Hurricane Katrina

Survival In New Orleans

According to one blogger hunkered down in the hurricane-ravaged city, the rule of law has collapsed and anyone on the streets is in danger of being robbed or killed.
Editor's note: The following are excerpts from Michael Barnett's blog, The Interdictor, over a period of approximately 24 hours. Writes Barnett, "This journal has become the Survival of New Orleans blog. In less perilous times it was simply a blog for me to talk smack and chat with friends. Now this journal exists to share firsthand experience of the disaster and its aftermath with anyone interested.

Thursday, Sept. 1

12:11am.

New Orleans Police Department Status: The situation for the NOPD is critical. This is firsthand information I have from an NOPD officer we're giving shelter to. Their command and control infrastructure is shot. They have limited to no communication whatsoever. He didn't even know the city was under martial law until we told him! His precinct (5th Precinct) is underwater! UNDERWATER -- every vehicle underwater. They had to commander moving trucks like Ryder and U-Haul to get around. The coroner's office is shut down so bodies are being covered in leaves at best or left where they lie at worst.

They don't even know their own rules of engagement. He says the force is impotent right now. They have no idea what's going on, no coordination, virtually no comms, etc. the National Guard is gonna air drop a radio system for them with 200 radios? They are getting very little direction.

The 3rd District bugged out to Baton Rouge because they flooded out.

His quote: "It's a zoo."

More firsthand information direct from him shortly. He's trying to recover.

I am not trying to be an alarmist, but until we get a military presence of signicance in the city, the roving gangs of thugs own the streets.

12:35am.

More from the police officer. I'm typing as fast as I can while he talks to us. He's only hearing bits and pieces. The people in the city are shooting at the police. They're upset that they're not getting help quickly enough. The firemen keep calling because they're under fire. He doesn't understand why the people are shooting at the rescuers. Here it is five days ago the mayor said get out of town and nobody went and now they're pissed.

The National Guard was at the Hilton, but now the Hilton is evacuated. When they said the CBD was gonna get six feet of water, it seems like everyone evacuated.

He turned the corner onto Canal Street and it looked like a flea market. People breaking into every store, going to the neutral gound (median) and trading and selling everything.

They broke into Winn Dixie Monday night. Do they steal food? No. Cigarettes and liquor. Store was a mess. All the meats were going to waste so the districts went over there to salvage food for officers. Many cops have been eating MREs.

The Iberville Housing Projects got pissed off because the police started to "shop" after they kicked out looters. Then they started shooting at cops. When the cops left, the looters looted everything. There's probably not a grocery left in this city.

Over 30 officers have quit over the last three days. Out of 160 officers in his district maybe 55 or 60 are working. He hasn't seen several since Sunday. HQ is closed, evacuated. No phones to contact them.

2:15am.

It's been a very long day. I'm going to crash for a bit and try to get five hours or so of sleep. I apologize again that I cannot respond to each IM. I am trying. We've got that IRC channel going and I'll try to get in there for a while later in the day.

I am going to debrief the police officer completely in the morning. He was utterly fatigued, thirsty, and wanted to find out what the hell was really going on.

It is a zoo out there though, make no mistake. It's the wild kingdom. It's Lord of the Flies. That doesn't mean there's murder on every street corner. But what it does mean is that the rule of law has collapsed, that there is no order, and that property rights cannot and are not being enforced. Anyone who is on the streets is in immediate danger of being robbed and killed. It's that bad.

8:26 am.

Best night sleep I've had so far. Woke up without back pain for the first time since before this thing started. I've been sleeping on the carpet, and that's a very thin layer covering the hard concrete. It takes about three days to get accustomed to sleeping on concrete -- I know that from my my days of sleeping on asphalt when the army couldn't provide better. I need to perform personal hygiene in a little bit, but I wanted to check in first and let everyone know that Outpost Crystal is still a viable and functioning camp of civilization in the face of the lawless barbarian hordes who threaten at all times to turn what's left of New Orleans into the war of all against all. It's like Mogadishu out there, but we're in a fixed defensive position and prepared.

9:36am.

We have permission from the City and from FEMA to truck in diesel. We have the ability to take on 1300-1500 more gallons of diesel fuel. If you or anyone you know is capable of bringing us fuel, we will pay for it. It would be best if the delivery truck could navigate a parking garage, otherwise the unloading will be hours -- no idea how long it could take.

10:12am.

1. There is a mass exodus for the Mississippi River Bridges (Crescent City Connection) from the CBD. We are not sure what's going on, but we are assuming until we hear differently that people are fleeing the city. So if you're watching the feeds, that's what you're seeing -- throngs of people moving toward the bridges.

2. Cannot confirm any of the following: Superdome fire, two shot police officers this morning. We hear all kinds of stuff, but no way to verify those.

3. Can confirm: The National Guard, FEMA, the NOPD, and City authorities DO NOT have the city under control. There are live radio feeds for the National Guard comms and NOPD comms which have been circulating the web, and you can listen to the chaos and disarray for yourselves. I am not going to post the links, but I'm sure others have and will. I doubt the government's ability to reestablish order without a full active duty military presence to crush the mob mentality. This of course will mean no civil rights and everyone being treated equally -- as a criminal. Rock | Hard Place.

4. I'm happy to report that my parents are accounted for. My mother made it out to Jackson, Mississippi, and my father, the only person more strong-willed than myself, is still in Harahan, healthy but refusing to leave. Mounting a rescue operation to bring him into the Outpost Crystal is a very low priority mission at this point. He's gonna have to tough it out for the time being. For him to read later, when this is all over: "Dad, I love you. I have to say it -- I told you so." Stubborn guy, my dad.

10:27am.

We've got fuel coming in NOW. Going dowstairs now.

11:50am.

My first tactical mistake. We were unprepared to accept the fuel when it arrived. The fuel arrived way too soon for us and we did not have all the empty drums down one ground floor when they got here. The driver had other deliveries to make, so rather than waste his time, I told him we'd recoordinate and be ready for him later today or tomorrow.

That's the bad news. Here's the worse news:

All of our providers are dropping. We're down to one. We have enough fuel to keep us powered for a long time, but we could lose internet access soon if our last provider drops. So I guess what I'm saying is that any moment could be my last moment online. If we do lose internet, Outpost Crystal might have to be abandoned by all but Sig and myself. I've got to get Crystal out of here safely and relocated to someplace out of this state. I'm working on escape routes now.

I'm not leaving, so stop asking. I'm staying. I am staying until this shitstorm has blown itself out. Period. End of discussion.

Now for some updates:

1. Been too busy to debrief the police officer, so that will come later. Low priority now.

2. Buses loading people up on Camp Street to take refugees to Dallas, or so the word on the street (literally) is.

3. Dead bodies everywhere: convention center, down camp street, all over.

4. National Guard shoving water off the backs of trucks. They're just pushing it off without stopping, people don't even know it's there at first -- they drop it on the side in debris, there's no sign or distribution point -- people are scared to go near it at first, because the drop points are guarded by troops or federal agents with assault rifles who don't let people come near them, which scares people off. It is a mess. When people actually get to the water, they are in such a rush to get it that one family left their small child behind and forget about him until Sig carried him back to the family.

It's raining now and I guess that's a relief from the heat. It's hot as hell down there in the sun. Crime is absolutely rampant: rapes, murders, rape-murder combinations.

In case anyone in national security is reading this, get the word to President Bush that we need the military in here NOW. The Active Duty Armed Forces. Mr. President, we are losing this city. I don't care what you're hearing on the news. The city is being lost. It is the law of the jungle down here. The command and control structure here is barely functioning. I'm not sure it's anyone's fault -- I'm not sure it could be any other way at this point. We need the kind of logistical support and infrastructure only the Active Duty military can provide. The hospitals are in dire straights. The police barely have any capabilities at this point. The National Guard is doing their best, but the situation is not being contained. I'm here to help in anyway I can, but my capabilities are limited and dropping. Please get the military here to maintain order before this city is lost.

1:28pm.

The word is that in Jefferson Parish and Orleans, FEMA has "bugged out." They haven't brought supplies in.

THE REAL MILITARY IS NOW FLOWING IN. National Guard is being replaced before our eyes. Word is that the Marines are at 1515 Poydras.

On another note: I've just been told that we're being monitored in Iraq! To all the troops there, from one soldier to another, we're hanging tough here and you hang tough too. No matter what you're hearing, we love you guys and want you to know that we know how hard you've got it. Stay strong!

4pm.

My screw-up earlier with respect to diesel preparations has been rectified. We've got 18 drums on the floor level awaiting the next truck delivery today or tomorrow. We had to empty all drums into the tanks, move them down there, work on the building's small emergency power generator to get the freight elevator working (this included hand-pumping a couple of drums of fuel into the tank), and a whole lot of other crap.... Not gonna bore you with the mundane.

Then we had to take a router down to city hall to try to get the city rolling on their internet. That included wading through water. God, the city is a mess when you head down Poydras that way. The Superdome looks like the Jenin refugee camp. God help this city. Whether or not it ought to be rebuilt is secondary to the real issue: can it be rebuilt? Looking around, I wouldn't know where or how to start. Good luck with that.

9:15pm.

As has become their nightly routine, police formed up in two rows of four cars on Poydras at dusk and started driving around city blocks over and over. I saw one car stop at a group of people camped out on a Camp Street sidewalk and question them, but then the cops drove off and left them alone.

As I reported earlier, a lot of people were bussed out to Dallas or somewhere from Camp Street, and that combined with a US Marshalls presence along Poydras from Loyola Ave to St. Charles really thinned out the pedestrian flow down Poydras. There are definitely a lot fewer people on the streets tonight.

Apparently the Marines coming in are Reservists not Active Duty. As far as I'm concerned, Marines are Marines are Marines, and they're always welcomed by Outpost Crystal.

Outpost Crystal is still secured and still kicking. We've got people begging us to leave, but that's not going to happen. We might lose Charlie Squad depending on internect connectivity, but Alpha Squad and Bravo Squad are going nowhere until New Orleans' infrastructure is rebuilt or declared permanently and irrevocably destroyed. As far as I'm concerned, this building is my post, and it will not be abandoned until I'm properly relieved.

10:46pm.

The following is the result of an interview I just conducted via cell phone with a New Orleans citizen stranded at the Convention Center. I don't know what you're hearing in the mainstream media or in the press conferences from the city and state officials, but here is the truth. "Bigfoot" is a bar manager and DJ on Bourbon Street, and is a local personality and icon. He is a lifelong resident of the city, born and raised. Here is his story as told to me moments ago. I took notes while he talked and then I asked some questions:

Three days ago, police and national guard troops told citizens to head toward the Crescent City Connection Bridge to await transportation out of the area. The citizens trekked over to the Convention Center and waited for the buses they were told would take them to Houston or Alabama or somewhere else, out of this area.

It's been three days, and the buses have yet to appear.

Bigfoot estimates more than 10,000 people are packed into and around and outside the convention center still waiting for the buses. They had no food, no water and no medicine for the last three days, until today, when the National Guard drove over the bridge above them and tossed out supplies over the side. Much of the supplies were destroyed from the drop. Many people tried to catch the supplies to protect them before they hit the ground. Some offered to walk all the way around up the bridge and bring the supplies down, but any attempt to approach the police or national guard resulted in weapons being aimed at them.

There are many infants and elderly people among them, as well as many people who were injured jumping out of windows to escape flood water and the like -- all of them in dire straights.

Any attempt to flag down police results in being told to get away at gunpoint. Hour after hour they watch buses pass by filled with people from other areas. Tensions are very high, and there has been at least one murder and several fights. Eight or nine dead people have been stored in a freezer in the area, and two of these dead people are kids.

The people are so desperate they're doing anything they can think of to impress the authorities enough to bring some buses. These things include standing in single-file lines with the elderly in front, women and children next; sweeping up the area and cleaning the windows; and anything else that would show they are not barbarians.

The buses never stop.

Before the supplies were pitched off the bridge today, people had to break into buildings in the area to try to find food and water for their families. There was not enough. This spurred many families to break into cars to try to escape the city. There was no police response to the auto thefts until the mob reached the rich area -- Saulet Condos -- once they tried to get cars from there... well then the whole SWAT teams began showing up with rifles pointed. Snipers got on the roof and told people to get back.

Bigfoot reports that the conditions are horrendous. Heat, mosquitoes and utter misery. The smell, he says, is "horrific."

Friday, Sept. 2

12:47am

Outpost Crystal has had a long day. Alpha Team is gonna grab a few hours of sleep. We won't quit, I promise you. We're expecting today (Friday) to be our most physically demanding day so far. Sig and I will be pushing 18 55-gallon drums of diesel up a steep parking garage incline to the 9th floor generator. Time for my beauty sleep.
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