MARTIAL LAW DECLARED: Situation Deteriorating
CBS News | August 30, 2005
MARTIAL LAW DECLARED: Situation Deteriorating New Orleans, LA (CBS) - Martial Law has been declared in New Orleans as conditions continued to deteriorate. Water levels in The Big Easy and it's suburbs are rising at dangerous levels and officials stated they don't know where the water is coming from. Residents are being urged to get out of New Orleans in any way they can as officials fear "life will be unsustainable" for days or even weeks.
Gulf Coast residents were staggered by the body-blow inflicted by Hurricane Katrina, with more than a million people sweltering without power, miles of lowlands under water and unconfirmed reports of as many 80 people dead in Mississippi alone.
"We heard one report of 30 dead at just one apartment complex on the beach in Biloxi," said CBS News Correspondent Jim Acosta. Much of the devastation is being blamed on a storm surge.
"It's not like when you see big tornadoes or hurricane force winds come through and the house is blown away," said Acosta. "A storm surge rises up to the house and clears out everything in its path, moving furniture and cars around."
The Ohio Valley could see severe flooding from Katrina Tuesday.
"Katrina is now moving to the north," said CBS News Hurricane Analyst Bryan Norcross. "It is a tropical storm now moving into Tennessee. But the big rain event today is going to be in the Ohio Valley, all the way from Missouri on up to Louisville towards Cincinnati and then it will spread through the northeast."
Even with Katrina swirling away to the north, two different levee breaches in New Orleans sent a churning sea of water coursing through city streets.
Col. Rich Wagenaar of the Army Corps of Engineers, said a breach in the eastern part of the city was causing flooding and "significant evacuations" in Orleans and St. Bernard parishes. He did not know how many people were affected by the flooding.
Authorities also were gathering information on a levee breach in the western part of New Orleans. Jason Binet, of the Army Corps of Engineers, said that breach began Monday afternoon and may have grown overnight.
Emergency personnel faced flooding problems of their own.
"We had a 30-foot rise from the bay, which came into the building, about 12-foot high," Capt. Houston Dorr of the Mississippi Highway Patrol, based in Biloxi, said on CBS News' The Early Show. "It never got to the second floor but we were on our way up to the third floor if it came in higher."
Dorr told co-anchor Harry Smith the patrol did what it could, despite its own problems.
"The water downed trees, houses moved. We were mostly worried at the time who we could rescue, so many people were trapped in their houses, but it was just total devastation," Dorr said.
"It's bad," agreed Federal Emergency Management Agency director Mike Brown. "This storm is really having a catastrophic effect throughout the South."
Brown cautioned the emergency won't end once the waters recede.
"We will find a lot of structural damage in those homes, disease from animal carcasses, the chemicals in homes, that sort of thing," he told Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen. "It's going to take a long time to clean up and make it safe for people to get back to their neighborhoods."
The federal government began rushing baby formula, communications equipment, generators, water and ice into hard-hit areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, along with doctors, nurses and first-aid supplies.
The Pentagon sent experts to help with search-and-rescue operations.
"This is our tsunami," Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway told the Biloxi Sun Herald.
Katrina knocked out power to more than a million people from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle, and authorities said it could be two months before electricity is restored to everyone. Ten major hospitals in New Orleans were running on emergency backup power.
"It will be unsafe to return to the coastal area for several days," Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour told evacuees Monday. "Be patient. Don't be in a hurry to go back."
According to preliminary assessments by AIR Worldwide Corp., a risk modeling firm, the property and casualty insurance industry faces as much as $26 billion in claims from Katrina.
That would make Katrina more expensive than the previous record-setting storm, Hurricane Andrew, which caused some $21 billion in insured losses in 1992 to property in Florida and along the Gulf Coast.
Mississippi's economy was also dealt a blow that could run into the millions, as the storm shuttered the flashy casinos that dot its coast. The gambling houses are built on barges anchored just off the beach, and Barbour said emergency officials had received reports of water reaching the third floors of some casinos.
After striking the Gulf Coast as a Category 4 hurricane, Katrina was later downgraded to a tropical storm as it passed through eastern Mississippi, moving north at 21 mph. Winds early Tuesday were still a dangerous 60 mph.
At New Orleans' Superdome, where power was lost early Monday, and holes opened in the roof a few hours later, some 9,000 refugees spent a second night in the dark bleachers. With the air conditioning off, the carpets were soggy, the bricks were slick with humidity and anxiety was rising.
"Everybody wants to go see their house. We want to know what's happened to us. It's hot, it's miserable and, on top of that, you're worried about your house," said Rosetta Junne, 37.
A 50-foot water main broke in New Orleans, making it unsafe to drink the city's water without first boiling it. And police made several arrests for looting.
In a particularly low-lying neighborhood on the south shore of Louisiana's Lake Pontchartrain, a levee along a canal gave way and forced dozens of residents to flee or scramble to the roofs when water rose to their gutters.
"I've never encountered anything like it in my life. It just kept rising and rising and rising," said Bryan Vernon, who spent three hours on his roof, screaming over howling winds for someone to save him and his fiancée.
"Let me tell you something, folks. I've been out there. It's complete devastation," Gulfport Fire Chief Pat Sullivan said Monday. He estimated that 75 percent of buildings in Gulfport have major roof damage, "if they have a roof left at all."
In Mobile, Ala., the storm knocked an oil rig free from its moorings, wedging it under a bridge. Muddy six-foot waves crashed into the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, flooding stately, antebellum mansions and littering them with oak branches.
"There are lots of homes through here worth a million dollars. At least they were yesterday," said a shirtless Fred Wright. "I've been here 25 years, and this is the worst I've ever seen the water."