The Healing continues in New Orleans

Yes, there are still FEMA trailers in and around New Orleans.  We saw severe damage to structures as far away as 100 miles from New Orleans.

While at the Harrah’s Casino and Hotel we talked to several people that said the casino was having a hard time getting enough staff, including dealers (a job that can pay well if you are good at it).

Based on the number of closed tables I saw, even with a huge Sugar Bowl crowd of 100,000+ in the city, I would have to agree.  The casino was packed, yet a large number of tables were closed.  Drink orders were very slow to arrive.  Wait times at restaurants were excessive.  I know Harrah’s left a lot of money on the table this week, and I can only assume it’s because they didn’t have employees to run those tables (if you’ve never been to a casino, it takes an unreal amount of manpower to serve customers food and drink 24×7, deal card games, maintain equipment, and safeguard everything.

 There are parts of the city that are still in very poor condition.  Some services are still very limited (like the trolleys).  Some streets are missing street signs and the city is running ads encouraging people to call in and report missing signs.  Several large 8+ story buildings still had broken glass and were fenced off.  They appeared abandoned. There were many blue tarps still on rooftops, although there were many. many more brand new roofs than blue tarps.

I lived on the East Coast of Florida in 2004 – we were hit by four hurricanes in about 12 weeks – three of them were fairly significant (we had 115 MPH winds at my house for one of them).  Even though that storm damage pales in comparison to what happened in New Orleans, let me tell you a little about my personal story living through 4 hurricanes, and the aftermath — and maybe you can appreciate the magnitude of what people in New Orleans are still dealing with:

  • The combined storms caused well over $30,000 damage to my relatively new, expensive, and well build all-brick home located about ten miles inland.
  • My insurance company was wonderful (USAA) and took care of my claims quickly and efficiently, and to my satisfaction – that is at odd with what many of my co-workers found at the same time – their insurers seemed to be using delay tactics.
  • My mortgage was “forgiven” for four months by my lender due to the first two storms – bad news is they sold the mortgage to another company just a week or so before the worse of the storms hit.  Mail was delayed by weeks, if not longer.  By the time I had all services, including power and mail my mortgage was in foreclosure (since then , the law offices that initiated the foreclosure have been sued in a class action suit, of which I am a part.  It appears they violated several Florida Statutes in the way they went about foreclosing.  I was lucky – my house sold before I had to deal with any foreclosure issues (and we moved back to San Antonio), although the note that it was in foreclosure IS in my credit report.  That one ding on my otherwise clean credit report prevented me from refinancing my house here in San Antonio (at terms that were anywhere reasonable).  Yes, I am cleaning all the history up, but it takes time (my time!) and a lot of work.
  • You won’t believe the amount of trash a hurricane creates.  For months in Florida trucks were moving trash out.  Keeping the scale of the storms and the flood damage in mind, I am not surprised that there is still a lot of debris in New Orleans.  It takes a lot of time and money, and you have to have someplace to take the refuse.

SO when I see people on TV raising heck because New Orleans isn’t “back to normal” yet, I think, “Duh!”.  Of course it isn’t – it was a major meteorological evens with unprecedented damage.  I am not at all surprised that they aren’t “done”.

I heard a lot of people complain about FEMA, and how it failed New Orleans.  FEMA was failing people long before that.  I met with FEMA in Florida, and they told me I would be reimbursed for some expenses related to the storm, including a chain saw, ladder, generator, and about 50 gallons of gasoline.  I filled out all of the forms and sent them in.  That was almost 2 1/2 years ago and I have never heard from FEMA since.  Perhaps one day they will get around to it, but I doubt it.

 

So I guess my overall take is that in my experience with over 7 hurricanes (I also lived through three others over the years) I think New Orleans is in better shape than I expected it to be.  Yes, there is a lot of work to do still.  But we really had to look for things like a FEMA trailer park.  All in all, I think they are probably doing as best as they can considering the shortage of workers and the scale of the damage.

Comments

  1. The experience of the Sugar Bowl attendees is likely one of the key reasons why Microsoft has moved TechEd from New Orleans this year back to Orlando. Thanks for sharing those photos, it will be oh so good when no one has to live in a FEMA supplied trailer in New Orleans anymore.