Thursday, September 15, 2005

Satellite flood pictures

Thanks to the good folks at MSNBC, there are finally some online flyover images we can zoom in on and get an idea of what is waiting for us. Here is Chateau Danneel, our rental property:



It's looks like it's denuded of trees, but otherwise in pretty good shape. We know from the NOAA flooding data that this block did not flood at all.

On the other hand, here is TOH:



These were taking on 9/11, over a week after the storm, so the flooding is actually lower than it started out. There's a lot of water and some pretty significant roof damage. NOAA tells us the flood depth there was over six feet. If you look at the picture of the front of the house in my profile, you'll see Mr. Nola standing out front - he's about 5'8. So the water was very likely in the main floor of the house.

Standing water on the main floor of the house for over a week means everything - the floors, walls, electrical, HVAC - is shot. I'm not clear on whether or not the wood pier and beam foundation is done for as well. We just have to wait and see if HUD gives us a red tag - condemned - or a yellow tag - damaged but salvageable. Neither is all that appealing. It was really a beautiful house.

Our neighborhood is actually open to residents next week, but we don't plan to return for a while. Stella has medical issues that put her more at risk from mold and pollutants than most people. Although the apartment in River Ridge is okay, it has less to offer than Houston does at the moment.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Clearly, I have a problem

Hi, my name is Nola, and I am a renovation addict.

We've been encamped in Houston for one week now, and can't stop
ourselves from fixing another kitchen. Our host does not cook much,
but he does entertain. Seriously, there was nothing in his freezer
but martini glasses when we got here. His 80's modern kitchen is
perfect, except the aging euro-style hinges
have come undone and in a few places worn or broken through the front
of the cabinet doors. It's merely cosmetic, but well, Mr. Nola and I
have nothing to do but look at each other, so we're planning to
replace the hinges and where necessary, the doors. Wheee! A project!

Hopefully this will help repay the debt we owe to David for taking us
in. Another, not entirely selfless upgrade we're doing
is buying a small wine chiller from the Home Despot to hold the wine
we brought with us, which we'll leave with David. (How New Orleans
are we? We left our clothes behind but brought the booze.) For
someone who entertains, a wine chiller really is a necessity, after all.

Also good news - Mr. Nola was able to get to the apartment in River
Ridge and salvage our family photos and other items we wished we had
with us. In fact, the apartment complex actually had power and water
on! I'm not going back until I know there won't be a cholera
epidemic, but it's good to know there is someplace for us to stay if
and when he has to return to working on campus. The house, we don't
know exactly, but we're pretty sure TOH has a moderate amount of
water in it. Maybe enough to fill the basement and get into the main
floor. It will probably be a long time, if ever, before we're able
to move into it.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Houses and Home

We went into Wal-mart last night looking for diapers, and found their entire supply had been sent to "communities affected by Hurricane Katrina." The nerve! I had a strange feeling of vertigo in Wal-mart. It reminded me of the stories they used to tell about Soviet defectors seeing an American supermarket for the first time. All this stuff! Acres of it, and it seemed like it was all stuff I had a month ago and don't anymore. All this cheap, crappy stuff, that I don'’t even care enough about to miss it.

There are a few things, of course, that I care about which I couldn't replace at Wal-mart. Mostly though, I feel like I've spent the past ten years since I graduated from college working to accumulate nothing. It seemed like a lot, but now it's nothing. So what did I accomplish? I felt really good about investing in property. We bought and renovated one home, then rented it out and started working on renovating another. The rental income paid our mortgages and I believed that real estate would be something nobody could take away from me. The market might fluctuate, but over the long run it's stable, and I'd always have someplace to live.

Well, here I am. Living with friends, mortgaged to my eyeballs for two houses in uncertain condition in the middle of the biggest environmetntal disaster in our nation's history. I have one change of clothes and a car I have made exactly ONE payment on since I bought it. But I still feel pretty good. I have someplace safe to stay, and many offers of other places to go if we wear out our welcome here. John and I both have work, at least for now. We have enough money in the bank that we can buy gas for our cars. I'd like to get the family photos back, and my jewelry, but the furniture, etc. really doesn'’t matter.

I do however feel sad about the home we've lost. The reason I've stayed in New Orleans as long as I have is that I have such a strong community of friends, neighbors, and church family. Then in the last year or so we've built a network of medical professionals who saved our daughter's life and surely my sanity any number of times. We might go back and find our houses are more or less intact, but having our community scattered to the four winds is what really makes me feel homeless. It's only a matter of time before I learn of someone I know who didn't make it out of the city. Many of those who did aren't planning to go back. We will miss them.

The city of Houston is full of remarkable people, and I've already found some freelance work, a church, and resources to get Stella back into a therapy schedule. The tough decision now is when to go back. Our apartment in Jefferson Parish is probably intact and we could move in once power and water are back on within a few weeks. John will need to spend time on campus salvaging computers from his department. However, I feel very reluctant to go back to a suburb of nowhere, where we may not have access to any resources or businesses for a long time.

I've tabled plans to go see our parents in California or Buffalo because I want our family to stay together as much as possible. I don't want to send John back to the apartment alone, but I don't see taking the baby there soon either. It's a dilemma. Houston is at least within a day's drive.

What is it with us and water this week?

My mom says I have a black cloud following me around bringing bad luck. Maybe she's right. Tonight John was getting ready to go back to Jefferson Parish to see what he could salvage from our apartment, when he went into the kitchen to get some water. Whoa did he get water! Somehow the fates chose this particular night, while our host is out of town, for the supply line to the refrigerator to bust, and water to flood the kitchen floor. Said water also crept under the door into the carpeted hallway outside.

This is just the kind of crap that happens when we're around. The key difference this time is that there's a nice man at the front desk we can call to come fix it. Make a note: high-rise apartment. No worries. It rocks.

No news on the status of the houses in N.O. We're just settling in here in Houston until further notice. John keeps text messaging Boudreaux the contractor with no-so-subtle reminders that we'll need his help big time when he's able to go back to work. If anyone knows any contractors of any type looking for work, send them to New Orleans. There will be an ungodly demand for them.