Thanks to all for your concern.
Today (this evening), Monday 12 September 2005 is my first actual
attempt at Internet access in 2 weeks.
If I don't personally reply to everyone who emailed me directly,
forgive me, since I have 150+ msgs in my inbox that I am working my
I was "high and dry" throughout the entire storm (on Monday 29 August)
and the aftermath. I also had MORE than enuff food/water/liquid,
either what was stocked up, or what was delivered by police and other
I suffered no water nor wind damage to my apartment, not even a broken
window, altough some apartments had broken windows and some other
miscellaneous damage. But debris is all over the place -- broken
branches, leaves, shingles from the roof, etc. A pine tree did go into
the roof of the apt building, but across the courtyard from me. The
building is a 2-story apartment complex.
I did lose utility service ...
Electric power went out almost immediately, which is just about always
the case with any kind of tropical storm or hurricane or just heavy
But as the brunt of the storm was finishing up, I noticed that I
couldn't get a dialtone. This too isn't all uncommon -- I simply
thought that there was just heavy traffic thru the central office. I
did have "battery" and "sidetone" at the time ... i.e., I could "hear"
myself talking into the telephone thru the handset, but I simply
couldn't get a dialtone. I also couldn't get a signal on my Cingular
Cable TV obviously went out, but I don't know when that happened,
since when electricity went out, that meant the end of TV viewing. I
simply listened to WWL-870 (50Kw) on a battery powered pocket radio
the whole time. (not 24/7, but when I felt like listening -- I wanted
to save the batteries as much as possible).
I had a close to full charge on my cellphone battery, but I kept the
cellphone turned off to save that battery for when I would eventually get
a cellphone tower signal.
The entire week and a half after the storm -- I had MORE than enough
food and water ... several of us at the apartment complex who stayed had
stocked up on supplies, but the police also told us that it was okay
to get NECESSARY supplies from stores that had been -- "opened
up". And the police and other Good Samaritan type neighbors were
passing by and dropping off cases of water, juice, food (including
military MREs, Meals Ready to Eat), etc.
Running water stopped on the Wednesday after the storm, but we could
get "flush water" from using a bucket to scoop water that was standing
water in the middle of the streets just outside of the apt buildings.
The main highway that runs alongside the apts was why we didn't flood.
But the streets behind the building did have some standing water. And
the subdivisions behind the building did flood in varying degrees.
So, from Monday 29 August until Wednesday 7 September, that's mostly
how things were -- just day to day living. It was mostly sunny, with
some occasional rain. But either hot and humid, or later on hot but
On Wednesday 7 September in the early morning hours, I began to notice a
slight signal on my Cingular phone. It turns out that the cell phone
carriers were putting up backup temporary cell sites.
When I realized that I had a signal strong enuff to place a call, I
first started calling relatives to let them know I was okay ... and
also some of you who I am always in telephone/email contact with. I
also realized that by Wed-7-Sept, there was a good "window of
opportunity" to finally leave. I was NOT going to leave from there
earlier with all of the other problems associated with New Orleans and
I had already packed up to bags or boxes of things to take with me if
I was going to flee. But that is only scratching the surface of what I
still have left behind.
I took those things and went 1/2 mile down the highway to another
major intersection where I was told the National Guard would be
picking up people who wanted to be evacuated.
I was taken in the back of an open miliary truck through New Orleans
to the Convention Center where there was processing outside of that
I saw firsthand how much of New Orleans metro looked either "bombed
out" or flooded out. I did have a chance to see some of this earlier
on a battery powered BW TV set that the lady who manages the
apartments was watching. But she had to leave the apartments rather
early after the storm to get some more heart medication. But the TV
coverage was nothing compared to seeing it up front. The National
Guard truck was trying to rescue as many people as possible to fit
into the back of the truck to evacuate.
The MPs outside of the convention center went thru all of our
belonging to make sure that there was no contraband. We thought we
might be on military busses or military helicpoters. Instead we were
taken on charter "tour" busses from the convention center over to the
Airport. There were two options available to us on Wednesday afternoon
-- a bus to Baton Rouge LA or a plane flight out to "where ever". I
first wanted to go to BR LA to get closer to relatives in Lafayette or
I was using my cellular phone the entire time, noticing how the
battery was beginning to run down.
At the airport (located in the Kenner-Briarwood DMS-100 central
office, 504-46x), I was able to get dialtone on the "super payphones"
installed there (coin slot, LCD readout, card-swipe, touch-a-carrier-
buttons, etc). The "super payphones" were of course, "COCOT" type
phones, not Central Office Switch controlled ... but they were
"GTE-AE" type housings that were fitted with these other appliques. By
GTE-AE type, I mean that the coin slot and coin-return slot were on
the right-hand-side, and the cord for the handset was on the left hand
side of the phone itself, not the left-hand-side of the
front-of-the-phone. I used the 800 type dial-ups for AT&T, and for my
MCI-prepaid, to make card type calls.
Later on that afternoon, we were told that there would be no more
busses to Baton Rouge LA (it turns out that the Red Cross couldn't
process any more evacuees in Baton Rouge), and that the only option on
Wednesday evening was to fly out on the next flight out, or else spend
the night at the airport until the next day to see what would be
available by then.
I chose to fly out. We had to be checked again, this time by TSA
personnel. However, the TSA people were NOT the usual "b*tches" that
we've heard about for the past 3 or 4 years. They were rather polite
It turns out we were flown to Columbia SC (still NPA 803). At least I
was still going to be in BellSouth territory! :) Wednesday evening, we
arrived, and were first initially processed by Red Cross people. We
were then put into motels for the night (and next several nights). I
was at a "Kinghts Inn". They have some motels in New Orleans too and
have motels all over the US and Canada, but are not yet in every state
or province though.
I was able to charge up my cellphone batteries again, and also make
card calls via 800- dialup on the Motel phone. I was NOT going to use
8+ or 9+ and then 0+ten-digits since I had absolutely no idea who the
Motel PBX' Card/Operator provider would be!!! 1+ bill-to-room access
was NOT available to us. But I would never use that from a motel
On Thursday 8 September, we were taken in shuttle busses (chartered from
the local transit company) to the Red Cross center downtown at the Univ.
of SC campus in Columbia SC for further processing and orientation.
While it was very bureaucratic and filled with red-tape, everyone who
was there to help us was VERY courteous and polite trying to be as
helpful as possible. While there were some computer terminals for us
to have Internet access (if we wanted it), the lines were quite
long. I felt it was better to just wait until I was in a more
convenient location for using a computer to check email and web-surf.
I had already planned on Greyhounding it back to Lafayette LA or Baton
Rouge LA, most likely via Atlanta GA where I could have more privacy
and access to my email, and more convenience to use computer
I was hoping to leave Columbia SC on Greyhound, first to Atlanta,
earlier (maybe on Friday or Saturday), but I needed to pick up
supplies (more clothes, etc) at Wal-Mart. But I was also feeling very
fatigued, tired, weak. I did eat well all along, but I was quite
tired. I also don't know if I had breathed in any toxins while
travelling thru New Orleans on the army truck, or if I caught any
virus on the plane or in close quarter contact at the Red Cross
On Friday, I visited the Red Cross center again for a brief "once
over" medically. They didn't draw blood or anything, but did give me a
basic check-up (stethescope, blood pressure, checking/feeling glands,
etc). I did need to rest-up some before continuing any further
travel. But I did pick up some needed supplies at Wal-Mart on Friday
and then on Saturday.
All along, various charitable and church groups were bringing us
clothes and food to the motels if we needed anything.
I did everything to rest-up on Sat/Sun, because I was hoping to be
able to get on a Greyhound bus, first for Atlanta.
By Sunday afternoon, I felt up to travelling, and on Monday morning, I
officially checked out of the motel (I gave the necessary personal
info to the desk to give to FEMA/Red Cross people who were arranging
the motel rooms), and took a cab to the Greyhound Bus station. Then I
started my journey back, first stopping here in Atlanta. I plan to
stay here for about a week, and then continue on Greyhound to Baton
Rouge and Lafayette LA.
I am staying at the house of one of our telecom-list-members who lives
here in Atlanta, and am able to have convenient and private access to
I really did NOT have the time to check out the BellSouth central
office in Columbia SC. I did get some street maps and a transit map of
Columbia SC, but not any individual bus schedules/timetables. I did
notice the electrical high-voltage transmission lines scattered
throughout Columbia ... some of their lines still use "H-frame" type
wooden pole structures for some 115-Kv lines. They also have quite a
bit of hydro-produced power. (New Orleans uses gas or coal fired
Atlanta Metro is HUGE! Which I expected it to be. I did see some of
the legacy AT&T and BellSouth switching offices ... at least from the
Those of you who know my cellphone number, please feel free to call
me. I can charge up my batteries okay, and I also noticed that
Cingular set up a new temporary voicemail platform as of Tuesday
morning (13-September) in these early morning hours. I've already a
new voicemail message left by one of our friends in a north-central
state! Also please remember that all inbound calls to my cellphone
MUST be routed via the New Orleans cingular switch (there ain't no
other way to do it, since my cellphone is a New Orleaans based number,
and your LD carrier is GOING to route to New Orleans) ... so you
might encounter All Ccts Busy conditions, but it IS possible to route
calls inbound to my cellphone ...
But it will take me some time to go thru the email messages in my
inbox, so I might not immediately reply to you personally if you
emailed me directly. Hopefully this post will help to answer any
questions you might have.
BTW, it does appear that the AT&T 4ESS in New Orleans (NWORLAMA04T) is
okay ... but several BellSouth local central offices in New Orleans and
southeast LA (and a few in the Mississippi Gulf Coast area) have been
"down" since the storm. That includes the "Seabrook" 5ESS
(NWORLASKDS0) that serves my home/landline phone. It might take some
time for these central offices to be back up and running again.
Again, thanks for all of the interest! I hope this post answers
most/all questions you might have ...
Also Greyhound terminals in Atlanta GA and Columbia SC (and when I was
last in Baton Rouge LA) have Nortel-Millenium "Super" payphones, with
all of the whistles-and-bells that I mentioned regarding the super
payphones that are at the New Orleans airport. The "branding" on the
payphones at Greyhound seem to be "Sprint".
Mark J. Cuccia
markjcuccia at yahoo dot com
Yahoo! for Good
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