Thursday, January 11, 2007
More fingers needed to plug 35K leaks
"The gift that keeps on giving." That's what residents here in New Orleans are calling the aftermath of Katrina. Comedy is a great recuperative tool, but it's not much relief for the 1,300 or so people whose heat routinely cuts off in the middle of a chilly winter night, because their natural gas fuel line has a water bubble in it.

Among them: A wonderful little old lady with whom I spent an afternoon. Her name is Thais Noriea. She's 90 years young, tough as overcooked andouille sausage, and willing to deal with what whatever Katrina throws her way. But no heat? That's where she draws the line. During our visit, plumbers arrived to fix the gas line and soon got an earful from Ms. Noriea.

Most of the four million gallons of water that poured into the city's natural gas lines was flushed out after Katrina. But some of it hides in pipes throughout the city, and all it takes is a teaspoon to block fuel from getting into a home. Plumbers tell us all they can do is blow it out, but that it then travels to another neighborhood, another home like Ms. Noriea's.

Another area of the city's infrastructure that remains compromised is the water system. Most of the floodwaters that overran New Orleans dried out in just weeks. But many underground pipes were busted by the roots of toppled trees and homes lifted from their foundations. Also, the salt water that poured into the city is corrosive and continues to ruin still more pipes. And there is a shortage of both workers and equipment to fix them.

Officials estimate there are 35,000 leaks to plug. And consider this: They've already sealed an equal number. About 50 million gallons of water leak out through these pipes everyday, officials say, water that people could use to drink, water for which residents are paying.

Ms. Noriea is not happy about the state of the city's battered infrastructure. But she isn't leaving. You'll meet Ms. Noriea tonight, and if you're like me, you'll come away with a better understanding of what it means to be resilient.
Posted By Rick Sanchez, CNN Correspondent: 2:47 PM ET
She sounds like a dear! Can't wait to "meet" her.
Posted By Anonymous CreoleInDC : 2:59 PM ET
Hi Rick~
When I have visited New Orleans since Katrina, I noticed that low water pressure is a problem in the city. Trying to fill a tub (forget a shower), flush a toilet, wash clothes, etc. was a test in patience last time I was there. I seems that officials have had plenty of time to correct this situation with water and gas, but the problems for New Orleans just seem to go on and on. Thanks so much Rick for bringing this to the public's attention. Keep 'em honest 360!
Posted By Anonymous Betty Ann, Nacogdoches TX : 3:07 PM ET
I live on the outskirts of Baton Rouge in a fast growing suburb called Denham Springs. It's growing so quickly largely due to the fact that so many people are not returning to New Orleans. Two of my neighbors lived in New Orleans pre Katrina. While it's been great for the economy of Baton Rouge and places like Denham Springs, there are so many of these people that want to return to New Orleans and can't because of the condition most of the city remains in today. They can't go back home where they really want to be. How could we have let this happen? You see footage of the French Quarter and it looks normal. But the rest of the country needs to know that the entire city doesn't look like that. Parts are still in ruins. So New Orleans survived Katrina (partially) Can it survive the neglect it continues to endure? This will be remembered in history as a monumental failure. How can we tell future generations that we let so many people down? To not be able to go home because "home" isn't there anymore is something no one should have to go through. And now 20,000 MORE troops and billions of OUR dollars are in Iraq securing someone else's home. What's wrong with this picture???
Posted By Anonymous Debbie Darby, Denham Springs, LA : 3:07 PM ET
Why doesn't ac360 get a reporter to find out how the $110 billion Pres Bush sent was allocated? Is it accurate that $77 billion is specifically for the City of New Orleans? Im sorry for that lady, but wouldn't it make more sense to report on the federal funds than on one person's house not receiving utilities?
Posted By Anonymous xtina -chicago IL : 3:08 PM ET
New Orleans is a black hole of corruption. The United States Governemnt has given NOLA and her citizens millions of dollars.

Mayor Ray Nagin said "NO" to assistance of the National Guard before and during Katrian. Nagin also abandoned the evacuation plan for his citizens.

Why is it that San Francisco and it's citizens survived and re-established themselved 101 years ago after their great earthquake with no assistance from the federal governemnt. How is it that the city of Galveston, Texas, overcame the worst hurricane in history with no federal assistance?

Yet, over 100 years later, the state of Louisana, it governor, mayor and other politicans are helpless or should I say clueless.

The citizens must not be much better, after all, they elected the same governor and mayor!
Posted By Anonymous Melissa, Dallas, Texas : 3:13 PM ET
I'm glad CNN is keeping us informed regarding the progress (or lack thereof) with Katrina victims. Like our troops, those people are the embodiment of Patriotism in the face of a deteriorating administration.
Posted By Anonymous Aruna Rao, Minneapolis, MN : 3:17 PM ET
Such as life. My house burned down due to a neighbors out door turkey fryer. I had full coverage on my house, yet had to pay over $60,000 to repair the foundation and rebuild my house. I'm middle class and make way less that 100K per year.

Where was CNN during my disaster?
Posted By Anonymous JK, St. Paul, MN : 3:20 PM ET
If we had a president who cared about the people and their needs, it would have never happened. If the money that was asked for was given, there would be no problems there. Someone will sell N O to a foreign investor, and what's next...
Posted By Anonymous Spike Taylor Cordes Lakes AZ : 3:28 PM ET
Wow, while this is a deplorable situation, I can't stop wondering why this is such a surprise. The infrastructure of the area hit by Katrina has been overlooked for decades and was in need of repair long before the storm hit. Billion go to Iraq without any concern for our own wellbeing.
Posted By Anonymous Dave, Milwaukee WI : 3:29 PM ET
Ms. Noriea and other people living with the aftermath of Katrina and no substantial government aid are true Heroes. Their stories should be told. Thank you for not having "katrina fatigue."
Posted By Anonymous Shruti Bala, Glendale, AZ : 3:59 PM ET
I'm curious Spike, in your letter you write if we had a president who cared this would not have happened? When did Bush have control over hurricanes? Is he the one I should thank because Siesta Key, Fl has not had a direct hit ever? Next thing you know, they'll be blaming Bush for the warmest year ever, for OHIO STate loosing to UF,for Britney forgeting her underpants...I'm sure it Bush's fault that Trump and Rosie can't get along! The list could go on and on!
Posted By Anonymous Sherry Sarasota Fl : 4:00 PM ET
Dear Rick,

It is a disgrace that after almost two years Mayor Nagin and other New Orleans officials have still not returned basic services to their citizens. Although I have heard little criticism of Mayor Nagin, it is clear that he lacks the leadership to really bring this city back to life. This, in additon to the escalating crime rate, suggests that he has lost control of the city.

Although I haven't seen your report, my heart goes out to Ms. Noriea and others like her who have been forced to live without basic necessities for so long. You would think that the government would have at least taken care of its most vulnerable citizens by now.

Last night, while listening to Bush's speech, I thought to myself, isn't it amazing that the same group of individuals that was unable to handle the tragedy of Katrina is asking for a "second chance" in Iraq?

Thanks for continuing to update us on the victims of Katrina.

Jo Ann
Posted By Anonymous Jo Ann Matese, North Royalton, Ohio : 4:05 PM ET
I get angry when I read comments like "there is a shortage of both workers and equipment"

How can there be a shortage of workers in a city where nobody is working?

I realize alot of the people left and relocated to other cities. But I think this is much like the line we keep hearing from the president and big businesses about how there is such a shortage of skilled workers that they have to bring them in from other countries, and "the jobs Americans won't do." When you're unemployed, you do any job that is available.

I've read several stories that say quite a number of illegal aliens are being hired to work on rebuilding New Orleans, and that is absolutely a crime. The people from that city should have been hired and given the opportunity to rebuild it. This is yet another sell out of American workers by our government, in bed with big business.
Posted By Anonymous Bill W, Coatesville PA : 4:06 PM ET
I live two blocks from the French Quarter and haven't had a hot shower in my home since August. New Orleans' infrastructure problems are an incredible sleeping giant. Government basically said "no way" to bailing out private utilities companies which should in theory either buy the proper insurance or let the shareholders pay for the repairs.

When consumers call Entergy they are basically told to have the gas lines in their house blown out at a cost of several hundred dollars a pop. The trouble is, all that accomplishes is to send the slug of water back into the lines under the street (for example, my problems showed up in August right after my next door neighbors did this.)

So I guess I'm next in line, then comes the old lady next to me who lives on a fixed income pension and is in poor health (so if I do the gas line blow-out it will likely affect her service.)

Conclusion: I'm going to order an electric water heater soon (it's only about $600 bucks for a decent unit). Kind of illogical, though, when you consider how much of the US supply of natural gas comes through Louisisana-- either out of the Gulf of Mexico reserves or via one of the many Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) recieiving and re-gasification terminals are being built down here-- yet we can't even use it down here.
Posted By Anonymous David Rosenberg, NO LA : 4:37 PM ET
While I visited New Orleans last week I saw dozens upon dozens of tanker trucks lined up at different pumping stations throughout the city syphoning out water and then allowing the next tanker to fill up. This was going on all day and night.

So, are the city's pumping stations working properly? If not, what else is not working properly...the levee system?
Posted By Anonymous Sharon D., Indianapolis, IN : 7:25 PM ET
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