Hurricane Katrina Category

Helping Susan Cowsill

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This is going to be a departure from BatesLine's usual content, the sort of thing that Mister Snitch calls a long-tail post. Google seems to treat this blog pretty favorably, so I'm hopeful that this entry will be found by Cowsills fans as they search the net.

In the linkblog a few days ago, I made mention of the woes that have recently befallen The Cowsills, a the late '60s pop band that also happened to be a family. The band consisted of four brothers, their mom, and their little sister Susan.

(Hollywood saw the TV potential of the group, but after the fashion of the time that potential was translated into a situation comedy based on their story, featuring professional actors miming to music. Nowadays, the Cowsills would have been made the stars of their own reality series.)

The Cowsill family has lost a lot in the last few months, starting with Hurricane Katrina. Barry Cowsill, in New Orleans when the storm hit, was missing until January, when his body was identified.

Susan Cowsill and her husband made it out of New Orleans in time, but with nothing but their pets and the clothes on their back. Their priceless family archives were lost to the storm.

Then, a week ago, as family and friends gathered in the family's hometown of Newport, R.I., to remember Barry, they learned that oldest brother Billy had died at his home in Calgary.

Susan Cowsill has a connection to Tulsa. Susan sang backup and harmony vocals with Dwight Twilley's band, going back to the '80s, and she lived in Tulsa for a time. She was here last August performing with Twilley, not long before Katrina hit.

(YouTube has a music video, "Some Good Years," a song the regrouped Cowsills recorded in the early '90s. The video was part of a tribute to Barry, and it features clips from the Cowsills' American Dairy Association commercial, a 1967 appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, and TV appearances with Dean Martin, Johnny Cash, Buddy Ebsen, and Mike Douglas. Even if you aren't a fan, if you fondly remember variety shows of the era, you'll enjoy the trip down Memory Lane. Hat tip to the Dawn Patrol.)

Susan Cowsill could use your help in a couple of ways. She and her husband lost everything to Katrina. Back in September Dwight and Jan Twilley began collecting funds to help with basic needs, and in an e-mail a couple of days ago, Jan Twilley confirmed to me that there is still a need and they are still accepting donations. You can send donations to:

Susan Cowsill
c/o Jan Twilley
4306 S. Peoria Suite 642
Tulsa, OK. 74105-3924

The Cowsill family also hopes to replace some of the memorabilia that was lost to the storm. Through the Cowsills Archive Project, the family is asking for fans to share their Cowsills memorabilia by uploading photos and scans. They would also welcome any memorabilia you can bear to part with to help rebuild the family's collection.

I only learned about The Cowsills in the last year or so, so I can't claim to be a longtime fan, but I was touched by this story of loss upon loss -- and its contrast to the happy innocence you'll see in that video -- and I wanted to let people know how they can help. I'm hopeful that Cowsills fans will come across this entry, spread the word, and help in any way they can.

A report from my friend Dave in south Florida:

Hurricane Wilma has left South Florida a real mess. We don't have water pressure (!) or electricity. We do have a phone line, which I am using for dial up, and I can recharge my laptop battery using a power inverter and our minivan (until it runs out of gas...).

Pray for water to come back on, for school to start up again (so our girls will have something to do!), and for gas stations. If we can get these, we can fake the rest.

Praise God no one was hurt here. Our patio screen was half ripped away; when it went, it took a gutter and fascia with it. Other than this, and one cracked roof tile, our house is OK. There is major damage in our neighborhood, many houses with significant roof damage and some major tree roadblocks.

Ruth is bailing water out of the swimming pool to flush toilets. Now we really feel like Beverly Hillbillies!!

Could have been much worse, but no water pressure is no fun.

UPDATE: Dave was excited to report that he could run his DSL modem off of the power inverter, too. No running water, no electricity -- but he has broadband!

Raise New Orleans?

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On my list to read later: An article from American Heritage's Winter 1990 issue about the raising and rebuilding of Galveston following the 1900 hurricane that destroyed the town.

Hat tip to David Sucher of City Comforts Blog, who has an entry about using structural fill to raise part of the sub-sea-level portions of New Orleans. There are a lot of interesting comments on that entry, including the idea of making New Orleans an urban Venice, dealing with the continued setting of the city, and learning from other raised cities, like Seattle.

Life of Reilly

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Shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, I started reading John Kennedy Toole's hilarious novel A Confederacy of Dunces, set in New Orleans in the early '60s. (It's on the bookshelf at Double Shot Coffee.) The protagonist, Ignatius J. Reilly, is an unforgettable character, a medievalist out of place in modernity who records his blasts against his times in crayon on Big Chief tablets, and as I read the novel I felt sure that if the book were set in our time, Reilly would be a blogger. (This is pretty close to how I'd imagine a Reilly blog would read.) I could imagine Reilly being evacuated from New Orleans and winding up in the planned refugee housing at Falls Creek Baptist Assembly in southern Oklahoma and blogging about his encounters with this strange culture. It's even funnier to imagine Reilly, rad-trad Catholic that he is, taking refuge at Beal Heights Presbyterian Church in Lawton, and encountering its Truly Reformed blogging pastor, John Owen Butler. (His blog is called "OK Calvin" with good reason.)

Finally someone with some imagination (not to mention theology and geometry) has provided us with Ignatius J. Reilly's reaction to the disaster. Matt Evans of the Morning News has discovered a letter from Reilly to President Bush, proposing that he take over as head of FEMA:

Sir, I must reprove you now with sharpness!

You have allowed matters here to degenerate most abysmally in the watery wake of the Hurricane named Katrina. The levees are broken and our cities washed away. We have, as I once wrote in Working Boy, “gone from the vortex to the whirlpool of despair…New Orleans, a [once] comfortable metropolis which has a certain apathy and stagnation which I find inoffensive,” now stagnates in putrescence. The air is filled with the puling of women and children. Degenerates and drug addicts rule the day.

Worse, the statue my fellow citizens once erected on Canal Street in my honor now languishes begrimed and deliquesced from the dark floodwater onslaught!

He has some proposals for action which may be of interest. I notice he doesn't say anything about all those waterlogged buses. He had a bad experience on a bus once and would be only too glad to tell you about it. In excruciating detail.

John Butler, pastor of Beal Heights Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Lawton, has a report on the church's hosting of over four dozen refugees from Hurricane Katrina, starting on September 1. The church has had an agreement with the Red Cross to serve as a disaster shelter, and within less than 12 hours, with the help of church members and Red Cross volunteers they were able to get Sunday School rooms and the Fellowship Hall set up to serve as dormitories and dining room. The report tells you how the refugees ended up in Lawton, how their needs were met, and what their plans are for the future.

There's also this underreported item about the situation at Keesler AFB on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the aftermath of the hurricane.

John also has an update from his son Josh, who is serving with the Army in Baghdad.

Operation Eden

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Moving words, moving pictures: Photographer Clayton James Cubitt (aka Siege) returns to what once was Pearlington, Miss., and to the mud-filled remains of the little trailer his mom called her Eden.

Read the whole thing.

(Via Mister Snitch!)

Jeremy Hall, a National Guardsman from Tulsa, has been deployed to New Orleans since September 3. Tulsa blogger Joel Blain has been speaking to Jeremy by phone regularly and updating Jeremy's blog with the news. Jeremy was able to get to an internet connection recently and uploaded some photos of his service in New Orleans.

Little Green Footballs posted a link to the entry and there are a lot of interesting comments there, including identification of some of the locations in the pictures. A friend of Jeremy's commenting at LGF wrote about his reaction to what he's seen in New Orleans: "He just keeps saying it looks like something out of the Bible mixed with a Romero zombie movie."

UPDATE: State Rep. Kevin Calvey is in New Orleans, too, and writing about it in his weekly update.

Help Ville Platte

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Ken Wheaton, Louisiana-born and Brooklyn-based blogger, had been encouraging donations to help refugees in St. Landry Parish, and the blogosphere has responded generously. Today he alerts us to the need in Ville Platte, Louisiana, a town of about 8,000 people north of Lafayette, which is housing a number of refugees in hotels, private homes, and at a state park. The effort isn't being coordinated by the Red Cross, and for the most part the locals are providing this assistance on their own. The refugees there don't need clothes, but they do need canned goods and non-perishable food items, small disposable diapers, and cleaning supplies. The best way to help might be by sending Wal-Mart gift cards, which can be used for all of the above, plus gas. Visit Ken's blog for details on how to help.

The Map Room links to a map showing oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico and the paths of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Jonathan Crowe's comment: "Now you know why hurricanes disrupt oil production."

Roemerman back from Gretna

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Steve Roemerman is back from helping with Hurricane Katrina recovery in Gretna, Louisiana, and he's posted some photos.

Here is a remarkable set of 107 photos taken in New Orleans over the last week, showing the good news and the bad news as the water level drops and the recovery continues: food being stored in the same warehouse as Mardi Gras floats, a man cooking a big vat of red beans and rice on a street corner in the French Quarter, the mosaic patterns left by the toxic mud as it dries and cracks, cars destroyed by the storm, Humane Society workers rescuing abandoned animals from houses. (Hat tip to Vidiot.)

Groovy Threads, a vintage clothing store on Cherry Street in Tulsa, has been collecting items to help people who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

Here's a letter from Valerie Stefan, owner of Groovy Threads, which she sent to fellow business owners about what she's trying to do to help and the obstacles she's encountering:


Dear Friend,

As of September 1, 2005, Groovy Threads started a clothing drive for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. To date we have collected thousands of items, including: clothing (new & gently worn) toothbrushes, hair products, food, children’s items & other basic essentials.

Our original plan was to work in coalition with a specific local charity to get these greatly needed items to the evacuees on the coast & around the nation.

As of September 12, 2005, the charity that we had hoped to work closely with has become overwhelmed with donations & has gently refused our items.

Our new plan of action is to get a coalition of local businesses to make monetary donations of any amount so that we can cover the price of Uhauls & gas to get these much needed items to the people so greatly affected by this disaster.

Our plan is to take items to evacuees in Oklahoma first & then make a trip to Houston & possibly Mississippi.

Please consider helping us, as we continue to take in much needed donations for these unfortunate people who have lost everything.

We will not quit taking donations. We will continue to do our best to accommodate all items until we have the funds to personally deliver the donations to the specified areas.

For more information I can be contacted at Groovy Threads 588.1970. Email address:

Thank you for your time & consideration,

Valerie Stefan

Owner Groovy Threads Vintage

Valerie is hoping to take supplies to the Slidell, La., area on October 2, if she has the means to get herself and the supplies down there. If you can help make the trip possible, please contact her at the above phone number or e-mail address.

(The title is just a bit of fun. I'm pretty sure that Valerie is taking ordinary 21st century clothes to the hurricane victims, not her store's normal stock in trade.)

(I am a bit disturbed that a vintage clothing store would boast of having the "Best '80s music in town!" 1880s, surely! Why, I was in college in the 1980s. Nothing vintage about the 1980s, he said, shaking his grey head in dismay.)

Katrina recovery latest

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Steve Roemerman has an update on the situation in Gretna, Louisiana. There's still an incredible amount of work to do in clearing felled trees and doing temporary roof repairs.

"Interdictor," liveblogging as part of the Directnic team working to keep that downtown New Orleans hosting provider alive, is rotating out of New Orleans and plans to start his own disaster-preparedness consulting firm. The blog will continue to document Directnic's involvement in the recovery. Directnic has been back on power since Monday, basements are being pumped out, things are beginning to come back to life. Access on major routes into New Orleans is blocked by dirt berms, except for a military checkpoint on the River Road. You'll want to read an account by Robert LeBlanc, who volunteered last week running a boat into the flooded area and pulling people off of roofs and out of the water.

This item's a bit dated, but I just found it: A Directnic customer, Something Awful, raised $30,000 for hurricane relief through Paypal. Then Paypal froze the account. Read what happens when the terms of service you so blithely click through actually come into play. (Hat tip to Sean Gleeson.)

Back on Tuesday, Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry notified the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma that Falls Creek would not be needed to house refugees. The efforts won't go to waste -- some donated items will be taken to refugees at Camp Gruber and some will be taken with Baptist disaster relief crews to the New Orleans area.

The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management is opening two disaster resource centers in the state to help refugees who are in Oklahoma. The Tulsa center will be open at Crosstown Church of Christ, just east of Harvard on Admiral, from 9 to 5 tomorrow.

Remember the New Orleans city and school buses that weren't used to evacuate residents? Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu blames LazeeCiteeWurkors:

Mayor Nagin and most mayors in this country have a hard time getting their people to work on a sunny day, let alone getting them out of the city in front of a hurricane.

It's Bush's fault for not providing sufficient funds for mass transit, you see.

The Political Teen has the video. (He always does.) Hat tip to Mister Snitch for the link.

Roemerman Louisiana update


Steve Roemerman arrived yesterday in Gretna, Louisiana, with a group from his church to be a part of relief efforts there. True-blue blogger that he is, Steve has found his way to Internet access and has posted an update on the situation there. It was interesting to read the very different impact the hurricane had on a city just across the river from New Orleans. Keep checking Roemerman on Record for updates as Steve has opportunity, and continue to keep him in your prayers.

I was cheered to learn a few days agothat Oklahoma's Southern Baptists would be hosting Hurricane Katrina refugees at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center, southwest of Davis, Oklahoma. (Here's a Google satellite photo centered on the church camp.) This was the plan, according to a September 5 press release from the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, which quotes Anthony L. Jordan, executive director-treasurer for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO), and Roy Sanders, Ray E. Sanders, spokesman for the BGCO:

"Oklahoma Southern Baptist churches are sending volunteers to welcome survivors to Falls Creek," Jordan explained. "Once our guests from the Gulf Coast walk off the bus they will be welcomed with a warm Oklahoma smile and a Bucket of Blessing, a care-package type bucket full of essential items, snacks, books and toys, all prepared by our church members. Our members will also prepare linens on over 3,000 beds and escort our new friends to their dormitory style cabin upon arrival."

"We have a variety of activities planned for children and adults, including movies, crafts, recreation and relaxation," said Sanders. "Within the coming days we fully expect school-age children to be back in an educational setting with a variety of learning experiences available for adults as well. Medical facilities will be available on the grounds for those who need medical attention and the state mental health department will make counseling available for those needing assistance."

In short, the BGCO was planning to welcome the refugees to their place and care for them. According to a first-hand (but pseudonymous) report by "Valhall", FEMA is running the show at Falls Creek, and refugees certainly won't be pampered, and they won't be able to come and go as they please. Valhall, her parents, and kids packed up a couple of cars full of clothes, toiletries, and food to take to the cabin owned by her church.

I'm extremely depressed to report that things seem to only be getting sadder concerning the people so devastatingly affected by Katrina last week. Two car loads of us headed over to Falls Creek, a youth camp for Southern Baptist churches in Oklahoma that agreed to have its facilities used to house Louisiana refugees. I'm afraid the camp is not going to be used as the kind people of the churches who own the cabins believe it was going to be used. ...

At their church's cabin, they talk with the cabin's FEMA host about what can and can't be left. (She says that FEMA has assigned local civilians to reside in each cabin.)

We then started lugging in our food products. The foods I had purchased were mainly snacks, but my mother - God bless her soul - had gone all out with fresh vegetables, fruits, canned goods, breakfast cereals, rice, and pancake fixings. That's when we got the next message: They will not be able to use the kitchen.

Excuse me? I asked incredulously.

FEMA will not allow any of the kitchen facilities in any of the cabins to be used by the occupants due to fire hazards. FEMA will deliver meals to the cabins. The refugees will be given two meals per day by FEMA. They will not be able to cook. In fact, the "host" goes on to explain, some churches had already enquired about whether they could come in on weekends and fix meals for the people staying in their cabin. FEMA won't allow it because there could be a situation where one cabin gets steaks and another gets hot dogs - and...

it could cause a riot.

It gets worse.

He then precedes to tell us that some churches had already enquired into whether they could send a van or bus on Sundays to pick up any occupants of their cabins who might be interested in attending church. FEMA will not allow this. The occupants of the camp cannot leave the camp for any reason. If they leave the camp they may never return. They will be issued FEMA identification cards and "a sum of money" and they will remain within the camp for the next 5 months.

My son looks at me and mumbles "Welcome to Krakow."

My mother then asked if the churches would be allowed to come to their cabin and conduct services if the occupants wanted to attend. The response was "No ma'am. You don't understand. Your church no longer owns this building. This building is now owned by FEMA and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. They have it for the next 5 months." This scares my mother who asks "Do you mean they have leased it?" The man replies, "Yes, ma'am...lock, stock and barrel. They have taken over everything that pertains to this facility for the next 5 months."

The report has a lot of photos -- I can testify that they really are photos of Falls Creek. There are over 150 replies that have been posted.

That report was posted on September 6. This news story from late that evening says that Falls Creek was put on standby:

Major Mike Grimes, Oklahoma Highway Patrol, announced to nearly 400 volunteers and state personnel that the decision had been made by the Governor and other state officials to scale back operations at Falls Creek.

"The good news is that it appears those who needed our help have been taken care of for now," Grimes explained. "We will scale back to a skeleton crew for now, but none of our facilities will be compromised. There will be troopers present 24 hours a day at Falls Creek as we evaluate the need on a 12, 24, 36 and 48 hour basis. Falls Creek has been and will continue to be ready within a 10 to 12 hour window in the event that the conference facility is still needed." While disappointment was evident on the faces of many, appreciation for the Falls Creek operation was recognized with a round of applause.

A September 8 news release from the BGCO says that Falls Creek will remain on standby through Tuesday, September 13, with 1,200 volunteers around Oklahoma ready to return on 12 hours notice.

Part of the reason I'm posting all this is because I see a lot of blog entries linking to Valhall's report, but not to any follow-up information.

It could just be that FEMA and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol think it's best to start out strict. Once the refugees have arrived, and they see how things go, they can loosen things up.

It could also be that we're seeing a heavy-handed FEMA takeover aimed at turning Falls Creek into some sort of black-helicopter-infested New World Order detention camp. This actual retouched photo of the new amphitheater at the camp would seem to support that theory:

Cancerman goes to camp

The Truth Is Out There.

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