In New Orleans urban neighborhoods, as in so many cities, poor and lower middle class folk are relegated to the cheapest, disaster-prone property. According to ABC News, a third of New Orleans residents live below the poverty level (which last time I checked was around $18,000). The poorest of the poor live south of Lake Pontchartrain. That's the much photographed area where the flood water is now up to their rooftops.
One in six of those residents do not have a car, and thus had no way out of town before Katrina moved in. 9,000 of those folk evacuated to the Super Dome, which had holes torn in its roof by Katrina. They slept on the floor and in stadium seats, only to be held in as trash stacked up around them and as moisture-saturated Dome facilities began to fail. Now, flood waters are rising to the point that they will threaten the Super Dome and those people are having to be evacuated to other facilities, according to tonight's CBS News.
Relocating 9,000 people sounds pretty daunting to me. I admit I do wonder how thin Louisiana's (as well as Mississippi's and Alabama's) National Guard is with units in Iraq. With FEMA calling this catastrophe "the most significant in American history," I imagine that evacuating people and protecting them is going to require a National Guard force of historic proportions. Thank goodness President Bush cancelled the last two days of his five-week vacation to "monitor" the situation.
BREAKING NEWS FROM ABC: Inmates at a New Orleans prison rioted in an attempt to take advantage of the catastrophe. They have taken hostages. The need for National Guard troops seems even more acute with this information.
08/30/2005, 10:00 p.m. Update: The Times-Picayune, whose off-line publishing capabilities were knocked out by the flood, is blogging their news.