Katrina Experiences - Note this is very long

Share a survival experience with us and explain what you learned from it. You might help someone.

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Katrina Experiences - Note this is very long

Post by raptor » Mon Mar 05, 2007 6:59 pm

The Story

I live in a suburb of N.O. called Metairie. Parts of it were flooded briefly though a small portion was flooded due to the 17th street canal failure for about 2 weeks. My home was not flooded and sustained relatively minor damage.

I evacuated my family (including pets) to Atlanta on Sunday at noon after making sure other people I know including employees had left and did not need transport. I thought I was the last one out as everyone I knew told me they were long gone. I listened to the mayor order a mandatory evacuation of the city as I passed Slidell about 30 miles east of the city. My wife was behind me in another vehicle the whole way pissed off that she had to leave. The whole world was going west to Houston. I decided had at the last minute to head east into the storm’s projected route to avoid the traffic since I calculated I had only 18 hours to escape. I did not want to risk being on the road for this storm.

As it turned out, we made a great decision because the traffic was mainly headed west. We momentarily slowed down to 50 mph on parts of the I-10 but for the most part I did not slow down to under 80 mph until we were past the contra flow area about 25 miles north of the coast line on I-59. We picked the right window and the right direction for our quick escape. We spent the night in Birmingham after a 6 hour drive, (we were tired and emotionally spent) and drove with a heavy heart to Atlanta the next morning. I got us settled into a hotel near a relative’s home. I then told my wife to go find 2 furnished corporate apartments for us; we knew we were going to be in Atlanta a while. She asked how long (she always assumes I have the answer to everything). I said maybe permanently from the looks of things which really pissed her off.

We waited until the last minute to evacuate due to the reluctance of both my wife and mother to leave. My house is an older home built of concrete block and stucco. It has hurricane shutters, a 30 kW diesel generator with 300 gallons of fuel and is on relatively high ground (about 5 feet above sea level ). I have always stock piled food shelf stable and MRE, water, firearms, ammunition, medical supplies and basic disaster supplies and consider my self reasonably prepared. I also keep a small boat in the garage.

I shut down my business on Friday at noon after we completed our much tested hurricane back up plan. I sent everyone home early and told them to contact me Saturday and Sunday if they decided to evacuate. I told them we would regroup Monday or Tuesday. My usual hurricane rule was in force for my employees. That is “you will not be penalized in any way if you miss work for one or two days due to an evacuation” (little did I know that would be 3 weeks before we would gather as even a partial group again). I gave a 2 week pay advance to everyone before they left telling everyone to be safe but to communicate with me, I normally do not do this but since payday was next Friday and Katrina had me spooked I did it. This 2 weeks pay helped some lower paid employees evacuate to safety. I kept everyone on the payroll and forgave the 2 week pay advance for all. I did this to retain everybody and I was not disappointed by anybody. Most were moved and some to tears when we met again and regrouped. Work provided some normalcy and security during these dark days.

Katrina of course hit and you know the story; carnage, looting, flooding death, etc. Around Wednesday after Katrina, I was going crazy with worry. My employees had not all checked in. Our office had no communications; the whole 504 area code was down. Property was obviously in need of attention and I was concerned about the business. I decided to go back and deal with the issues. I left my family back in Atlanta and went back alone.

I got to my home despite the fact that the city and parish were “sealed off”. I know the city well and knew it could not be “sealed off”. I got through un-challenged; the flooding in most of Jefferson Parish had been pumped out by then (edit: the exact route is listed in another post in this thread). Upon arriving home I cranked up the generator and had power, HVAC, internet, landline telephone (I could dial out but no one could dial in). I neglected to empty the refrigerator when I left so I did have that mess to clean up. That is a particularly nasty job but a large thick garbage bag, gas mask and chemical gloves make the job easy.

Once home, I assessed the damage and secured what little damage was done. The wind caused little damage to the entire city. The flooding is what caused the bulk of the damage. I fixed what I could then went check out other people’s property. I sent digital photos via the internet to my wife in Atlanta who contacted and forwarded the pictures.

I found out some friends from Lafayette, LA were coming down to the city on rescue parties by boat the next day. They were turned away for some obscure reason and stopped by my house to check on me. They agreed to stay a few days to help out our friends. That began the role I played for several friends; being the forward staging area for friends and business associates trying to get back to their businesses.

The generator made life comfortable but it burned copious amounts fuel. My 300 gallons was supposed to last 10 to 12 days but 300 gallons was only a 7 day supply. I had to drive to Baton Rouge with empty drums to buy diesel. Gasoline was in very short supply but diesel was nonexistent for civilians for about a week. I had plenty of natural gas for the grill, seafood boiler, water heater and dryer but it was useless for the generator. I have since added a smaller 15 kW air-cooled gas powered generator to supplement the diesel powered set. The diesel ran like a champ though for 3 weeks straight (about 500 hours). I stopped it twice a day to check the oil and coolant levels. I changed the oil and filter only once after 200 hours. I had neglected the oil & filter stockpile and had enough for only one filter change. I also had trouble finding the right oil and filter for about 4 weeks so I ran it with dirty oil.

I made many forays into the city with friends and family. Some were clandestine and others were overt and authorized. I passed looters actively looting stores and was shot at on at least one occasion. I will never forget one trip I made. I hired 9 off duty police officers to go with me into a flooded area and check on my property. This officer was an acquaintance and a true blue cop a real Joe Friday. However, before we left he said “Now if something happens and we shoot someone, we are just going keep going and not stop ok? Do you understand what I am saying?”

The 3 things I remember most about the time was the oppressive heat & sun during the day and pitch black nights and the chaos and uncertainty of the whole situation.

The following is my list of what worked and did not work:

Text messaging worked well all through the worst of the incident. The messages were often delayed but they got through eventually. A Blackberry proved to be a valuable and useful means to communicate. A pager also worked but was only a one way system. The text message interface on a PC also worked great also assuming you have internet service.

A cell phone with different area code was invaluable. I bought a prepaid cell phone in Atlanta. The Cingular system was dysfunctional, but Verison and Sprint did work. I used Cingular and Virgin Mobile which is a Sprint reseller. The cell phone with a different area code allowed you to dial out and to receive calls. Forward your key telephone numbers to this cell and you can remain in communication. The entire 504 area code was unusable for about 30 days. We forwarded our phones before we left but the entire network including forwarding went down. So all of our phones just rang or you received an out of service message which is not good for business.

CB & FMRS radios were useless in the city due to significant range limitations. Around the house a cordless phone with a paging/intercom function worked better than the FMRS radio, since it would ring when you were wanted. I would carry the cordless phone and use the intercom function.

Marine VHF was useful for local area communication though it is strictly illegal to use it for this purpose. A 12 volt VHF unit on a boat in the driveway is good for about a mile to hand held sets. Though hand held sets could get through to the base station at this distance only if you could see the other person. They could also be used in the car on the highway and were useful since the channels are not much in use inland and the squelch function is useful. Be sure to get the VHF units with the ability to use alkaline batteries.

Telephone land lines worked well and in non-flooded areas the telephones land lines never went down. Cable was not robust at and went down early and stayed down a very long time. DSL since it uses land lines did not go down at all. Satellite dishes were blown away and like cable were inoperative. The internet was invaluable.

I set up routine a check in time for all parties with someone outside of the city. I surfaced to communicate and check in at 9am, noon and 6pm to communicate with my wife while she was in Atlanta.

Keep your cell phone batteries charged so have a car adapter, 110 volt adapter, AA adapter, and spare batteries. Anytime you see a place to charge them, charge them up. Keeping these items charged will be a PITA.

A TV made a poor news machine at first. AM & FM radios worked well, the internet was more comprehensive, but had a several hour lag time. A spare satellite dish had Dish TV back up and working in no time. A spare dish also had satellite internet up and operating. I recommend satellite TV and internet as long as you have a spare dish.

Lighting - Darkness, Darkness and more darkness!
Post disaster, street lights will not work and the place will be incredibly dark. When there was no moon the darkness was surreal.

Park your cars so that their head lights shine on likely areas of egress to your house or the place you are visiting. Use the remote fob switch to make the head lights and back up lights go one in the event that you hear someone outside. You can also use the car panic switch to set off the horn for a distraction.

Use a car battery booster with a 12v to 110v inverter to plug in a 110 volt area light to provide area lighting if your generator is not operational.

Use flood lights sparingly they attract too much attention in a dark city.

Spotlights with rechargeable batteries were less useful than those which took D cell batteries. The charges could not be relied upon when you needed them and recharging them once depleted was a PITA. A 12 volt corded spot light are cheaper and more reliable; of course they need a cord & a separate battery. Note that they can also be plugged into the battery booster.

Attempt to create appearance of many more people than you have. A group of 6 to 10 is more likely to thrive than a small group. A person alone is in great danger and should consider leaving.

Flashlights are not useful for area lighting, regardless of size & type. Lanterns are much more useful for area lighting. LED and fluorescent are great inside but Coleman double mantle lanterns dual fuel are great outdoors, but only out doors.

I buy only D cell, AA and/or AAA to simplify inventory needs.

Avoid candles and hurricane lamps, the light is poor for candles and both bring heat and more importantly fire risk into the house. All open flame of any kind should be kept only outside!

Keep a low profile
Be able to establish bonafides with a picture ID with your company name and address work as well as a letter on corporate letterhead, notarized and corporate seal on it.

A white pickup truck with a corporate logo and people inside dressed in PPE will be the key to transportation. Make sure it has a sign on it, magnetic signs with business name work well.

Impersonating a responder is illegal but impersonating a business is not, use the term safety guy or personnel guy. These folks are always in and out and nobody either hates them or really needs them so you will not get drafted by the locals. DoNOT I repeat do not, say you are an insurance adjuster or in the insurance business (even if you are) you will be taking your life into your own hands, seriously. They are considered equal to child molesters.

Personal Morale and Stress
Morale is vital to all on scene.

Cleaning yourself up and putting on clean clothes is a good morale booster. Washing clothes is a pain but it is important to have clean clothes available even if you have to do by hand. As long as the water from the tap is clear and not murky, cloudy or odiferous, you can use it to clean clothes in an electric washing machine, assuming you have a generator.

If you are the leader act like one. Express concern about your people whether you give a rat’s ass or not about them. They must think you care about them and will help them, it helps if you are sincere, but even if you are not, pretend to be sincere; your life may depend on it!

Get lots of rest at night. The night is the worst part. It will be very, very dark, which to city dwellers can be scary and disorienting. Sleep is the best way to handle this problem. However if possible always have someone awake 24/7. Preferably set up shifts to ensure all get adequate rest but the group is covered by someone awake. I had a rule that no one went outside alone at night, for any reason. If you heard something unusual, wake up the person who just got off duty or the person about to go on duty and have them go with you. The person on watch also had the car remote control to set off the car lights or the car alarm.

The nights were stressful due to the darkness and unusual quiet. Without power there were no A/C compressors, no cars and no people sounds. The only sounds were frogs croaking (yes in the city frogs) and silence. My generator installation was no noisier than an A/C unit. But with the central A/C units and the generator we were the noisiest thing for many blocks. Add inside and outside lights and we stood out for some distance. Hence the concern about security at night.

Drinking water gets boring so have something like Gatorade mix or tea.

Keep a positive attitude and a smile on your face! Your mood is contagious.

Heat saps strength, stamina & morale. Stay out of the sun, cool and hydrated. Make sure everybody has enough water and is drinking it, not just holding on to it. Read about heat exhaustion and heat stroke, know the symptoms, and act fast if you think the person is being affected by the heat.

Do not underestimate the emotion of seeing a beloved or even familiar place ruined.
Several cops committed suicide as a result of the stress; do not underestimate the level of stress involved.

Fire is a hazard and a real possibility. Have a fire watch and remember you cannot call the fire department or an EMS. There were instances of several houses catching fire and setting a neighboring house on fire. A 24 hour a day fire watch could save your life. Have the garden hoses ready outside, in the event a neighbor’s house catches fire.

Smoke alarms in the halls outside bedrooms and Carbon monoxide alarms in every bedroom and other strategic points are a must! The carbon monoxide alarms are mandatory if a generator is used.

Fuel & Power:
Always have enough fuel in a vehicle that can carry your group to a safe point without refueling. Always have a plan to get you and your group out to safe place.

Spare fuel in 5 gallons can is dangerous; store it outside in a shady spot. Hide it because if you do it may get requisitioned.

Diesel was almost impossible to find initially but gas was easier to find after the 3rd week.(Note for clarity I mean in the GNO area. I had to travel to Baton Rouge or Houma for diesel fuel until about the 3rd week)

Consider a tri-fuel generator and hook the generator up to natural gas. Natural gas remained on in most un-flooded sections but failed in flooded areas, so do not rely solely on natural gas have the capability to run on liquid gasoline as well. However a natural gas generator would have solved my fuel problems.

Generators are noisy and will disturb you, people nearby and attract unwanted attention. Find someway to keep the sound down. If you have a portable gas operated generator retrofit a car muffler (search the internet for article) to it and build a sound box of some kind. You want the noise signature to be as quite as possible. See this link:

http://www.alpharubicon.com/altenergy/gensetquiet.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Ideally have a large one permanently installed with quality sound deading material around it as I did.

Dig a hole and put the generator in it and cover it with plywood. Allow for drainage.
Build a sandbag berm around it cover the berm with plywood
Enclose it in a building not connected to the house, route the exhaust outside!
Keep its noise to a minimum.

Have an electrician come and put a manual disconnect switch so you can hook the generator to the house. You can do something as simple as putting in the disconnect switch and providing a 50 amp 220 volt plug so you can hook up a portable generator to the house circuits. Avoid having a stand alone generator in the back yard with extension cords. Plan ahead and do it right! Also to keep the peace with your neighbor, plan on running 1 or 2 15 amp circuits to their house(s) if they do not have a generator. That is enough to run a fridge, lights & fans. Or a fridge and a small window A/C.

Type and quantity less important than training and proficiency. All those debates about which is best, is a meaningless discussion. The best one to have is one you have right now in your hand, learn to use it proficiently, including the ability to take it apart and repair it. Make sure you can hit a target at 35 meters one handed with either the left or right hand. Stop debating what is best settle on what works for you and spend the time training with it.

Do not openly brandish weapons the National Guard & cops will take them away despite any laws protecting you.

Have spares so that if cops take them away you have others. Do not resist attempts to by LEO to confiscate weapons. It will not end very well for you.

Be prepared to be forcibly removed for your premises and leave your pets or have your pets killed in front of you!

National Guard & LEO are not necessarily helpful, to be trusted or your friends. Trust yourself and your friends. Keep a low profile, avoid confrontations and be respectful and friendly (not subservient) to the NG and police when contact with them is unavoidable. Obey their instructions (at least when they are around) if possible and not counter to your goal. Never confront them or actively or violently resist them, you will lose and become just another unidentified body found in the rubble.

Cash, Documents and Commerce:
A Good way to make a friend is cold soft drinks – trade hot for cold if you can when you are giving them away as gifts. I went through a lot of Cokes.

Image important documents on a scanner and store them on a flash drive or on line by emailing them to yourself at for instance AOL or Google.

Drivers license, passport, social security card, birth certificate, marriage certificate,
Insurance policies, vaccination/medical records for family & pets should be imaged.

Use an online bank and have multiple accounts. Keep multiple credit cards with a zero balance so that in an emergency you can at least buy gas, a hotel room and some food.

You need at least $1,000 cash on hand. More is always better but do not carry all split it up in different pockets and use credit cards wherever possible. Keep it in small bills like $5, $10 & $20 along with a credit card. Checks, travelers checks and money orders are useless don’t waste your time with them.

Take photos of your insured property and make sure that they are not more than 2 year old. Use a digital camera and store the photos in multiple places.

Any photo albums, documents, or similar such things can be digitalized so that if the original is destroyed you at least have a copy. Look around your house and see what falls into that category. It is amazing how much you lose when you are looking at just a house slab.

Back up your data in multiple places and set out a contingency plan for your business. We use nothing but laptops and have contracted with an off site server to store all of our data files. Everybody can use a virtual private network to set up wherever we may finally stop assuming they can get to high speed internet connections.

Phone forwarding malfunctioned so all our lines did was to ring when they did not get a system busy. Have a contingency plan to notify all customers of a number change or arrange with the telephone company to use a trunk forwarding service.

We set up a toll free number and manned it with a small staff to disseminate contact info. Emails worked fine as did text messages. Web sites also worked well as a means to disseminate telephone numbers.

Looting. Looters and Requisitioning:
Police will loot. It is called requisitioning. They will take your spare gasoline, supplies, ammunition, first aid kits, ice, water, guns and even your vehicle! They are worse than looters in that they have the force of law behind them. They looted cars, booze, TV as well as necessities such as food water and clean clothes.

Avoid looting parties. They tend to be undisciplined and have numerous, armed people. If you join them, watch your back and go only with a group you know and then stick together. Take only what you need and make restitution when you can do so. Even when you need it… looting is wrong. It belongs to someone else.

The LEO & national guard will be hot, tired, scared and grumpy! Avoid them at all costs. They will be well armed, better trained and are more likely to shoot you than the looters. Always approach them slowly with your hands visible and in a non-threatening manner. Politeness (though not submission like you are guilty of something) and a smile on your face and a comment like “Boy am I glad to see you guys, thanks for the help”. If you are unsure of the situation extend your hand in a handshake. Their actions will tell volumes as to their intent. Never curse them, do offer them a cold coke or water. If you do not have a cold drink, say I would offer you guys one but I don’t have one.

The USCG were the best guys, they were most useful, professional and least dangerous (as long as you were not hostile to them) the worst were the National Guard units and local PD. They were stressed out lost their homes separated from loved ones etc. They were heavily armed and dangerous. No offense intended to any member of these units but that is my observation.

When you travel, travel in groups. No fewer than two, four in 2 vehicles are better. If you leave your vehicle(s) make sure someone or preferably 2 people stay with it (them).

Have a prearranged sign and counter sign for the group, include a trouble sign and counter sign. Do not shout everybody and anybody’s name when you think you see trouble. Use a signal when concerned or needing help. You do not have to be silly about it, but a shout of “Hey Mr. Murphy” is a whole more innocuous than “Hey George and Louis there are five guys coming towards me”. In the latter you have conveyed to the party coming at you that there are 2 other people who will be coming shortly. On the other hand if you shout “ Hey Mr. Murphy” while looking at the group and waving in a friendly like manner at the people coming at you, they may assume that you are addressing them and waving at them and not calling your buddies to come outside and help. It may just give you the edge in that situation.

Look out for people’s pets, save the ones you can. Bring food and water for them since it is likely one else will. Many pets were abandoned and dies a long linger death as a result.

Be very careful avoid any injuries of any kind. If you are injured, cut, get a blister, etc treat it aggressively, even a simple scratch in a disaster zone can be life threatening.

Get vaccination for hepatitis, tetanus and anything else you can talk your MD into giving you.

Do not take supplies from the Red Cross, Salvation Army or others unless you or someone you know truly needs them. Supplies are limited and others in need may do without because you wanted something you did not really need. I saw a single mother with a baby and toddler go without water when an “alpha” male barged in line and took stuff meant for her. The “alpha” males simply put the water in their pockets and walked away. I “found” her some water when the “alpha” males suddenly “dropped” their water and ran for their lives.

Be compassionate, but do not be silly, sometimes sympathy targets (old people, disabled people, kids and women) are used by looters as bait.

Do not be in the disaster area if you can avoid it. Leave the area until the situation stabilizes. If you have to be there stay only as long as necessary. It is not a game and it is sure as hell not fun.

Food, Water & Ice:
Ice is a very valuable commodity when the temperature is 95 degrees and the humidity is 100%. Keep some handy to trade or barter for favors. Use empty water bottles to make it at home in the freezer. It is a good barter commodity.

Safe, potable water is critical. You cannot have too much of it on hand. I had 10 five gallon bottles of water on hand, in addition to 6 cases of 20 oz bottles of water. That was no where near adequate.

Water is either safe or not. If you have the slightest doubt about the water; then it is not safe to drink it!

Unsafe water from the tap can be used for flushing toilets and washing clothes. It can also be used for washing you, but do not drink it and keep it away from your eyes, nose and mouth when showering with it. However, unsafe water from the tap and a 5% to 10% solution of bleach can be used for cleaning dishes with soap as long as the final rinse is in boiled or clean water (be sure the water has cooled and add 2% to 3% bleach to the rinse water). You can rinse the plate to get the food residue off with the running un-boiled water before washing them, but wash them with boiled water, if possible dip them in a mild bleach solution in the rinse cycle and hand dry.

To make clear water safe, boil the water for 5 to 10 minutes at a rolling boil. You can also add chlorine before boiling it if you are really nervous. Be careful and let the water stand at least an hour to avoid burning yourself. Boil as much as you can at one time because it is a PITA to boil water. I used a seafood boiler and natural gas for this chore. Keep the pot covered when the water is boiling and cooling Store it in a CLEAN preferably sterilized container. Used but clean 2 liter soft drink bottles are perfect for storing boiled water (but wait till it cools to pour it!).

Potable Water should be used as much as possible. For example water used for cooking rice and spaghetti can be reused for cleaning the pots and dishes.

An outside propane or natural gas burner with a large boiling pot will make quick work of producing many gallons of safe drinking water without the heat and humidity in the house. This boiling pot can also be used to sanitize plates, silverware and pots.

You can attach a large activated charcoal filter to an outside water hose to filter water that you boil for drinking. Boiling may or may not remove toxic chemicals in the water. Use bottled water from a known source if at all possible for all drinking, food preparation washing and bathing.

Water in a pinch can be made safer by filtering it and adding a small amount of Clorox or iodine tablets to the water. Murky or smelly water should not be used for anything, if at all possible!

You may be tempted to use the dishwasher and put it on heated water and the sanitize setting, but do not take the risk. It is just not worth the risk! Plan on hand washing and sanitizing the dishes yourself.

Paper towels, plates and deposable knives and forks work very well and many times are better than real china and silverware. Have lots of paper towels, garbage bags and deposable stuff on hand.

Garbage disposal is a problem; there was not garbage pick up for 2 months. Plan on bringing it to the dump your self. Sanitation is important and garbage stinks after a week in the sun! When you bring it to the dump put it on the trailer; do not put it in the car or trunk you will never get the stink out!

Note you can freeze bottle of unsafe water for ice, just label it as unsafe and do not use or drink the water.

Food is important to morale! Cook it and present it well! Sit down together and eat together, this is great morale builder.

Simple Menus are Important since fresh items are limited

Spaghetti & meatballs
Red beans rice & meat (sausage, hamburger, chicken)
Chicken and rice
Hamburgers and macaroni & cheese
Scrambled eggs, grits and toast
Steak and canned veggies
Jambalaya & meat of any kind

Use MRE only for lunch when out and about or as a last resort. Everybody should sit down and eat together at least once a day for better morale.

4wd was not important but was useful mainly due to the higher ground clearance it afforded.

Bring rope to tie to branches to move them. Make sure the vehicle has auxiliary storage like a roof rack, a roof cargo carrier , a trailer hitch ”back porch” or have a trailer. Anything that you can use to carry additional bulky cargo, like roofing shingles, gas, clothes, food water, etc.

I used my boat as means to carry cargo such as garbage and fuel. It was all I had so I used it as a utility trailer. It had 2 -18 gallon gas tanks so filled up those tanks and put 3 -55 gallon drums in the boat. Use what you have.

Make sure your vehicle is in good shape, a broken fan belt, bad tire, leaking water pump or battery with a dead cell is useless and dangerous in a disaster zone.

Be sure to have a can of fix a flat, 12 volt air compressor, battery booster, tire plug kit, flash light with spare batteries and a plug in 12 volt spot light (they are cheaper and more reliable than those needing a charge) as well as basic tools like a screwdriver, pliers and crescent wrench are invaluable. A 12volt to 110 volt inverter (no more than 100 watts to avoid blowing fuses or worse a fusible link), small first aid kit and rope will also be invaluable. A 110 volt trouble light with a 25 foot cord to plug into the inverter will serve multiple purposes of light and power; just do not overload the inverter. Be sure to have a spare oil, brake fluid, ATF fluid and antifreeze, (it does not have to be in the car) you will not be able to find it.

The cargo area if not “hoseable” should be covered in plastic to prevent the spread of contaminants.

A cheaper car or pick up truck will attract a whole lot less negative attention than a blingmobile! Park the Mercedes and Lexus drive the pickup truck!

Basic tools like a socket set, wrench, screwdrivers, etc. A cordless electric screwdriver and drill will also save you a lot of energy and sweat.

Other useful tools:
Crow bar large & small for breaking glass and prying open windows and doors. Pry bar for opening doors, Large bolt cutters, Claw hammer, Axe or Hatchet, Small sledge hammer and wedges (s.m.l).

PPE – very important! Hard hat, safety glasses, gloves leather & latex respirators or face mask, steel toed shoes WITH steel soles!
Gas chainsaw (nice but not required unless you live in a wooded area) I used the rope and car to pull large branches out of my way. A tree hand saw is just as useful and less costly in an urban area. In a wooded area buy 2 chainsaws, one is not enough.

Tarps several sizes are good you can always trade them if you do not need them.
An electric sawzall is particularly useful assuming you have a generator.

Chain and padlocks will always come in handy.

Electric extension cords get several and buy the thick contractors grade. Also a power strip with a surge suppressor for each cord will be useful. Tape (electrical & duct), Spray paint (white, orange & black for signs, warnings & messages),Preprinted signs like Looters will be shot are not as useful as handmade signs since the preprinted ones may indicate no one is around. Also date any spray painted signs so people know it is up post disaster.

Boats in Urban Settings and Flood Water:
If you have the misfortune of dealing with a flood, there will be all kind of hazards that you will encounter such that even the oldest of salts will be in a challenging environment.
Operate the boat only at idle or slow speeds. Do not let the boat get on a plane, displacement speed only. They will be signs, wires trees shrubs, debris and many other things that will destroy or damage an out drive. Better to hit something at a slow speed.

Trim the engine up to reduce your draft. Travel in pairs and maintain radio watches be wary of manhole covers if you go in the water. The covers may be gone. There are ditches and various other obstacles that are not apparent. Do not walk in the water if at all possible. Always wear a PFD even an inflatable one is better than nothing.

Navigation will be difficult since road signs may be obscured and your GPS will likely have a nautical chart rather than I-10 on it. Have someone on the boat who knows the area.

Power lines may still be energized, so stay away from them, do not touch them.

For the record, rescued people are not always grateful to be rescued. They may be in shock, terrified, disoriented and/or potentially dangerous. Always have at least one other you can trust in the boat with you. You can concentrate on steering and he/she should concentrate on the people in the boat. Never assume people can swim, provide a PFD for all and make them wear it; if nothing else it will be reassuring for them. If you encounter hostile people, exit the area ASAP. Always know how to get out of an area quickly.

Do not fool around in flood waters! They are nasty, disgusting and dangerous. Do not handle any floating bodies unless you want a very, very unpleasant experience. Do not ford the water in your vehicle if you can avoid it. Check the depth on foot before you even consider fording water. Most vehicles can get their drive train damaged by as little as a foot of water. The vehicle will also kick up wakes into people’s homes. The people in the house may object violently to you flooding their already damaged house. If you do ford water do so at an idle speed and paying close attention to water depth. If in doubt back up to higher ground! Judging the water depth is deceptive since cars have different heights. Often times the center of the road is the highest side. Consider using the sidewalk, lawns or road median to keep at least part of your vehicle high enough not to flood.

Elderly, Infirm, Pets and Kids:
None belong in a disaster zone and should be evacuated ASAP. Pets will be destroyed at the slightest bit of inconvenience to the authorities. Chip your pet and evacuate them. Keep their shots current and board them with friends families or a boarding facility. There were numerous instances of pets summarily destroyed for a variety of reasons including simply spite. Two deputies in St Bernard parish are facing charges for shooting pets for no apparent reason. The incidents were captured on videotape, despite this, they would never have been charged if left to the local officials. One can only imagine what else went on and was not uncovered. An elderly women recounted to me her story about how she refused to leave her home because her pet could not come with her. The LEO simply shot her beloved pet in front of her said “now the problem is solved” and put the woman in a boat. I heard from others in different areas that they were forced to abandon their pets under threat of physical threat. Some of these pets survived others did not. In a truly bad situation you should assume this attitude will extend to children and non-able bodied people as well. In fact in war time this type of behavior has been documented in various parts of the world.

There was also the case of 32 nursing home patients that were abandoned and subsequently drown in St Bernard Parish. In another case an elderly woman and her middle aged quadriplegic son were told a special van would come get them. No transportation arrived and they both died.

If you are handicapped, elderly have children or pets make your own plans to evacuate. Do not rely on any government plan to assist you. Rely only on yourself.

Evacuation issues:
Leave early or Late – A tough call it depends on your circumstances and how likely your risk is to be vs. that of staying put. Just do not wait too long. allow 12 hours to get to safety!

Which route to use? – be flexible and do not be afraid to use back routes, speed is less important than steady progress away from danger. Keep a close watch on your gas. Look for gas at ½ a tank, search diligently for gas at ¼ of a tank, look for a safe place stop at 1/8 of a tank. Do not run out of gas. If you have to use your reserve tank find shelter nearby and wait until it is safe. Gas gives you options, no gas leaves you vulnerable. If necessary abandon one vehicle and strip all fuel from it. Discard stuff in the following order (if necessary) goods to make things fit: magazines, clothes, ice chests, food, spare tire, tools, adults, children & elderly, pets. Never discard water or fuel. If someone has be left behind (at a safe place obviously) leave two people and give them cash & credit card, water, cell phone and set an alternate rally point.

If possible travel in two cars, evacuation is very dangerous. Your car could break down and leave you and your loved ones stranded with an impending disaster enroute. Two cars capable of carrying all is the safest way to travel. Do not rely on the LEOs to assist, they will be busy and the phrase SOL comes to mind.

What to bring? See the above list but include at least 5 gallons of gasoline, food (simple stuff like bread and peanut butter) and at least 1 gallon of water for every two people. Be sure to carry the gas on top of the vehicle on the roof rack not inside the car. It will make everyone nauseous otherwise. Have maps, a laptop with an internet card to stay in touch with the outside world and a GPS is very useful. FRMS & CB radios do work well here. but are obnoxious to have on all the time. The driver’s job is to drive and do nothing else other than keep an eye outside the vehicle. The traffic will range from a creeping 10 to 20 mph to 60 mph bumper to bumper traffic. It is demanding and tiring to drive like this for 6 to 12 hours at a time. If possible appoint one of the passengers navigator. The navigator is responsible for keeping track of the locataion of both vehicles, nearby alternate routes and maintains communication with the other vehicle. Other passengers can be utilized to find accommodations, gas and other necessary information via cell phone (or internet) as well as tend to needs of the other passengers or driver. A 12 volt TV can provide invaluable news.

The traffic will be moving very slowing. 10 to 20 mph is not unusual, so be patient and do not plan on being able to get off the highway for anything for at least 5 to 8 hours.
A “piss bucket” is absolutely vital. For males a simple 32 oz cup WITH A LID, a 2 liter bottle and a funnel or a wide mouth 1 to 2 liter juice bottle will work nicely. Women may use the same thing but with a funnel. Be sure to have a towel handy! Do not dump it on the road unless you are traveling very slowly (which is normally the case) keep it sealed in Ziploc bag in between uses to avoid messes. Kids especially preteen girls may pose special problems due to modesty issues. Talk to those involved. It will be a problem and stopping may not be an option, assuming you can even pull over.

It depends on the situation but generally the farther away the better yet the closer the destination the easier it will be to get there. Where you go is up to your budget. I suggest some place with family and friends to help you assimilate in case the stay is a long one. For stays over 2 weeks, a furnished corporate apartment is generally a better deal and more comfortable and normal than a hotel room.

Evacuation by Air:
This is the safest and easiest way to evacuate but you cannot take much with you. This is generally best if you have a house elsewhere or you have small children, elderly or infirm people to remove. When you leave be sure to leave your car parked at an inside garage and at least one level above the ground floor. Do not count on this method unless you own your own plane since flights are generally booked well in advance.

Personal gear:
You should always carry the following:
A butt pack with flashlight, pistol (assuming you have a CCH permit), reloads, cigarette lighter, pepper spray, leatherman tool, latex gloves, small hand sanitizer and digital camera, spare batteries, spare data card. The camera should be kept in a baggy to protect it. Why the camera? So you can show others what you saw and get their input into situations.

Water at least one bottle

Clean towel, spare shoes, spare clothes, and wading boots. I typically wore a jumpsuit and running shoes. I changed my shoes to steel toed boots when I got out of the car and again when I got back in.

A hat and sunscreen were also very handy.

Wash your hands wash your face with a clean towel before you go into the house if you have been out on “expedition”.
Hand sanitizer and plain old alcohol work great if potable water is not available..
Thick Plastic/chemical resistant gloves as well as latex gloves to protect yourself from chemicals like chlorine.

Leave your shoes out side and do not track any crud inside.

If you wear a jumpsuit with shorts underneath. Shuck the jumpsuit and put it in a garbage bag along with any towels used. Leave your boots outside. Everything dirty goes in the washing machine. Anything recovered from the flood water stays out side. Set up a hose and bucket with dish washing liquid to clean off anything nasty and leave it out side.

Note this has been edited several times for formatting and clarity.
Last edited by raptor on Tue Mar 01, 2016 5:45 pm, edited 14 times in total.

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Post by Jamie » Mon Mar 05, 2007 7:16 pm

Great Post!!!

Lots of useful information and advice there...some of it is location specific, and will be different for my part of the world, but that was a fabulous post about readiness and dealing with disaster.


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Post by Pariah » Mon Mar 05, 2007 7:28 pm

Great read. Glad to have you here to tell us this.

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Post by jamoni » Mon Mar 05, 2007 9:16 pm

Great read. Thanks!
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Post by Grin Reaper » Tue Mar 06, 2007 12:22 am

Wow. Thorough post!

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Post by runninjoe » Tue Mar 06, 2007 12:42 am

Wow, that was a lot of great information. Thanks for sharing.

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Post by Rus » Tue Mar 06, 2007 1:52 am

Damn good read!
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Post by Ricky Romero » Tue Mar 06, 2007 10:24 am

Thank you for sharing. It is not often I read an account of a present day disaster situation that is that thorough and chock full of realistic advice.

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Post by platinumwolf » Tue Mar 06, 2007 11:30 am

excellent, thank you very much.

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Post by Brash » Tue Mar 06, 2007 11:39 am

Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

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Post by Miami » Tue Mar 06, 2007 1:16 pm

Great post.....
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Thanks for the favorable response.

Post by raptor » Tue Mar 06, 2007 2:04 pm

This was an overview of my experiances over a 3 month period. Even after the power came on after about 22 days, things were still dicey. Hurricane Rita also provided some excitment. My area of town was restored to some level of normalicy by February 2006.

However, the rebuilding of the cityitself has stalled and the social disintergration which was crudely sew back together has continued to unravel.

Are there any specific questions related to aspects of this event?

I had considered providing more detailed information related to useful and useless equipment, specific skills that came in handy, simply surprising things that in retro spect I would not have considered likely.

Let me know if there is any interest.

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Post by evolvesurvive » Tue Mar 06, 2007 2:30 pm

I feel there absolutely is interest, raptor. I know that I for one, at least, would love to hear any input you have on skills, equipment, tactics, and anything else related. That's what the forum's all about. :D
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Post by Brash » Tue Mar 06, 2007 4:53 pm

I'm very interested in hearing more. How did you secure your home during the nights? Did your stockpiled food last as long as you expected and what changes to your inventory would you have made? Thanks.

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Post by Duxman » Tue Mar 06, 2007 5:01 pm

Excellent post Raptor.

Very eye-opening especially about the pets being killed.

I am not at all surprised that the Police were one of the most dangerous groups out there in NO. From what I heard and read on other blogs, there should be a lot more prosecution from the corrupt / crooked cops and what they did to civilians out there.

No offense to the good cops in NO - all the police I have dealt with in Los Angeles, Virginia and other places have all been very professional.

Question: If you saw Police (For Evac purposes) coming to your home, but they did not see you - is it a crime to hide out to protect your home / pets? Like if they call to see if anyone is home, you just pretend you didnt hear it?

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Post by jamoni » Tue Mar 06, 2007 7:45 pm

I'm interested in the long term social effects. Are they mainly due to key people not returning? Is it just the expense of rebuilding the infrastructure, or do you think that the whole episode has just left people disillusioned about the area? Are there any programs to revitalize communities? That sort of thing.
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Answers to Questions

Post by raptor » Tue Mar 06, 2007 7:48 pm

Let me provide a little more background on me, though for privacy sake I
will not be too forthcoming. I am white and middle aged; I have done very well in life. Metairie is not in New Orleans proper so the NOPD had no jurisdiction in Metairie. Sheriff Harry Lee was in charge for better or worse he did things differently in Jefferson parish. My family has lived in New Orleans long enough to have participated in the first battle of New Orleans.

"How did you secure your home during the nights?"

I will provide more details later but briefly my house sits up 8 feet off the ground with only 2 ways in and out when the hurricane shutters are down and dogged. It is made of concrete and only the 2 doors are exposed. You can see both exits from the middle of the house. 1 person (assuming he is awake) can control access quite easily Note this security comes at the price of limited exit in case of a fire, hence my emphasis on fire safety.

Did your stockpiled food last as long as you expected and what changes to your inventory would you have made?

I will write more about this in another post. However, food quantity was not a problem since I hade been laying in supplies for my family plus 2 and at any given time I had fewer people than I allowed for in the provisioning plan. The taste quality of the food I had on hand was the real morale killer though. So while we did not starve we did give away a lot of the MREs but kept the canned and dry stuff for our consumption. Also the heat killed your desire to eat and between the taste and the heat we had plenty of food! Safe drinking water was in short supply though!


"I am not at all surprised that the Police were one of the most dangerous groups out there in NO. From what I heard and read on other blogs, there should be a lot more prosecution from the corrupt / crooked cops and what they did to civilians out there."

There is currently a case going to trial soon involving seven police officers accused of murder during Katrina. If you google the "danziger 7" you can read all sides of the case. There are many unclear issues and I do not want to go into that matter. What is clear is that 2 people who were in the wrong place at the right time were shot & killed. One was shot seven times in the back, not once in the front. This person was mentally handicapped, had no criminal record (none had criminal records) and was claimed to have had weapon and shot at police.

In a time of unrest, keep a low profile, do not openly brandish weapons and do not look like some bad a$$ out of Road Warrior. You will survive a lot better if you look like a utility repair guy or a responder than you will looking like trouble. Stay away for the people (you do not know) with guns whether or not they have badges if at all possible!

My motto is "when someone from the government shows up at your door and says he is there to help, run like hell in the opposite direction!"

"Question: If you saw Police (For Evac purposes) coming to your home, but they did not see you - is it a crime to hide out to protect your home / pets? Like if they call to see if anyone is home, you just pretend you didnt hear it?"

During the first 3 weeks there was utter chaos on the street no one knew who was in charge and those in charge when they did make a decision ( a very rare event) could not communicate instructions reliably. That meant local commanders were left to their own discretion. At one point the mayor of Orleans Parish (City of NO) made a statement that martial law had been declared. The state Attorney general quickly denied that and said the mayor has no such authority and Martial Law is not legal and in fact unconstitutional (has been since General Butler left N.O. in 1865 and martial law was ended) under LA law.

How does this matter to your question? At one point, the cops and NG were kicking down doors and searching homes and forcibly removing anyone they found. Pets could not come and if you resisted they would arrest you. Any and all weapons were confiscated and resistant was futile! In other parts of the city they would knock politely on the door, inquire about you and give you water and MREs.

Legal or illegal it was what ever the local commanders, the organized guys with the guns, wanted it to be! Sounds like a fundimental lesson in personal liberty to me.
Last edited by raptor on Wed Mar 07, 2007 4:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by TheLastRifleMan » Tue Mar 06, 2007 8:49 pm

Wow :shock:

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We shall not sleep..."

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More on Turning Darkness into Day

Post by raptor » Tue Mar 06, 2007 10:49 pm

I mentioned that the dark nights were one of the 3 things that I remember vividly. For those who live in the woods I am sure this is not big deal to you. However, to a "city boy" the only time I experienced darkness like this was at sea over 100 miles offshore on a sailboat. If you are not prepared for this darkness you will find it unsettling. I of course had power and lights at home most of the time but other places all I had was whatever light I brought.

I had to stay places where there was no generator power so lets talk about how to deal with darkness that is akin to being in cave,

The obvious solution is a flash light. I used maglights constantly. I prefer the 3 D cell since it is a good trade off for bulk vs. output. One thing though they go through batteries very quickly and within an hour or so you need new batteries. I always buy Rayovac batteries because the work well but are cheaper than all of the others.

I also use the handheld 6 volt lights made by Dorcy but instead of the 6 volt square battery I bought a couple of D cell converters so I can run them off D cell Batteries.

I also am fond of the AA maglight especially since they now make LED conversion bulbs for these. I wish I had these during Katrina! I went though a lot of batteries. I typically buy the lithium batteries for these lights since the lithium batteries have a long shelf life.

I have some pelican lights with Xeon bulbs but they are not as handy as the maglights. The other truly useful lights I used were Energizer brand folding LED lights and a headlight which has 2 red led a white LED and a krypton bulb. These are relativity inexpensive and very useful when your hands are full but you also need additional light. They use AA or AAA batteries and when you use lithium batteries in them they will last forever running the led lights. I used the red LED at night when out and about to attempt to preserve my night vision. The red LEDs were actually at times too bright.

http://www.energizer.com/products/flash ... cat=4&id=9

There is also the question of illumination for night time encounters. I made a quick field expedient utilizing a Maglight, a SS hose clamp and a Remington 870. I was able to use this simple and expedient to make night illumination of a target possible. You do not need special rails only a hose clamp and flash light. It does not look pretty but the person I point it at will not care about looks for long.

However like I said flash lights are useless for area lighting. That is why lanterns are made. I used several Energizer folding Fluorescent lamps with 2 tubes( Http://www.energizer.com/products/flashlights/
They provide more than adequate illumination of a 12 x12 room. If you run two of them you will think the power is back on. I also used LED lanterns with 12 and 19 LEDs the light was not uniform, but the batteries would last close to 50 hours. I tended to use these as marker lights and area illumination due to the long life but poor light dispersion. Both of this type is readily available at Wally world for under $12.

I also found Coleman duel fuel lanterns useful since they could burn gasoline. Note the fire hazard though. Candles were completely unsatisfactory in terms of light and heat. A kerosene hurricane lantern actually put out excellent light but not as much as a Coleman lantern and still had a fire risk. Cyalume lights were absolutely useless I had two dozen on hand and was hard pressed to find a use for them. The light is inadequate and they are not reusable.

Now what does work well for area illumination. The 110v light fixture which is shaped like a silver bell and has a clamp to hook to multiple surfaces was invaluable as was a conventional trouble light. Now you are going to say wait a minute you need AC power for that. You are right you do, but not need a lot if you use a 45 watt flood or spotlight bulb and even less if you use an 11 or 15 watt compact fluorescent bulb. You will need a 12 volt power source and an inverter say a 90 watt one to use it. A convenient 12 volt power source is one the car starter devices with the jumper cables and typically an air pump also. It is a very versatile device. You can jump start your car, put air in the tire or plug a 12 volt inverter into the cigarette lighter type plug or use the jumper cable to attach to the inverter. A 15 watt compact florescent bulb running an inverter will typically last all night. You will have to recharge it in the morning but you will have at least 9 hours of enough illumination to read by. Alternatively you can have enough light from the flood light to illuminate a typical yard for about 3 hours.

Finally there is question of illumination outside the house. In a pinch what I did was park the vehicle such that when the lights came on they shined in the direction of an area of concern. I could then trigger the lights with vehicle’s remote control. The scene went from pitch black to illuminated with a click of the remote control. I could also trigger the car alarm for added distraction if I wanted to do so. At one point I had 3 vehicles set up like this pointing in different directions.

The other more esoteric device is night vision goggles. I spare no expense on items that I need but $3,000 for a good gen 2 or 3 is just not something I could justify. I did have on hand a Gen 1 unit, which on occasions came in handy. However, I used because I had it, not because it was needed.

However, my over all strategy for night time was simply. Pull back to my house, batten down and keep a small secure perimeter. You do not need to be running around at night and if you are inside a secure perimeter you do not have to worry about the bumps and noises outside of that perimeter.
Last edited by raptor on Wed Mar 07, 2007 2:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Jamoni - How is the New Madrid fault doing these days?

Post by raptor » Wed Mar 07, 2007 12:10 am

Jamoni I am also interested in the long term effects. Katrina was generational event. Just as the MS gulf coast took 30 years to recover from Camille, it is likely to take just as long for NO & the MS gulf coast to recover from Katrina.

The reasons for the slump in rebuilding are many and varied depending upon individual circumstances. There are programs but the $110 billion number being thrown around includes many dollars that is not directed to aid programs. In terms of rebuilding aid, the programs total about $10 billion. Contrary to the comments from the wags, the people who had the proper insurance are doing the best. The poorest prepared are doing the worst.

Many people are in shock. I am not the most trusting of souls and have been around the block but even I was shocked at the ineptitude, stupidity and carelessness that seems to permeate the government at all levels from the feds down to the municipal governments.

I advise everyone I meet to look at how ill prepared all levels of government was for katrina, a seasonal event forecast and tracked for a week. Then Rita 3 weeks later was also a mess

In your case you have the New Madrid fault to worry about. It will slip at some point in time with little notice. Do you think the local, state or federal government will any better than it did for Katrina or Rita? Prepare as best you can and keep your options open.
Last edited by raptor on Thu Mar 08, 2007 12:00 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by cougar » Wed Mar 07, 2007 6:40 am

WOW!!! :o What a write up. This is absolutly incredible amounts of information. Thanks for taking the time Raptor.
Could you speak a little on your food stores? What you had and liked and had and wont use agian?
Agian great report, we are lucky to have such great first hand accounts of this disaster. Thanks for taking the time to post this.

ETA Opps, nevermind. I just had to reread that section. My bad :oops:
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Post by Duxman » Wed Mar 07, 2007 9:52 am

Raptor -

Thanks for your candor. These are very good answers to real life scenarios that could very well happen again - in any of our immediate areas.
There is currently a case going to trial soon involving seven police officers accused of murder during Katrina. If you google the "danziger 7" you can read all sides of the case.
I have actually read about "danziger" and this is what began to open my eyes about the NO LE situation. What a mess.
At one point the cops and NG were kicking down doors and searching homes and forcibly removing anyone they found. Pets could not come and if you resisted they would arrest you. Any and all weapons were confiscated and resistant was futile! In other parts of the city they would knock on the door, inquire about you and give you water and MREs.
This is what really concerns me. Like most other folks here - I have a BUG IN strategy if and when the PAW or PAW type situation occurs. I do not think LE here in Virginia is corrupt like the police in NO, nor do I think they will force folks to leave and shoot pets. Thats just atrocious in my book. But all the good thoughts in the world is not going to stop a heavily armed force from taking my supplies if that time comes.

I wonder if they continue to check places that look abandoned or just overlook those. Also if you pile a bunch of trash on your front door and or back door - make the place look decrepid, and make it hard to traverse, that might deter them from ever coming to your home.

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Duxman it can happen anywhere

Post by raptor » Wed Mar 07, 2007 10:46 am

I am not going to defend or condemn the NOPD as a whole. I think many were good loyal & public servants and a few bad guys led by idiots, common sense was washed away. Unfortunately idiots seem to abound in the world today. If this garbage can happen in NO it can happen anywhere. That is not paranoia, simply realism.

Attached is a link to a site dealing with he mass destruction of people’s pets in a school in St Bernard Parish which is south of Orleans Parish (N.O.). The group is the one that lead to the prosecution of some of the people involved in this matter.

http://www.pasadosafehaven.org/KATRINA/ ... ISTORY.htm

Finally I would also point out that it was not just the NOPD & LA National Guard breaking into homes and dragging people out. It included Texas, New York, Arkansas, CA, and other state police, wildlife and fisheries agents as well as NG units and regular army! All I encountered proved bribable; greed is hardwired into the basic human brain.

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Post by Duxman » Wed Mar 07, 2007 11:25 am


Just out of curiosity - what was the average bribe? Was it money? Supplies etc? And did they come back for more? Or did they just go away?

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