On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina passed just to the east of New Orleans. Though the most severe portion of Katrina missed the city, the storm surge caused more than 50 breaches in drainage canal levees and also in navigational canal levees and precipitated the worst engineering disaster in US history.
By August 31, 2005, eighty percent of New Orleans was flooded, with some parts under 15 feet of water. Almost the entire population of the city was evacuated. Most residents would not return for months, and many have never returned.
Remarkably, just 8 months later, Jazzfest did return.
When people ask me about the current state of the city, I give them a two part answer.
First, New Orleans is ready for tourists.
The "tourist areas" actually suffered the least damage. That's not coincidental, rather it's because the first settlers were smart enough to build on the highest ground, so that's where you'll find the French Quarter, Downtown, and the Garden District. You could come to New Orleans now, and if all you visited were these areas plus the Fairgrounds where Jazzfest is held, you might not even notice anything had happened.
Tourism is a major supporter of the local economy, and the city wants you come back. Stay in hotels, dine out in restaurants, go to the live music clubs, shop in the stores and galleries.
But, second, this doesn't mean the city doesn't still need help.
If you get outside the tourist areas, there are still many residential areas that have not recovered. So don't forget the city. Keep on your Congressmen, don't let them forget the floods resulted from governmental failures: inadequate levees, eroded wetlands.
Chitown Huck of the Jazzfest Chat Board is organizing some volunteering opportunities around the time of Fest. Here's the latest info he's sent me:
The volunteer website is up and running, at http://www.festaid.com. Check that site for the latest list of places to help.
We are a group of Jazz Fest attendees from different parts of the country that have felt the blessing that is the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Each year we have come together to celebrate the music and culture of New Orleans. When Katrina devastated this city that has meant so much to so many of us, we started looking for ways to help. Separately we came together in our desire to give back to New Orleans. We came together and began to organize various opportunities for other Jazz Fest attendees in conjunction with our visit to this year’s Jazz Festival. We contacted existing aid organizations and publicized these opportunities using the message boards and internet that have developed around the Jazz Festival. When we posted our intentions, many people responded that they would love to help out. As a result, we are continuing to reach even more people to help out New Orleans and its citizens.
Please join us in our quest to renew New Orleans.
Page last updated March 16, 2008