Online UpdateWeb Site Becomes Sounding Board of Safety

When people post a comment on the Daily Nebraskan’s Web site they usually are doing so to offer praise or protest to recent articles.

However, as details of Hurricane Katrina’s destruction began to emerge from the rubble, the message board was used for a different purpose: To help others connect with friends and family in Slidell, La.

The Daily Nebraskan published an article Tuesday on Kristi Esposito, a former Husker All-American gymnast and native of Slidell, which is located 30 miles east of New Orleans. This fall, she transferred to Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

Her family was forced to evacuate its home in Slidell Sunday and has been staying with Esposito in her Baton Rouge apartment ever since.

After the story went to print, it was archived on the Daily Nebraskan Web site and received postings from people who had stumbled across the article through random Internet searches for any sort of information about Slidell.

Kay Guilbeau of Lafayette, La., posted a message trying to find out information on her mother. She also implored someone in the area to check on her brother’s two basset hounds, because he was away from Slidell on vacation.

Sandye Glass of Edmonton, Canada, posted a message trying to find out information about her friends Linda and Lennie Dill and their two daughters who lived on Hardwood Drive in Slidell.

Mike Johnson of St. Petersburg, Fla., posted that his friends had evacuated Slidell and were staying with him. He also made it known that the north side of Slidell, which is near the airport, had been virtually untouched by Katrina.

The small community continued to help each other as more details became known.

Guilbeau wrote in an e-mail to the Daily Nebraskan that her family was safe.

“They are all in good health but subdued,” she wrote.

Glass later discovered her friend”s family to be safely evacuated and waiting in Birmingham, Ala. As of Wednesday, they remained unsure about the status of their property.

Esposito also gave an update of her family’s condition Wednesday afternoon by e-mail because her cellular phone remained out of service.

Her father was able to travel to Slidell and examine the storm”s effect on their house, which turned out to be minimal.

“My family is one of the lucky few that had little damage,” she wrote.

Esposito’s father was only able to make it as far as the family”s driveway, but believes their belongings suffered no substantial water damage.

However, her father reported to the family that the trees in the neighborhood were all destroyed. Slidell officials estimate that 10,000 to 15,000 trees were knocked down by the storm.

“Thankfully, none of the trees hit our house,” she wrote.

As for the rest of Slidell, luck appears to be sinking. Esposito wrote in the e-mail that the south end remains underwater, and that the mayor of the town believed it would be 6-8 weeks before power would be restored.

Now that the storm has passed, the magnitude of destruction left behind becomes apparent to the Louisiana suburb that received a direct hit from Katrina.

Johnson is unsure of how long his friends are going to need to stay with him in Florida before they can make it back to Louisiana.

“I guess we are going to become very close,” he wrote.

Guilbeau remains cautiously optimistic about the prospects of her family returning to homes in Slidell.

“We”ve been informed that there are some areas that had only minimal damage,” she wrote.

“This is all such a horrible tragedy,” Guilbeau went on to write. “All I can do is sit, wait and forever be thankful for the safety of both my family and of others.”

Those interested in helping hurricane victims can visit the American Red Cross” Web site,, or call (800) HELP-NOW (435-7669).