Katrina: media evacuates, there is no grid, damage map?

BB reader Kathryn Cramer points us to a before-and-after photo comparison of the area of New Orleans where a levee broke last night. Link

In New Orleans, the Times-Picayune and WWL TV, two local news organizations who've held out longest, are evacuating.

The Times-Picayune is evacuating it's New Orleans building. Water continues to rise around our building, as it is throughout the region. We want to evaucate our employees and families while we are still able to safely leave our building.

Our plan is to head across the Mississippi River on the Pontchartrain Expressway to the west bank of New Orleans and Jefferson Parish. From there, we'll try to head to Houma.

Our plan, obviously, is to resume providing news to our readers ASAP. Please refer back to this site for continuing information as soon as we are able to provide it.

Link to Times-Picayune article. Snip from updates on WWL TV's website:
# 9:35 A.M. Marshal Law in effect in Jefferson Parish and Plaquemines Parish. 60 percent of homes in Plaquemines Parish under water.

# 8:39 A.M. WWL-TV studios are being evacuated as rising water is coming into the station. The French Quarter is taking on water and water is expected to rise in the city for the next few days.


Throughout NOLA, water is rising in the streets this morning. The suspected cause: a levee break (update: reports now of three separate breaks) along a canal leading to Lake Pontchartrain. The city lies below sea level, and the complex system of pumps, canals and levees that protects it no longer functions. Electrical, gas, and telecommunications grids are equally devastated -- and the lack of even the most basic communications technology is making rescue efforts all the more difficult. Snip:

As the sun set over a still-churning Lake Pontchartrain, the smoldering ruins of the Southern Yacht Club were still burning, and smoke streamed out over the lake. Nobody knew the cause of the fire because nobody could get anywhere near it to find out what happened. (...)

Firefighters who saved [a group of people] tried to request an RTA bus to come for the refugees, but said there was no working communications to do so.

(...) At around 5 p.m., almost as if on cue, the battery power of all the house alarms in the neighborhood seemed to reach a critical level all at once, and they all went off, making it sound as if the area was under an air-raid warning.

Two men surviving on generator power in the Lake Terrace neighborhood near the Lake Pontchartrain levee still had a dry house, but they were eyeing the rising water in the yard nervously. They were planning to head back out to the levee to retrieve a vast stash of beer, champagne and hard liquor they found washed onto the levee.

As night fell, the sirens of house alarms were finally silent, and the air filled with a different, deafening and unfamiliar sound: the extraordinary din of thousands of croaking frogs.

Islands of red ants floated in the gasoline-fouled waters through downtown. (...) And once the floodwaters go down, "it's going to be incredibly dangerous" because of structural damage to homes, diseases from animal carcasses and chemicals in homes....

BB reader Andy proposes that someone generate a "New Orleans damage finder":

It would be great if there were a site or application where people could find pictures of hurricane damage by zip code. That way, all the folks who are evacuated check in to see conditions in their neighborhood. I was thinking Google Earth might be a good place for this, but it looks like there isn't much so far.
(Special Thanks to Ned Sublette)

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Reader comment: David says,

Slidell LA resident Brian Oberkirch (evacuated to Dallas since Sunday) created the Slidell Hurricane Damage Blog to collect any and all information, pictures, stories about what's going on in the disaster zone. So far news from Slidell hasn't been good but it's been hard separating fact from rumor. Link
Reader comment: BB reader David Calkins says,
You can't get a damage assement from these sea level maps of New Orleans, but it sure helps to get a idea of what's probably underwater. Link one, Link Two, Link 3
Reader comment: BB reader Ian Sewell points us to an audio file of CNN's Jeanne Meserve, reporting about what she witnessed yesterday in the Katrina-damaged zone. Journalists "are sometimes wacky thrill seekers" in hurricanes, Meserve said. "But when you stand in the dark, and you hear people yelling for help and no one can get to them, it's a totally different experience." This page contains a 10MB MP3.

Reader comment: Marc Nathan says,

My soon-to-be sister-in-law works for Tulane University and she has gotten preliminary reports that the damage on campus is so extensive after a second levee broke last night that school may not open until next *year*. She has been fielding calls about the process for students to transfer to nearby schools, namely the University of Texas at Austin. School was scheduled to start tomorrow.