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First report from Baton Rouge

  • September 3, 2008

AmeriCares emergency response expert Jonathan Hodgdon is in Baton Rouge, La. assessing the needs of people in the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Gustav toppled trees, damaged buildings and caused massive flooding over the holiday weekend. Since all of the hotels in Baton Rouge were filled to capacity when he arrived Tuesday night, Jonathan spent the night in the home of an AmeriCares donor. Here is his first report from the field sent via text message to his colleagues in AmeriCares Stamford headquarters this morning. Internet access is limited because of widespread power outages in the region.

Dear all,

Here is a brief summary of what’s working and what’s not working in Baton Rouge and New Orleans as of today:

What’s working: 
Cell network is Ok
Running water and sewage are Ok except in some NO parishes Homes are undamaged and dry by and large Levees are holding Security grid is Ok with police out everywhere Small 7/11 shops are open in BR but not NO Main road network is Ok – cleared of debris and no traffic jams Shelters are running well and at full capacity until tomorrow when New Orleans residents will be allowed back Radio stations are ON and a vital info source

What’s not working:
Businesses and schools are closed until Monday Gas stations are out of gas for 100 mi radius Electricity is out for most of BR; half of NO Land lines are down Restaurants are closed Hotels are closed or full for 100 mile radius ATMs are out of cash No TV or Internet except BlackBerry and car-powered TV’s Big stores are closed Many side streets are blocked by downed trees and power lines

Other observations:
Many people are living in their cars along the highways Evacuees are running out of gas and cash Their cell phones are Off to conserve battery They can’t wait to go back to their homes 9000 utility workers are here from other states Stormy weather remains in the area with many tornado watches and warnings yesterday Major roads will go underwater soon if the heavy rains continue People are just hunkered down here, especially at night The cell network is Ok but not for calling locally for some reason.

Hope this information is helpful. Sent via BlackBerry so not formatted. I am visiting shelters and meeting potential partners today but will need to conserve fuel.

Regards from Baton Rouge,