Monday, October 17, 2011

New Orleans

One of our concerns with taking this Gulf Coast route in hurricane season was, well to be honest, hurricanes. Coming from the Northwoods this was a whole different thing for us and we decided that without a brick and mortar house we would be in the first wave of people fleeing inland if it came down to a storm of any sizeable strength. So wouldn't you know it that the first week we are in Lousiana so was Tropical Storm Lee. Lee changed from a tropical depression to a tropical storm in a flash. We were in Baton Rouge at the time and scheduled to head farther south to Houma which is located on some very low lying land. While debating what to do about taking the RV down there with the storm coming on, Home Depot Corporate took the decision out of our hands and called off the teams that were in the areas where Lee was supposed to make landfall. So we spent the weekend at a campground right near to the LSU stadium. All the natives were very unconcerned about the storm stating that we were going to just "get a little rain" and I guess we should have listened to them. Although it rained the entire weekend, flooding in the Baton Rouge area was minimal and we sailed through our first tropical storm with flying colors.

We then headed down to the New Orleans area as there were about 8 stores in the greater NOLA area that were getting done. We decided to stay at an RV Park on the northeast side off of I-10 for the entire week instead of moving from store to store. We had the opportunity to drive around New Orleans doing some work and it is very sad at the amount of buildings still not repaired or taken down or the people who are just getting to rebuilding their homes. Now, by law, homes in New Orleans must be raised at least 3 feet above street level. There is a $1.2 billion grant program to help homeowners pay for this but there are not enough businesses who do the building raising so many are still waiting, living in FEMA trailers or not near their homes at all. And it has been 6 years since Hurricane Katrina!

One day we were working on the west/south side of the Mississippi and the GPS took us to the Chalmette-Lower Algiers ferry instead of routing us on the Crescent City bridge. It costs $1 cash per vehicle when you are heading into Chalmette but is free when heading back to Lower Algiers. Pedestrians travel both ways free.

 In Chalmette there is a huge Exxon Mobil oil refinery which you will see in the video. The smell of petroleum was so strong that I almost could not breathe and developed a bad headache. I cannot imagine working with that smell, much less living nearby. In fact, there is a web page dedicated to lawsuits from former workers of the plant who have developed cancers. The plant used the carcinogen Benzene which "can cause leukemia, a potentially fatal cancer of the blood-forming organs. In particular, acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) may be caused by benzene." This page just mentions former workers but I cannot believe that by just living nearby and having the chemical in the air and water and being exposed to it for years is not harmful to humans also. Just one more thing that the City of New Orleans and the people living there have to deal with on a daily basis.

Also on the video you will see the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Bridge which, at 23.8 miles, is the longest continuous bridge in the world. It connects the New Orleans suburb of Metairie with Mandeville on the lake's north shore. Like the Chalmette-Lower Algiers ferry it only charges a toll going one way. When you head north the bridge is free, when heading south into New Orleans you pay $3.

And last but not least on the video are the famous New Orleans streetcars which are the oldest continually operating streetcars in the world. One of the nicest rides to just enjoy the experience is taking the St Charles line from Canal Street to the end and watching one side of the street and then taking the ride back to see the other side of the street. You will see Tulane and Loyala Universities as well as the Audubon Zoo and many old Garden District mansions. If you look closely in the video you will see beads that are thrown in the trees during Mardi Gras parades. The best side to see the beads is on the south side of the street heading back towards Canal Street.

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