By MICHELLE ROBERTS, Associated Press Writer
The mammoth tasks of restoring power to much of New Orleans and
removing heaps of debris, interrupted when Hurricane Rita rammed the
Gulf Coast, resumed Sunday as the mayor pushed his plan to reopen
parts of the city this week.
Even those areas newly flooded this weekend by Rita could be pumped
dry again within a week after levee damage is repaired, far sooner
than initially predicted, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman
"All indications are all operations are getting back to normal," said
Ted Monette, deputy federal coordinating officer for Katrina recovery.
Monette said federal officials had been coordinating with Mayor Ray
Nagin's effort to begin allowing evacuated residents to return and
were supportive of his plan.
The signs of renewed life included widespread utility trucks restoring
electricity and restaurants seeking customers, such as the Slim
Goodies diner in the Garden District. The telephone company was even
seen patching more fiber cables.
"You wanna burger?" owner Kappa Horn called out to the steady stream
of police and others who came by.
Horn's diner doesn't have electricity, but she's been using supplies
driven in from Baton Rouge and New Orleans' West Bank to serve
pancakes and burgers for more than a week. She closed for two days
when Rita came through.
"The city is not going to survive unless it's got people in it," Horn
said. "I want to be part of rebuilding my city."
Nagin on Saturday renewed his plans to allow some residents to return
to drier parts of the city where utilities have already been
restored. Dry districts will eventually support a population of
between 250,000 and 300,000, he said.
Residents of the Algiers neighborhood, which has working power, water
and sewer services, could be allowed to return Monday or Tuesday,
followed by people in other ZIP codes, Nagin said.
Nagin has suggested that only people who are mobile -- not families
responsible for children or senior citizens -- come back. "That's
going to be the reality of New Orleans moving forward."
However, Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen, who is in charge of the
federal disaster effort in the city, sounded a cautionary note. The
city can continue allowing business operators to return to unaffected
areas and letting residents return to the West Bank and Algiers, he
"Where the mayor needs some thoughtful approach to is the areas that
have been reflooded and the areas that may remain uninhabitable for
safety, health and other reasons," the admiral said Sunday on ABC's
"This Week." "And I think a timetable associated with that still
needs to be worked out."
A handful of evacuees returned to the city aboard a flight from
"You go from joy to disbelief to sadness to just being tired, to just
wanting to go home," said Paul Jordan. "Our goal is to help rebuild
the city, and we're going to do whatever we can."
But not everyone headed back to New Orleans plans to stay.
Haney Joudeh has resettled in Chicago and was coming to take photos of
his clothing store, which he heard was looted, for the insurance
"It's like starting a life all over. That's it for me. There's nothing
left," Joudeh said.
Most of the city was spared significant new damage when Rita struck
near the Texas-Louisiana line, but the hurricane's rain and storm
surge partially breached levees along the Industrial Canal, causing
renewed flooding in the Ninth Ward. That is the section of east New
Orleans that was submerged by Katrina and pumped dry just days before
the second big storm.
The Army Corps of Engineers worked through the night to pile rocks and
sandbags in the breaks. Workers believe that once the breaches are
closed, the Ninth Ward can be pumped dry in a week, said Mitch
Frazier, a spokesman for the corps. Federal officials had estimated
Saturday it would take two to three weeks to pump out the water
delivered by Rita.
Entergy, the state's biggest power company, was assessing new damage
that Rita caused for customers in hard-hit southwestern Louisiana, but
work continued in New Orleans, said Chanel Lagarde, a company
spokesman. More than 200,000 customers still lack power in the New
Orleans area, but many are in badly damaged areas.
Entergy has restored power to most of the city's central business
district, and hopes to tackle work in the French Quarter early this
week, he said.
Associated Press writer Dan Sewell, airborne between Cincinnati and New
Orleans, contributed to this report.
Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.
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