Tag Archives: New Orleans

Tropical Storm Karen Gets Weak As It Approaches Louisiana

Tropical Storm KarenUPDATED NEW ORLEANS (October 5, 2013) –

                                 LATEST WARNINGS AND WATCHES

KAREN EXPECTED TO MOVE OVER SOUTHEASTERN LOUISIANA TONIGHT AND EARLY SUNDAY

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Morgan City, LA. to the mouth of the Pearl River.

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the entire New Orleans metropolitan area, Lake Maurepas, Lake Pontchartrain, and from east of the Pearl River to Indian Pass, Florida.

The National Weather Service lifted hurricane watches along the Gulf Coast on Friday, as Tropical Storm Karen ran the gamut from a potential Louisiana-bound  possible hurricane with 65 mph winds, to a slight change in course, to stationary, and now appears to be weakening – with winds of up to only 40 mph – as it gets closer to land.

A 10:00 AM advisory today indicated the storm was hesitating about 180 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River, moving north at 7 mph, with a slow turn northeast expected Saturday night, then another, faster turn east-northeast on Sunday night and Monday.

UPDATED NEW ORLEANS (October 3, 2013) — 2013 will likely go down as one of the most uneventful hurricane seasons on record, but it’s not over ’til November 30th. Thursday evening, forecasters were predicting that Tropical Storm Karen could possibly become a Category 1 hurricane as it nears the coast of Louisiana Saturday morning, and make a direct near the mouth of the Mississippi River.

At 10PM, Karen was located about 340 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River, The National Weather Service said Karen continues to move slowly northwest at 10 mph, with winds of 65 mph

Along the Gulf Coast, high winds, power outages, along with storm surges of anywhere from 2-5 feet are expected in some places, and a state of emergency has been declared by the Governors of Louisiana and Mississippi, while Governor Scott declared a state of emergency in 18 Florida counties.

Tropical Storm Karen (photo courtesy noaa)
In Alabama, Governor Robert Bentley is encouraging residents to be prepared. “Our state agencies are monitoring the track of Tropical Storm Karen, and Alabama families should do the same,” Governor Bentley said in a statement earlier today. “Understand this storm can affect people inland as well, not just on the Coast.

In Louisiana, a Tropical Storm Watch was issued for St. Tammany, Ascension, Livingston, assumption, St. James. St. John the Baptist, Upper Lafourche, St. Charles, Upper Jefferson, Orleans, Upper Plaquemines, Upper St. Bernard. Upper , lower Terrebonne, lower Lafourche and Southern Tangipahoa.

A Tropical Storm Warning and Hurricane Watch was issued in Louisiana for lower Jefferson, lower Plaquemines, lower St. Bernard, and for portions of Southeast Louisiana and Mississippi Coastal Waters, and a Hurricane Watch is in effect for the Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties in Mississippi. The Hurricane Watch extends west all the way to Destin, Florida.

                      fema_logo

FEMA has activated a Liaison Team embedded at the National Hurricane Center in Miami and, in a statement, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said “Gulf Coast residents in potentially impacted areas should take steps now to be prepared and follow the direction of local officials.”

The amount of resources re-activated by FEMA in the midst of an ongoing government shutdown would depend on the magnitude of projected need. CNN reports the about 86% of the agency’s workers were furloughed because of the shutdown

On August 28 last year Tropical Storm Isaac brought a storm surge that caused at least nine deaths, five in Louisiana and two each in Mississippi and Florida.

                                                      DEFINITIONS

A HURRICANE WATCH MEANS THAT HURRICANE CONDITIONS ARE POSSIBLE WITHIN THE WATCH AREA. A WATCH IS TYPICALLY ISSUED 48 HOURS BEFORE THE ANTICIPATED FIRST OCCURRENCE OF TROPICAL-STORM-FORCE WINDS, CONDITIONS THAT MAKE OUTSIDE PREPARATIONS DIFFICULT OR DANGEROUS.

A TROPICAL STORM WARNING MEANS THAT TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED SOMEWHERE WITHIN THE WARNING AREA WITHIN 36 HOURS.

A TROPICAL STORM WATCH MEANS THAT TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS ARE POSSIBLE WITHIN THE WATCH AREA…GENERALLY WITHIN 48 HOURS.

Slowest Start To A Hurricane Season On Record

Reblogged from Real Science stevengoddard.wordpress.com

Obama says that hurricanes are getting worse, based on some research done at the Choom Climatological Institute.

As we approach the end of August, there have been no Atlantic hurricanes. By this date in the year 1886, there had already been seven hurricanes – including three major hurricanes, one of which wiped the city of Indianola, Texas off the map.

ScreenHunter_357 Aug. 24 09.14

1886 Atlantic hurricane season – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A kinder, gentler natural hurricane from 1886

ScreenHunter_359 Aug. 24 09.46

Obama’s presidency has also seen the fewest US hurricane landfalls of any president. Three hurricanes have hit the US while he was in office, compared to twenty-six while Grover Cleveland was in office.

ScreenHunter_19 May. 08 06.04

How A Hurricane Started Stand Your Ground Laws

Stand Your Ground laws started because of a hurricane. Or actually because of what happened after a hurricane. You see, after a hurricane, human emotions, rationale, or analytic skills don’t always gel. Confusion, miscommunication, and lack of basic needs can sometimes cause an environment of anxiety, fear, and apprehension for even veteran hurricane survivors and can blur a clear comprehension of complex situations.

After any hurricane, scores of recovery workers arrive, but also looters and itinerants, who sometimes take shelter in damaged houses.

What happened after one hurricane started a movement to enact stand your ground laws. What happened after this hurricane was that 77 year-old James Workman and his wife Kathryn encountered a perhaps disoriented, 35 year-old temporary FEMA contract worker from North Carolina named Rodney Cox, who had wandered onto their waterfront property in Pensacola, Florida. It was about 2AM on November 3, 2004.

Hurricane Ivan had damaged the couple’s house so they left for a few weeks, and had just returned, sleeping inside a FEMA trailer in their driveway.

waterfront home of James & Kathryn Workman in Pensacola Fla. (photo credit: Google Maps/referenced at Escanbia County Assessor's Office)

Workman house, Pensacola, Fla

Kathryn awoke to the sound of a stranger at the door of their vacant home, and woke James up. In a news interview, Mr. Workman said they hollered through a window at the stranger, then James went outside to confront him. During the confrontation, Workman reportedly fired a warning shot. He said Cox appeared to leave, but instead headed for their trailer as Kathryn was inside calling 911.

A few hours before he made it about the mile and a half to the Workmans’ place, Rodney Cox had called police, reporting some type of “domestic” incident on private property he had settled into, after arriving that day. An autopsy later discovered Cox had a skull fracture, and it’s unclear if he had been injured at that time, which could possibly have caused him to appear disoriented to the Workmans.

“After I saw him enter that trailer, then I naturally went in there behind him. And so he was between Kathy and me. And we got into a scuffle, and I could tell it wasn’t going to be easy. And so I just had to shoot him”, Workman is quoted as saying.

During the scuffle, Cox had wrapped Workman in a bear hug. In fear for his safety, Workman pulled the trigger of his .38 caliber on the father of two, setting off a firestorm of controversy.

photo: Rodney Cox of North Carolina

Rodney Cox

The FEMA contractor was dead on arrival. A shot to Cox’s abdomen traveled through his left kidney and intestine, lodging in his pelvis; another shot went through an artery and lodged in his right thigh. Workman said he fired in self-defense.

But to the police and the state attorney, the circumstances were unclear. It took almost three months for the state to decide whether Workman would face charges. In the end, he didn’t. Yet, the waiting period was unacceptable to some Florida lawmakers.

Just weeks after that decision, Dennis Baxley & Durell Peaden co-sponsored the Stand Your Ground bill in the Florida House of Representatives.

By the time Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast months later, with evacuees from other Gulf Coast states rolling in, Florida was all set to handle anyone who had thoughts of looting or breaking the law on other people’s property.

The Workmans reportedly were keeping up with their case status through the media, and were never called to testify in the legislature considering the stand your ground law, which was signed into effect about a month after Katrina, on October 1, 2005 by then-Governor Jeb Bush.

It initiated a wave of legislation in other states, spearheaded by the National Rifle Association (NRA), relieving the duty to retreat inherent in the Castle Doctrine. And stand your ground laws were born.

TAKE A QUICK 2-MINUTE SURVEY: “How do you feel about Stand Your Ground laws”

New Orleans Levee Break In Progress

New Orleans Floodwall Breach After KatrinaThis is what happens, and what can be created with no experience, time on your hands, and don’t want your mind to be a devil’s workshop. Some folks like to put themselves out there. I’d rather put out a creation that speaks for itself as I work from behind the levee.

For those who don’t know, almost six years ago, I started this website, intended to show the struggles, strength, determination, & resiliency of people affected by Gulf Coast hurricanes. But soon, the site was lonely. I decided to start building a network. So this blog was born.

Just like any aging old institution (me), I looked and saw this network needed to be remodeled, renovated, renewed, resuscitated, rejuvenated, and rebuilt.

The old theme was starting to look outdated and causing too many technical issues. With a fresh, bold new look and a brand new name – The Levee Break - the new KC blog is in progress, using the latest in themes and technology, aiming to be more relevant, contemporary, and socially engaging. So I made this blog better.

Some websites and blogs don’t last 5 years. A website is never really “finished”. It’s in progress. The tweaking is all to make it better. I’ve put countless (and sleepless) hours & hundreds of my own dollars since 2007 keeping this thing online, I expect (nor receive) nothing in return, I publish this site simply because of an inner passion – a love for helping others that embodied me after August 28, 2005. I’m not about to give up on it now. I’ll be doing more posting (took me two weeks to write this one) and looking for your comments. So we can make this blog mo’ better.

I need your support to polish it; to find the niche to make this a relevant resource for storm & storm survivor information, networking, and post-Hurricane Katrina news anywhere. If you didn’t already, register for this blog now, so we can start some meaningful conversations. Let’s talk about issues like flooding, FEMA, housing, blight, crime, schools, employment, or whatever’s on your mind – go ahead & vent. This is a good place for it. It’s about more than just a hurricane. Together, we can make this blog one of the best!

Wayne Filmore, Publisher/Editor

KatrinaConnection.com, Inc

Coastal Areas Threatened By Flood Insurance Cost

Next year, flood insurance rates are set to go through the roof for many local homeowners. Some will have to pay more than $25,000 a year. A Senate sub-committee chaired by Sen. Mary Landrieu voted to delay the rate increases for homes that are “grandfathered” into existing flood insurance.

93 Year Old Man Missing Since Hurricane Isaac

Antoine Edmond

Antoine Edmond

St. Charles Parish authorities have issued a reminder to the public that they are still seeking info on the whereabouts of Antoine Edmond, a 93 year-old man who was last seen on August 26, 2012, as Hurricane Isaac made its way toward the coast of Louisiana. Mr. Edmond, who lived at 274 Magnolia Ridge in Boutte, Louisiana, suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and was last seen wearing a red shirt, blue jeans, and no shoes. The St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office first issued a missing person report in August, but wants to remind the public that he is still unaccounted for.

Anyone with any information on Antoine Edmond is asked to contact Detective Lance Richards with the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office at 985-783-6807.

In New Orleans, Who Cares About The Super Bowl?


New streetcar lines are rolling, parades are marching. and the weather is appealing. The food and music are awesome. The “Super Gras” city with the 2013 Super Bowl & Mardi Gras combined is a gleaming package of adrenaline, seemingly ready to burst at the seams with excitement. And there are lots of local Ravens and 49ers fans here. They care about the Super Bowl. Some national media reports claim New Orleans is back.

Seven years, like those caused by the presumtiously superstitious broken mirror, sometimes seem to only reflect the light of crime, corruption, broken promises, and lost dreams. Looking through the smoke screens to find the pieces means driving around the lower ninth ward, St. Bernard Parish, and other pockets of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast still struggling to regain and maintain population and stature. They care about the Super Bowl.

Seven years ago, it seemed like an insurmoutable task to repair the devastation caused by levees which collapsed after hurricane Katrina. Many Katrina survivors felt it would take many decades for the city and surrounding areas to return to their former glory.

Most major, national events disenfranchise many local vendors, businesses, homeowners, and other citizens who are left out of the loop. That’s why the NFL has put so much focus on local business. And, the city of New Orleans recently raised property tax assessments, making taxes higher for some non-exempt property owners. The cost of rent is sometimes out of reach for many of the city’s hospitality industry and other blue collar workers. Budgets are out of whack. The city’s murder rate remains among the highest in the nation, along with it’s sales taxes.

Critics blame Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Police Chief Renal Serpas, or any other elected official – who in turn blame each other – for problems and failures. As squabbling and corrruption continues, businesses leave or avoid the city. Locals navigate the city with a sense of insecurity, uneasiness. or urgency. They care about the Super Bowl, even though the Saints didn’t make it this time.

As the world looks upon the Super Bowl city like it’s a promising, inspiring comeback story, thousands of it’s former residents are still scattered throughout the world with an equal number of Katrina stories. Some choose not to come back. Others want to. They care about the Super Bowl.

Is an unstable New Orleans ready for the next power failure? Until the city of New Orleans wakes up and finds a way to once again come together outside of the Superdome, it’s doomed to fall again. As a host for major national events, as a tourist mecca, as a food junkie paradise, and a party destination, the concensus may be that the city is back. The city cares about the Super Bowl. Yet, as a home, it still has some welcoming to do. It must care about its people.

Survey: Many East Coast Residents May Not Evacuate For Hurricane Sandy

Unless time or experience has changed the perceptions of East Coast residents over the course of the past four years, a 2008 study (less than three years after Hurricane Katrina) commissioned by Allstate Insurance Company found cause for evacuation concerns.

Hurricane Evacuation Survey.

Louisiana Emergency and Homeland Security Preparedness Contact Numbers

As hurricane-to-be Isaac bears down on Louisiana, some citizens may have the need for emergency information. This is a parish-by-parish list of emergency contact numbers [Source: Louisiana State Police]

Acadia Lee Hebert (337) 783-4357 (337) 788-8852 Email: lheb...@appj.org

Allen John Richer (337) 300-9032 (337) 639-4326 Email: elto...@centurytel.net

Ascension Rick Webre (225) 621-8360(225) 621-8362 Email: rwe...@apgov.us

Assumption John Boudreaux (985) 369-7351 (985) 369-7341 Email:john...@assumptionoep.com

Avoyelles Anzell Jones (318) 240-9160 (318) 240-9162 Email:aoh...@kricket.net

Beauregard Glen Mears (337)460-5442 (337)460-5460 Email: glen...@centurytel.net

Bienville Rodney Warren (318)263-2019 (318)263-7404 Email: rwar...@bienvilleparish.org

Caddo/Bossier Sandy Davis (318) 425-5351 (318) 425-5940 Email:sda...@cbohsep.org

Calcasieu Richard “Dick” Gremillion (337) 721-3800 (337) 437-3583 Email:ohs...@cppj.net

Caldwell Dale Powell (318) 649-3764 (318) 649-3765 Email: cald...@bellsouth.net

Cameron Eddie Benoit (337) 775-7048 (337) 775-7043 Email:came...@camtel.net

Catahoula Ellis Boothe (318) 744-5697 (318) 744-5697 Email:cata...@att.net

Claiborne Dennis Butcher (318) 927-3575 (318) 927-2115 Email: ooep...@bellsouth.net

Concordia Morris White (318) 757-8248 (318) 757-7200 Email: con...@bellsouth.net

DeSoto Alan Bounds (318) 872-3956 (318) 872-2304 Email: deso...@bellsouth.net

East Baton Rouge JoAnne Moreau (225) 389-2100 (225) 389-2114 Email: jmor...@brgov.com

East Carroll LeeKeitha M. Reed (318) 559-2256 (318) 559-1502 Email: ecpj...@bayou.com

East Feliciana Bud Weigand (225) 683-1014
(225) 244-5881 (225) 683-1478 Email:efoe...@bellsouth.net

Evangeline Liz Hill (337) 363-3267 (337) 363-3308 Email: vang...@centurytel.net

Franklin Mitch Reynolds (318) 435-6247 (318) 435-6258
Email: mitc...@franklinparish.org

Grant Robert Meeker (318) 627-3041 (318) 627-5927 Email: jans...@aol.com

Iberia Prescott Marshall (337) 369-4427 (337) 369-9956 Email: pmar...@iberiagov.net

Iberville Laurie Doiron (225) 687-5140 (225) 687-5146 Email: ldoi...@ibervilleparish.com

Jackson Paul Walsworth (318) 259-2361 ext 204 (318) 259-5660 Email: pwal...@jacksonparishpolicejury.org

Jefferson David Dysart (504) 349-5360 (504) 227-1315 Email:ddys...@jeffparish.net

Jefferson Davis Ivy Woods (337) 824-3850 (337) 821-2105 Email: sher...@jeffdavis.net

Lafayette William Vincent (337 291-5075 (337) 291-5080 Email: e...@lafayettela.gov

Lafourche Chris Boudreaux (985) 532-8174 (985) 532-8292 Email: chr...@lafourchegov.org

LaSalle Scott Franklin (318)992-2151 (318)992-8919 Email: sfra...@lasalleso.com

Lincoln Kip Franklin (318) 513-6202 (318) 874-3910 Email: kfra...@lincolnparish.org

Livingston Mark Harrell (225) 686-3066 (225) 686-7280 Email: lohs...@lpgov.com

Madison Earl Pinkney (318) 574-6911 (318) 874-3910
Email: earl...@yahoo.com

Morehouse James Mardis (318) 871-3907 (318) 281-4141 (318) 281-1773
Email: jmar...@mpso.net

Natchitoches Victor Jones (318) 357-7802 (318) 357-2208 Email: jper...@npsheriff.net

Orleans Jerry Sneed (504) 658-8700 (504) 658-8701 Email: NOO...@nola.gov

Ouachita Tracy Hilburn (318) 322-2641 (318) 322-7356 Email: thil...@ohsep.net

Plaquemines Guy Lagist (504) 274-2476 (225) 297-5635 Email: g...@plaqueminesparish.com

Pointe Coupee Donald Ewing (225) 694-3737 (225) 694-5408 Email: daew...@pcpso.org

Rapides Sonya Wiley (318) 445-0396 (318) 445-5605 Email: swi...@rapides911.org
Email: rapi...@suddenlinkmail.com

Red River Russell Adams (318) 932-5981 (318) 932-5802 Email: ra1...@netzero.net

Richland Dawn Blackshear (318) 728-0453 (318) 728-5888 Email: rppj...@inetsouth.com

Sabine David Davis (318) 256-2675 (318) 256-9652 Email: spo...@suddenlinkmail.com

St. Bernard John Rahaim (504) 278-4268 (504) 278-4493 Email: jrah...@sbpg.net

St. Charles Scott Whelchel (985) 783-5050 (985) 783-6375 Email: swhe...@scpeoc.org Dispatch (24 hr) Email: comm...@scpeoc.org

St. Helena Jessica Strickland (225) 222-3544 (225) 222-3696 Email: shoh...@hotmail.com St. James Eric Deroche (225) 562-2364 (225) 562-2269 Email: eric...@stjamesla.com

St. John the Baptist Jobe Boucvalt (985) 652-2222 (985) 652-2183 Email: j.bo...@sjbparish.com

St. Landry Lisa Vidrine (337) 948-7177 (337) 948-9139 Email: stla...@att.net

St. Martin Terry Guidry (337)394-3071 (337) 394-5705 Email: ohs...@stmartinsheriff.org

St. Mary Duval H. Arthur, Jr. (337) 828-4100 ext 135 (337) 828-4092 Email: dart...@stmaryparishla.gov

St. Tammany Dexter Accardo (985) 898-2359 (985) 898-3030 Email: dacc...@stpgov.org

Tangipahoa Dawson Primes (985) 748-3211 (985) 748-7050 Email: daws...@tangipahoa.org

Tensas William ‘Rick” Foster (318) 766-3992 (318) 766-4391 Email: tpo...@bellsouth.net

Terrebonne Earl Eues (985) 873-6357 (985) 850-4643 Email: eeu...@tpcg.org

Union Brian Halley (318) 368-3124 (318) 368-2728 Email: hall...@aol.com

Vermilion Rebecca Broussard (337) 898-4308 (337) 898-4309 Email: vpo...@cox-internet.com

Vernon Howard Hudgens (337) 238-0815 (337) 238-9025 Email: jhud...@vpso.org

Washington Tommy Thiebaud (985) 839-0434 (985) 839-0435 Email: tthi...@wpgov.org

Webster John Stanley (318) 846-2454 (318) 846-2446 Email: webs...@wildblue.net

West Baton Rouge Deano Moran (225) 346-1577 (225) 346-0284 Email: dean...@wbrcouncil.org

West Carroll Peggy Robinson (318) 428-8020 (318) 428-8025 Email: wcp...@bellsouth.net

West Feliciana Chief Tommy Boyett (225) 635-6428 (225) 635-6996 Email: tboy...@wfpso.org

Winn Harry Foster (318) 628-1160 (318) 727-3112 Email: winn...@winnparish.org

New Predictions: Busy Hurricane Season


This year’s Atlantic hurricane season got off to a busy start, with 6 named storms to date, and may have a busy second half, according to the updated hurricane season outlook issued today by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service. The updated outlook still indicates a 50 percent chance of a near-normal season, but increases the chance of an above-normal season to 35 percent and decreases the chance of a below-normal season to only 15 percent from the initial outlook issued in May.

Across the entire Atlantic Basin for the season – June 1 to November 30 – NOAA’s updated seasonal outlook projects a total (which includes the activity-to-date of tropical storms Alberto, Beryl, Debbie, Florence and hurricanes Chris and Ernesto) of:
•12 to 17 named storms (top winds of 39 mph or higher), including:
•5 to 8 hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher), of which:
•2 to 3 could be major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of at least 111 mph)

The numbers are higher from the initial outlook in May, which called for 9-15 named storms, 4-8 hurricanes and 1-3 major hurricanes. Based on a 30-year average, a normal Atlantic hurricane season produces 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.

“We are increasing the likelihood of an above-normal season because storm-conducive wind patterns and warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures are now in place in the Atlantic,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the Climate Prediction Center. “These conditions are linked to the ongoing high activity era for Atlantic hurricanes that began in 1995. Also, strong early-season activity is generally indicative of a more active season.”

However, NOAA seasonal climate forecasters also announced that El Niño will likely develop in August or September.

“El Niño is a competing factor, because it strengthens the vertical wind shear over the Atlantic, which suppresses storm development. However, we don’t expect El Niño’s influence until later in the season,” Bell said.

“We have a long way to go until the end of the season, and we shouldn’t let our guard down,” said Laura Furgione, acting director of NOAA’s National Weather Service. “Hurricanes often bring dangerous inland flooding as we saw a year ago in the Northeast with Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. Even people who live hundreds of miles from the coast need to remain vigilant through the remainder of the season.”

“It is never too early to prepare for a hurricane,” said Tim Manning, FEMA’s deputy administrator for protection and national preparedness. “We are in the middle of hurricane season and now is the time to get ready. There are easy steps you can take to get yourself and your family prepared. Visit www.ready.gov to learn more.”

New Orleans Homeless Hole Up In Abandoned Buildings

Since so many have been pushed from their sleeping posts under bridges and overpasses, New Orleans’ homeless seek out blighted and abandoned buildings.

New Orleans Homeless Hole Up In Hurricane Katrina’s Abandoned Buildings.

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Are Seniors At Risk In Hurricane Season?

Are seniors at risk in hurricane season?.

Stumbling Blocks

These last few weeks have been painful. Besides a “computer arm” (a cousin of tennis elbow, I guess) not being able to write about all the Katrina-related news that’s been popping up, and watching our economy suffer has been painful, too. And then to watch our government try to bail out Wall Street was enough to cause more pain.

To get back on track, some things are better NOT left alone, and hurricane recovery is never far from the mind of anyone who’s rebuilding. Just because Hurricane Katrina is not at the top of the media food chain doesn’t mean the issues are not just as important now as they were three years ago.

As recently as Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, issues known to exist in the aftermath of Katrina are apparently still stumbling blocks for hurricane survivors.

Things like unfit Red Cross shelters, hotel room shortages, re-entry problems, housing, FEMA problems, and the expense of evacuating are among the issues that still haunt hurricane survivors.

As another hurricane season winds to a close, let’s not let our guard down. Because the pain (or the karma) could come back to haunt us, also.

Galveston Greed

Certain guests at Daniel Yeh’s hotel in Galveston after Hurricane Katrina had rooms paid for by FEMA, and Yeh probably thought he’d latched onto an easy way to guaranteed guests and payments. Problem was, the guests weren’t really guests or Katrina evacuees, or the rooms were unoccupied, or were even occupied with paying guests.

Flagship Hotel in Galveston Texas

Yeh, 55, of Sugarland, Texas, an owner of the Flagship Hotel (a Galveston landmark which sits on piers over Gulf of Mexico waters and suffered damages from Hurricane Ike) was sentenced to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay $30,000 in fines on September 26 because of his scheme.

Yeh has already repaid about $232,000 to the government in restitution, not long after search warrants were served on him in December, 2005. He had faced a maximum of five years in prison without parole and fines of up to $250,000. His sentencing originally had been set for Feb. 1, 2008.

His attorneys had filed a defense motion for a lower sentence because of a claim that diminished mental capacity due to a brain tumor caused him to hatch the scheme. The federal judge rightfully called the medical testimony comparable to “Alice in Wonderland”.

A 39-count 2006 indictment alleged that between October 1, 2005, and December 15, 2005, Yeh knowingly devised a scheme to defraud the federal disaster relief programs of at least $232,000.

In October 2005, Yeh gave a desk clerk about 30 names to put into the hotel’s reservation system at the “FEMA rate” of $84.99 a night. He then picked up the room cards for the rooms and started billing FEMA. An investigation found a number of those people were Yeh’s employees, relatives and friends and were not hurricane evacuees

Yeh pled guilty in 2007 and admitted he submitted a false claim to FEMA for Room 701 at the Flagship from Oct. 28 through Nov. 11, 2005. Based on that claim, FEMA paid the hotel $1,189.

The investigation started when agents got a tip saying the hotel records showed it as full when, in fact, a significant number of rooms were unoccupied. Federal agents say they interviewed a man whose name was listed on Yeh’s claims as the guest, but the man (a contractor who submitted bids in 2004 and 2005 for remodeling jobs at the Flagship and another hotel Yeh is associated with) said he didn’t have a room at the Flagship then.

As part of the alleged scheme, Yeh took over the job of billing the federal lodging programs online after Hurricane Rita, filing false claims for reimbursement for rooms in the names of hotel employees who had stayed at the Flagship free as part of their employment arrangement; rooms in the name of supposed hurricane evacuees on dates when the rooms were occupied by paying hotel guests with different names; rooms occupied by friends, relatives, and employees of his wife’s business, who were recruited to stay at the hotel, but were not evacuees; rooms in the names of supposed hurricane evacuees who never had rooms; rooms in the name of supposed hurricane evacuees on dates when those rooms were unoccupied; and for multiple rooms in the names of a single guest when, in fact, the guest didn’t occupy as many rooms.

Yeh has been free on bond and a date hasn’t yet been set for him to report to prison.

You have to wonder how many other hotels took advantage of the system back then. And that corruption is shamefully greater than that done by any Katrina evacuee or undeserving individual.

Anyone suspecting criminal activity involving disaster assistance programs can make an anonymous report by calling the toll-free Hurricane Relief Fraud Hotline, 1-866-720-5721 or 1-800-CALL-FBI, 24 hours a day, seven days a week until further notice.

Information can also be emailed to the inspector general at dhso...@dhs.gov or sent by snail mail, with as many details as possible, to:
Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC. 20528
Attn: Office of Inspector General, Hotline