Scholastic Kids Press Corps
It was only six months ago that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated part of the Gulf Coast. Since then, there has been a tremendous outpouring of support from people to help dislocated families. This week, volunteers from Habitat for Humanity affiliates throughout the state of Michigan, along with a number of NFL players, came together for a project dubbed SuperBUILD 2006. The goal of the program was to provide homes to families displaced by the recent hurricanes.
Metro Detroit Habitat for Humanity affiliates from Detroit, Oakland, and Macomb County have partnered with corporate sponsors to fund the 2006 SuperBUILD, For one week, local volunteers worked alongside NFL players Roland Williams (St. Louis Rams), Wes Walker (Miami Dolphins), Jason Hanson (Detroit Lions), and Anthony Adams (San Francisco 49ers) to build 40 prefabricated houses. The houses will now be shipped to partnering affiliates in Houston, Fort Worth, and College Station, Texas, and donated to the families who permanently relocated there following the hurricanes.
When Habitat for Humanity Michigan originally set the project in motion, the newly formed alliance between Detroit, Oakland, and Macomb counties reached out to local communities for help. They received an overwhelming response from more than 700 volunteers. Groups worked tirelessly for six days. Their selfless contributions, along with financial assistance from local businesses, led to 40 new "home kits" that will provide families with permanent shelter.
Mark Jansen, a representative for the Habitat for Humanity Michigan, praised the enormous amount of energy, dedication, and collaboration that was demonstrated throughout this endeavor. According to Jansen, coming together were people in three Detroit counties who have not always gotten along. Local businesses, he pointed out, that typically campaign against one another have united in their support for SuperBUILD.
SuperBUILD 2006 is just the beginning. Habitat for Humanity Michigan has announced that this project will take place in each upcoming Super Bowl host city from this year on.
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January 11, 2006The Hilton is the new learning home for returning students at Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana, this week. About 800 students are swapping classrooms for hotel ballrooms. Six colleges, including the University of New Orleans, Tulane, Loyola, and Xavier, are joining Dillard in returning to class, whether in borrowed space or portable buildings.
More than 30,000 students are returning this month to their reopened schools. Most of the students spent the fall semester as visiting students at campuses around the nation after Hurricane Katrina flooded or destroyed their own facilities.
The number is down from the 45,000 students attending colleges in New Orleans before the storm. But the number is significant and important to helping New Orleans recover.
"Not too many operations in the city have as much economic clout as the university," said Professor Richard Teichgraeber of Tulane University.
City as School
Students will learn from the storm and help in rebuilding the city, said Tim Ryan, president of the University of New Orleans. "This is an unprecedented opportunity for students in just about every field," Ryan told reporters.
Student orientation for some includes tours of the most damaged areas. New courses are being developed to study things like the storm's impact on the environment. Tulane has created a center to apply lessons learned from the disaster to communities facing similar problems.
"Readings, research, and projects will be geared toward Katrina," said Marshall Stevenson, a dean at Dillard. "The social implications, the political implications, the cultural and historic implications."
Is the City Ready?
The return of so many people at one time could put a strain on the city's servicesat least at first. Local government is still struggling to return water, electricity, and other services to all parts of the city.
"It's not going to be a pretty sight for these kids," said Xavier president Normal Francis, noting that the streets around the university are "dead." "We will provide more things to do on campus, and we will have buses to take students shopping on Saturdays. "
Returning students could be a good motivator for officials struggling to meet the needs of returning citizens.
"I think it will be good psychologically," said Loyola president Kevin Wildes. "Plus our kids love to work part time so maybe they can ease the worker shortage."
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Friday, December 16Money to rebuild the New Orleans levees will nearly double from $1.6 billion to $3.1 billion, the federal government said this week. Levees are structures that hold back lake and ocean water to keep floodwaters from the below-sea-level city. A large portion of the city was devastated in late August when its levee system failed.
Federal relief coordinator Donald E. Powell said that the levee system would be "better and stronger" than ever and would protect the city from major storms like Hurricane Katrina.
"I'm convinced that what we're doing here today, if there is another Katrina that hits New Orleans, we would not see the catastrophic results that we saw during Katrina," Powell said.
The money is supposed to come in two phases. First, $1.6 billion will go to fixing breaks in the levees and making them taller. The levee system will also be redesigned. This phase is scheduled to end June 1, 2006, the first day of the Atlantic hurricane season.
The other $1.5 billion will fund the closing of three canals in the city and pay for a stronger system to pump out any floodwater. This way, even if the city does flood, the water will be removed much faster than during Hurricane Katrina. The levees will also be covered with concrete and stone. The entire project should be completed within two years.
New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin was happy with the federal government's commitment.
"I want to say to all New Orleanians, to all businesses, 'It's time for you to come home,' " Nagin said. "We now have the commitment and the funding for hurricane protection at a level that we have never had before."
Some believe though that the funded projects will fall short of protecting the city against a Category 5—the strongest hurricane. The increased funding is "just the first step of about 10 that we need to take," said U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu (D-Louisiana).
Hurricane Katrina was a Category 4 when it hit east of New Orleans on August 29.
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Friday, December 9Former Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton announced Wednesday that they will give out $90 million from their Hurricane Katrina relief fund. The money will help survivors recover from the deadly August storm.
"Donations we got ranged from the smallest $16 from a child's lemonade stand to multimillion-dollar ones from foundations and corporations," said Clinton, who spoke before a crowd of 400 people at the University of New Orleans library. "Even foreign governments have given us money to help you begin again."
Just days after Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, President Bush asked his father and former President Clinton to lead a fund-raising drive to help hurricane victims. The former leaders teamed up to create the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund, which has collected more than $100 million in donations.
Approximately $40 million of the funds will be distributed to the three statesLouisiana, Mississippi, and Alabamathat suffered the most damage from Katrina. Another $20 million will be given to faith-based organizations.
"In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, local and national churches and religious organizations were tremendously helpful in providing for the needs of the people of the Gulf Coast, but at extreme financial strain," said Clinton.
An additional $30 million will go to schools and colleges in the three states. Specifically, the money will be used to repair damaged buildings, pay teachers, and help students who were driven from their homes in the wake of Katrina.
Tulane University is among the 32 colleges and universities that will receive financial aid. Located in New Orleans, it was hit hard by Katrina and will be awarded $750,000 to help rebuild.
"Universities and colleges are the cornerstone of communities across the region," said Bush. "Helping them to get back on their feet is key to the long-term recovery of the Gulf."
Among the many celebrities and sports figures who pitched in was Michelle Wie. The 16-year-old golf star donated $500,000. In addition, private foundations and corporate giants, such as Wal-Mart, Nike, and Microsoft, have written large checks. But the Fund has also grown thanks to the generosity of ordinary Americans. Tens of thousands of individuals have contributed millions of dollars in online donations.
Presidents Bush and Clinton joined forces earlier this year and helped raise more than $1 billion for the victims of last December's deadly tsunami in Asia.
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Wednesday, November 30Fourth-grader Daiquan Hart and his family are building a new life in Houston, Texas. Hurricane Katrina chased them from their home in New Orleans, Louisiana, in August. They tried to return, but their house had been destroyed by floodwaters. The family decided Houston was the place to be.
"We just got accepted into an apartment," said Daiquan's mother, Devona Hart, in Houston last week. Through a housing program that only Houston offers, the family was given a voucher for 12 months of free rent. "We're going to try to start over here."
An estimated 150,000 people like the Harts have found themselves welcome in Houston. They are the largest group of Katrina evacuees anywhere in the country. And in a recent United Way survey, 43.7 percent say they plan to stay.
"Some families have made the trip back home and determined there's nothing to go back to," said Charlie Henderson, a FEMA spokesperson in Houston. New Orleans is rebuilding, but the process is slow. Some of the hardest hit places, such as New Orleans's Lower 9th Ward, may never be totally rebuilt.
Some areas still have no electricity or running water. Officials battle debris, widespread mold, and the resulting smells. New Orleans public schools remain closed.
"I hated to leave New Orleans, but I'm not going back right now," said Michell Riggins, who came to Houston in early November with her five children. When Katrina flooded their home, they fled to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and stayed with relatives.
"We've been from pillar to post," Riggins said. With Houston's help, Riggins hopes to find a new apartment. "I'm looking for a place my children can call home."
A Welcoming City
Houston's welcome mat was rolled out from the start. When Katrina made landfall, some 25,000 people from New Orleans found temporary shelter in Houston's Astrodome and in the nearby Reliant Center and George R. Brown Convention Center. Others stayed in relatives' homes, Red Cross shelters, and hotels. When Hurricane Rita pounded Texas and Louisiana on September 24, thousands more flocked to Houston for help.
"The people of Houston have really opened their homes and their pocketbooks," said Cynthia Thomas, a community services associate in Houston.
"This community is phenomenal," said Norm Uhl, a spokesperson for the Houston Independent School District, which has taken in 5,800 evacuee students. "They really pour their hearts out."
In September, Houston opened the largest disaster relief center ever run by FEMA. On average, 2,500 to 5,000 evacuees a day receive help there with job placement, healthcare, food stamps, and counseling.
"It's like a one-stop shop," says Marisha Sonnier-Bailey, a worker from a local community services association. "Everything they need is right here."
More than 20,000 young Katrina victims are now settled in schools in the greater Houston area. Some 50,000 evacuees have found homes in 12,000 apartments through Houston's special voucher program.
A Houston housing hotline still gets close to 800 calls a day. "We have people calling from California, Oregon, Kentuckyall over the place," said hotline supervisor Isaiah Monroe. "They're making plans to leave where they've landed and take advantage of Houston's program."
Still, Houston's newcomers face many challenges.
"Imagine you've been uprooted from everything you know, and you've got to make difficult decisions on where to live, where to work, where your kids will go to school. That's overwhelming for anybody," said Jeff Stys of the United Way in Houston.
Just adapting to Houston's size can be difficult.
"We get lost every day in Houston, because Houston's so big," Daiquan Hart said.
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Friday, September 30The Gulf Coast area is being rebuilt one wooden plank at a time after the destruction of both Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. At Rockefeller Center in New York City, volunteers are working around the clock this week to help with that effort.
NBC News Today, Habitat for Humanity, and Warner Music Group turned Rockefeller Center into Humanity Plaza from September 26-30 to build about 100 new homes for victims of the hurricanes. Frames for the three-bedroom houses are being constructed on site. The walls are then stacked together and shipped south. The houses are re-assembled and finished by volunteers working in the disaster areas.
Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit organization that provides help for people who need new homes or help rebuilding their current residences. Millard and Linda Fuller founded Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) in 1976. They wanted to build cheap houses for people in need. In 1984 Jimmy Carter went on his first HFHI trip. The former President's involvement raised awareness of the group and helped it expand. Today, more than 175,000 houses have been built worldwide, mostly through volunteer labor.
"How do you say no to this?" asked Anne Christman of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As a veteran volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, she was asked to come to New York for a week and assist. "No matter how bad some of us think our day is going, we've got nothing on these people who lost everything."
Calling herself "Queen of the Table Saw," Christman was busy cutting two-by-fours. "We've been told they can reject the boards if they are off by no more than the width of a credit card," said Christman, who was working a power saw for the first time. "They haven't sent any boards back yet."
Trying to interview volunteers with power saws whining and hammers pounding was difficult. But none of the workers seemed to mind the noise. "It doesn't bother me, because you know it's for a good cause," said Rita Defendini, a volunteer from CitiGroup.
Celebrities joined the hundreds of volunteers throughout the week. Sean "Diddy" Combs, Susan Sarandon, and Ryan Cabrera were just a few famous faces seen wielding hammers.
Scholastic News Online caught Dylan Baker, who has acted in such movies as Head of State and Spiderman 2, signing a two-by-four after finishing his shift. He said he volunteered because he has friends in Louisiana and was deeply saddened by the destruction of New Orleans.
Although kids were not allowed to build houses, they could help in other ways. Scholastic Inc., which is donating a library of 100 books to each of the homes, also had a tent at the site. In the tent, kids signed bookplates and wrote notes that are being inserted into each book donated.
In another tent, kids could also help build and decorate doghouses.
All the activity at Humanity Plaza quickly became a New York tourist attraction. Passersby lined the area taking pictures and pointing out celebrities. The volunteers were not distracted, however. They all talked about the importance of what they were doing and how good it felt to be helping out.
"We're all very fortunate that we've got homes and families that we can go to," said Defendini. "We watched all the recent tragedies on the news and we just want to do what we can."
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Thursday, September 29Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco is focused on rebuilding her state after the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Today she and the governors of both Mississippi and Alabama spoke to the Senate Finance Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Their goal is to find a way to rebuild the Gulf Coast.
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita "knocked us down but they did not knock us out," Blanco told committee members. The Committee is using the governors' input to search for the best long-term rebuilding solutions.
In her statement, Blanco stressed that what her state needs most now are jobs. Forty percent of Louisiana's businesses were destroyed, leaving thousands unemployed.
Blanco did not talk about testimony in a different congressional hearing that criticized her response to the hurricane. Former FEMA Director Michael Brown blamed Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin for the poor response to Katrina.
Brown spoke to a special congressional panel led by House Republican leaders to investigate the ineffective response to Hurricane Katrina. He claims that FEMA did its job well. He said Blanco was at fault for not formally ordering residents to leave the state until the night before the storm.
"My mistake was in [not] recognizing that, for whatever reasons ... Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco were [reluctant] to order a mandatory evacuation," said Brown during his testimony.
Democrats are refusing to go to the hearings, saying that an independent source should be investigating instead. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California refused to select members for the panel. She thinks that a Republican committee cannot conduct an unprejudiced investigation of a Republican White House.
Despite all the criticism and finger-pointing, Blanco remains positive: "We are looking forward, not backward."
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Tuesday, September 20It was all about New Orleans, Louisiana, last night in New Jersey. The New Orleans Saints played their home opener against the New York Giants in the Giants' stadium. The Saints own stadium, the Superdome, will probably be torn down after its ordeal with Hurricane Katrina.
The now homeless professional football team will be visiting competitors' stadiums for all of its home games. On Monday night, the Saints wore their traditional black home jerseys. Half time entertainment included singer Harry Connick, Jr., a New Orleans native, and other music from the Big Easy.
But despite all the effort to make the Saints feel at home, the stress seemed to get them down. They lost to the Giants 27-10 after 11 penalties that cost them 72 yards.
Coach Jim Haslett refused to blame the team's poor performance on its hardships.
"We've been in four complexes in four weeks, I've been in three hotels, now an apartment," Haslett noted. "But that [performance] had nothing to do with where we live or what we do. We sucked on that field today."
The Saints' other seven home games will be played closer to home. They have taken up temporary residence at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, the state's capital. Four of their home games will be played there. Three more will be played in San Antonio, which is where the team trains.
"It could go on and on like this, we have to take this one week at a time," said Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks. "At some point, it is going to wear down on us. We've got to be strong enough and mature enough to handle this situation and accept the responsibilities given to us."
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Eight hurricane victims were found swimming in the Gulf of Mexico recently. While scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) were conducting an aerial study to assess damage from Hurricane Katrina, they spotted eight Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphins. The six females and two males were washed away from the Marine Life Oceanarium in Gulfport, Mississippi.
The dolphins were given up for lost after a 40-foot wave swept over their tank and carried them out to sea. After looking at the wreckage of the aquarium, owner Moby Solangi said it was a miracle that any of the dolphins made it through all the debris without injury.
Although the eight dolphins, ranging in age from 4 to 40, weren't housed together at the aquarium, they were found swimming together as a group.
They were a bit battered and bruised, but mostly undernourished. Because they have spent most of their lives in captivity at the aquarium (three of the dolphins were born there), they have no survival skills. They are used to being fed and do not know how to protect themselves from predators.
Marine trainers have been boating out to the dolphins to feed them. They are giving them fish with vitamins and medicines to fight infection.
"Their trainers from the Oceanarium have also been giving the dolphins badly needed TLC (tender-loving care), talking with them, stroking them, and teaching them techniques to capture them," said Laura Engleby, a biologist at NOAA's Fisheries Service. "The trainers are conditioning the dolphins to beach themselves onto floating foam mats."
Trainers whistle and bang buckets to let the dolphin know it's meal time. Dolphins Toni, Jackie, and Noah were the first to be coaxed onto a mat and loaded onto stretchers. Kelly, Noah's mom, was caught soon after. The remaining dolphins, Tamara, Shelly, Jill and Elijah, were rescued just before Hurricane Rita blew into the Gulf Coast on Tuesday, September 20.
The dolphins jump onto the mats when called by their trainers. Cranes then hoist the 350-pound dolphins onto a rescue boat. Once back on land, a police escort led a specially equipped van to a local Holiday Inn where the dolphins were placed in the facility's swimming pool as a temporary shelter.
The US Navy delivered temporary saltwater pools to house the dolphins.
"It's important to understand that marine park animals depend on human care," Engleby told Scholastic News Online. "So many groups are involved in the efforts to quickly and safely capture them as soon as possible, showing compassion to help humans as well as these sea mammals in need of our help."
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Monday, September 19In the neighborhood of Algiers, in New Orleans, Louisiana, residents were slowly coming home. The community sits across the Mississippi River from downtown New Orleans and was not as damaged as the rest of the city. Later in the week, other neighborhoods were also to be opened, said Mayor Ray Nagin.
But a new storm now heading for the Florida Keys, Tropical Storm Rita, lead the Mayor to call for a halt to reopening areas.
"Our levees are very vulnerable right now," he said in a press conference Monday afternoon. "Things are going smoothly, but we have to be cautious."
Rita is expected to reach hurricane strength by Tuesday or Wednesday. Computer tracking shows that it could become as strong as a Category 3 and may head into the gulf coast. Even if it did not hit Louisiana, Alabama, or Mississippi directly, it could bring heavy rains and cause more flooding.
More FEMA Troubles
Nagin's initial decision to open New Orleans neighborhoods renewed the tensions between local and federal officials over recovery efforts in the region.
Federal officials say it's too early for anyone to return to live in New Orleans. President George W. Bush agreed with Vice Admiral Thad Allen that even though some services were now available, like electricity and phone, the city was not safe.
Mayor Nagin said the Vice Admiral Allen, who was recently appointed to lead the recovery from Hurricane Katrina, was acting like "the new crowned federal Mayor of New Orleans."
Bush met with the Homeland Security Council Monday morning. "It's a matter of timing," he told the council members. "We have made our position loud and clear. The Mayor is working hard. The Mayor has got this dream about having his city up and running. We share that dream, but we also want to be realistic about some of the hurdles and obstacles."
Allen warned the Mayor that although some city services were working, they may not be able to serve a large number of people. Mayor Nagin wants to move about 180,000 people back into the city in the next month. Before Hurricane Katrina, some 500,000 people lived in New Orleans.
"Everybody wants the city of New Orleans to be restarted," Allen told reporters. "The Mayor has a vision. We agree with that vision. The discussion we're having with the Mayor is over the timing of re-entry and how to do it safely."
He said the water is still not drinkable and 911 service is not working. None of the area's 12 hospitals are open. One of the city's largest hospitals, the Tour Infirmary in the Garden District, may reopen on Wednesday.
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Friday, September 16According to New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, some 182,000 evacuated residents may be able to return to their homes and businesses. Officials originally said it might take months before any residents could return. He expects 250,000half the city's populationcould return home within the next six months.
The historic French Quarter, which is a popular tourist destination, could reopen as early as September 26, Nagin said. The Quarter is the highest part of the city. It is part of the 20 percent of the city that was not flooded.
Other areas not flooded include downtown, Uptown, and Algiers. The Algiers area is across the Mississippi River from the French Quarter. The city's Uptown section includes Tulane University and the upscale Garden District.
The city will reopen one zip code at a time as power and water utilities are restored.
"New Orleans will start to breathe again," Nagin said. "We will have life, we will have commerce. We will have people getting into their normal mode of operations, and the rhythm that makes this city so unique."
Other areas of the city will not be so lucky. Officials estimate that tens of thousands of homes will have to be rebuilt. Water is still being pumped from the area, and where the water recedes, a polluted sludge is left behind.
Less than half the city is now underwater and about 50 percent of the phone lines are working. And although water services have been restored to some areas, the available water is not yet drinkable. Garbage and sewage services should be restored soon.
"Our strategy is to repopulate the city in the safest areas first to get enough critical mass going so that the economics of the city starts to flow," Nagin said. "Then, simultaneously, we will be involved in . . . probably the biggest urban reconstruction project in the history of the United States."
President George W. Bush will speak on national TV tonight about that reconstruction project. He is scheduled to announce one of the largest rebuilding projects in the nation’s history at 9 p.m. Eastern Time. He will make the announcement from New Orleans.
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Thursday, September 15The government will pay to fix the damage done by Hurricane Katrina, President George W. Bush told the nation on Thursday night. Speaking from Jackson Square in the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana, President Bush outlined an ambitious program to rebuild the coastline of the three states hardest hit by the hurricane: Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.
"Federal funds will cover the great majority of the costs of repairing public infrastructure in the disaster zone, from roads and bridges to schools and water systems," Bush said.
The speech came three weeks after the hurricane and was intended to calm a political storm. Bush's administration has come under sharp criticism for its handling of the disaster. He and his officials have been accused of not caring about the people in New Orleans who were trapped there when the city flooded. Many of those people were poor and black.
Bush responded to those charges. He said the entire nation has now seen the deep-rooted poverty in the Gulf region.
"That poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America," Bush said. "We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action."
To do that, Bush plans to spend at least $200 billion.
First he will create a Gulf Opportunity Zone to create jobs and help start new businesses. He said the program will encourage minority-owned businesses.
Second, he said the government will open $5,000 worker recovery accounts. Evacuees will be able to spend that money on job training, school, or child care while they search for jobs.
Congress will be asked to pass an Urban Homesteading Act to provide free land to poor families. The bill would help families with the finances needed to build homes on that land.
He also promised a bi-partisan investigation to determine how the government response went wrong. The result will be a plan to strengthen the government's disaster response capability.
"I consider detailed emergency planning to be a national security priority," he said.
New Orleans will be rebuilt bigger and better than it has ever been, the President promised. He noted that it will be the biggest reconstruction effort every undertaken by the federal government.
"There is no way to imagine America without New Orleans, and this great city will rise again," the President said.
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Tuesday, September 13A new director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency was appointed almost as suddenly as the old one resigned. Yesterday, FEMA director Michael Brown turned in his resignation. Within hours, President George W. Bush had named his replacement.
President Bush also said he took responsibility for the faulty government response to the disaster. He made the statement from the White House today after completing his third trip to the hurricane-torn region.
"Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government," Bush said on Tuesday. "To the extent the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility."
He praised rescue workers for their hard work. "I'm not going to defend the process going in," Bush said. "I am going to defend the people saving lives. I want people in America to understand how hard people worked to save lives down there."
The new FEMA director is R. David Paulison. He announced after his appointment that he would focus on finding permanent housing for hurricane survivors now living in shelters.
"We're going to get those people out of the shelters, and we're going to move and get them the help they need," Paulison said.
He replaced Michael Brown, who resigned on Monday. Three days earlier, Brown was removed as the top federal official in charge of Hurricane Katrina response. He was replaced by Coast Guard Vice Admiral Thad W. Allen.
Like Paulison comes to the job with a strong background in disaster management. He was chief of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department when Hurricane Andrew hit Florida in 1992. Until Katrina, Andrew was the costliest hurricane disaster in the U.S.
In 2001, he became head of Miami-Dade County's Office of Emergency Management. Before the appointment, he was U.S. fire administrator and head of FEMA's division of preparedness.
Paulison will serve as acting director until the President makes another appointment.
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September 12 The President rode in the back of a truck on Monday, standing up to see over the top of the cab. He took this unusual position to get a close-up of the flood and hurricane damage in New Orleans, Louisiana.
With President Bush on the four-truck convoy was Coast Guard Vice Admiral Thad W. Allen, the new head of the Hurricane Katrina recovery effort for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The agency's boss, Michael Brown, has been criticized for FEMA's slow response to the disaster. Hurricane Katrina left hundreds of thousands of people homeless. In New Orleans, thousands were stranded without food, water, or sanitation.
Brown was removed as the leader of hurricane recovery on Friday and replaced by Vice Admiral Allen. On Monday, while Bush was in the Gulf Coast area, Brown resigned as head of FEMA.
Allen held his first meeting with the President early Monday morning before the tour. Although this was the third visit by President Bush to the area, it was his first on the ground in New Orleans. Before, he reviewed the damage from a helicopter.
Allen briefed the President onboard the USS Iwo Jima, a battleship serving as the command center for military operations. It is also where the President spent the night on Sunday.
Recovery Will Not Discriminate
During a press conference, reporters ask President Bush about the government's slow response. Many people have said the government was slow to respond because the victims were mostly black.
"The storm didn't discriminate, and neither will the recovery effort," Bush said. "When those Coast Guard choppersmany of whom were first on the scenewere pulling people off roofs, they didn't check the color of a person's skin, they wanted to save lives."
He also rejected the idea that the nation's military was unable to respond because too many of its troops and resources were in Iraq.
"We've got plenty of troops to do both [fight the war in Iraq and help with hurricane recovery]," the President said. "It is preposterous to claim that the engagement in Iraq meant there weren't enough troops here, just pure and simple."
Bush also met with New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco. Both have been publicly critical of the federal response. The last time Bush toured New Orleans, Governor Blanco traveled to Texas.
In the afternoon on Monday, Bush went to Gulfport, one of Mississippi's hardest-hit cities. He also visited parishes outside New Orleans, meeting with recovery workers and checking out damage.
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Friday, September 9In the flooded streets of New Orleans, rescue workers are saving family pets that got left behind. Many families were forced to leave their pets when evacuating the city. Now, animal rescue teams are saving pets before time runs out.
"It's one at a time, and it's fairly slow work," said Michael Mountain, President and CEO of Best Friends Animal Society, one of the first animal organizations allowed into the city to rescue pets.
Rescue workers are most worried about pets that may be locked in houses without food or water. Animals are also trapped in houses, on roofs, and tied to porches.
"They are certainly all frightened," Mountain said. "The most difficult ones to work with are the cats who hide under furniture. The dogs tend to be easier. You can put out a treat for them; you can generally bring them to you."
Other organizations are also stepping in and helping stranded pets. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the Humane Society, the Louisiana SPCA, and the Texas SPCA are all helping to rescue pets. Many of these organizations were not allowed into the worst areas until just recently.
The Human Society has 200 people in New Orleans. They are handling the more than 2,000 requests received on their hotline. Since Tuesday the Humane Society has saved 90 dogs and 34 cats. The Best Friends Animal Society estimates they have rescued between 800 and 900 animals since entering the city on August 30.
The rescue teams use inflatable rafts to locate the pets. They take the animals to drop-off points where they can be transferred to a shelter. When the pets arrive at the shelter, they receive ID tags and are photographed. Then the health of each pet is checked and evaluated.
The information is put into a computer database that pet owners and rescue groups can use to reconnect the pets with their owners. The database is maintained by the Louisiana State Veterinary Association. Unclaimed pets will be sent to area shelters and put up for adoption.
"We haven't seen anything worse than some minor abrasions, and mild dehydration and, of course, some dysentery from unclean water," Jo Sullivan, spokeswoman for the ASPCA said.
Hundreds of people come everyday to the Lamar Dixon Center 50 miles north of New Orleans, in search of their pets.
One lucky man at the center was reunited with his dog, Miller. "Daddy came and got you, didn't he," the man said to his dog.
For the rescuers and volunteers, these scenes make their efforts worth it.
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Friday, September 9Nine-year-old Cailisha Wheaton clung to her mother's back while her 4-year-old sister Deandre sat in a floating bucket. Their mother, Christina Wheaton, waded through waist high water in New Orleans, Louisiana, to get her daughters to safety.
That was last week. This week, the two girls are in schools in Houston, Texas, while their mother looks for a job and a place to live.
"They witnessed it all," Christina told a reporter. "The flood, the chaos at the Superdome.
Before Hurricane Katrina took their home and their city, the girls were scheduled to go back to school on September 1. "That's why I want them back in school," Christina said. "To get them into a routine so they can forget about this nightmare."
Cailish and Deandre are two of about 6,000 students evacuated from hurricane-stricken areas who are now enrolled in Texas schools. In Houston, two elementary schools that were closed down last year were reopened. About 450 new teachers were hired, many from Louisiana.
School districts in northern Mississippi and Alabama, are also taking in students forced out of the Gulf Coast area by the Category 4 hurricane.
Texas has taken on the biggest burden, however, with thousands of students placed in San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, Fort Worth and other cities. Most of the states taking in evacuated students have suspended requirements for identification, past school records, or medical records. Texas also suspended a law requiring no more than 22 students in a classroom.
At a school district in Dallas, buses are sent to shelters each morning to pick up the new students.
After a week sitting in shelters, "some of them jump for joy," Ivette Cruz Weis told a reporter. Cruz Weis is a spokeswoman for the Dallas Independent School District.
Getting the children back into their routines is an important part of rebuilding their lives, said a nurse counseling and treating kids in Houston.
"That's the most important thing," said Elejaine Gobert, who is working at a Red Cross shelter in Houston. "They don't need to be here all day depressed at the shelter. Back at home, they love school."
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Thursday, September 8This Saturday, Justin Ryan Gonzalez will celebrate his 10th birthday. The invitations have been sent. The party arrangements have been made. There's only one hitch. Justin doesn't want any presents.
The Teaneck, New Jersey, boy has asked all 100 of his guests to bring cash or checks for the victims of Hurricane Katrina instead.
"He asked me to e-mail people who we've already sent invitations," says Maggie Gonzalez or her son's selfless request to go without gifts.
Justin is one of countless American kids who have responded to the tragic events in Louisiana and Mississippi by holding fundraisers, cracking open their piggy banks, and selling bake goods.
To date, the Salvation Army has collected $51 million dollars. The American Red Cross has raised more than $409 million, in part, thanks to the generous donations of kids across the country.
"It's going gangbusters," says Devorah Goldburg, a Red Cross spokesperson.
Christina Dannolfo and her friends have raised half of the $1,000 they hope to donate to the hurricane victims. Christina can relate to the pain. She lost her home in a five-alarm fire one year ago.
"I wanted to help these people because they don't have homes, and I know how it feels," says the 12-year-old from Tynsboro, Massachusetts.
On the West Coast, a group of young people from Terra Linda, California, collected nearly $1,400 selling lemonade, brownies, and popcorn. They staked out a spot at a busy intersection in town, waving signs and flagging down motorists.
"I would feel awful if I was there, seeing water up to the roof or houses," said one of the kids, Taylor Peterson. "To have all those things precious to you taken awayit's really tough."
Elsewhere across the country, high school students in DeSoto, Kansas, will collect bottled water at Friday night's football game. Young girls in Parma, Indiana, have donated dolls for the storm's youngest victims. And middle school students in Bryant, Arkansas, are providing school supplies for the many hurricane victims who will be attending their schools this fall.
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September 6The 287-year-old city of New Orleans is mostly vacant now. One week after Hurricane Katrina struck, most of its 500,000 residents have been evacuated. Officials are now going door to door searching for survivors. Not everyone they are finding is willing to leave, however. More than 10,000 people are believed to still be in the city.
"We have advised people that this city has been destroyed," said Deputy Police Superintendent W.J. Riley. "There is nothing here for them and no reason for them to stay, no food, no jobs, nothing."
Conditions in the city are dire. The water that covers the city is polluted and could soon become the carrier of deadly diseases. More than 50 percent of the city is still flooded, although the water is beginning to recede.
Rebuilding the Levees
The Army Corps of Engineers spent days dropping 3,000 pound sandbags from helicopters to rebuild a barrier between Lake Pontchartrain and the City of New Orleans. The original barrier, an 18-foot levee, broke after the winds and rain of Hurricane Katrina battered it for more than 10 hours last week. The city was flooded and most of its 500,000 residents fled.
Those left behindmostly the sick and the poorhave almost all been relocated to shelters. Cities in Texas have taken in more than 250,000 people. Red Cross shelters and churches across several states, including Oklahoma and Arkansas, have taken in evacuees. People along the Gulf Coast in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi were left homeless by the Category 5 hurricane.
Some Return Home
In a suburb of New Orleans, people were allowed to return to their homes to assess the damage. Many of the Jefferson Parish's 460,000 residents were caught in a traffic jam. Only one road into the area was passable.
One woman who waited for a boat to take her to her home was relieved to find it still standing.
"If I can just get my kids' baby photos," she told a reporter. "You can't replace those."
Pumping Water Out
Although pumps are now actively moving water out of the city, it could be three months before New Orleans is dry. It will be many more months, maybe years, before the city is livable again.
More than 30,000 National Guard troops are now in the area helping with the search and rescue. General Russel Honore, who is commanding the troops, said the city is secure.
"This is not a city under siege," he told reporters. "This city needs help from the big people in America and its technology to get back on its feet. We are focused on the future. There are still people there that need help. We will do the best we can to get it to them."
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Friday, September 2Some members of Congress returned from their summer vacations for an emergency session on Thursday and Friday. They approved a bill to send $10.5 billion in relief funds to the areas most affected by Hurricane Katrina. The disaster is the worst in U.S. history.
On Friday, President George W. Bush visited Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. He called on Americans to use less gasoline in the coming weeks and months. The Gulf Coast usually produces 20 percent of the nation's oil and gas, but those facilities have been shut down by the hurricane.
The President also criticized government agencies for responding slowly to the unfolding disaster.
"A lot of people are working hard to help those who've been affected, and I want to thank the people for their efforts," Bush said before leaving the White House for a tour of the devastated areas. But, he said, "the results are not acceptable."
Safe at School
The 28,000 people holed up in the Superdome stadium were still being evacuated, or removed, on Friday. Hundreds of buses are taking them to shelters in Texas. The Astrodome in Houston, Texas, filled up on Friday morning. Buses were redirected to Dallas and San Antonio.
Students will be welcomed into schools in neighboring cities and states. The Texas Education Agency promised to order extra textbooks and provide more money to schools suddenly crowded with kids from hurricane-torn areas.
"One of the great things about school is that no matter what's going on in [students'] lives, school is normal," said Mark Kelly, the head of the Annunciation Orthodox School in Houston, Texas.
"We've got plenty of room, and we will take care of them while they're here," said Ariel Rozes, the director of Houston's Robert M. Beren Academy. "This will give them a place to be, a place to run."
More National Guard troops from all over the nation are arriving in New Orleans to restore order and help provide food and water to people who have been left homeless.
"We all know this is an agonizing time for the people of the Gulf Coast," said President Bush. "I ask their continued patience as recovery operations unfold. I can assure them that the thoughts and prayers of the entire nation are with them."
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Amy wrote this story about her experience with Hurricane Katrina shortly after the storm subsided. She and her family rode out the storm on a docked boat some 30 miles west of New Orleans. The hurricane veered east of New Orleans.
It was August 28, 2005. I was 11 years old. We were invited to stay on my daddy's friend's yacht during Hurricane Katrina. We left from Thibodaux, Louisiana, and headed west to Amelia, Louisiana. It usually takes us about 20 to 40 minutes to get from Thibodaux to Amelia, but with all the traffic evacuating from other cities and states, it took us about two or more hours to get to Amelia.
Katrina was the strongest hurricane in the history of hurricanes. She was a Category 4 with winds of 175 miles per hour. When she hit early Monday on August 29, 2005, it was about 3:30 in the morning. The storm lasted until about noon on Monday. The winds were very strong, with wind gusts up to about 100 miles per hour. It was scary.
At last the hurricane was over. Thankfully, no one was hurt in our area. Unfortunately, I can't say that about other areas like New Orleans, Louisiana, where there is total devastation.
Finally, on August 30, 2005, we were on our way home from Amelia. Our trip home was sad, seeing houses with roofs torn off, and trees and branches that were broken. I hope it doesn't cost too much to fix.
When we got home I saw the scariest thing that I have ever seen. We pulled into our driveway. We had to drive slowly because the tree branches were everywhere. But the scariest thing was a tree that had split in half. One half had fallen on our neighbor's house. It will take time for everyone that was affected by this hurricane to get back to normal.
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August 31New Orleans thought it had missed the worst. Hurricane Katrina had blown east, and its 145-mile-per-hour winds just missed the city. But one day later, two levees, or land built up near a river to prevent it from spilling over, broke. Water poured into the city. New Orleans which was protected by the levees, is now under 20 feet of water.
Most of New Orleans's 500,000 residents left before the storm, but now everyone has been ordered to evacuate, or leave, the city. About 10,000 people had sought shelter in the Superdome. But the stadium lost power and some of its roof during the storm, and now water laps at its doors. Everyone inside will be moved to the Astrodome, a stadium in Houston, Texas, officials announced Wednesday.
"It's just heartbreaking," said Louisiana Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, who ordered the evacuation.
Relief Efforts Under Way
The only traffic in New Orleans was overhead, as the skies filled with helicopters searching for survivors to pull to safety. Relief organizations are rushing to the flooded areas to care for those in need of help.
"I know I'm a small part of a large operation," said Julie Wright, the executive director of the American Red Cross chapter in Alexandria, Louisiana. She and other teams of volunteers planned to bring emergency food supplies from Little Rock, Arkansas.
"We're on a life-saving and life-sustaining mission right now," Barbara Ellis told Scholastic News Online. She is a spokesperson with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the government's top disaster relief organization. "There's a telephone line that people can call for disaster assistance. Normally it takes 7 to 10 days, but with the scale of this disasterI couldn't say."
On Tuesday, five Navy ships and eight Navy rescue teams sailed to the Gulf Coast to help with relief operations. President Bush left his vacation to head back to Washington, D.C., to organize the government agencies involved in disaster relief.
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August 30Hurricane Katrina could be the costliest hurricane ever to hit the U.S. It has so far claimed 80 lives and left many of the homes along the Gulf Coast in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi underwater. Rescue helicopters continued to search for survivors on Tuesday as the storm headed north.
Katrina went from a Category 5 all the way down to a tropical storm before leaving the Gulf Coast area on Monday. More than 1 million people in three states are now without electricity. Hundreds of people were left stranded. Hundreds of homes were destroyed.
While New Orleans was spared a direct hit, the damage was still devastating. Two levees broke, leaving much of the below sea-level city under 20 feet of water. About 80 percent of the city was flooded.
"We have to start the process of rebuilding the city," said New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. He reported that most of the city's drinking water was contaminated, and that power could be out for up to six weeks. A major bridge in the city was also wiped out.
Alabama also had to close a major bridge. An oil drilling platform broke away from its moorings and lodged under the U.S. Highway 98 bridge over the Mobile River.
Much of downtown Mobile, Alabama, is flooded. The Alabama National Guard was called out to help with rescue and security efforts.
Katrina's effects on the economy will soon be felt nationwide. The Gulf Coast area is a major port and provider of natural gas and oil. Petroleum prices soared on Tuesday, with oil reaching $70 a barrel for the first time. That could send gasoline prices to more than $3 a gallon.
More than 700 offshore platforms and rigs were evacuated. With those rigs out of production, President Bush said he will consider releasing reserves from the nation's emergency stockpile.
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August 29More than 1 million people left their homes in the New Orleans area before Hurricane Katrina hit land Monday morning. Another 10,000 people huddled for safety in the Superdome. The stadium began to leak and temporarily lost electricity Monday morning as winds intensified.
"I can see daylight straight up from inside the Superdome," reported Ed Reams of CNN affiliate WDSU from inside the structure.
The Category 5 storm, with winds up to 160 miles per hour (mph), hit land around sunrise Monday. It quickly decreased to a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 135 mph. By 1 p.m. Monday, it was down to a Category 3.
Much of New Orleans lies below sea level. A network of levees 18 feet high protects 70 percent of the city from flooding. Storm surges of 28 feet or higher are expected.
"[Katrina] is capable of causing catastrophic damage," said National Hurricane Center director Max Mayfield. "New Orleans may never be the same."
The storm is moving north at 15 miles per hour, covering a 125-mile area. Hurricane warnings are posted from Morgan City, Louisiana, east to the Alabama-Florida state line. Hurricane warnings are for winds of at least 74 miles per hour. Tornadoes are also possible across southern portions of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida panhandle.
Only three other Category 5 hurricanes have hit land in the U.S. since records were kept. The first known Category 5 was unnamed. It hit on Labor Day in 1935. In 1969, Hurricane Camille hit the Gulf Coast. Hurricane Andrew, which hit Florida in 1992, was the costliest hurricane with $26.5 million in damage.
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