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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.




  1. Laura Paul
    Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans, LA
    November 7, 2012, 12:36 pm

    lowernine.org has been hosting tours both large and small of the Lower Ninth Ward for six years now. All tour participants either volunteer or donate to lowernine.org, which directly supports the rebuilding efforts here. The community benefits directly, and we feel strongly that Americans need to see what an historic community in a major American City can look like, when its recovery is slowed by inefficiency, discrimination, and apathy. Tours are a great way for us to raise operating capital and awareness at the same time.

  2. Michelle Nixon
    Scotland United Kingdom
    November 6, 2012, 1:45 pm

    I feel so much for the people of New Orleans and what they went through & are still going through. The people of New Orleans have such a great spirit & hope. I am angry people are still waiting to come back home.