- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 30, 2005

NEW ORLEANS — Floodwaters up to 6 feet deep engulfed streets and forced residents onto rooftops after savage winds pulverized New Orleans’ business district, leaving this party town with a painful hurricane hangover.

In the city known as the birthplace of jazz, the storm shattered high-rise windows, littered the streets of the historic French Quarter with debris and tore through the roof of the Superdome football stadium, where about 9,000 people had taken shelter.

In St. Bernard Parish, east of New Orleans, floodwaters were waist-high. A homeless man waded through the water and shouted out to the people watching from the interstate highway overpass.

“Hey mister, toss me something,” he said, invoking the classic Mardi Gras request for beads.

Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, a Democrat, last night said that about 1,200 people were stranded “but safe” on rooftops — just in St. Bernard Parish.

“As of tonight, several hundred people have been rescued from their homes, from their attics, from their rooftops,” she said. “We believe there are hundreds more out there.”

Bryan Vernon spent three hours on his roof, screaming over howling winds for someone to save him and his fiancee.

“I’ve never encountered anything like it in my life. It just kept rising and rising and rising,” he said.

Across a street that had turned into a river bobbing with garbage cans, trash and old tires, a woman leaned from the second-story window of a brick home and pleaded to be rescued.

“There are three kids in here,” the woman said. “Can you help us?”

Private citizens were already conducting rescue efforts. In New Orleans, Mark Morice, 35, steered his boat through four feet of water, downed power lines and broken tree limbs.

“We are going out, there are people out there on top of homes,” he said.

Mr. Morice’s friend, Walker Lasiter, 28, sat on his deck, wearing nothing but a pair of shorts.

“Did you all see those nutrias swimming by?” he asked, referring to massive beaverlike rodents that live in the New Orleans canals and sewer systems.

On Interstate 10, one motorist rounded a corner and unwittingly steered directly into a wall of water. A member of a TV film crew ran into chest-deep, fast-moving water to pull him out of a window.

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