Photos courtesy of DigitalGlobe
Like everyone else in southern Louisiana and Mississippi, geologists are getting their lives back together, making do -- and looking forward to the day when normalcy returns.
Because of the depth and nature of the ruin left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, it's going to be awhile.
Ed Picou, past AAPG treasurer and native Louisianan, said in early November the devastation is reminiscent of the scene he witnessed in war-wracked Korea as an officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the mid-1950s.
"I've never seen anything like this in my life," Picou said. "Sheetrock, spoiled carpets and all kinds of other tree and soured flood debris are stacked along the sidewalks, awaiting a front-loader to scoop it up and take it away. Tons of it.
"Everything is in shades of brown and gray. All the vegetation is dead. It is like a sepia photograph of a Civil War scene.
"It's the same as Mardi Gras," he continued. "It must be witnessed to be understood, because it just can't be explained."
In mid-November there was still spotty land telephone service, no electricity for stoplights and the central business district is still mainly deserted with trailer-mounted electricity generators roaring in the streets to provide power for the clean-up effort. The Internet service is inconsistent because of the lack of electricity.
But still, the New Orleans Geological Society is planning its comeback, and the Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies is making plans for 2006.
NOGS President Brett Hampton is working by phone and e-mail from his relocated Shell office in Houston with the society's Board to bring activities "back to life." He and GCAGS President Tom Bergeon, also with Shell, carpool together to their Houston offices.
Hampton said the NOGS office is in good shape and the records are intact, although the Web site was down for about two months.
The goal is to try to get together an informal social gathering before Christmas, publish a newsletter in January, find a new venue (The Fairmont suffered extensive damage) and hold a meeting in February.
The problem, Hampton noted, is the dispersal of the membership. But the network is beginning to re-form as NOGS members, expatriated in such places as Houston, Lafayette, Baton Rouge and Covington, begin to reconnect as they find each other.
Hampton and Bergeon accepted AAPG's invitation for NOGS members and the GCAGS board to use the AAPG Emergency Relief Message Board at www.aapg.org to help reconnect the society and section members. Members are invited to post contact information or other messages.
Shortly after Katrina, GCAGS canceled the New Orleans meeting originally scheduled for three weeks after the hurricane hit. Bergeon said cancellation insurance was carried and AAPG is assisting GCAGS in making claim on $80,000 in coverage.
To add insult to injury, Hurricane Rita, which gridlocked a threatened Houston, occurred over the weekend before the GCAGS Convention would have been held and many transplanted New Orleanians evacuated for a second time.
Bergeon said the full Transactions for the planned talks will still be published in both CD and hard copy and will be available online via the Texas Bureau of Economic Geology at www.gcags.org. Planning is already under way for the 2006 GCAGS meeting, to be held Sept. 25-27 in Lafayette, La.
Meanwhile, like many other displaced geologists, New Orleans ex-pats Bergeon and Hampton have moved their families to Houston, the kids are in school there and they make weekend trips back to the Crescent City to make repairs, clean up and take care of personal business.
Also, there are uncertainties about what companies are coming back to New Orleans and who is not. While word on the street is rife, few official announcements were being made 45 days after Katrina.
Most expect some announcements shortly, with late spring 2006 the best bet for most to be able to return to New Orleans offices. Shell announced in early November that the bulk of its operations including Production would go back in that time frame, with Exploration centralizing in Houston.
While the huge cleanup effort continues, hope remains eternal.
For instance, Picou's photo appeared on the front page of the Times-Picayune, New Orleans' major newspaper that published daily in the midst of the rubble and devastation.
Picou's home suffered some tree and roof damage, as did most buildings, but escaped any flooding. Just a few blocks to the south, floodwaters were eight-nine feet deep.
The photo showed Picou sweeping off his sidewalk after mowing his lawn, with flowers blooming in the background -- a scene that would ordinarily not attract attention.
But in New Orleans after Katrina, that's front page news.