043 Bonnie – New Orleans

New Orleans

- New Orleans

Folks, this one is special. I was walking through the French quarter of New Orleans, drinking a giant can of mango margarita to calm my nerves, having just visited the most haunted house in America, the La Laurie Mansion. Earlier in the day our city tour guide had told us some things about the heritage regulations of the French quarter and I was discussing these thing with my wife and her friend from college. We were going over it trying to get it straight in our heads when we passed a woman sitting on the steps of her original colonial cottage enjoying the last of the afternoon sunshine. So of course, I stopped to ask her about what the guide had told us. Turns out that Bonnie is a New Orleans local, loves to grill lamb chops and has some very interesting things to say about life in the Big Easy.


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  • Her husband does most of the BBQing and they love to grill up some lamb chops
    • He does it on a high heat to get them all nice and crispy
    • They have a Masterchef Charbroil grill
  • Her house:
    • She was born in the house in New Orleans
    • It’s a Creole Cottage
    • There are four apartments there in total
    • It’s just two blocks from the La Laurie Mansion
  • The La Laurie Mansion
    • The most haunted house in New Orleans
    • Was owned by Nicolas Cage
    • Brad and Angelina and Francis Ford Coppola also live in the street
  • They were in New Orleans when Katrina hit in August 29 of 2005
    • 140 mile an hour winds
    • Category 5 hurricane hit near New Orleans, with Category 3 force in New Orleans
    • Most of the people who decided to stay made it through the initial storm, but the real disaster was the flood after the levy walls broke
  • FEMA had no clue as to how to handle what was happening
  • The levy was repaired to the same building specifications as the one that failed. As recently as a few years ago reports came in that the wall was still not satisfactory
  • The most telling stories are from doctors and nurses
    • Minimal staff stayed behind and they brought as many people as possible up to the second floor
    • One story is that a man pushed a baby on a raft to the second story window. The man pushed the raft toward the window and the man went under
    • Doctors had to decide who would live and die based on an ABC criteria
    • A – people who could walk by themselves were first
    • B – people who were conscious and could say their name were second even if in a wheelchair
    • C – unconscious or bedridden had to be left behind to drown
  • 700 busses were ordered by FEMA
    • Only 100 showed up
    • Some went to New Hampshire instead of New Orleans
    • Families got separated with children and parents ending up in different states. Some got separated for up to 6 months
  • Many people tried to walk 75 miles down route 10 to Baton Rouge and dying from dehydration
  • There was nearly 100,000 people seeking shelter at the Super Dome
    • They had supplies for 36 hours
    • There were no toilet facilities
    • There were beatings, rapes, drugs and people dying from heat stroke
  • Victims were often referred to as ‘Refugees’ which was very controversial
  • Help was offered from other countries which was refused due to fears that it would make America look weak
  • There was a big hospital ship sitting offshore in the Gulf. It was fully staffed and could make 100,000 gallons of fresh water every day and it sat there empty because no orders to help were given
  • Insurance Companies and Banks
    • People that returned to their homes got in more trouble when they returned home
    • If you weren’t insured for either wind or water, the damage was ruled to be that so the companies didn’t have to pay
    • The banks had first dibs on the insurance claims. As a result, people had no mortgages, but couldn’t afford to fix their homes
  • FEMA ordered over 100,000 trailers to put on the sites of destroyed homes, but by FEMA’s own regulations they were uninhabitable so they were left to rot in parking lots
  • The Saints, the local football teams got in boats and went house to house rescuing people
  • Brad Pitt, Harry Connick Jr, Ellen DeGeneres raised money
  • Restaurants cooked for free and Walmart opened their doors and let people have everything for free. Hospitals treated people at no cost
  • One of her 75 year old retired friends woke up to find an alligator swimming in his living room
    • There were forced to go up and spend 3 days on the roof of their house
    • That man borrowed a car and drove it as a taxi taking people to and from the airport
  • The French Quarter is slightly above sea level, but is still essentially a bowl
    • The flooding came to within 4 blocks of her home
    • They did not lose their roofs
    • They were not looted
    • There were Police on each corner and helicopters flying overhead to protect the Quarter and therefore protect the chief industry in the reason
  • One of her tenants left windows open causing massive damage to roofs, ceilings and walls
    • Their insurance company was very good
  • The French Quarter was treated a lot better than other parts of New Orleans
  • St Bernard’s Parish was literally wiped off the map
  • Insurance companies went out of their way to refuse to pay for many of the poorer people
  • One insurance company refused to pay ALL claims
  • The Lower 9th Ward
    • Most homes were destroyed
    • There were fears that bodies were going to be flooded out and exposed
    • 92% was under water
    • People lived on their roofs for days
    • People rescued from roofs were dropped on Route 10 to walk to Baton Rouge
  • There was water up to the roofs
  • The conspiracy about a tanker hitting the levy and breaking it is unlikely
    • The levies were never maintained
    • Money went to the Governor’s mansion instead
  • A covert operation did take place
    • Helicopters dropping off food were being shot at from the ground
    • The Governor was informed that New Orleans was in a state of anarchy
    • A group of soldiers  were brought in to take out the drug dealers in the middle of the night
  • What measures were taken with regard to food in New Orleans during Katrina?
    • Restaurants put BBQs and tables on sidewalks and cooked for the public
  • Many trucks with goods were blocked from entering as they were afraid of people being taken advantage of
  • Snakes and alligators were left on the ground as the flood waters receded
    • Smoked gator was common on the BBQ
  • One of her neighbours had their freezer full of meat go out, so she had to cook everything outside on her grill
  • Bonnie hopes that OBR has plans in place for any future situations as FEMA was so bad last time
  • The former Governor is now in prison for accepting bribes when handing out contracts for rebuilding after Katrina
  • Hurricane Katrina has been used as a learning opportunity and so when Hurricane Sandy New Jersey, they were able to respond a lot better
  • Contractors flooded New Orleans price gouging for work
    • I.e. $6,000 to repair a piano
    • They were encouraging people to add the repairs to their insurance claims
    • One painter tried to charge them $250USD per square foot
  • What’s the legacy of Hurricane Katrina?
    • People have taken a real hard work, rising from the ashes approach and have been dedicated to rebuilding
    • The Phoenix rising out of the ashes has become the symbol of the event


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