Video: Baton Rouge blues

By John Seigenthaler Anchor, "Weekend Nightly News"
NBC News
updated 9/8/2005 7:53:45 PM ET 2005-09-08T23:53:45

There is gridlock in Louisiana’s capital city, and it’s not even rush hour. Commuters say since Katrina hit, traffic has become a nightmare.

“It takes me an hour and a half to two hours to get home,” says Connie. “It usually it takes me 20 minutes.”

The influx of a quarter of a million evacuees has pushed Baton Rouge to its limit.

“I’ve never been here in my life when there were no eggs on the shelf,” says Karin Cochran at one grocery store.

The parking lots at stores like Wal-Mart now fill up quickly every morning.  For Baton Rouge native Karin Cochran, an ordinary shopping trip has become a challenge.  “I can’t [find] sugar, flour, frozen fruit. None of three items is on the shelf.”

Now people here have to wait in line for almost everything, including gas. 

Housing here is also limited. And real estate agents, like Pat Wattan, are having trouble handling all the calls from potential buyers.

It’s not just the day-to-day inconveniences that have frustrated people in Baton Rouge.  Some are actually frightened the population explosion here will lead to an increase in crime — that’s why some stores are selling 10 times the number of guns they did before the storm.  As one gun store owner explains, “They’re looking for something to protect their loved ones.”

Melvin L. “Kip” Holden, the mayor-president of Baton Rouge, says he knows people are frustrated.  “Yes, there are problems,” admits Holden, "Yes, there are sleepless nights. But we have resolve.”

So does Karin Cochran.  “It’s very, very frustrating, but didn't your momma ever tell you it’s better to laugh than to cry?” says Cochran. “That ... is what I’m trying to do.”

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