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Letter from B.D.B. in Baton Rouge

Well, I was lucky enough to be outside the edge of Katrina’s rampage here in Baton Rouge. I can attest that is was no picnic here and the devastation is widespread and intense.

Beginning on Sunday morning refugees came pouring into town fleeing New Orleans and by mid-day traffic westbound on I-10 was crawling. People were swarming the stores buying supplies and fuel. Gasoline disappeared very quickly but diesel fuel seemed readily available (no surprise there.) Many people were buying useless supplies though, things such as dairy products, meats, vegetables, and such. There was a distinct tension and sense of near panic in the shopping centers in this area. As the day progressed, the clouds started picking up and the wind began blowing, and refugees clogged the major roadways. Many of them had no plan of action; they were just driving west away from the storm but had no plans on where they would go or stay. Many of them had no clue that there were other roads besides the interstate or other major highways.

As of today, there are at least 100,000 refugees in shelters here in Baton Rouge, and probably that many staying with friends and family here in town. There are refugees in every other southern city within driving distance of the coast. Anywhere within say 300 miles of the affected area will have large numbers of refugees–some with with nothing but the clothes on their backs–and nothing to return home to. We have power and water here, but communications channels are choked. Fuel is in short supply but holding out. There is a definite tension in the air, and it’s going to happen soon…refugees will get frustrated and hungry to the point that they may riot or begin looting. There is widespread looting and lawlessness in affected areas of New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Looters are firing on the police, police officers trying to help them are getting hit, helicopters and planes are coming under small arms fire. Areas of New Orleans are now under martial law and I’m fully expecting that case to be expanded to other areas such as Gulfport and Biloxi. This disaster will directly impact not only our local economy, but the economy of the rest of the nation. Oil production is shut down not only offshore, but in the refineries as well; transportation systems are damaged; businesses are under water and their employees are out of a job for an unknown duration; the Ports of New Orleans, Gulfport, Biloxi, and Mobile are not functional; and the list goes on. If this isn’t a SHTF situation, I don’t know what is.