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Entries in Hurricane Katrina (8)

Tuesday
Aug282012

Storm Surge, Rainfall Biggest Concern as Isaac Nears

NOAA-NASA GOES Project(NEW ORLEANS) -- Isaac remains a tropical storm with a chance of becoming a weak Category 1 hurricane before it makes landfall, but forecasters say the biggest threat will be rainfall and the storm surge.

Forecasters have projected landfall as early as Tuesday night -- a day short of the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.  On Monday, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Isaac's similar path as Katrina and the anniversary was leaving much of the Gulf Coast on "a high level of anxiety."

Winds will be an issue initially when Isaac makes landfall with gusts up to 75 mph.  Forecasters say the big threat with Isaac will be the storm surge around New Orleans and Biloxi, Miss., where water might rise six to nine feet.  The slow moving storm could punish coastal areas with up to 20 inches of rain, which was one of Louisiana's Gov. Bobby Jindal's main concerns on Monday.

As of 2 a.m. ET Tuesday, the center of the storm was 145 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and moving northwest at 12 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Despite hurricane warnings extended across more than 330 miles from Louisiana to western Florida, all eyes are still on New Orleans as this will be its first big test since Katrina.

Since the levees failed seven years ago over $14 billion have been spent on the 133-mile long floodwalls, spillways, gates and pumps surrounding New Orleans.  While officials say the city is more prepared now than they were in 2005, they're still taking no chances when it comes to evacuations.

Jindal warned people in low lying areas to get out of Isaac's way.

"Today is the day," the governor said on Monday.  "Today is the final day you should be taking any final precautions.  If you want to evacuate, today is the day to do that."

Jindal said over 4,000 National Guardsmen will be mobilized in case of emergency, but said he does not anticipate having to activate contraflow highway rules for evacuation purposes.

He also said that President Obama called him on Monday to say that the governor's request for a pre-landfall federal disaster declaration had been approved.  The approval opens up federal funding to potentially help Louisiana cope with any damage.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug102012

Hurricane Katrina Hero Wanted Ex-Wife, 2 Others Dead: Cops

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW ORLEANS) -- A New Orleans man whose heroics and mistaken arrest after Hurricane Katrina were chronicled in a critically acclaimed book is facing charges he solicited an inmate to kill his ex-wife, her son and another man.

Abdulrahman Zeitoun, 54, was booked on three counts of solicitation of murder on Thursday.

The Syrian-born Zeitoun spent the days after Hurricane Katrina rescuing neighbors from his secondhand tin canoe and handing out water, until he was wrongfully arrested for looting.

Zeitoun spent 23 days locked up without a hearing or the chance to let his wife, who had been evacuated, know he was safe. The Zeitoun family's story was chronicled in the 2009 nonfiction book Zeitoun, written by Dave Eggers.

The book details the loving, rock-solid marriage between the couple, who share a belief in Islam, and the panic Kathy Zeitoun spent after the storm, worrying about whether her husband had survived.

However, in the years since it was published, the seemingly perfect marriage has unraveled.

Abdulrahman Zeitoun was placed on probation for a March 2011 attack on his wife. The assault prompted Kathy Zeitoun to file for divorce, which was finalized last year.

Zeitoun was arrested again last month after he attacked his ex-wife, violating a protection order. According to police, he tried to strangle Kathy Zeitoun on a New Orleans street on July 25.

Zeitoun, who has been in jail since the incident, is accused of soliciting an Orleans Parish inmate to kill Kathy Zeitoun, her son from a previous marriage and another man who frequently accompanied her on outings, said New Orleans police spokesperson Remi Braden.

Inmate Donald Pugh told police that Zeitoun provided him with Kathy Zeitoun's cellphone number and a detailed plan of how he was to pose as a prospective tenant for one of her rental properties. He was then told to kill her and the two other men once inside the vacant home, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.

In order to collect the $20,000 bounty, the murders had to occur while Zeitoun was locked up on his probation violation to ensure he would not be a suspect, the newspaper reported.

Dave Eggers, author of the bestselling novel, and Jonathan Demme, a filmmaker who has expressed interest in making the book into an animated film, issued a joint statement and said they have been in daily contact with Kathy Zeitoun since the July 25 attack.

"Our primary concern is for the safety and well-being of Kathy and the children. As the investigation proceeds, we hope that you will join us in respecting the Zeitoun family's privacy at this difficult time," they wrote.

Zeitoun is being held on $999,000 bond for the solicitation to murder charges and $150,000 for the domestic abuse charge.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr052012

Former New Orleans Cops Sentenced for Bridge Shootings

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW ORLEANS) -- A federal judge in New Orleans handed down long sentences on Wednesday to five former cops who were found guilty last year of obstruction of justice charges in the shootings of six people on the Danzinger Bridge following Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the Gulf Coast in late August 2005.

Four of the ex-New Orleans cops, Sgts. Kenneth Bowen and Robert Gisevius and officers Robert Faulcon and Anthony Villavaso, received terms of 38 to 65 years from U.S. District Court Judge Kurt Englehardt.

Former Sgt. Arthur Kauffman was given six years behind bars for taking part in the ensuing cover-up.

After responding to a radio call that fellow officers were under fire, prosecutors said Bowen, Gisevius, Faulcon and Villavaso fired on an unarmed family on the bridge, killing James Brissette, and wounding four others.

Two brothers were also shot at, with Ronald Madison hit in the back and then kicked and stomped on before he died.  His sibling, Lance Madison, was first charged with attempting to kill police officers and was then released three weeks afterwards when it was determined that he was falsely charged.

The incident prompted the Justice Department to launch a probe of the New Orleans Police Department, leading to its finding that officers "show a lack of respect for the civil rights and dignity" of the people they serve.

While the officers will likely appeal their sentence, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said the convictions brought "significant closure."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug292011

Obama on Katrina Anniversary: We Must Continue Recovery Efforts

In this composite satellite image, The Lower 9th Ward is seen (L-R) January 7, 2003 prior to hurricane Katrina, August 31, 2005 upon the levee being breeched, September 21, 2005 after the waters receded, and April 16, 2011 during the rebuilding efforts in New Orleans, Louisiana. DigitalGlobe via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- On the six year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, President Obama says that “what’s required of us is more than remembrance -- what’s required of us is our continued efforts to make sure that New Orleans and the Gulf Coast fully recover.”

The president highlights the work his administration has done to free up funding for recovery efforts in Louisiana and Mississippi, saying “we’ll keep at it until these communities have come back stronger than before.”

Going forward, Obama promises to make sure that the federal response to such disasters is the best it can be and he touts his administration’s preparedness for Hurricane Irene this past weekend.

“Before the storm made landfall, the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA worked closely with our state and local partners to preposition supplies and teams of first responders, and support their response efforts. Those response efforts are ongoing and we will continue that partnership, responding as quickly and effectively as possible, for as long as necessary, until the affected communities are back on their feet,” he says.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb142011

Data Shows Katrina Victims Have Relocated Several Times Since 2005

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Data released Monday by the United States Census Bureau further details the plight of residents who once lived in or around the city of New Orleans. More than 31,000 people, the data shows, still do not consider themselves to be permanently settled, more than five years after the disaster.

The data was collected from a survey of more than 60,000 people -- many of whom have moved to numerous locations since having to leave greater New Orleans. Nearly 30,000 people have lived in five or more places, the data reports.

About 40 percent of respondents said they had damage to their property that exceeded $15,000. However, a lot of that was paid for by federal flood insurance money. The most recent numbers -- as of 2009 -- show that more than 65,000 residences in the New Orleans area were not habitable.

On the other hand, 30,000 residents said in the survey that they did not get the federal assistance they needed to rehabilitate their homes.

Census data released earlier this month showed that since 2000, when the last census was taken, that the population of New Orleans had dropped 29 percent.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb072011

New Orleans Population Shrinks By a Third In 10 Years

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- New Orleans may always hold the nickname "The Big Easy," but its population isn't quite as big as it was 10 years ago.

The population in New Orleans shrunk by nearly 30 percent in 10 years according to new data released last week.  Much of that loss was attributed to the ravages of Hurricane Katrina which devastated the city in 2005.

The U.S. Census Bureau released local 2010 Census data, which revealed New Orleans's population stood at 343,829 people in 2010.  Ten years earlier, the city's population sat at 484,674 people, reflecting a 29.1 percent change in the population.

This drop in New Orleans' population size is credited to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the most destructive and costly natural disaster in the history of the United States.

"It's obviously a smaller city," Allison Plyer, chief demographer for the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, said.  "That drop was very much expected.  Obviously, Katrina had a huge impact."

Known for its rich traditions from cultivating the foundations of jazz music to the lively atmosphere and history of the French Quarter and Bourbon Street, the city endured the worst of the 2005 storm.  Nearly 80 percent of its population fled the city to safer locations in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas, but it remains unclear how many of these evacuees eventually returned to New Orleans.

Before Katrina hit, the city's racial composition was overwhelmingly black with over 67 percent of the population identifying themselves as black or African American in the 2000 census.  In 2010, this percentage dropped to 60, with the city losing 119,000 people who identified themselves as black or African American in 2010 while New Orleans saw an influx in its Hispanic population.

In addition to the change in the cultural landscape of the city, the housing sector took a noticeable hit from the storm as well.  Prior to Katrina, only 12.5 percent of housing units were unoccupied, according to 2000 census data, but the 2010 census revealed the occupancy number declined with 25 percent of housing units listed as unoccupied.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec102010

New Orleans Cops Found Guilty of Shooting, Burning Man Post-Katrina

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW ORLEANS) -- Three New Orleans police officers were found guilty Thursday of fatally shooting a man and burning his remains in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

A federal jury in New Orleans convicted officers David Warren, Greg McRae and Lt. Travis McCabe for the death of civilian Henry Glover on Sept. 2, 2005.

During the month-long trial, jurors heard evidence that Warren shot Glover in the back as he was running away from him.  After the shooting, Glover's brother and a friend flagged down a passing motorist who drove the wounded victim to a nearby police station for help.  The officers surrounded the men, handcuffing them while allowing Glover to die in the back seat of the car.  McRae then took off in the vehicle -- with Glover's body inside -- and set the car on fire with a traffic flare, burning evidence of the body.

Warren was found guilty of a civil rights violation and use of a firearm during a crime of manslaughter, and faces a possible life sentence.  McRae was charged with two counts of civil rights violations, one count of obstruction of justice and one count of using fire in the commission of a felony, and could face 50 years in prison.  McCabe was also convicted with obstruction of justice, as well as lying to the FBI and committing perjury, and faces a maximum sentence of 30 years.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec012010

Former New Orleans Police Officer Sentenced in Danziger Bridge Deaths

Photo Courtesy -- Department of Justice(WASHINGTON) -- A former New Orleans police officer has been sentenced for his role in a police-involved shooting just days after Hurricane Katrina that left two dead and four injured.

The Department of Justice announced Wednesday that Michael Hunter will serve eight years in prison for his role in the Danziger Bridge shooting. He faced charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice and concealing a known crime in the Sept. 4, 2005 incident.

According to court documents, Hunter and others officers responded to a call that the bridge had come under fire. He admitted that he and other officers fired assault weapons on unarmed civilians who did not pose a threat. Hunter also admitted to conspiring to cover up the events when an investigation was launched.
 
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