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Gulf Coast Blog: Twenty million pounds of stink

Editor's note: The Gulf Coast Blog tracks the post-Katrina recovery effort through the people who are rebuilding their lives. Tell us what you think. Send e-mail to the Gulf Coast Blog.

Engineer Jimmy Bienvenu tours Katrina damage at the warehouse.


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Posted: 6:21 p.m. ET
From Andreas Preuss, CNN Gulf Coast Bureau

My assignment: check reports of millions of pounds of rotting chicken at New Orleans Cold Storage. Photojournalist Dominic Swann, "fixer" Captain Richard and I knew we were in for stinky time. And lots of noses would share in our pain.

The facility lost power during Hurricane Katrina, and was flooded by 3 to 4 feet of water. It's along the Mississippi River and we drove on top of a levee to get there. We met Cold Storage engineer Jimmy Bienvenu. He's a local guy, born in the 9th Ward, raised in suburban Metairie and has been with the company for 30 years. He says he's "never had a warehouse go under like this."

Bienvenu agreed to show us the damage and cleanup. As a precaution, we put vapor rub under our noses, and wiggled on face masks. But we should have donned complete body suits. More on that later.

We walked the length of the dock and saw earthmovers loading massive piles of pre-packaged chicken parts into lined dump trucks. They were then taken to a decontamination zone and moved to landfills.

What's that smell?

I don't want to make you sick, so I won't get too descriptive. But as Dominic told me afterwards "everybody has taken a whiff of bad chicken in the fridge -- imagine that for half an hour". Also, the fridge has been without power for more than a month. As for the flies, I stopped counting at a zillion.

Bienvenu took it all in stride. He has other problems. His home in nearby Venetian Isles was "a total loss." When asked if he would rebuild he said "probably so, but build up higher." He even jokingly said the spoiled chicken "would make good crab bait."

After leaving the storage facility, we vaguely noticed the lingering smell. Little did we know that it was traveling with us. The first victims: employees at the local newspaper Times Picayune. We wanted to shoot some tape of staff returning to their New Orleans building. While waiting in the lobby, I heard several people say "What's that smell?" I knew it was us, and politely said we would return at a later time.

The next victims: colleagues at CNN's Gulf Coast Bureau. Call it retribution, but it was kind of sweet parading the stench around the building. But we were forced back to the hotel for a shower and change of clothes.

Police union responds to taped beating

Posted: 9:26 a.m. ET
From Andreas Preuss, CNN Gulf Coast Bureau

Lt. David Benelli is president of the Police Association of New Orleans. I spoke to him about the police beating caught on tape. He said, "If the police are under stress, so is the citizenry."

He said that investigators will "look at video perspective" from many angles and that the officers involved "deserve due process." The lawyer for the victim, Robert Davis, says his client did not provoke police.

He also tried to debunk the idea that the policeman on the horse tried to purposely block the camera. Benelli said the horses' movement was a control tactic "to isolate the struggle from the crowd."

On a personal note, Benelli said his Algiers home became a post-Katrina police station. Benelli told me that after his shift at the Superdome, he called his wife, who works for the NOPD crime lab, "and she tells me 24 guys are staying at our home."

What do you think about the New Orleans police beating? E-mail the Gulf Coast Blog

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