Tuesday, February 20, 2007
New NOLA home has escape hatch in roof
More on CNN TV: Find out how the U.S. may be living on "The Edge of Disaster." A special report on "Anderson Cooper 360," 10 p.m. Tuesday ET.

The sound of hammers and the smell of freshly cut lumber filled the air as Josephine Butler proudly took me on a room-by-room tour of her new house.

She has lived in the lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans since 1949 and has twice been flooded out by failed levees and hurricanes. After Katrina, her old house floated off with all her belongings and came to rest in her neighbor's yard.

So as I looked at the new spacious kitchen, the high, lofty ceilings and the clean shiny bathrooms, I had to ask the obvious questions.

Why is she back? Why is she rebuilding in the same old spot below sea level? And why is she willing to take the same old risk of being hit by a new flood all over again?

Her answer was simple: This is her home and the risk of natural disaster is everywhere.

You can't really blame Ms. Butler and thousands of others like her. The pull of home on the heart is strong and you have to admire the courage it takes to want to come back and make a go of it.

Her new house is more resilient. The roof and the pilings underneath are reinforced to resist high winds. The new house is also five feet higher off ground than the old one which puts her all of 3.5 feet above sea level.

Everyone here seems to understand the situation; more storms will come and so will floods. And being five feet off the ground isn't much help when you consider Katrina covered the neighborhood with more than 10 feet of water. Maybe that's why the contractor built an escape hatch into Ms. Butler's new roof; if flood waters rise again she won't be trapped and risk drowning in her attic.

Josephine Butler chooses to live in a high risk area, and she is just one of millions of people who are doing the same thing across the country. In some places, the threat is from natural disaster, but in others it is terrorism.

The threats we'll examine in an hour-long special tonight have two big things in common: 1) they can kill a lot of people and 2) they are somewhat preventable. What you may not be happy to hear is how little is being done to prevent them.
Posted By David Mattingly, CNN Correspondent: 9:47 AM ET
  34 Comments
David: Yeah...finally a happy story coming out of NOLA! Josephine has been flooded out twice? Sounds like she is more resilient than her homes have been. I think it's great that they have designed homes specifically to better withstand natural disasters. I'll keep my fingers crossed that Josephine won't ever have to use the escape route via the roof!
Posted By Anonymous Jolene, St. Joseph, MI : 10:33 AM ET
Wow, how quickly we adapt. Escape hatches on the roof, our new found alertedness in crowded situations, emergency supplies we never had before...we're not living in Mayberry anymore. Interesting story David!
Posted By Anonymous Jess, Paris, KY : 10:48 AM ET
While I "may not be happy about how little is being done to prevent them", I'm even more unhappy that these people are being allowed to rebuild in a known flood area. It's not their money that insures them. Flood insurance is a federal fund and that's our taxes. This gets more insane by the day. The toilet should be flushed again and again until that city is gone. I hope another storm will finish what Katrina started.
Posted By Anonymous William Jennings, Dallas, TX : 10:59 AM ET
Hi David,
Threats from Mother Nature have been around forever and have destroyed countless homes. It doesn't seem to matter where you live, people are all the same. They either rebuild or move on to a hopefully greener pasture. It's just human nature to never want Mother Nature to defeat them.

I can't say it's the most wise decision we all make to rebuild, but in the end it's a choice, and I think that belongs to each individual who's forced to face that prospect.
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 11:09 AM ET
There's two sides to the issue of the government "protecting" people from natural disasters and installing preventive sheilds to keep us safe from weather.

New Orleans is a unique city- historical, magical and beautiful. But when it was founded there was less scientific knowledge about weather; in 2007 we prob. wouldn't build a city on marshy land below sea level. It's just not practical.

If I build my house on a hill in Tornado Alley I increase my chances ten fold that I'll get hit. Is the federal or local gov't obligated to install something that will "protect" me from tornados?

It's sentimental to want to save New Orleans from floods and hurricane winds, but are there levees strong enough to preserve it forever ?
Posted By Anonymous xtina - chicago IL : 11:49 AM ET
Blah, blah, blah. Is there ever anything positive in the news? This is exactly why I don't watch anymore. If it's not terrorism, it's global warming, it's bird flu, it's hurricanes or earthquakes, etc.,etc. Everything is going to kill us. And if it's not this topic, it's the latest degenerate Hollywood type that's entered rehab, shaved their head, got divorced or offered their opinion on something they know little about.

Again I say; blah, blah, blah!
Posted By Anonymous Mark, Omaha NE : 12:00 PM ET
Home is where the heart is...so they say and with that in mind who can blame Josephine for following her heart. Natural disaster can strike anywhere and at anytime. Tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, wild fires, blizzards and the potential for a tsunami all exist in America. We live day to day not thinking much about these possibilities until they hit home. Again we say "home is where the heart is" and when disaster strikes the heart it hurts. We are never truly prepared for disasters of the heart. Our heart is the very center of our existence. So if it is true that home is where the heart is then let the people of New Orleans rebuild and may they discover a heart full of happiness in their new homes. The list goes on and on--disasters strike everyday--we are all only one heartbeat away from life being over--let New Orleans rise again out of the midst of devestation.
Posted By Anonymous Zann Martin, Tennessee : 12:26 PM ET
What's irritating is the fact that there are people who are aware of the dangers from natural disasters. New Orleans is a perfect example. Authorities knew for years what could happen in the right kind of storm and it did. It's the same thing in Los Angeles, New York and other cities across America. Whether it be a natural disaster or terrorism; how safe are we if we depend solely on our local, state and federal leaders. Greed, incompetence, apathy can all play a crucial role in the general population's safety. We have to act, too and be as prepared as we can be to take care of ourselves for longer than 3 days. More like 3 weeks minimum. We have to stop letting our leaders get away with, "Who knew something like this would happen. It was a natural disaster no one could have predicted." They do know. We should also know. Knowing the worst case senerio isn't being paranoid, it's being prepared to survive a bad or life threatening situation on our own.
Posted By Anonymous Lee Fairfield Iowa : 12:44 PM ET
It's pretty plain from these comments that people are getting sick of hearing about New Orleans. Personally, I am too. If you spent half the time on the Mississippi Gulf Coast that you did in NO, people would have a better picture of what rebuilding is. The deadbeats in NO are just waiting for more handouts. Flush that toilet.
Posted By Anonymous Mike Henn, Jackson, MS : 12:48 PM ET
I find it hard to believe that one of our own would offer up comments like "I hope another storm will finish what Katrina started."

Our tax dollars are spent in many ways, some of which I agree with and some of which I do not agree with. But, I would never wish harm to another individual, city, or state.

Family and home are strong ties to many. I for one would have left until such time as the levees were adequately built, but to each his own. They paid their tax dollars and insurance dollars just like you or me, and they are entitled to it.

I hope to God that you or I will never have to go through what the US citizens of the Gulf Coast had to go through.
Posted By Anonymous Vernon Decossas, Tampa, FL : 1:36 PM ET
An escape hatch? Come on. I know education in the state is lax, but this is just plain stupidity. I guess they really didn't learn to listen to officials when they tell them to get out of a city that will be hit by a major storm. I guess CNN can house some flat bottomed boats and hip waders down in New Orleans for the next boat trip up Poydras to pluck people off of rooftops. Considering that law enforcement will be too busy doing search and rescue for people too ignorant to leave and won't be able to secure anything, you might want to invest in flak jackets as well.

I am all for rebuilding New Orleans. I can't imagine my life without that city being a permanent part of it. But rebuilding in some areas is just foolish sentimentality.

I hear people complain about national media coverage of New Orleans and the state, that it is too negative, that the journalists panic over nothing. I'm personally glad someone still sees our reality. We all should be in some sort of healthy fear abut what's happening to this state. Please keep creating it for us. Some people have become desensitized apparently. Living in Louisiana has always been a gamble of sorts with nature and politics. We choose this way of life. When our choice affects the rest of the nation, then we lose that choice. And in New Orleans and other areas of the state continually destroyed by storms both natural and political it seems something should change. And it's not allowing someone to put an escape hatch on the roof of a house that will flood again. It is finding solutions so that when the next disaster hits, CNN won't have to be beating this horse to death a year and a half later because our own officials are too incompetant to handle their own matters.
Posted By Anonymous TA Cheramie, Berwick, LA : 1:42 PM ET
On the one hand it is good that people are finally able to move home again. On the other, I question our national policy encouraging the rebuilding of New Orleans. With global warming a certainty and the sea level rising, how smart is this? Shouldn't we be encouraging displaced residents to go somewhere that is more likely to exist in 30 years?
Posted By Anonymous Elise, Dallas, TX : 1:47 PM ET
I am tired of my insurance going up to pay for damages to homes in areas prone to disasters. I can understand someone building along the coast or in New orleans, but tax payers should not be penalized for their stupidity. Its my tax dollars that keep rebuilding their homes. If people rebuild below sea level then it should be at their own risk. The federal government keeps paying out our tax dollars year after year to assist these people rebuild. How about we use those millions to fund something good, like more schools, better pay for the soldiers, or medical research.

Lets stop helping those that won't help themselves. Make them rebuild some place else or incure the cost next time.
Posted By Anonymous R.L. Fayetteville, NC : 1:52 PM ET
Katrina was the perfect opportunity to move everyone out of these flood prone areas. Now people are moving back and putting their property and lives at risk. When another hurricane floods the area resources will have to be spent rescuing these residents once again only to watch them want to continue the cycle. All this baloney about the human spirit triumphing over Mother Nature is pushing up insurance rates for the rest of us and putting the lives of rescue forces at risk.
Posted By Anonymous Mike Youngstown, OH : 2:02 PM ET
The entire city needs and Escape Hatch.

Or a drain plug.
Posted By Anonymous Perry, Dallas, Texas : 2:14 PM ET
For those of you living in idyllic areas of the country, where bad weather never happens and the tax base is high, that are criticizing people who have stayed or moved back to New Orleans: SHAME ON YOU! Some of those peoples families have lived there for more than two hundred years. Who are you to say they should move elswhere? That is their HOME, that is MY home. I have family, including my parents, and friends living in and around New Orleans, some of whom lost everything to Katrina. I would never suggest they leave their home and those that have left are moving home ASAP.

The government should do what is necassary to prevent flooding, this is AMERICA after all. Maybe if the offshore oil companies hadn't dredged straight lines from the rigs to the shore the surge wouldn't have had such an easy time of it! Maybe if the Corps had gotten the money they requested like David said the levee would have been fortified. What about building an offshore damn system with doors? IT CAN BE DONE AND HAS BEEN in 3 other areas of the world.

Hurricanes decimate Florida and we rebuild. Fires ravage and landslides bury the west and we rebuild. Floods consume the midwest and we rebuild. What, I ask you is so very different about New Orleans?
Posted By Anonymous Danyelle, North Palm Beach, FLorida : 2:30 PM ET
This type of situation is going to repeat itself over and over again, until the end of time.

There might be a lot of land on this planet, but virtually none of it is immune to natural disaster. As humanity continues to overpopulate the planet, this sort of disaster, and the many others in recent news, are going to become commonplace.

Considering the geographical
and sociological state of New Orleans, we should be cheering, and not moaning about, the relatively small body count. Sadly, I get the feeling that the citizens of N.O. are going to experience this again, and thier reaction will be the same, which
is to sit around and wait for somebody else to save them, which, once again, will not happen.
Posted By Anonymous John Robert San Francisco, Ca : 2:50 PM ET
@ R.L. in Fayetteville, NC

Did you miss something? Did you totally tune out Anderson Cooper and CNN since the storm came through NOLA and MS? Maybe you were watching another channel or just sitting nd formulating your own fractional, limited opinions.

NOLA is home for these folks. They had a levy system and it failed. They were flooded by a failed government system without fault to them. Your opinions show your limited knowledge of the facts of the situation.

Once you have all the facts, then post a more intelligent post in apology to all the folks that call NOLA their home! As a matter of fact, why don't you post a comment to all Americans that call their homes along the East, West and Southern Coasts of America because you have insulted all of us!
Posted By Anonymous Louise, Tampa, FL : 2:56 PM ET
David/AC360:
I spoke to one Katrina survivor a few months ago. She said, yes, she is fearful of predicted new hurricanes, but reminds us after earthquakes, tornadoes and flooding in the US, most people just come "home" and rebuild. Home contains memories, family histories, familiar landmarks and sense of community. It is not just about convenience toward Mother Nature or some terrorist group. It is deep seeded in our culture and souls.

The threat of a disaster in my neighborhood is not going to paralyze me into submission. Yes, we can become more prepared both personally and within our cities. Like Stephen Flynn wrote in his book, "...resiliency...we must anticipate likely man-made or natural disasters; Must be willing to take prudent actions in advance....to lower our exposure...to consequences; Be able to mobilize a speedy response and recovery after disasters occur.

It seems like common sense. But since when does this country act on common sense.
Posted By Anonymous Sharon D., Indianapolis, IN : 3:14 PM ET
To all of you who are sick of hearing about New Orleans and who thinks everyone should just leave, I pray for all of you. Apparently you are more concerned about money than family and culture. Most who complain are basing their objections on their own insurance premiums and the cost of government. Government wastes money on so much trivial trash it doesn't even add up to what Katrina cost.

How would you like it if someone told you and all of your family and friends that they could no longer live in a place where generations had lived for 300 years? What if you had to leave behind all of your culture (if you even have any)? That is what this is about. I had to relocate after Katrina and I had to follow a job. I live 10 drive hours from the nearest relative. You think that's a better life? I can't even see more than a few family members on holidays because we are all scattered. Those still in New Orleans are working hard to make the city home again and I commend them. The breakdown of local, state and federal governments has shattered families. The elderly in my family are wasting away. They have lost their independence. They can't afford rent in other cities and we are all suffering. Before you criticize, get the facts. Why don't you actually talk to a current or former New Orleans resident. Get some humanity.

I am sick of hearing complaints from people who have not suffered through this. Be grateful that you don't live somewhere that doesn't experience natural or man-made disasters, if such a place exists.
Posted By Anonymous Paige B., Arlington, VA : 3:30 PM ET
It's really heartbreaking to read some of the rude comments of those who are posting to this blog.
Yes, I lost my home to Katrina, I was LOOTED by OUT OF TOWNERS trying to make quick money from our destruction and I was ROBBED just last week. DO I DESERVE THIS? I pay my taxes, I pay for flood insurance and I pay HEAFTY property taxes to live in New Orleans. BUT IT'S MY HOME AND MY CHOICE!
What I didn't pay for (or vote for) is this ignorant Goverment that allows it's own people to drown while trying to save people in other countries!

How rude are you to tell me where to live and how to rebuild. I guess you put "W" in office didn't you?
I don't complain nor do I ask you for a damned thing! I hope to GOD nothing happens to any of you that you need help from your fellow countrymen because you certainly won't get any sympathy from me.

Oh, and don't come down here for Mardi Gras, the French Quarter, NBA All Star Game, Saints... want me to keep listing all the things that you want to "flush away"?

Happy Mardi Gras for those of you that care about us - we appreciate your support!
Posted By Anonymous GS, NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA : 3:43 PM ET
Whike I agree there should be an escape, one through the roof isn't the right answer. Residents shouldn't be allowed to remain in their homes when a hurricane is headed their way. With increased technology and the ability to track storms, those in harms way have a least 24 hours notice to get out.

We need to pressure our State, and Local Governments to provide the means of transportation to those who cannot get out of harms way themselves. This should have happened in New Orleans for Katrina victims but didn't. We need to learn from our mistakes. We need to heed the warnings and have these evacuations in place in all cities around the country and help our own citizens get our of harms way!
Posted By Anonymous Gretchen, New Orleans, Louisiana : 3:58 PM ET
It's a free country, so people can build a home on any piece of land they own or lease. However, you can't legislate who pays for it if they get swept away.

There's a reason insurance companies do not issue policies for flood plains. It's too risky, and the gov't can't force them to insure a likely disaster. In our free country, hikers can risk Mt Hood. in a snowstorm. But the federal government shouldn't have to pay for people who live in flood plains and pay for rescue missions for people who climb mountains in winter.
Posted By Anonymous xtina - chicago IL : 4:44 PM ET
To GS in LA.:
I dont think anyone is saying people in New Orleans deserve this, but I think people are questioning the judgment of those who have their homes on such fragile land. You're right - it IS your choice and you're FREE to live there, but do you expect a complete re-do every time you get swept away? What if scientists can NEVER design levees that are infallible? What if levees that are indestructible just don't exist? Like previous posters said, when do we realize that "below sea level" is less safe than any other portion of our country and it's prob. better to move a bit upland?
Posted By Anonymous D.H. Barrington IL : 4:57 PM ET
It is interesting tht some people have said they do not want to pay taxes for New Orleanians to rebuild. The people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast also have paid, and do pay taxes. They pay federal and state taxes with the expectation of adequate services and relief when needed, just like everybody else in this country. When your area is hit by the unexpected, part of the relief you get came out of the pockets of New Orleanians, Floridians, residents along the Mississippi River and residents near fault zones.

I've moved around a bit and can tell you, disaster goes everywhere. I've seen floods in places the "don't flood." I've seen tornado damage in rural areas and in the middle of cities, inland and coastal. If you are tired of paying taxes to help rebuild areas that have been struck by disaster, OK - Gulf Coast residents, New Orleanians, Floridians, residents all along the Mississippi, and earthquake and wildfire troubled Westerners will move to your much safer area. Should hurricanes start to hit up and down the easter coast, Easterners can come join us.

Why rebuild New Orleans? Besides the less tangible benefits of culture and history, New Orleans hosts a major port. The same reason New Orleans was built where it was is the same reason it must be rebuilt. Because if you don't rebuild the city, the oil platforms in the gulf and the shipping infrastructure, what you don't pay in taxes you will pay in stores and at the gas pump.
Posted By Anonymous Tiffany, Providence RI : 5:02 PM ET
Wow... I have noticed that not one of the NOLA respondents took any personal responsibility for there elected officials. I am from the extreme NorthWest and I knew 10 years ago that NOLA's levee system was not adequate "discovery channel" So I know this was not the big shock and unknowable suprise that it has been made out to be. Our government is based on regular citizens electing officials that will carry out the wishes of the people whom elected said official. Now I know it isn't a perfect system, but lets be honest with ourselves here.... If you elect officials that are more worried about All Star Games and Mardi Gras than protecting residents of the the city..... Whos fault is that? In NOLA's defense.... the entire country of Holland is below sea level and sinking and has been for several hundred years.... So if the Dutch figured it out over a century ago, it shouldn't be that hard for the most powerful country in the world to save one of the most historic communities in nation..........Right?
Posted By Anonymous jeremy phoenix, az : 5:30 PM ET
I agree with William from Dallas. Why are people being allowed to build in an area they should never have built on in the first place. This is not admirable what this woman is doing, it is foolish and irresponsible. Exactly how many floods have to happen before people like this wake up and move on? It is all our business to tell people like this NO because it is our tax dollars that will pay when the next flood inevitably happens. I propose this, if you want to rebuild then you sign an agreement acknowledging you are aware of the risk you are taking of living in a known flood area (not to mention below sea level) and when a flood occurs you will receive no assistance from the Federal Government. Maybe then these people will realize they can no longer live there.
Posted By Anonymous Katherine, Woodland Hills, CA : 6:49 PM ET
I do not think that escape hatches on a roof are a good idea at all. It only encourages residents to stay when the next disaster comes, because they will know they can get on the roof and wait it out if they need to. There is no reason not to evacuate when a storm is coming. I lived in Pensacola when Ivan hit, and I left. It is not an easy thing to do, but it should be an easy decision to make. "leave my house, or chance losing my life" Houses can be rebulit, lives can not be replaced. By the way, did it ever occur to any of these people putting hatches in a roof that that is one more point of entry for a theif or murder?? Nix the roof hatches and get out next time there is a storm! By the way I do not buy that We could not afford to leave crap...there were shelters open, and Walkin is free if you do not have a ride! If you are unable to ride, public transportation is usually provided.
Posted By Anonymous Kim, Fort Hood Tx : 8:29 PM ET
It's like clockwork, post a story about New Orleans and everyone says we should move. They say we elected these officials who have put us in harm's way. We elected a governor, who despite some wavering manage to evacuate 1.3 million citizens of LA. As for Nagin, the man is smooth. That is not an apology, but reality. But we did not elect the members of Congress who put the needs of our state below other, more important budgetary items. For years we have asked for adequate levee protection and restoration of our wetland;we have been rebuffed by Democratic and Republican presidents and Congresses. We have asked for help with our wetlands and we have asked for our fair share of the oil and gas revenue produced in our offshore waters. Do you know for how long? Truman was president.
Finally in 2006 our state will being to receive revenue from the offshore waters. So do not talk to the people of Louisiana about your tax dollars, as far as we are concerned we have been paying more than our fair share for quite some time.
Posted By Anonymous Ruth B., Metairie, LA : 9:12 PM ET
To Kim, Ft. Hood:

If you believe the last two lines in your comment, you must have been living under a rock for the past year and a half!! Get your facts straight.
Posted By Anonymous Paige B., Arlington, Va : 9:35 PM ET
For all those bashing the escape hatch and why rebuild, why not? It's our home, its where we live, its where our milestones have happened. We've had a lifetime where something this bad has not happened, and I hope we have more than a lifetime before it happens again. Its hard to go back to a slab to dig thru bricks praying to find something -- but to know you can bring it back and start all over again is priceless. Sometimes strength is not in how well you build a structure it can be in how well you can rebuild your community.
Posted By Anonymous Kristen M., Pass Christian, MS : 11:04 PM ET
I can't believe that 18 months after Katrina people are still saying that we shouldn't move back home. Since Katrina I have lived in two different states and taught in two different school systems. This January I chose to move home despite the possibility of loosing everything again. My city needed me and I needed it that out weighed any possible danger I put myself in. So I'll sit here in a motel room and enjoy teaching again with a better evacuation plan and thankful to be back home.
Posted By Anonymous Rebecca Sebring, Arabi LA : 11:43 PM ET
Here's a thought. Blow all the levees. Blow 'em up. Let the waters take over and build where they ain't. As long as you build below sea level, the federal government, not any government should pay for your redo. Build above sea level and I'll support your efforts 100%. But for me, I'm outta' here.
Posted By Anonymous B. C., NOLA : 8:10 AM ET
people can certainly live wherever they want. but my insurance premiums and my tax dollars should not have to pay for the inevitable loss.
Posted By Anonymous carol, lancaster, pa : 8:55 AM ET
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