Friday, September 02, 2005

Nightime on the City of New Orleans

By Thomas Dimopoulos

SARATOGA SPRINGS — On the Web site that calls itself 'Everything New Orleans,' you can find out that in the city known for its jazz, Jazzfest 2006 is scheduled to begin April 28.
It is
advertised on the entertainment link of
Finding it is a little like looking into someone's closet whose belongings still cling to clothes hangers just as they left them, and knowing that they won't be coming back.

The real-time images of lively street scenes from the French Quarter are down for the count, the site informs: Bourbon-CAM; River-CAM; Bead-CAM; Hurricane Katrina has slayed them all. Instead, the busiest activity on the site Wednesday morning is the Missing Persons forum. It was filling with posts as rapidly as the waters pouring into the city.

- 8:16 a.m., post No. 29: Looking For My Mom, Pearl, brother Brian & niece Christy. They were last at the St. Louis Hotel in the Quarter. Mom needs medical attention. God Bless Us All.

- 10:07 a.m., post No. 30: My family is trapped on a roof near Toledano and Washington. Please send help.

- 10:46 a.m., post No. 50: I know where there are people trapped either in attic or on roof. I was text messaged saying they were trying to cut out the roof. They are by Lena Street and Parish Road I think there is 4 people. Please if anybody knows where I can call to report them, email me.

- 11:55 a.m., post No. 526. Please help us find Riley Mckennie! Address: Mexico Street. God have mercy on our souls.

- 12:07 p.m. post No. 557. Worried in Iraq: My name is Chris Ducote I am in Iraq and I am looking for my father Vincent and my brother Vincent, Jr. They lived in Chalmette, La. If u have any info on them please email me. And if u see them please tell them that I love them very much and that I'll be home soon.

There were 900 postings on the forum at 1:30 Wednesday afternoon. By 8:30 p.m. the number grew to 2,500. At lunch time the following afternoon, there were 5,385.

The words travel swiftly around the world. The pictures of devastation may be worth 1,000 words, but they cannot describe what only the words can: the panic, the grief, the fear. And the hope for a beacon of light in the darkness.
It is words that have also expressed advance warning.

This could happen here, they say.
We'll worry about it some other time, is the usual response.
When some other time comes, there are then new words that are spoken. How could this have happened? and, inevitably: Who is to blame?

In 1998, the Center for Climate Systems Research at Columbia University issued this warning: Warming Could Flood New York Metro Area.

With global warming, reasoned Columbia scientist Vivien Gornitz, regional temperatures could rise as much as 4 degrees, and area sea levels could follow. As much as 8 inches by 2030. As much as 4 feet by the year 2100.

'If global warming produces more violent storms and higher sea levels as expected,' Gornitz cautioned, 'Subways, airports and low-lying coastal areas could experience flooding.'

State and local planners were asked to consider countermeasures right away: Install protective seawalls. Raise the airport runways at Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports above expected flood levels. Install pumping systems that would keep the mostly underground subway system dry. Words of caution.

Here, the newsroom is about 295 feet above sea level. It is also 500 feet directly above a natural fault line running on a north-south line beneath the city. How long the fault line has been here is anybody's guess, but it is the reason that the carbonated waters bubble up from underground. Before gambling built up this town, it was the springs that first brought population here in big numbers. The fault line is why the city has its springs, and is where the city of Saratoga gets its last name.

I would bet you that there are probably as many around here spending time worrying about earthquakes as there are on the island of Manhattan concerned about rising sea levels. Which is not too many. It is, after all, racing season. We'll worry about it some other time.

Published in The Saratogian

Sunny Saratoga, Devastated in Slidell

By Thomas Dimopoulos

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Hank Snelgrove called his wife Averil on Sunday at
their home in Slidell, La. and told her she should leave town. She told
him she didn’t want to leave the house.

Monday Slidell, La. took a direct hit from Hurricane Katrina, and the
Saratoga Springs man sat by his telephone. He waited and waited. And
then he waited some more.

“For three days there was no communication,” said Snelgrove. “I didn’t
know if my wife was alive or if she was dead.”

Snelgrove grew up in Saratoga Springs in the 1930s and 40s, and still
spends part of the year in the city in a house that has been in the
family since the 1700s. The Snelgroves spend most of the year in their
home in Slidell and usually make a summer visit to the Spa City

“My wife and I usually come up in August, but this year she couldn’t get
away from work,” he said.

“She works for Lockheed Martin as a contract person and she was really
busy working with the space shuttle because of problem with the foam. So
she said, ‘You go ahead and go up there (to Saratoga)’, which is what I
did,” Snelgrove said. Visiting with him over the weekend was stepson
Greg Miller, who is a member of the National Guard.

“He was up here with me when he got orders to go back to Louisiana on
Sunday,” Snelgrove said. The flight was diverted to Jackson, Miss.

Miller, who is stationed a few miles away from the Snelgroves’ home in
Sidell, was met by his step brother Bill. The pair drove to Louisiana to
stay with Averil in the family home, four miles from Lake Pontchartrain.
They got in at 1:30 a.m. A few hours later, Hurricane Katrina arrived.

“It was a direct hit, right into Slidell,” Snelgrove said.

For three days, Snelgrove waited for some type of communication.

“The first news I heard came late Wednesday afternoon. My son Bill got
to Baton Rouge, La. where he was able to use a phone. That’s what I
found out that my wife was OK,” he said.

“We are very fortunate compared to so many other people. The water is
half-way into Slidell, but we’re about 17 feet above sea level so we
don’t have the water problem that New Orleans has,” he said. “We had a
wind problem.”

“A tree came down and did damage to part of the building,” Snelgrove
said. “My wife’s vehicle was totally demolished and we have several
friends whose houses are now on the water, but we were lucky when I
think what happened to so many people. We can replace cars. We can’t
replace people,” he said.

“You know, I’m looking at the weather and today it’s so beautiful up
here. Down there, it’s a catastrophe. I don’t know that people really
understand what’s going on there,” Snelgrove said.

“There is no power, no phone, no water. I don’t even know how much food
they have. There are houses in the water in Slidell. And New Orleans is a
dead city. There’s nothing there,” he said, relieved that his wife is
OK, although he hasn’t spoken directly to her yet. He doesn’t know when
he will.

“It’s a day to day thing,” he said. “The devastation is incredible.”

The Saratogian