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.
The Louisiana Supreme Court has punted on its first chance to decide whether a new state constitutional provision declaring gun possession a fundamental right could void a long list of criminal statutes that regulate firearms.
New Orleans' offense, which ranks sixth in the NFL, isn't helping many of its skill players pile up Pro Bowl-type stats. Rather, the approach of coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees has enabled a wide range of play-makers to emerge periodically with high-production outings.
An ordinance phasing out a rebate businesses receive for collecting and remitting sales taxes is tabled, but it doesn’t solve the vexing issue of government revenue.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday, December 12, 2013:
As part of a national undertaking known by industry insiders as the “Butterfly Project,” a rebranded version of The Daily Advertiser is set to launch with Sunday’s edition of the Gannett-owned paper.
Louisiana moved up a slot to 48th in the ranking of healthy states — once again, thank God for Mississippi! — so all this frettin’ about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s refusal to expand Medicaid per Obamacare ... fuggidaboutit! We don’t need Medicaid no more!
The Denham Springs woman who placed Christmas lights in the shape of a butter finger on her roof in a display of anger directed at neighbors has doubled the trouble for the 2013 holiday season.
The 30-second commercial, to run around the state, is the Democratic senator's first TV spot in her bid for re-election to a fourth term.
It's a number that has edged up but falls far short of the thousands who are eligible for subsidized coverage.
A group of mostly higher education leaders will make recommendations to state lawmakers about how to tweak the policies governing tuition rates charged at the state's public colleges.
That would be Congressman John Fleming talking about Sen. David Vitter.
The alleged mastermind behind the bribery scheme that went on for four years under DA Mike Harson’s nose isn’t just schizophrenic, bipolar and recovering from mini strokes; he now says he has cancer.
Louisiana's higher education leaders are trying to work out a financing deal to keep the state's public colleges from running low on state cash to operate their campuses.
With their latest triumph, the Saints left little doubt about how tough they are to beat in the Superdome. Unfortunately, two of their remaining three games are on the road.
For the first time in at least five years, retired teachers, state workers and school system employees could see an increase in their pension checks.
Lawmakers and Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration shared a collective sigh of relief with the news that Louisiana's tax amnesty program brought in the $200 million that they used to help balance this year's budget.
Drew Brees often makes the extraordinary look routine, particularly during night games in the Superdome.
The teams were extended invitations Sunday for the New Year's Day matchup played at Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
If all 44 projects are approved, about $300 million would remain in the fund set up as a down payment to help the Gulf.
Last week, the Saints gave up 429 yards to Seattle, second most in a game this season.
Since Anthony Jennings and Brooks Haack were not expected to contribute until next year at the earliest, it seemed like a sneak peek at hidden Christmas gifts.
Louisiana National Guard personnel seeking benefits for same-sex spouses will have an easier time filing the requests, despite a state refusal to let its workers process the paperwork.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera sees one potential flaw with his team's stellar defensive play so far this season. "Apparently we like to bite on the double moves," Rivera said.
Computer hackers may have gained access to the personal information of thousands of Louisiana residents who use debit cards issued by JPMorgan Chase for three state agencies, authorities said Wednesday.
Jim Purcell, who has been in the job since February 2011, notified the Board of Regents about his decision at its monthly meeting.