• Video: N.O. Café Reopens
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Oct. 19, 2005
We had a couple of hours between live shots, so my producer Gary Gastelu and I went driving through some neighborhoods off West Judge Perez Drive in St. Bernard's Parish.
We saw houses that floated off their foundations and wound up on top of cars, and smashed into brick apartment buildings on the other side of drainage canals. We saw vehicles propped on the sides of homes, and a set of bleachers on a corner several blocks from the park where they belonged.
We also met a guy named Steve Geeck who'd recently finished ripping every piece of drywall out of his one-story ranch home. Steve is an electrician by trade and was busy re-wiring his house when we walked up.
"How you doin'?" I asked as we approached.
"Good," he answered.
"Can we come in?"
"Sure," he said, never asking who we were or what we wanted.
He seemed happy to have company and showed us around his home.
Steve's neighborhood wasn't flooded as badly as some others. He had water just above the countertops, but not for very long. He didn't make it back until a few weeks after the storm, and mold was starting to creep up the wallboard to the ceiling, but Steve knows construction and could tell his house wasn't totaled.
"No one's telling us anything," he confided, but says he wasn't willing to wait for a green light from the parish before ripping out the rotting sheetrock and getting his home back in order. His family is staying out of state. He plans to keep working as an electrician in the area, and will spend his off time restoring his home. He hopes FEMA will give him a trailer he can park in his driveway. He has running water and thinks the power could be on in 24 hours.
The worst part, he told us, was that he just spent $20,000 renovating the interior, including the kitchen, but he's determined to do it again.
There are more people like Steve Geeck in St. Bernard and the surrounding parishes, which is why the folks around here believe New Orleans has a future.
Oct. 18, 2005
The cheapest cup of coffee in the Starbucks inside the Sheraton Hotel on Canal Street in downtown New Orleans is $2.75. That's not for a mocha latte or a cappuccino or Frappaccino. That's for the smallest cup of regular coffee — almost three bucks. Bagels are $2.75 too, but the cream cheese and jelly are free.
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Drink specials now on the menu at a popular Bourbon St. restaurant:
• The Hurricane
• Katrina Relief
• Cat 5
• The Curfew & Coke
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In St. Bernard Parish, the only coffee I could find was in a relief tent in the Wal-Mart parking lot. For the folks here in Chalmette and neighboring towns, it's not about coffee, of course. It's about getting basic services restored, like potable water, electricity, and sewerage. Almost every single house in this Parish was flooded, roughly half of them beyond repair.
Yesterday, I saw a boat on a trailer on a roof. Today we're doing live shots along a drainage canal that runs behind two rows of homes. One of the houses floated off its foundations, and is now IN the canal.
Oct. 13, 2005
There are lots of refrigerators on the streets of New Orleans. Hundreds of them litter the French Quarter, discarded because of the stench of rotted food inside.
There are fridges on the streets of the lower 9th Ward, too, but only because they're part of the pile of ruined possessions washed from the flooded and broken homes. This place was under deep water twice. It's dry now, and dusty hot, and bodies still rot inside some of the debris piles.
Urban search and rescue teams are combing the area north of N. Claiborne Avenue, and the scent of death is pervasive. The dogs keep reacting, in some cases because a body had been in a spot and later floated away but the odor remains.
One veteran first responder told me even with 50 cadaver dogs, it'd take more than a month to check every house in this three-square mile area, so they're focusing on the rubble piles. When the dogs respond with a "trained indication" (they may scratch the ground, or lie on their bellies), the handlers call in recovery teams to dig the victims out.
Soon bulldozers and heavy equipment will start razing the homes. I'm told they'll work slowly in case more bodies lie dead inside.
Sadly, many people traveled many miles to get their first look at their homes only to be turned away today. Whomever announced the 9th Ward was open this week forgot to mention only PARTS of it were open. And unlike the beach towns along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, where everyone vowed to rebuild, the folks here say they won't return.
"Nothing to come back to," is how one man summed it up.
Oct. 12, 2005
We’re headed down to New Orleans this morning, but are having a rough time getting out of New York City. It's pouring here, and it took more than 40 minutes just to get across town.
You can't fly direct from NYC to the Big Easy anymore, and the connections are heavily booked. If I missed my flight it would’ve been tough getting another one. There are options, of course. Baton Rouge is a 90-minute drive...Houston is three-plus, depending on traffic.
Fortunately, we made good time once we got past a flooded underpass on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. I'm on the plane, and we're allegedly leaving on schedule.
I only spent part of one day on the ground in New Orleans since Katrina hit. I flew over the city in helicopters a couple times, but did most of my reporting in Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, and Louisiana. I've always loved New Orleans, and am very curious to see what kind of progress is being made there, and find out how the city plans to recover.
• E-mail Rick
Thanks for your continued reporting from New Orleans. While so many networks have gone home to their desk jobs, you've kept us updated on the ongoing devastation in The Big Easy. There is still a significant story here. And do you hear another storm has the Gulf Coast as a potential target?
A True FOX Fan
I am a native New Orleanian and I was so happy to discover you were reporting from our area this week. Thanks for venturing out and showing everyone how devastated our city is. Today, Oct. 15th, my family and I drove around the New Orleans neighborhoods and realized the pictures on television do not come close to showing the actual ruins. I found the area I know and love void of residents. I could not believe how you can drive for 30 or 40 blocks and only see a handful of people. I also want people to realize that we drove around for hours and as far as we could see in every direction and on every street for an untold number of miles we could not find a home or business that was without extensive damage ( wind, water, or both). Please continue to get the message out for our city and our residents that we need help and this city is very far from returning to normal. A sincere thanks to FNC and you for all your help.
I enjoy watching the FOX News Channel and especially enjoy your reporting. Keep up the good job and the natural style that comes across as you report the news.
Saw you reporting from the 9th Ward in New Orleans the last couple of days, and I wanted to thank you for the important work that you are doing getting this story out. Considering the circumstances there, your strength is inspiring while doing a job that cannot be easy by any means.
Stay safe and be well, Rick. And thank you again.
Thank you. You keep all of us from forgetting about the hurricane victims. The way the news changes daily it is so easy to move on to the next topic. Your job must be very gratifying. Stay safe.
I know it must be very difficult and depressing to be there in New Orleans right now. I hate the phrase, "Keep your chin up." It's so cliche and doesn't seem to be expressive enough. But then after the past month and a half, no words of encouragement seem to be sufficient anymore.
I just know that you're being there in the 9th helped some of those people yesterday. So, for lack of any other words, stay strong.....for them.
Really appreciate the job you do and the honesty you bring to the trade. Far too many just don't get it. Working for FNC must give you a sense of worth and satisfaction. I hope you and the other FNC folks will soon start to show how the recovery is coming in regards to utilities, roads, debris removal, portable housing etc.. Keep up the VERY GOOD work.
Haines City, Fl
PS. Having gone through three hurricanes last year where we live it will be most interesting to watch the clean up and recovery in comparison.
Great job by FNC reporters on the hurricane coverage and the follow up on the aftermath! Amazing how you guys risked life&limb standing out there in those weather conditions. It's important to know how the region is doing and to let the people of that region know that we haven't forgotten them.
Your compassion for the plight of the residents of Biloxi and that area was so heartfelt. Images of your reporting are vivid…I can still see you trying to talk to the New Yorkers as they were running down the streets prior to the towers falling on 9/11. Please don’t ever leave Fox. You are one of its life lines.
Great job. Thanks for the info from Lake Charles as we have family there and your presence there gave an indication how things there were.
We all know by now what the wind and rain is all about so you guys could come indoors to report the next one. Ha!