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Changing Of The Guard
Paul Counts, our IT Manager, and myself flew in from Tampa yesterday. As we made our final approach over the city I was able to see a lot of houses with tarps covering the roofs, presumably due to wind damage. I also notice buildings with whole sides collapsed, street signs blown horizontal and fast food chains destroyed from the winds that flowed through this city less than three weeks ago.

We were met at the airport by Mike, aka Interdictor, the previous poster on this blog. We jumped in his car and headed for the Westbank, as parts of the I-10 are still impassable due to flooding. We crossed the Huey P Long bridge and took the Westbank Expressway. When we reached a checkpoint just before the GNO bridge over the Mississippi River they waved us on through without checking our credentials, even though they stopped almost everyone else. I assume this was because Mike was wearing a US Military hat.

Once in the Central Business District, I started to notice the destruction that is seen on television reports. Witnessing it first-hand is overwhelming. Complete walls of buildings have collapsed upon themselves, trash and dirt and grime all over the streets and the air is filled with a stench. With the exception of contractors, military vehicles and police, there was no one else on the streets. All traffic laws have been thrown to the wayside. One way streets are now two way and it is also wise to stop at all intersections to avoid colliding with a humvee. Overhead, Apache and Blackhawk helicopters fly recon over the city.

We were able to enter the office building without any problems. I was shocked to see the disarray of the offices and build room, both of which were nice and tidy before the wrath of Katrina overtook the city. I guess organized chaos ensues when you have people trying to survive without electricity and running water for two weeks. It didn't really hit me until then that this would be my home for the next 7 days.

I am not sure what the Mayor was thinking when he said he would allow certain parts of the city to return home this week. Paul and I drove to my place in the Lower Garden District just before curfew yesterday. The streets were abandoned. Houses boarded up with Keep Out signs, dates of departure, family names, etc. A large oak tree has fallen on the power lines and my neighbors house across the street. Packs of stray dogs were running the street in search of food. We watched cautiously as they chased a cat up a tree. I was afraid that we could become their next meal.

Luckily, my house was spared for the most part. The ceiling has collapsed in my bedroom, but there was not much more damage other than a musty smell. I was able to gather up some of my important documents, some canned food and my camera. The cat I was there to retrieve appeared to have already been rescued by one of the many organizations I contacted in the previous weeks. The front window was busted out and the only thing missing was the cat himself and the cat carrier. I am not sure where he is. At least I can hold on to some hope that he is alive, although I have pretty much accepted the fact that I may never see him again.

The last 24 hours have been spent assessing the situation in the data center and our offices from a technical and logistical standpoint. Paul and I went outside this morning to take photos of the building where windows had been blown out on our floor. we had to walk down the medium, as there is still falling glass in area. It was worse than we expected. Eleven windows will need to be completely replaced this week by contractors who are working for the building management. Unfortunately, we are not sure how we are going to tackle this situation. One of the big problems is dust. In order for the windows to be replaced, the drywall, which was placed over the windows when the data center was built out, will have to be knocked down before the windows can be replaced from within. This will put dust in the air, which could gravely affect the web servers, switches, routers and AC units.

The other issue is the location of the broken windows. Several of the windows are located in front of walls with electrical outlets, large electrical grounding plates, and even in front of steel-reinforced door frames. We also have several windows in need of attention in the Networks Operation Center (NOC) which are in front of large desks. We will need to disassemble the desks completely in order to make way for the contractors. Not a fun job!

We also have to figure out a way to move 21 large barrels of diesel up nine stories to the generator cage in the parking garage without a truck. Im hoping that we will be able to find someone with a truck to help us later in the week. Otherwise we will need to wheel them up on a handtruck individually, a Herculean conquest no matter which way you look at it!

As for living conditions, it could be a lot better, but its definitely not as bad as those who came before us. At least we have electricity throughout the building and can make use of the elevators. We even have a makeshift shower set up in the restroom, though I think I am going to refrain from using it as long as possible. Its rather rudimentary. Besides, Im hoping to take advantage of the situation and work on growing some dreads.

And speaking of the loo, a fresh, clean, cooled restroom is the one amenity I miss. There is no water pressure in the building, which means the AC does not work outside of the data center and our office. It also means that we cant flush. Put those two together, and its not a very rosy situation. The temperature is well over a hundred degrees in the restrooms and we have to systematically use each toilet on each floor and work our way down. Currently, we are using the johns on 25, but will soon have to move down to 24. At least Im only here for 6 more days. No mexican food for me this week!

On a more humorous note, an ambulance stopped next to Paul and I when we were out taking pictures of the building. When the EMT rolled down his window all I could think was that he was going to reprimand us for playing in the street, ask us if we needed help or something else along those lines. Having lived in NOLA for 10 years, I have to say that his questions was one that I had heard and answered almost daily since moving here, but one which I did not expect on this very day and considering the situation of the city. So yes, I was completely taken aback when he asked us how to get to Bourbon Street! I guess rescue workers need to kick back, have a beer and watch some college football just like anyone else!

OK,. Need to figure out how to deal with our glass replacement issue and get to work. Just wanted to let everyone know all is well and that replacements had been sent in. The guys before us deserve a lot of praise. They did a great job holding it all together. Now the cleanup begins.


Daniel Gifford
Manager of Network Operations

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Someone please enlighten me since, as has been posted, we on the TX gulf coast may get one this year, as well. Our toilets have always worked (although sometimes needing to be on the second floor) during the days without water following hurricanes or t.s., by filling the tanks with water. They are then able to flush. Why don't the toilets in the CBD flush? Do they all have industrial toilets with no tanks? Is there some basic principal I'm unaware of that prevents this? Just in case lovely Rita comes my way & I wind up in a similar situation, I'd like to know. I suppose it's too much to hope for, that this simple solution would solve the toilet problems now being faced by some.

Thats a good question. The problem has been that the only water we have had over the last three weeks has been the essential water that we need in order to stay hydrated. There is no water preasure in the city, so the water has been shut off in the building since the storm. I think the thing I would suggest would be to purchase one of those portable chemical toilets in advance and store it in case you need it. I know that will definitely be on my shopping list the next time we prep for a hurricane :)

Re: Toilets

You don't need cleen water to flush a toilet. River water will do. You can either put it in the tank or simply dump it in the bowl after doing your business.

Want to come lug gallons of water 10 blocks from the river for us? :)

Re: Toilets

Rather than crapping in existing toilets and making a heck of a mess someone else will need to clean up, you should consider the old "honey-bucket", which is still used to this day in many northern Alaskan villages. You need:

-A five-gallon plastic bucket
-A strong plastic bag (double-bag against leaks). This should be large enough to fold over the outside of the bucket leaving at least 4" of 'extra' bag. Handy at disposal time.
-A toilet seat
-Some Pine-Sol (dump about two 'glorts' worth in the bottom of the bag to get things started; add more as needed. It takes less than you think.)

Putting this together should be fairly obvious. Heck, you can buy the equivalent at Cabelas...

The prospect of using such a thing may seem pretty grim, but really it's no worse than the porta-johns you find at any outdoor event.

Disposal is easy too. Don't let the bag get more than about 3/4 full. Tie off the top of each bag separately. Tie a knot in the plastic itself; don't use the wire-ties that came with the bag. Then take the whole bucket to your dumping point. Making sure to stand upwind (as a precaution!), dump out the bag of shit. You'll find the bucket is totally clean.

This is actually easier to deal with than the many porta-pottie solutions sold.

Since you have power, see if you can get your hands on a Incinolet
(www.incinolet.com). This is an electric powered incinerating toilet, that requires no water, although you will need to vent it to the outside.

Glad your house is mostly OK. :)

Welcome aboard, Daniel!

Thankyou for taking over the lj and keeping us posted. Welcome!

Ditto that reply

Glad to be able to post again.

I finally did create an account. At first I resented having to do it but I wanted to reply when Barrett et al were not taking anything from anonys. Next I found myself creating a journal (September 11) -- it's one of those times when one wants to reflect, ya know? I like journaling via LJ quite a bit -- it's accesible w/o carrying my book & no more *handwriting.* Typing is the only way to go for me anymore, faster, easier.

But I don't journal much cause I spend free time reading LJs from NOLA people, esp this one. I'm addicted to this lj. Thanks for keeping it up. I really need to know what's going on from your insider perspective.

Welcome, and all the best to you and the team. Happy to have you keep us up on the latest. My very best to those rotated out, too. I wish them many blessings. They did fine work.

(Deleted comment)
and I forgot to post as LiveJournal user on the last one -- I'm a newbie, oops

I applaud your efforts, and thank you for keeping us all up to date.. however, I don't understand why you left Churchill when you evacuated.. I've lived most of my life in "'cane territory", and, never once, in an evacuation did we leave our pets, no matter how soon we thought we'd be back...(fortunately now in Atlanta, this is no longer an issue..) You don't seem like someone who had to choose between evacuating yourself and your family and yourself and your companion animal...he's a beautiful cat..thank god for petfinder.com...many companion animals have not been so lucky...

I am glad that people like you are brave enough to let the rest of the world know the reality of our amazing "Nawlins"...

May you all be safe and blessed...

I didnt have much of a choice. No room in the car. Besides, he does well on his own for a few days. I had NO IDEA I would be gone so long. The day after the hurricane hit it looked like we would be able to go home in 2 days.

(Deleted comment)

Re: they were shooting evacuee pets, apparently...

I know this is a few days out of date, but anyway....

I heard some stories of pets being shot on the BBC news, and was absolutely horrified. If this is true, on whose authority was it done? How on earth did the situation in NO get so bad that someone deemed it acceptable to kill citizens' pets before their eyes?

There was little or no reporting of the pet rescue effort, so little that I was quite surprised to learn how much was actually being done. The School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Louisiana in Baton Rouge (http://www.vetmed.lsu.edu/) was apparently into action very early, rescuing animals and providing care for the pets of those fleeing the storm.

"The animal shelter at the John M. Parker Coliseum opened on August 31, 2005. Within 48 hours, over 500 animals had been received. Veterinarians, technicians, and students from the School, as well as volunteer veterinary professionals from all across the country and Canada have come to the shelter to help."

So, how come the NO organisation was so chaotic that those getting the people out were apparently unaware of this facility (and others run by other animal charities), and deemed pets' lives of so little worth that they could just be summarily killed?

I hope very much that the pet-killing stories turn out not to be true, or at most to be over-reporting of one or two isolated incidents. Surely it should take a catastrophic breakdown in society before the authorities can justify shooting people's pet animals, and for that to have been reached because of a weather system which was seen to be on its way days in advance is a scandal of monumental proportions.

Whatever the truth is, I hope it is eventually told.

Morag (the vet)

Kitty Cat

I'm sorry to hear of your Cat. I'm in Vancouver B.C. Canada and this was the thing that I couldn't get out of my mind with all the Katrina coverage. All those poor lost pets. I'm glad there were people out rescuing them. Anyways, good luck to you and everyone in NO. The world is thinking about you all! I hope you find your Kitty.

Best Wishes
Vancouver B.C.


Daniel, Do you have access to water but not enough pressure to flush? If so, you can flush with a bucket of water. We have well water at our house and when the electricity goes out our pump doesn't work so we flush with a bucket of water that was collected during the storm before the power outage.

Actually, can't remember which day, but in this same blog the reason they don't flush is explained. Basically, the sewers are clogged, there is no pressure and well, flushing soen't make sense as there is nowhere for the waste to go... which means, it will come out somebody else's drain. Maybe even yours. Ouch

Please let "Interdictor" know that, if he ever makes it to Boston/NYC/ANYWHERE in CT (or in a 3-5 hour radius!), he is more than welcome to be our guest (that would be myself and the_big_bear, among other LJers in the area that would love to just shake his hand). We'd like to buy him a drink and a steak dinner at our local kick-butt steak house.
Please also let him know that, if there is anything that he needs to get ANYTHING (he had mentioned a business and an upcoming wedding) off the ground, do not hesitate to contact me.
I hope that he keeps in touch with the LJ community, as I know that I feel like he's a friend now.
Best of luck to all of you that are still there and rebuilding.

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