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Katrina recovery and The Mardi Gras Index

That’s the name of the 36-page report from Durham’s own Institute for Southern Studies. The bottom line is that the status of New Orleans post-hurricane is a tragic mess. The Mardi Gras Index looks at 11 areas including housing, public health, the economy and disaster preparedness. Co-author of the report (and editor of the Institute’s outstanding blog Facing South), Chris Kromm: “Despite promises from national leaders to “do what it takes” to rebuild New Orleans, the devastated city has been mostly left to fend for itself — with tragic results. Without a bold, national commitment, the city won’t come back.”

The facts show the sorry state of affairs six months after Katrina, with the report reviewing over 130 indicators, with success on a few fronts, but there are major hurdles, all man-made, that are stalling much-needed progress. The big picture:

* Percent of those displaced by Katrina who were from New Orleans: 50

* Estimated loss of New Orleans’ black population if people are unable to return to flood-damaged neighborhoods: 80

* Number of FEMA trailer homes requested by New Orleans residents: 21,000

* Estimated number of those homes installed as of early February 2006: 3,000

* Percent of New Orleans small businesses destroyed by Katrina: 60

* Out of 200 samples taken in Orleans Parish, percent that exceeded the Louisiana state cleanup level for pollution in residential neighborhoods: 37

* Number of public school employees Orleans Parish is planning to lay off: 7,500

* Percent of no-bid contracts that FEMA promised to re-bid in October that have been re-bid: 0

* Number of Orleans Parish prisoners who have not seen an attorney, some since before Katrina hit: 4,500

* Number of days until the 2006 hurricane season starts: 93

* Square miles of Louisiana wetlands lost from Katrina and Rita, which experts believe are critical to reducing storm surges: 118

* Amount of federal dollars that have been committed to date for wetland restoration in Louisiana beyond existing programs: 0

* Category of storm for which the Army Corps is currently authorized by Congress to rebuild the Louisiana levees: 2

* Category of Katrina when it hit New Orleans: 3

Source: The Mardi Gras Index, February 28, 2006.

Visit Gulf Coast Reconstruction Watch for more information.


And Mardi Gras itself? Look at the revelers’ dark humor about the state of things…(AP):

Kevin and Marie Barre, a husband and wife from New Orleans, wore white plastic coveralls bearing the all-too-familiar spray-painted “X” that denotes a home that has been checked for bodies. “It’s a reminder. A lot of people who are coming down here don’t understand what we’ve been through,” Kevin Barre said.

Harriet Robin wears a costume of Meals Ready to Eat refuse during Mardi Gras celebrations in Hurricane Katrina battered New Orleans, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2006. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Members of another club called the Krewe of MRE covered themselves with brown labels from the Meals Ready to Eat that were served to thousands who huddled in the Superdome after the storm. Others dressed as giant maggots, recalling the days when city streets were lined with abandoned refrigerators full of rotting food.

Several people draped themselves in blue tarps like those used to cover damaged roofs, fashioning them into ballgowns and nun’s habits. A man with a model of a military helicopter suspended over his head wrapped himself in a white blanket with “2000 lbs” stenciled on it — he was a giant sandbag, like the ones dropped into one of the breached levees.

Revelers dressed as blind levee inspectors walk down Bourbon Street in New Orleans as they celebrate Mardi Gras Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2006. Revelers hit the streets of the French Quarter in beads and costumes ranging from the fanciful to the bizarre on Mardi Gras, the windup of raucous pre-Lenten partying as the city tried to cheer itself up after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

…Along an Uptown parade route, a family who lost their Lakeview home to flooding poked fun at former FEMA director Michael Brown. Jenny Louis, her husband, Ross, and their three children strolled around in all-brown costumes, similar to the uniforms worn by UPS drivers. Printed on their backs: “What Did Brown Do For You Today?”

Ray and Anne Donahue of New Orleans exchange beads as they walk down Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras in New Orleans Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2006. The Donahue’s costumed themselves as the Mold Squad seeking infectious waste. Much of New Orleans is still unlivable six months after Hurricane Katrina devastated the area. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding