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Context of '(4:00 pm) August 29, 2005: New Orleans Fire Department Reports at Least Three Breaches In Levee System'

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Emergency preparedness officials from across southeast Louisiana report damage during a morning teleconference. The officials report flooding, building collapses, power outages and fires. The Times-Picayune provides a rundown of the reports on its blog this morning:
bullet In New Orleans, water is topping a floodwall along the Industrial Canal. The city’s 911 system is out of service. Charity Hospital is on emergency power; windows have been blown out on five floors. The Police Department is operating on a backup power system. Three to four feet of water is reported on St. Claude Avenue at Jackson Barracks. A 20-foot tidal surge has knocked out four pumping stations; only one is back into service.
bullet Jefferson Parish reports a building collapse in the 200 block of Wright Avenue in Terrytown. Reportedly, people were inside the building when it collapsed.
bullet St. Charles Parish reports significant flooding on the East Bank.
bullet Arabi reports up to eight feet of water. People are climbing into their attics to escape the flooding. “We’re telling people to get into the attic and take something with them to cut through the roof if necessary,” reports Col. Richard Baumy of the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office. “It’s the same scenario as Betsy.” 100-plus mph winds are preventing rescue efforts.
bullet Bayou Bienvenue reports water levels of 9 1/2 feet, almost twice normal levels.
bullet St. John reports massive power outages.
bullet Gramercy reports extensive damage to the town’s 1 1/2-year-old fire station.
bullet Terrebonne Parish reports one death due to a heart attack. [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/29/2005] Note: The exact time of this call is not clear. However, this entry appears on the Times-Picayune Blog before reports of the hole in the Superdome’s roof, indicating that the call takes place relatively early this morning.

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The Associated Press reports that, according to the National Weather Service, a floodwall has been breached on the Industrial Canal near the St. Bernard-Orleans parish line (see (9:00 am) August 29, 2005). Three to eight feed of flooding is possible. [Associated Press, 8/29/2005 Sources: National Weather Service] The Associated Press will report on breaches in New Orleans’ levee system at least 15 times before the end of the day, identifying both the Industrial Canal floodwall breach and the 17th Street Canal floodwall-levee breach.

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Reporters and Guests on National Public Radio’s afternoon repeatedly report the extensive flooding. Greg Allen reports: “The good news is that the extreme flooding feared from a storm surge didn’t materialize here.… At least one part of the levee [system] did give way in St. Bernard Parish, but authorities say in a critical area along Lake Pontchartrain the levees largely did their job. Even so, Hurricane Katrina was still the worst storm to hit New Orleans in memory, worse, many residents say, than Hurricane Betsy which devastated the city in 1965.” [National Public Radio, 8/29/2005] Mark Schleifstein of the Times-Picayune reports, “There is definitely some flooding in several areas that we’re still trying to get a handle on to see whether or not it’s as bad as Hurricane Betsy was in 1965. The worst areas are actually in a community called Chalmette that’s a little bit south of the city.… Now it has already overtopped some levees along the lake front rather early on in the process and it did—also the Chalmette flooding was also caused by a storm surge that went up what’s called the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet.” [National Public Radio, 8/29/2005] However, John Burnett reports: “[T]he National Guard has just begun in those big deuce and a half trucks of theirs to go out and do some assessments, and what they’re finding is—one of the most distressing things that’s happened is the famous lower 9th Ward of New Orleans…really got hit hard. That’s where there was a big breach in the [floodwall of the Industrial Canal], that leads into the Mississippi River. And so we’ve heard reports of people on tops of houses, of a woman in an attic trying to, you know—concerned that the flood waters were gonna trap her in there. So that is an area of great concern. A lot of the city is not in near those dire circumstances. More like one, two feet of water on the ground. Nothing like, you know, up to the rooftops.” [MSNBC, 8/29/2005] Senator Landrieu (D-La) appears on the show to say, “We have reports that some of the levees have either been breached or the water has come over the levees. [T]here’s still a tremendous amount of water from the first images that we’re able to receive, which is just in the last hour, of levels of water in and around the city. Now Plaquemine Parish, St. Bernard Parish have been very hard hit. Areas of Lakeview and New Orleans East have substantial water in them that we know of; downtown has been hit. The levels of water don’t seem that high in the central business district and the French Quarter, but of course, our assessment teams haven’t gotten there yet.” [National Public Radio, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Greg Allen, John Burnett, Hurricane Betsy, All Things Considered, National Public Radio, National Guard

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The Army Corp’s Al Naomi calls the state emergency headquarters in Baton Rouge to inform officials of a catastrophic situation in the city. Water from the increasingly large breach in the 17th Street Canal floodwall, which will grow to 200 feet wide, is pouring out, and flooding New Orleans. [McQuaid, 9/7/2005] According to Al Naomi, Army Corps of Engineers’ New Orleans project manager, the Corps reports the other breaches in the levee system as well: “It was disseminated. It went to our OEP in Baton Rouge, to the state, FEMA, the Corps,” Naomi will later recall. “The people in the field knew it. The people here (in Corps offices) in Louisiana and Mississippi knew it. I don’t know how communication worked in those agencies.” [McQuaid, 9/7/2005] Yet, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La) will later recall that the mood in the state’s headquarters is not one of panic this afternoon: “We were saying, ‘Thank you, God,’ because the experts were telling the governor it could have been even worse.” [Newsweek, 9/19/2005 Sources: Mary L. Landrieu]

Entity Tags: Al Naomi, Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

New Orleans Firefighter Nick Felton reports that “downtown has major damage with windows and parts of buildings gone and, of course, major flooding with the water still rising. At this time feeder bands are still coming through the area and they are not responding yet. There are people on their rooftops waiting to be rescued. There have been three breaches of the levee system—in Kenner, at Lakefront along Lake Pontchartrain and west bank. Officials are very concerned about lower New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish. No one has been able to communicate with any [firefighters in St. Bernard Parish].” [International Association of Fire Fighters, 8/29/2005]

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

FEMA Director Michael Brown describes the situation to CNN’s Larry King as “a catastrophic disaster,” before focusing on the devastation to New Orleans, which he describes as follows: “It saved downtown New Orleans but it decimated everything east of downtown and then, of course, decimated everything up through Mississippi, so there’s always good news and bad news and it here is it means we don’t have the flooding in downtown New Orleans but we’ve got the flooding everywhere. We’ve got some storm surges that have come across the levees. We have some, I’m not going to call them breaches but we have some areas where the lake and the rivers are continuing to spill over. The flood waters are still spilling into those neighborhoods, so it’s frankly unfortunately going to get worse before it gets better.” Brown reports that FEMA is assessing the situation and remarks that, “It’s just amazing to see the pictures and to hear the firsthand reports of these FEMA folks who have been with the agency for, you know, 15 or 20 years to call in and talk about how this is the worst flooding they’ve ever seen in their entire lives and talking about just neighborhoods after neighborhoods gone.” Brown also praises the Coast Guard rescue efforts: “I can’t say enough about the Coast Guard. They go out and they’re trying to do reconnaissance and the next thing you know there’s a guy on the roof that needs rescuing, so they rescue that guy and try to get him back to safety. That’s the kind of stuff we’re going to find in the near future.” [CNN, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, US Coast Guard, Michael D. Brown

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

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