[StBernard] St. Bernard Parish turns into a hurricane ghost town

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Sun Aug 31 15:21:31 EDT 2008

St. Bernard Parish turns into a hurricane ghost town
USA TODAY's Donna Leinwand says the sheriff closed the roads into St.
Bernard Parish at 4 p.m. local time, making the coastal lowland of
Chalmette, La., a hurricane ghost town.

Parish President Craig Taffaro declared a mandatory evacuation today that
prohibits anyone from entering the parish. Most residents appeared to heed
the warning. Nearly every home in St. Bernard Parish went underwater during
Hurricane Katrina. Helicopters plucked people off their roofs.

"I cannot imagine why anybody would stay," says Kathi Mureen, 54, as she
and her daughter, Hannah, 18, loaded their car with supplies and their most
precious possessions. "I'm assuming most people are leaving."

Mureen and her family weathered Katrina in the brick house that her father
built extra high after the 1947 floods devastated the neighborhood. After
the levees broke, water rose to the eaves. Eventually, Mureen, clinging to a
board, swam half a mile to the courthouse for help.

The house still bears the scars. The bricks are marked with an 'x', a circle
and a date indicating that the sheriff checked the house for bodies on Sept.
15, 2005, and found none.

"Numb. I feel numb. I don't think I've even cried from Katrina yet. I
haven't had time," Mureen says.

Until Saturday afternoon, Tony "Ricky' Melerine, 57, a former councilman at
large in Meraux, planned on staying in his home in Violet. He'd sent his
family to Mississippi, but he worried about looters and thought he would
keep an eye on his place.

"Then the news reporter said it doesn't look good. He said it's going to be
just like Katrina," Melerine says. Just like Katrina for Melerine
meant water flooding into the house up to the attic in 30 minutes.

Melerine chopped through the roof with a hatchet and perched there for two
hours until a relative in boat rescued him. It took two weeks for the water
to drain from his house.

"I've been living in a trailer up until two months ago," Melerine says. "I
just can't believe this, going through this again. If it happens again,
they don't have to worry about rebuilding. People just won't come back."

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