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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Hurting New Orleans shows signs of life

Last week I spent a night in New Orleans on the way back from a trip to Florida. It was my second time in the city since Katrina. I was also there in January, when I drove through the devastated Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish.
This time I drove through the Lakeview section and other areas near Lake Ponchartrain. TV doesn't really do justice to the devastation. You have to see it in person. TV can show some of it, but even from the air it's difficult to see the scope. You have to drive through it and see block after block and mile after mile of houses and businesses gutted and boarded up. Shopping centers are are in the same shape. Driving in on I-10 from Slidell you start to see deserted apartment complexes and boarded up shopping centers just off the interstate. It's simply unbelievable.
But there are signs of life. FEMA trailers dot the driveways of many houses in neighborhoods in Lakeview. And traffic lights work and some businesses are open. That wasn't the case in the Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish in January.
The New Orleans Aquarium reopened the Friday I was there. Also, Superdome repairs are ahead of schedule, according to reports. I drove by the Dome, where I covered many state high school championships, and I could see work was progressing well on the roof.
As you probably know, the French Quarter wasn't flooded and didn't suffer much damage. But if the small crowds on Bourbon Street on a Thursday night are any indication, the tourism industry is going to suffer for a while.
Probably one of the saddest drives I took was around City Park. The New Orleans Museum of Art and some other of the park's attractions are open. But much of the park was in bad shape.
The tennis complex, where I played tournaments as a youth, appeared to be a center for temporary work sheds. The hard courts, overlooked by damaged bleachers, looked OK. The soft courts didn't have nets but appeared to still be covered by rubico, the sandy substance that makes them soft courts. I didn't see the golf course, but reports are that it's not in great shape, either.
All in all, a sobering experience.


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