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Life Trickling Back Into New Orleans

Despite lingering uncertainty and limited resources, the city's economy is cautiously picking up after Hurricane Katrina hit two months ago.

October 30, 2005|Thomas S. Mulligan | Times Staff Writer

NEW ORLEANS — Parking is getting tight enough that police have started writing tickets again. On weekday mornings, downtown-bound traffic over the Mississippi River bridge gets backed up at the toll plazas.

The Port of New Orleans has rebounded to 35% to 40% of normal capacity, port officials say, with more than half of its usual complement of workers on the job, many of them still living on Maritime Administration vessels moored in the river.

In the French Quarter, the 143-year-old Cafe du Monde has reopened, dishing out its famous hot beignets (French-style doughnuts) and cafe au lait to locals and, yes, a few tourists. At night, many of the bars and restaurants that are open are drawing crowds, and jazz ensembles are once again playing on street corners.

Bit by bit, economic life is flowing back into New Orleans.

The sounds of hammers and saws, diesel-powered generators and front-end loaders -- the cacophony of reconstruction -- can be heard on almost every block.

Yet a full two months after Hurricane Katrina struck, the city remains depopulated and its municipal finances are in shambles. Most of its retail businesses are shuttered, and the future of some of its residential neighborhoods is very much up for grabs.

Power and water are still out in some areas. Take a walk on downtown streets and you'll find waterlogged refrigerators -- some bearing rude anti-FEMA messages -- on the sidewalks and broken seashells in the gutters.

It's a tough climate for business, but throughout New Orleans, businesspeople are doing what's necessary to get back to work at whatever level is possible.

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