Sunday, March 12, 2006

Hard times in the Big Easy

We are in Metairie, Louisiana (generic map). After successfully moving the Red Cross Baton Rouge headquarters from a church to a union hall, we were winding down our visit and getting ready to move on down the road, when our supervisor asked if we could stay a few days longer to support the joint relief operation here in Metairie with the Southeast Louisiana chapter. We are sharing temporary space here in a commercial building, since the chapter offices in New Orleans were destroyed in the storm.

We don't really need to be in Houston until the 17th or so, so we agreed to come down here until then. We spent Wednesday night parked at the church in Baton Rouge, tending the pre-move server backup, which ran until 5am and required tape changes every couple hours. Then we moved to the union hall, where we thought we'd be staying for a couple days, and staked out a nice spot with a 20-amp outlet. We were barely plugged in when the decision was made to come here, and we set out from Baton Rouge that evening in the still-horrendous post-Katrina rush hour.

We have a nice spot in a gravel lot just two blocks from the Metairie office. The Red Cross has arranged for this space to park trucks and overflow cars, but, frankly, there are trailers parked on every block in this town, and we probably could get away with parking anywhere. The nearby K-Mart has a half-dozen FEMA trailers in it, hooked up with semi-permanent water, sewer, and electric connections.

Being down here has allowed us to pop over to New Orleans for dinner the past two nights. We also spent a good chunk of today downtown, and we noted, over cafe-au-lait and beignets at Cafe du Monde, that tourism is back in nearly full-force. The FEMA encampment that had been such a prominent feature next to the Jax brewery in December is gone, and everywhere in the quarter things seem very close to routine. Outside of the quarter and the CBD, of course, the city is still very much a disaster area.

We are committed to being here through Tuesday, the thought being that we would be back in Baton Rouge for the traditional Tuesday steak dinner. It looks, though, like we are needed beyond that, so we will have to see how things play out. We have our supervisor's car while he is away from the operation for a few days, and we need to get that back to him Tuesday night in any case.

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