Big weekend for New Orleans 

February, 15, 2008
NEW ORLEANS -- On the surface, it all looks the same. If you're here for the All-Star Game and don't have specific plans to visit New Orleans' flood-ravaged areas, you'd never know Hurricane Katrina blew through. The drive from the airport to the city goes along some of the highest ground available (intentionally, as it's the hurricane evacuation route) so you'll see little signs of damage. The streetcars are all running, beads from last week's Mardi Gras still hang from the trees, and the tourist areas like the French Quarter and Garden District are all but fully recovered.

Look hard enough and you can pick out a few signs of what happened on August 29, 2005, even if the Lower Ninth Ward isn't on your itinerary. Katrina felled some of the city's stately live oaks, most notably in Jackson Square, and excessively pruned many others. The Superdome's new roof looks shiny and new, but nearby is the Hyatt -- made famous by all the pictures of its blown-out windows the day after the hurricane -- which still awaits repair.

And that drive from the airport? In the one low spot near the breached 17th Street Canal, a bathtub-ring from the floodwaters remains visible on the noise-reduction walls. The fact that it's well above car-level is a bit jarring.