For the third day Thursday, New Orleans evacuees, volunteers and disaster relief workers continued to swarm the Pete Maravich Assembly Center and Carl Maddox Fieldhouse. Both facilities have become temporary hospitals and a triage area for sorting patients.
“They’re getting a lot of patients that have evacuated out of the New Orleans hospitals,” said a volunteer with the state Department of Social Services, who has been working throughout the week in the PMAC.
“A lot of patients are recovering from surgery – transplants and things like that,” she said.
She said about 19,000 people had been processed through the triage by 2 a.m. Thursday.
Bob Johanneson, communications coordinator for the state Department of Health and Hospitals, said there were about 1,100 evacuees in both facilities this morning.
“They’re bringing buses, ambulances and more people,” Johanneson said. “They’re being separated according to if they need a special needs shelter, hospitalization or general shelters. We’re trying to triage them in and out so that it’s a steady flow.”
Meanwhile evacuees outside the PMAC without immediate medical needs waited for transportation elsewhere.
She said relief workers began sending evacuees from the PMAC to the Houston Astrodome after she ended her shift at 2 a.m. She said another group was taken to Port Allen Community Center.
Lakisha Brown, 27, and Shawn Williams, 29, of Metairie, were attempting to find a rental car at 1 p.m. to get to Lafayette. After fleeing Hurricane Katrina Sunday, they returned Monday to find their homes had only received wind damage. But after the levee broke and the water level began to rise, the National Guard brought them to Baton Rouge.
“I’m feeling down, depressed and sad,” Brown said. “I’ve been crying as I pray.”
Brown said she hasn’t spoken to her mother and sister in five days. She and Williams sat on the curb alongside a trashbag and bookbag carrying all their belongings.
“It’s been depressing,” she said. “But you gotta do what you gotta do.”
Williams said he is thinking primarily of those left in New Orleans.
“There’s so much death everywhere,” he said.
Shelters around town, including the Baton Rouge River Center, are nearing capacity and are asking for volunteers, supplies and donations.
RUMORS OF RIOTING UNTRUE
LSUPD Major Mark Shaw said reports of riots at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center are false.
“The campus is under control,” Shaw said after rumors of rioting at the PMAC surfaced on campus Thursday morning. “The campus is very busy.”
Representatives at the Office of Emergency Preparedness said 300 evacuees are being housed in the PMAC as of 9 a.m. Thursday morning. But these figures are expected to change.
Tempers did flare at the PMAC Wednesday night.
A verbal disturbance, which Shaw called “minor,” occurred among arriving evacuees who expressed frustration and concern about where they would spend the night.
Shaw said LSUPD officers were able to control the situation.
As of 2 p.m. Thursday, 75 LSUPD officers – most of whom are working overtime – are patrolling the campus.
CIVIL UNREST IN COMMUNITY
The Chancellor’s Office sent a broadcast e-mail urging University students and faculty to make safe choices amid confirmed reports of civil unrest in Baton Rouge.
According to the e-mail the uncivil incidents “appear to be confined to specific areas in the downtown Baton Rouge area and specific locations around the community.”
Chancellor Sean O’Keefe said local police told the University’s Office of Public Safety that a fight occurred at the River Center in downtown Baton Rouge.
He said similar incidents had been reported at gas stations and other locations around town.
O’Keefe said the University decided to send the e-mail in response to rumors of violence circulating around the city.
“There have been incidents,” he said. “And we have to address the fact that there were rumors.”
But students need to know they are safe on campus, O’Keefe said.
An e-mail sent to University deans said University libraries will close at 6 p.m because of safety concerns.
ACADEMIC CALENDAR WOES
University officials appear to be sticking to the Sept. 6 date for classes to resume they announced earlier this week.
The re-adjusted schedule for the fall semester was not finalized as of 2:30 p.m. Thursday, but officials plan on issuing the new schedule by the end of the day today.
“We are counting on the strain on campus to lessen, allowing us to return on Tuesday,” said Patrick Downs, Student Government vice president. “If the demand [for campus resources] increases, we will have to re-evaluate the plans to re-open on Tuesday.”
Downs said the proposal officials are leaning to is to extend the fall semester by one week at the end of the semester.
The semester will now presumably end on Dec. 17, instead of the scheduled Dec. 10. Gradation is expected to be pushed back from Dec. 16 to Dec. 19 due to its close proximity to the rescheduled finals week.
Downs said officials plan to still uphold the scheduled fall and Thanksgiving Day break.
“We would rather not cut the fall break, because we feel that the time off in October is something that students and their families are going to need now, rather than in December,” Downs said. “We plan to finalize a schedule soon so that students and their families have time to make plans.”
GAS PRICES SOARING
The midday quest for a full tank of gas in Baton Rouge has become complicated by heavy traffic, infrequent supply and fraying tempers.
With an estimated 120,000 displaced people swelling the already busy streets of Baton Rouge, waits have been as long as ten minutes just to get to the pump.
Gas prices have yet to rocket to the levels that were seen today in Atlanta, where prices hit close to $5 a gallon. However, Carlas Wilson, the day shift manager of the Shell station at 4454 Highland Road believed that prices at her station would rise from $2.55 for regular unleaded to $2.85 tomorrow. As of 1:30 p.m. today, the station was completely out of gas.
The Daily Reveille visited stations that had gasoline as of 2 p.m. today: Exxon, 4227 Perkins Road (regular $2.45, plus $2.55, supreme $2.65 and diesel $2.53), B-Quik Mobile, 4105 Perkins Rd. (regular $2.51, plus $2.59, premium $2.67 and diesel $2.49).
The above mentioned Shell station and Racing Express on Perkins Road were both out of gas.
The Chevron, 3135 Nicholson, had premium gas for $2.72 and diesel for $2.49. The Circle K on Highland at the North Gate of campus had no price posted, and its manager said he was too busy to comment.
Rumors of riots, the influx of refugees and normal use have all driven up the need for gasoline. Nerves are fraying, though according to Chevron manager Wanda Velasquez, most people have been well behaved.
Gov. Kathleen Blanco said at a press conference today that she has asked federal officials for nothing less than 40,000 National Guard troops to come into the state to help with relief, safety and rescue efforts. Blanco vowed that she will get all the troops the state needs.
She also said police reinforcements from other states are on the way into the greater New Orleans area and Baton Rouge.
PRESIDENT BUSH PLANS NATIONAL ADDRESS
President George W. Bush has agreed to take an arial tour of south Louisiana, followed by a national address tomorrow.
Bush is planning on speaking at an air force base outside New Orleans.
The president told state officials that he would like to see Katrina’s destruction firsthand.
Bush’s tour will focus on New Orleans and other cities devastated by Katrina.
SG COORDINATING VOLUNTEERS
Student Government and Chancellor Sean O’Keefe created a hotline Wednesday which gives students information on volunteer opportunities on campus.
Students who call the hotline — (225) 578-7688 — will be assigned a shift and told where and when their help is needed.
OPEN DOOR UNIVERSITIES
Universities throughout the country have offered to accept the students from Tulane, University of New Orleans, Loyola and other Universities who are not able to return to class because of the storm. Many Universities, including LSU, have offered to not only accept stranded students, but also to waive any tuition from these students.
O’Keefe said Wednesday night that the University is more than willing to accept students who want to remain in school during a difficult situation.
Universities as far away as Texas, Georgia and New York have offered to let students enroll until they can return to their New Orleans area universities.
SAINTS COULD PLAY IN TIGER STADIUM
With their stadium damaged by Hurricane Katrina and now playing home to thousands of refugees, the New Orleans Saints may be eyeing Tiger Stadium as a possible replacement site.
New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said in a news release Monday the team was uncertain whether the Superdome would be ready the season opener.
LSU Sports Information Director Michael Bonnette said the University has not been officially contacted by the Saints as of Thursday afternoon.
The Saints’ first home game is scheduled for Sept. 18. LSU has an open date that week.
The Saints’ second home date is Oct. 2. LSU will play at Mississippi State Oct. 1.
WEB SITES OFFER FREE AND DISCOUNTED HOUSING
People with extra space are offering free and discounted housing to hurricane victims on www.craigslist.org and www.moveon.org. On www.craigslist.org, people from states such as California, Washington, Massachusetts and Michigan are offering housing for Katrina victims.
Several posts on www.hurricanehousing.org, a Web site set up by members of political action group www.moveon.org, are also offering victims housing. The Web site says the greatest need for housing is in the Southeast region.