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Special Feature:
Impressions of Post-Katrina New Orleans and Mississippi

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A flag waves over neatly piled bricks where a house once stood
Above: A flag waves over neatly piled bricks where a house once stood on Beach Street, Bay St. Louis, Miss. [larger version]

An A-frame house stands behind downed trees and debris
Above: An A-frame house stands behind downed trees and debris in Bay St. Louis, Miss. The red car never made it out of town. [larger version]

A global-positioning-system (GPS) survey of breached levees by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists in March 2006 was the second visit to post-Katrina New Orleans for Brian Collins, but his colleagues Diane Minasian and Tom Reiss were seeing the hurricane's impact for the first time, and it hit them hard. "As soon as we got off the plane and entered Louis Armstrong Airport," said Minasian, "we noticed empty airline counters, few people, few planes coming and going. Driving to the downtown hotel, there was an eerie feeling of empty roadways, no thought of road rules, only a few lights working." The downtown and the French Quarter were the only areas that had any feeling of normalcy—the downtown busy with office workers and the French Quarter teeming with tourists and students who had come to help on their spring break.

"The French Quarter restaurants were full," said Minasian. "Music was playing everywhere. In contrast, the areas where we were working were the most damaged: the areas at the levee breaks, the areas that were abandoned, the areas no one could inhabit." In these areas, the only human activity was the work by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers personnel and various contractors to repair levees and floodwalls before the next hurricane season; the deafening sound of pile drivers masked the unnatural quiet. The neighborhoods that might be salvageable had some church groups and students on spring break preparing houses for demolition. All of the debris had to be out on the street for trucks to haul away (see related article, "Post-Katrina Cleanup in Biloxi, Mississippi—a Volunteer’s Reflections," in Sound Waves, December 2005/January 2006,).

After the fieldwork, Minasian spent an extra day in New Orleans, then drove to Mississippi to view the path of the hurricane’s eye. "Driving out of New Orleans, I was amazed by the extent of the flooding and desolation," said Minasian. "Miles and miles of neighborhoods with no people, strip malls with no one—just emptiness, like a bad science-fiction movie." The damage she saw in Mississippi had been caused mainly by wind rather than flooding. Trees had been broken and houses literally blown away. "Reconstruction was happening," she said, "but at a very slow pace. The area was still mostly how the hurricane had left it."

Related Sound Waves Stories
USGS Scientists Revisit New Orleans Levee Breaks to Collect High-Accuracy Survey Data
May 2006
Post-Katrina Cleanup in Biloxi, Mississippi—a Volunteer's Reflections
Dec. 2005 / Jan. 2006

Related Web Sites
Hurricane Katrina Impact Studies
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
USGS Responds to Hurricanes (Katrina, Rita, and Wilma)
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

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in this issue: Fieldwork
cover story:
Scientists Revisit New Orleans Levee Breaks

special feature:
Impressions of Post-Katrina New Orleans and Mississippi

Research usSEABED Offshore Sediment Data for the Atlantic Coast Region

Meetings GIS and Ocean Mapping Workshop

Staff New Mendenhall Postdoctoral Research Fellows

Publications New Book About the Florida Manatee

May 2006 Publications List

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