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August 29th, 2008
09:52 AM ET

"Can you come to the Lower 9th, I found my mother's body"

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/08/29/art.katrina.bodies.jpg caption="Hurricane Katrina victims bring a boat to help ferry people past a dead body outside the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans 3 years ago"]

Editor's Note: Anderson Cooper 360° is in New Orleans tonight, as Tropical Storm Gustav barrels toward the Gulf of Mexico, expected to reach Category 3. We'll look at whether New Orleans is ready, after being devastated by Hurricane Katrina exactly three years ago today. Watch our special report tonight at 10p ET.

Sean Callebs
CNN Correspondent

I went from living a mile above sea level, to living below sea level overnight. CNN moved our Denver Bureau to New Orleans to focus on the recovery. It’s provided a front row seat to what hopefully will be a once in a lifetime event. Rebuilding a major U.S. city. It’s the images that captured our attention as a nation. Desperate crowds at the Superdome, the Convention Center, and interstate overpasses.

But it’s the characters that I remember and it’s hard to believe it’s been three years. So much has been done, and sadly so little has been done.

One of the first locals I met was Jeff Chaz, The Bourbon Street Bluesman. He lost everything, including in his health, and his ability to find work at what he does and that is ease his fingers over the maple neck of his custom guitar.

I did a story with Jeff early in 2006 he had his sense of humor and optimism. We’d talk every few months and he slipped deeper in an abyss of emotional distress despite constantly doing what he could to find work. Last time we chatted he was depressed working as a maitre’de, his pre-Katrina life a distant memory, and every time I hung up the phone I wished there was more I could do.

Then there’s Robert Green. Robert called me early in 2006 as well, saying “can you come to the lower 9th, I found my mother’s body.”

FULL POST


Filed under: Hurricane Katrina • Sean Callebs
August 5th, 2008
07:07 PM ET

Our dance with Edouard

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/08/05/edouard2edouard2.jpg caption="A highway sign warns motorists as rains from tropical storm Edouard move across the state along Interstate 10 in Houston."]

Sean Callebs
CNN Correspondent

It really begins with the packing. Covering a hurricane is a world of Gortex and velcro. So, for the second time in two weeks I stuffed rain gear, power bars, and battery powered lights in the suitcase and headed for Texas coast.

The weekend, had been busy, including an 18 mile kayak trip down the Mississippi. So, when they said “Edouard could turn into a hurricane,” I thought, “great, where did Edouard come from?” The radar image showed Edouard staggering through the gulf like an over-served tourist trying to guide his way home from Bourbon Street.

We flew into Houston and headed for Kemah. Think of a very, very small Coney Island. Problem was, Monday evening it was bright and sunny. So, the order - get some rest, chase it in the morning.

At 4:30 am, producer Mike Phelan, photographers Dave Rust and Ken Tillis and I were sent to Port Arthur about a two hour drive. Edouard picked up steam through the night and was poised to make landfall much earlier than had been planned. FULL POST


Filed under: Behind The Scenes • Sean Callebs • Weather
January 23rd, 2008
11:37 AM ET

FEMA's Katrina trailers: The disaster continues

Maybe it's a lasting tribute to how poorly the federal government was prepared for Hurricane Katrina.

But once again, the infamous FEMA trailers are in the news.

After buying thousands and thousands of trailers that ended up sitting in vacant lots, FEMA wanted to cuts its losses by selling them - at a big loss.

Well, that plan didn't work out either. Now FEMA's buying them back - for the same price it paid. But that's the least of the problem. There's formaldehyde in the trailers, and people have been getting sick.

That wasn't part of FEMA's disaster planning. But then, as we all know by now, there was so much missing from FEMA's planning.

And now, nearly two and a half years later, taxpayers are still paying the price.

Sean Callebs, 360° Correspondent

Program note: Watch Sean Calleb's "Keeping Them Honest" report on Wednesday , January 23, at 10 p.m.  ET on Anderson Cooper 360°.

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