The southern coastal city of New Orleans is slowly being reopened to some residents, less than a month after Hurricane Katrina flooded the area, causing the deaths of more than 700 people across several states. It will take much longer for normal life to resume for most residents along the Gulf of Mexico coast.
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin says eight neighborhoods in the city, representing about one-third of New Orleans' population, will be reopened for residents beginning on Monday. Mr. Nagin says the city's historic French Quarter tourist district will reopen on September 26.
"The city of New Orleans, starting this weekend will start to breathe again. We will have life, we will have commerce," said Mr. Nagin. "We will have people getting back into their normal modes of operation and the normal rhythm of the city of New Orleans that is so unique."
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says large sections of New Orleans are already dry, and the pumping of floodwater from the city continues to go well. Officials are now determining how to better protect the city from future storm water.
But a return to normal is much farther away for other residents along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Hundreds-of-thousands of people in Louisiana are still without electrical power.
And Jefferson Parish Emergency Management Director Walter Maestri says there is still concern about systems intended to prevent flooding in New Orleans, which is located below sea level.
"The real fear right now is what's going to happen when the first rains come," he said. "We've been very, very lucky since Katrina hit that we really haven't had any significant rainfall at all. As everybody knows in this community, any drop of rain that falls has got to be pumped out."
The Red Cross estimates that as many as three-fourths of the homes in six southern Mississippi counties were either destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, or will have to be torn down because they are too heavily damaged to be repaired. Economic damage from Katrina along the Gulf Coast is estimated at more than $125 billion.