Friday, August 29, 2008

Lower Ninth Ward

I plan to post more on our trip to Biloxi, but for now--on the 3rd anniversary of Katrina's landfall and another hurricane about to swing into the Gulf--I wanted to briefly mention our brief experience in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans last week.

Since we flew into New Orleans and rented a car, we decided to drive through some of the flooded neighborhoods on our way back to the airport. We came into the city from the east along Claiborne Road, and there were clear signs of devastation and rebuilding. We saw entire shopping malls boarded up, but also new and refurbished homes and stores. Maybe one in three buildings still looked badly damaged. As we drew closer to the Canal separating the Lower Ninth from the city center, we decided to take a turn off the main drag onto a side street, and...

I think Laura Jean and I might have both gasped audibly at what we saw. The entire neighborhood was just ... gone. What had once been a full neighborhood of small family homes was now returning to bayou. The grass was four feet tall. Only every twentieth home was still standing and most of those looked like they had been bombed. There were few attempts at rebuilding and even the roads were destroyed--giant potholes and standing water everywhere. It felt like driving through an Iowa cornfield, or a township. Laura Jean described it as being under the ocean.

I'm not entirely sure what I expected--perhaps more like the 'back to life' feeling from the main road--but not this field of bulldozed foundations. In a word, it was shocking.

No photos to share since our camera had stopped working by that point, but this flickr set captures some of the feel of being there. Also after poking around a bit, I found this map showing the depth of the flood waters throughout the city and you can see that these houses were totally destroyed by 1-5 feet of water -- other parts of NOLA were submerged by more than 11 feet!

You can also see some of the destruction in the current google map images of the neighborhood (zoom in), although I think since these pictures were taken many of these houses have been razed to the ground.

View Larger Map

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