to our house was a salvage operation, and between flooding damage and mold there was little that we could save. The most painful loss for Susan was that of our picture albums. Everything else was just “stuff.”

Before the storm we had started building a house in Lakeview, another neighborhood that was hit particularly hard by Katrina. Pilings had been driven, and the forms built for a slab. After the storm we jointly agreed with the builder to cancel the contract; we had no place to stay to participate in the process and he did not feel he could build the house for the price to which we had previously agreed. We are still trying to get our deposit back.

So, I the fall of 2005 we were renting an apartment in Columbus Ohio with hand-me-down furniture, about as near to homeless as one could be while living indoors. It did not seem to bother us much, probably because we were still rather traumatized by the whole process. We were sure that this was not a long-term arrangement but not so sure what to do next.

The pressure was on, with Susan having to return to work in early January. We had applied for a FEMA trailer, which we thought would be ready by then, but it wound up not being available until April.

Meanwhile, my mother’s house in Metairie was being repaired, with a projected completion date of mid-December. Her car drowned and she was not going to replace it. She also had some concerns about living in such a big house by herself.

How fortuitous! We suggested that we live with her, and she liked the idea. We told her that we expected to move in a year, though we had no idea where.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Place to Roost ...

Continuing from the "Road to Cincinnati:"

While the road trip had been fun, it was becoming obvious that it would be a while before we could return to NO. It was time to find a place where we could stay a while. We decided that the only place where we would feel (somewhat) at home was with Susan’s brother and family in Dillsboro Indiana, in the Cincinnati area.

The Robinsons were as gracious as they could be, creating an apartment for us in their basement. It was mid-September and we were beginning to realize that it would be months before we could return rather than weeks.

A call from our best friends, who had evacuated to Columbus Ohio, suggested we move there. An apartment complex was giving Katrina refugees a 70% discount on rent, and social service agencies were providing furniture and other necessities. In addition the Political Science department at Ohio State (alma mater of Susan and our friend Steve) was providing free office space and clerical support.

We moved to Columbus in late September. At the time we knew three other couples there, and they proved to be a significant support structure. Susan’s working at OSU allowed her to finish a book that she had been working on, and I was able to get an office in the OSU Business School. Being a part of the OSU community, where we could get back to our professional pursuits, was uplifting.

Fall foliage in Columbus was beautiful and the season began with very nice weather. We were only about a mile from OSU, and in an area where many of the necessities of life, and a few nice restaurants, were in walking distance.

But winter came early in 2005. The cold and snow were uncomfortable, but we were beginning to plan our return to New Orleans and that got us through.

More to come ...


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Road to Cincinnati ...

In explaining why me moved to Cincinnati we review the Katrina experience:

We like to tell Cincinnatians that we chose the city after a nationwide search for a place to retire. In addition to Cincinnati that search took us to Columbus Ohio and Chapel Hill North Carolina. These are not the typical places to retire and you may ask why there are no sites in Florida or Arizona. Well, here is how that list evolved, and it is a long story.

For New Orleans residents all topics are divided into pre-Katrina and post-Katrina. Post-Katrina discussions are frequently about where you stayed during the evacuation and where you are living now. The evacuation period generally began two days before the hurricane hit New Orleans (on Monday, August 29, 2005) with a wide variance on when people returned “home,” such as it was.

Road Trip

There are evacuations, and there are post-Katrina “odyssies.” Generally we leave town for a motel that is 50 to 100 miles away, stay a couple of days, then return when the hurricane has blown over. This was our expectation for the Katrina evacuation, so we threw a few things into the car and we left (Saturday, two days before the storm hit) to stay with friends in Slidell Louisiana.

Susan is very nervous about hurricanes and on Saturday watched the 5 a.m. position and projected path of the storm, and decided that it was time to go. She gave me an hour to back up my computer files and to pack the car. We had a hurricane “kit” that included our important papers, flashlights, and cans of food.

On Sunday morning we and our hosts decided that we needed to be further away than Slidell. We watched the hurricane and its early aftermath on CNN from Tuscaloosa Alabama, while staying at the home of friends of Susan’s from way back.

We then drove to the Birmingham airport and flew to Washington DC for Susan to attend a professional meeting. On our return we drove to Memphis for my niece’s wedding, which was moved there from New Orleans on very short notice.

Attendance at Loni’s wedding at the Peabody Hotel was almost as good as it would have been in NO. People flew and drove in from a variety of locations that would look like an airline route map. Conversation was largely about what happened to our houses, and where we were staying.

From Memphis we stayed a couple of days with Susan’s cousins in Huntsville.

More to come.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Health System Troubles ...

By Janet Mcconnaughey for the Associated Press:

The five major hospitals and hospital systems in the area have hemorrhaged money since Hurricane Katrina as the cost of utilities, insurance and labor have all risen sharply, hospital officials said Wednesday.

"Combined, our hospitals are on the runway to lose $130 million or $135 million this year," Touro Infirmary Chief Operating Office Les Hirsch said in a telephone interview Wednesday, before testifying about the problems to a U.S. House Energy and Commerce subcommittee in Washington.

Mayor Ray Nagin and executives from Tulane University Hospital and Clinic, East Jefferson General Hospital, West Jefferson Medical and Ochsner Medical Center, which bought and reopened several hospitals that closed after the storm, also testified.

Those five hospital systems have lost about $58 million in the first five months of this year, officials said. That compares to a $12 million profit for the same hospitals during the seven months before August 2005, when the hurricane hit.

"These losses are not sustainable. Each one of us, at some point in the future, is going to have to face some very difficult decisions if something does not change," said Dr. Mark Peters, CEO at East Jefferson General Hospital.

They can't say specifically what sorts of cutbacks or closures might be needed if they cannot get federal help, said Dr. Robert Lynch, who officially started Wednesday as CEO at Tulane University Hospital and Clinic. Not only would it be inadvisable for business reasons, but it could violate antitrust laws, he said.

The losses so far this year are in spite of federal infusions of nearly $140 million to hospitals during the state fiscal year that ended in June.

Peters said East Jefferson got $9.5 million in federal grants. "Things would be a whole lot worse if that wasn't there," he said. "But it still highlights the hole we're in."

Figures compiled by the Metropolitan Hospital Council of New Orleans show that utility costs were up 32 percent from before the storm.

Labor costs, from housekeepers to surgeons, rose from $304 million in January-May 2005 to $357 million in the same period this year at the five hospitals. And the money pays far fewer workers, Lynch said.

Tulane has almost one-third fewer employees but salaries are up 15.7 percent, he said.

Dr. John "Jack" Finn, president of the Metropolitan Hospital Council, said one hospital brought almost 200 people from outside the country to work as housekeepers. "When their contract was up almost all of them were hired away by our hotels," he said.

Finn estimated that one-quarter of all patients in the area are uninsured. "Even people who would have been insured prior to Katrina. A lot of businesses are not back, so people are in different occupations that may not provide insurance. Secondly, there are a lot of new companies that, to survive, just can't provide insurance," he said.


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