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Hurricane Katrina Tours

Detroit, Michigan
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106 posts
26 reviews
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Hurricane Katrina Tours

I'll be in New Orleans in early March, and I am interested in gaining a better understanding of the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the New Orleans residents.

I see there is a greyline tour that receives mixed reviews.

What are my options for seeing the impacted areas, as well as learning more about what acutally happened and how the city continues to recover?

Any tours that you can recommend?

New Orleans, LA
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602 posts
14 reviews
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1. Re: Hurricane Katrina Tours

I recommend Tours by Isabel. I consistently see them driving through the neighborhood, and the smaller vehicles vs Greyline allows Isabel to access more areas.

Search the forum for "Tours by Isabel" for additional info. Also keep in mind that what you are seeing 2+ years post-K is light years away from where we were in the months following the storm.

As far as learning what happened, all you have to do is ask any local to share their stories...virtually everyone in the area either suffered damage or has family/friends who also were impacted. Remember that 80% of the homes in the city were flooded, and the damage hit across all social, economic and demographic groups.

New Orleans...
Destination Expert
for New Orleans
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545 posts
3 reviews
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2. Re: Hurricane Katrina Tours

+1 for Tours By Isabelle. Besides top-notch tour guides, they have another advantage -- they will pick up at most places, including (thankfully) small B&B's. Grey Line requires you to go to their departure point at the riverfront.

Milwaukee, WI
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121 posts
110 reviews
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3. Re: Hurricane Katrina Tours

I am planning on doing the isobelle one (in late March). I'd love if you posted a review, if you do chose that one!

Omaha, Nebraska
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74 posts
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4. Re: Hurricane Katrina Tours

The tourism office in the Quarter recommended Celebration Tours. Smaller vans and very intimate. They pick you up at your hotel and bring you back. Very educational and worth seeing what those folks went and are going through.

Manzanita, Oregon
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775 posts
27 reviews
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5. Re: Hurricane Katrina Tours

We also took the devastation Tour By Isabelle last May and learned a lot from it. Pickup was at our hotel, transportation was by mini van, more opportunity to interact with guide. Guide was friendly and knowledgable.

Detroit, Michigan
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106 posts
26 reviews
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6. Re: Hurricane Katrina Tours

Thanks for all the great advice. I'll report back on the tour when we return from our trip.

Bethesda, Maryland
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36 posts
1 review
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7. Re: Hurricane Katrina Tours

Luvz2travl,

In addition to the tour, I would recommend seeing the Imax movie "Hurricane on the Bayou". The IMAX theater is directly next to the Audubon Aquarium on the Riverwalk. It is enlightening, touching, and sobering, coupled with amazing visuals on the big screen.

Detroit, Michigan
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106 posts
26 reviews
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8. Re: Hurricane Katrina Tours

OK, as promised, we've returned from our trip, and I'll share my experience with the Katrina devastation tour. We ended up going with Grayline Tours, and I must say I highly recommend it - especially if you can go with tour guide Dian, as she was incedible!

When it came time to book, the tour through Isabella looked more like a city tour, so I don't know if the devastation tour has been discontinued, downplayed, or was simply not available on the day we wanted it. I also could not find a tour with Celebration. Grayline had a 3-hour tour available for $35 per person, so we booked it. It was incredibly informative and deeply moving.

Our tour guide/bus driver - Dian - has lived in New Orleans all her life, and her family has been here since the 1700's, so she not only has a passion for the area, but also is extremely knowledgable and had many persoanl stories to share with us. She also shared her personal photo albums with us. She was an evacuation bus driver during/after Katrina, so she knows the stories well.

I was amazed to see the amount of damage 2.5 years after the hurricane! Very sad and very confusing. Many residents feel that the government let them down by telling them they would be safe, yet holding back information that the levees would fail.

We saw so many neighborhoods where the houses sit empty - ruined forever. We saw homes that had been lifted right off their foundations and are still lodged in trees across the streets. The empty neighborhoods are still littered with mattresses and furniture that was washed right out of the houses. And the neighborhoods covered all classes - rich, middle-class, and the poor. In many, many cases, there are FEMA trailers sitting in the front yards where people are living as they try to rebuild.

Schools, churches, apartment buildings, and strip malls sit abandoned forever. Damaged homes have rusty watermarks that reach the tops of the first levels showing just how high the water rose (and sat for days). Roofs have axe marks where people either chopped their way out, or rescuers chopped their way in. The famous "X" marks on the fronts of houses where the rescuers would spray-paint info about what they found inside, including the numbers of dead bodies removed from the homes. Also distressing were the coffins that sit along the sides of the roads - washed out of the tombs in flooded cemeteries. Lots of abandoned rowboats that had been used for the rescues along the sides of the roads, too.

Sorry if these seems so grim, but it is the reality that we all need to understand, and Grayline tours did an excellent job of showing us that reality. I am now trying to determine how I can help to make a difference. Watching the reports on TV and seeing the devastation left behind first-hand are two entirely different things - both are important pieces to the puzzle. Every American should see the devastation left behind by Katrina, as we all need to step in and help in some way.

We also took in the IMAX movie - it was good.

Los Angeles
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860 posts
7 reviews
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9. Re: Hurricane Katrina Tours

You know, another thing you can do is volunteer with Habitat for Humanity for one day. That way, you not only see the devastated areas, you can help to 'fix' them, even just a little.

I'm not sure how the locals feel, but to me, it has always seemed odd to put money into a tour operators pockets, and look at the ruins of houses that belong to people who have nothing.

The working day for Habitat is 7:30-3:00, with an hour for lunch. You'd be helping the community and you'll feel good about yourself (and it won't cost you a penny!).

http://www.habitat-nola.org/

Detroit, Michigan
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106 posts
26 reviews
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10. Re: Hurricane Katrina Tours

That's a great idea. We saw some groups of volunteers out working on homes, but it never occurred to me that a visitor/tourist could sign-up and work for one day during a vacation - I wish I had thought of that in advance!

As for how the locals feel, we were told by our tour director (a local herself) that the community is split on seeing the tour groups passing through - some are offended, but others believe it is a good way to get the word out there that they still need help.

Thanks for your insight!