Heavy rain begins to fall. As Spencer drives down I-10, Stokes turns around from the passenger seat and describes what awaits at both the Causeway staging center and the airport. There are no port-o-lets at the Causeway for medics or patients. At the airport, there is a drastic shortage of medical equipment and supplies, and the conditions are deplorable. "That's the only place we can take them," Stokes says.
"The last trip we took we had seven in this little van, one of them a baby less than two weeks old. They've been loading us down," says Stokes, who has had little sleep since being called out from their Colfax, La., station Monday night. "They told us we couldn't go anymore until we got sleep."
When they arrive at the staging center around 1 p.m., medics already on duty are running straight shifts on little more than adrenaline. They are tending to seven children, ages 6 to an infant, who had just been rescued from an apartment roof by a military helicopter. A National Guardsman who brought the children in told Acadian Ambulance medic Robert Clement that they were on the rooftop with a neighbor, who now could not be found.
Demonte Carlos Love, a spirited 6-year-old boy who helps a reporter spell out his name, says his dad put them on the roof. "He's still in the house," Demonte says of his father. "My mom is too. My mom was crying."
One of the girls, about 2 years old, clings to Clement, and he seems unwilling to give her up until her parents can be located. It's apparent in his face that he fears the worst. He gets word that Social Services will take over the children's care from the Bureau of EMS in Baton Rouge. "When I gave her away on the ambulance, she told me she loved me," Clement says. "I cried all the way home." (By late Friday he was still trying to find out if the children's parents had been located.)
By mid-afternoon, the rain has stopped. It was enough to cool off the thousands of refugees who have gathered at this sprawling interstate site, where those with medical conditions are treated and evaluated ' and the rest just wait. Most here have been rescued by air or boat, and for many it's the first food and water they've had in days. They line up behind barriers on the side of the muddy interstate ' now completely littered with trash and filth. They are exhausted and bewildered, waiting for buses to take them to unknown destinations.
"Say miss, do you know where we're going?"
It's the most common question of the day, and no one can answer it.
Throughout the day Army and Coast Guard helicopters fly in with survivors, and armed National Guardsmen travel in convoys over the Huey P. Long Bridge to Algiers, where they are picking up refugees brought over by ferry from small towns across the river. Before the soldiers depart for the last transport of the day, Ray Lasseigne of the Gretna Police Department tells them there's just been a shootout on the West Bank, where the Oakwood mall is on fire. "I'll give you one better than that," Lasseigne says. "They're shooting at the rescuers trying to rescue them."
"I ain't seen nothing like this since the war," guardsman Jeff Smith of Black Lake says from the back of a deuce and a half Army truck on the trip to Algiers. Smith, who served in Iraq for a year, says the environment is disturbingly familiar. "They have no home to go to," he says. "Stuff like this just hurts my heart. It's my own people."
And they are dying by the hour. Those still in their homes, waiting in the streets and in hospitals, and even those in the deteriorating shelters ' like New Orleans' airport. A sea of despair, the airport is scattered with bodies, mostly elderly people getting as much attention as the skeleton crew of medical personnel can provide. Even basic equipment is not available.
Later that evening, Charity Hospital nurse Robyn Givens arrives at the airport via a Blackhawk helicopter. She is manually pumping oxygen into an elderly stroke patient with a tracheotomy. She'd been at the hospital since Sunday at 7 a.m.; after the storm, food was rationed, all communication was down, and windows had to be broken to get air into some hospital rooms.
"All of the employees are still at the hospital," Givens says. One of the oldest hospitals in New Orleans, Charity is not getting any assistance or communication from officials, and the doctors have taken it upon themselves to organize evacuations while patients keep coming into the public hospital. "The nurses would work 12-hour shifts, and even after [they took breaks] the doctors were still working," she says. "The ER looked like a MASH unit."
Across from Charity at Tulane University Hospital, where water is chest high, conditions aren't much better. Rick Gist, a resident physician at Tulane, has been working since Friday before the storm and came to the airport with his patients.
Medical personnel at the airport are distraught that their hospitals received no assistance, and they plead with reporters to let the country know patients are dying and there are still hundreds of employees and patients who need to be evacuated.
"We have no power, no sewer, no linens, no water. Everyone with a surgical incision has an infection," Gist says. "We need real help from the government. It is a war zone."
On Friday night, CNN reports that more than 40,000 people have been treated at the airport ' 800 every hour. By Saturday morning, Charity had finally been evacuated. But the rescue efforts were too late for at least two patients waiting on ramps.
They died waiting.
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday, April 17, 2014:
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday will vote on a resolution that if approved would clear the way for a December ballot proposition asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax parishwide to help fund the construction of a new terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport.
Just days before the fourth anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, the Coast Guard has moved cleanup of Louisiana's coast to a new phase, allowing BP to end its "active" efforts in the area.
Legislators still must leave their guns at the door of the Louisiana Capitol.
Sen. Fred Mills may have an "R" behind his name, but his actions in the Louisiana Legislature transcend the established boundaries of his party.
The Louisiana House overwhelmingly rejected a repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law Tuesday.
The Louisiana Senate sided with Gov. Bobby Jindal and the oil industry Tuesday, agreeing to void a lawsuit that a south Louisiana flood board filed against more than 90 oil and gas companies for coastal damage.
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.
Now that lawmakers have shot down efforts to cap annual interest rates for payday loans, supporters for stricter regulations of the storefront lenders are rallying behind another strategy.