At the start of Day 3, before leaving New Orleans, I wanted to see more of the damage left behind by Hurricane Katrina. I knew New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward was famous for the devastating flood waters that rushed in, as levees failed. So, I decided to take a drive through the area and find out, nearly four years after the 2005 storm, if things were looking better.
If you didn’t know what had happened to the 9th Ward, you’d probably think that you were simply driving through a “bad” neighborhood. Much of the debris is gone. At the most severely damaged homes, demolition crews have finished the job that the flood waters started. But as you drive through, it’s still obvious that this is a very devastated, poor, and run-down neighborhood.
There are some signs of hope. I noticed this row of newly-built homes along Claiborne Avenue.
My exposure to the Lower 9th Ward was limited to St. Claude and Claiborne Avenues. I didn’t wander off the main roads into the devastated neighborhoods. From what I can see on Google’s Street View, most of these streets are now lined with empty, overgrown lots, and only an occasional battered, windowless house. For post-storm gawking, there was much more to see several years ago.
My loop through New Orleans’ east side also took me into St. Bernard Parish, where signs boast the metro area’s lowest crime rate. From almost anywhere in this area, you can see the old Kaiser Chalmette smokestack. The 557-foot-tall chimney is no longer used for smoke (and hasn’t, since 1976); now it serves as a cell phone tower.
Here’s a time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive from Canal Street, through the Lower 9th Ward, into St. Bernard Parish, then back into the city: