Sunday, June 24, 2012

Debby spawns Katrina flashbacks: "Hurricanes of humanity"

Tropical storm Debby meanders, daily paper's death slams recovery in New Orleans 
by Mike Marcellino

As Tropical Storm Debby slashes the Florida Gulf Coast, unsure of just which direction to go, east or west back toward New Orleans, it brings back memories of Hurricane Katrina.

The latest forecast, as of 5:21 pm, EDT, Sunday, has Debby "meandering" in the northeast Gulf of Mexico for the next 3-4 days.  

But hold on as the forecast keeps changing.  Two hours earlier the National Hurricane center had the tropical storm with winds up to 60 knots headed for the coast of Louisiana.  

Hurricane Katrina was the most destructive natural disaster in United States history.  From conception over the Bahamas on August 23 to August, 29 2005, the killer storm caused $96 billion in damage, wrecked 300,000 homes and took the lives of 1,883 people, including 1,464 in Louisiana.

Hurricane Katrina Damage Facts from Fox News

Tropical storm Debby Threatens Louisiana coast
Sun Jun 24, 2012 2:25pm EDT

The low pressure area System 96L is pictured in the Gulf of Mexico in this June 22, 2012 handout satellite image. REUTERS/NASA/Handout
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By Chris Baltimore

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Strong winds and heavy rain from Tropical Storm Debby reached the U.S. Gulf Coast on Sunday as the storm meandered on an uncertain track toward the Louisiana coast with 60 mph winds, the U.S. National Hurricane Service said.

Debby, the first named storm of 2012 to enter the Gulf of Mexico, was centered about 200 miles east-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and was moving slowly northeast at around 5 mph at 1 p.m. CDT (1800 GMT). The storm was expected to strengthen into a hurricane by Tuesday night, the Miami-based center said.

The NHC predicted that Debby will turn west and come ashore on the eastern Louisiana coast early Thursday as a weak Category 1 hurricane. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm, citing possible inland flooding in some coastal parishes.

By Mike Marcellino

Hurricanes of humanity.
Weathermen called the wind Katrina.
Her blow, overwhelming waves covered New Orleans,
leaving in her wake a city never the same.
She left them Cajuns reeling -
mumbling 'bout their old homes,
dying for MEMA cottages
out of reach, south of highway 90.
“Sold ‘em to contractors.  We’re
building casinos for the poor
working families without homes.”

Hurricanes of humanity.
Brass of Army sergeants homeless in uniform
swept from the streets, no need for assessment.
Giv’em an offer they can’t afford -
habitat for five hundred dollars a month
plus flood insurance.
Churches turned some gold to straw,
parish people say.
Wonderin ‘bout their government
before, during an after the nation’s greatest disaster
when a category 5 hit the Gulf Coast
on that August day 2005.

Hurricanes of humanity.
Homes not jails, food not bombs.
Five hundred city kitchens cross country,
twenty two to thirty two percent
of our kids going to school homeless,
Arizona to Detroit.

Hurricanes of humanity.
Subjects of FEMA, New Orleans to Brooklyn.
Armies on the street to college.
What went wrong? they ask.
Not the people? they say.
Must of been the leaders, some say.

Hurricanes of humanity.
Bayou grits, southern accents let’s see
before, during and after Katrina.
Try disability.
Hope a leg’s missing, never mind.
Speakers in the woods -
tents of seven hundred survivors
of the bitter winter 2009.

Hurricanes of humanity.
Like Dorothy upside down -
Hope for a soft landing on a bed of change.
Deportees from a 20 megaton daydream.
Two gallons left.
Lost out on fifty fifty -
miles, dollars away
from New Orleans and Black Bay.

Copyright Hurricanes of humanity by Mike Marcellino 2009. 

Death of daily paper rips New Orleans recovery

And, New Orleans is still reeling, as folks await the death of their daily newspaper, The Times-Picayune.  New Orleans will become the largest city in America without a daily newspaper when it begins publishing only three days a week this fall. 

Advance Publications, owned by the wealthy Newhouse family, strategy is for readers to get their news from the paper's Internet version.  Trouble is 39% of New Orleans residents don't have access to the Internet. Founded in 1837, The Times-Picayune was named after a Spanish coin worth, at the time, 6 cents.  There's a certain irony in the name "Advance Publications."  In other words, advance and make more money no matter the cost to humanity, in this case the people of New Orleans and the newspaper's employees.

Writers William Faulkner and O'Henry worked at The Times-Picayune, a paper that's won three Pulitzer Prizes, two for coverage of Hurricane Katrina.  

How well the three-day a week Times-Picayune serves New Orleans remains to be seen, but one thing for sure is the Newhouse family will continue to pile up the dough.  The Newhouse family's wealth hasn't suffered along with the fall of Times-Picayune and newspapers across the country. The family fortune has climbed from a whopping $8 billion in 1988 (Fortune magazine) to $12.5  billion in 2011 (Forbes magazine). 

Look out Cleveland!

The family, through Advanced Publicans, also owns The Cleveland Plain Dealer and Sun Newspapers, once the largest paid weekly newspaper chain the the country.  The Newhouse family is well known for its anti-union and union-busting tactics, at least in Cleveland where I worked for a decade as a two-time national award winning reporter with Sun Newspapers.  
Here's an excerpt from the McClatchy News Service story on the death of the daily paper in New Orleans.  It captures the impact on the recovery of New Orleans and the health and well being of the city and its citizens:

Martha Kegel, who leads a consortium of nonprofit agencies that fight homelessness in New Orleans, said it was “infuriating” to watch what was happening.

“The paper has its faults, but has been absolutely essential to the city’s recovery,” she said. “If ever a city needed a daily newspaper it is New Orleans.”Clearly, the Newhouses could care less what happens to New Orleans."

The rest of the McClatchy News Service story on the death of the daily Times-Picayune -

Death of the Times-Picayune daily