Fifty miles southwest of New Orleans, the Houma Navigation Canal is a 36 mile man-made linear gash running from the Gulf of Mexico to the small city of Houma in Terrebonne Parish. The canal bypasses several small fishing villages perched like wading birds with one leg on the two lane blacktop of State Road 57 and the other anchored in the marshy bayou. Small brackish creeks and channels connect the shrimping villages with the canal and the open water of the Gulf.
When Hurricane Rita collided with the Louisiana coast, the storm pushed a wall of water into thousands of square miles of bayou backed by south winds that kept the water bottled up for days.
The same Houma Navigation Canal that allows ships to penetrate the marsh grass and hardwood swamps of the bayou allowed the storm surge from Rita to do the same. A flood of muddy water and silt up to eight feet high ran through the bayou and swallowed up the small fishing villages of southern Louisiana. Alongside Highway 57, the towns of Ashland, Bayou Calliou and Dulac found themselves under flood waters and the sheen of diesel fuel spills.
The town of Dulac, home to a large community of Houma Native Americans was hit especially hard, their levees crippled by the same underfunding of flood protection that made New Orleans vulnerable. President Bush's 2006 budget included no money for flood protection efforts in Terrebonne despite a request for $10 million by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ New Orleans District. Standing in a foot of muddy water in front of the Dulac community center, Houma native and methodist pastor Kirby Verret observed, "No one really sees us down here."
FEMA certainly doesn't see Dulac or the other towns. Despite the constant buzz of helicopters in the air, and nearly 10,000 homes in Terrebonne Parish destroyed, FEMA has yet to declare this parish a disaster area. When FEMA was asked about the flood damage in Terrebonne Parish during a Sunday press conference, the government mouthpiece stated, "We have helicopters flying over the area. We are assessing the damage."
Adding ignorance to insult, folks living along Highway 57 were told by FEMA they could not remove the rapidly molding furniture and appliances from their homes or else they would void disaster funds. With 90 degree temperatures turning such an absurd restriction into a serious heath hazard, most families are emptying their homes as soon as the water recedes, FEMA's "poverty pimping" be damned.
Read the rest at Naomi Archer's blog, Real Reports of Katrina Relief. Naomi is an activist and freelance writer who has traveled from North Carolina to volunteer at the Common Ground, the community health clinic and relief center established by Malik Rahim in the Algiers neighborhood.
Real Reports is among the blogs and websites in the new NOLA section in my sidebar. Follow the links for local, grassroots people's organizations like Common Ground, CLU/PHRF, and Friends And Families Of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children and for more independent reporting about conditions on the ground in NOLA and around the Gulf Coast. See, for example, Getting Home Before It's Gone on Third World Majority.
nola blogs digest is my Kinja digest of all the blogs in the NOLA section. I hope to change that over to a feedpaper on feedster, which would have an rss feed; so far my feedpaper is not working right... Humid City is a "networking point for New Orleans in exile," with frequent updates and commentary. It probably should go without saying, but the Times-Picayune has been providing ongoing, in-depth, invaluable coverage of NOLA and surrounding areas.