Seven Years After the Storm, Katrina Tours Cause Controversy

Sitting in Jane Sedgebeer’s renovated post-Katrina home, adorned with New Orleans memorabilia and photos of grandchildren, one can easily forget how the house looked in August 2005.

But, the drive to this interview was quite literally rocky. The streets in Lakeview and other communities are still unrepaired after Hurricane Katrina.  Broken pavement rocks passing cars and some lots remain open and overgrown.  Seven years later, destruction is still apparent on the outside.

As we sat at Sedgebeer’s dining room table and reminisced about her childhood in the Lower Ninth Ward and life now in Lakeview, we were interrupted by a tour.  More than half a decade after Katrina, these tours still roll by – tourists take photos and gawk at destruction.

Sedgebeer laughed it off, you can hear it in the clip below along with a statement about Lakeview’s return to normalcy.


Her laughter and hope conveyed her opinion that these tours are part of the neighborhood’s new normal after Katrina.

“I really don’t have any problem with the tour buses,” she said in a follow-up email.  “Katrina is now part of our history. I like the fact that some people still want to see and hear what actually happened … I see very few tour buses in Lakeview.”

Right after Katrina, these tours were a way to spread awareness about the destruction. But, some people are tired of tours in 2012.

Seven years after Hurricane Katrina, this abandoned Ninth Ward home still dons spray-painted tags from rescue teams. Photo by Robert Giglio


These tours are in the news this week as fees are proposed for Lower Ninth Ward tourist buses. A 2006 ordinance prohibited bus tours in the Lower Ninth Ward, but this rule only started to be enforced recently.

The proposed fees would allow operation to resume but would require hundreds of dollars in fees and would limit bus size to 33 feet in length or smaller, according to Lafayette, Louisiana news outlet KATC’s website.

Buses meandering throughout the Lower Ninth Ward would need to display a $350 decal under the new ordinance. The article explains that the tours were one of the residents’ biggest complaints — I heard several neighbors criticize them during my fieldwork.  But in addition to legalizing the buses, and possibly limiting them, this money would go to grass cutting and other improvements in the still devastated community.  A final decision will be made about the buses in December.



Changing Planet


Meet the Author
Caroline Gerdes recently graduated from Louisiana State University where she studied journalism and history (her major and minor, respectively). As a native of the Greater New Orleans Area, she decided to explore her own backyard with help from a Young Explorers Grant. Caroline is currently conducting an oral history project about the New Orleans Ninth Ward. She seeks to record the community’s full history — its immigrant beginnings, the development of jazz, the depression and prohibition, desegregation and hurricanes. Caroline’s exploration is also a personal quest as her father and paternal grandparents grew up in the Ninth Ward. Her blogs reflect an inside look at New Orleans life and culture, especially the edible aspects.