Katrina's Devastation of 5911 Congress Drive, Ponchartrain Park

Philip N. Orticke, Sr. and Helen Kroll Orticke moved to Ponchartrain Park into their dream house located at 5911 Congress Drive in May 1958. It was the last day of school for me at Corpus Christi Elementary. Dad revised the floor plan of the new house to include an extended den and garage. The living room was partitioned to form the bed room where my parents slept. The six children shared the remaining three bedrooms with two each per room. We moved from 1654 N. Derbigny Street. That property was subject to emminent domain capture for the construction of the I-10 Expressway.

In 1965 during my sophomore year at Dillard University, New Orleans was inundated with the waters of the surrounding canals, river and lake of a hurricane that was another harbinger of Katrina. The flooding downtown in the 7th Ward and other areas was far more severe than it was in the Ponchartrain Park (upper 9th Ward). After that storm we returned to 5911 to find flooded streets and yards with no water damage to the homes built on concrete slab foundations. Fortunately the pylons beneath the buildings saved many from the "sepage" that underminded "banquets" and some streets in the Park. In 2005, Katrina's storm surge flooded Ponchartrain Park and the lower 9th Ward. This time the waters reached just beneath the roof tops according to the posted satellite images in the Washingorn Post News paper. The flood waters lasted weeks leaving many homes and lives ruined. Mrs. Shirley Gayle lived alone next door at 5901 Congress Drive from 1957 to 2005. Apparently, as we all have done in past hurricances, she decided to stay home during the storm. Her body was dicovered by first responders in the attic of her home. The 2005 August heat was such that even one day living in an attic could result in certain death to elderly people. Her relatives in Atlanta had searched for her before locating her at the city morgue. As for my sister who lived alone at 5911 Congress in 2005, she escaped to Texas just days before the hurricane. Ditto for my brother, who drove to Washington, DC. The condemned building and land was sold at auction following the devastation. I have resided in the DC metro area/Maryland since graduating from Dillard in 1966.
Philip N. Orticke, Jr.


Anonymous, “Katrina's Devastation of 5911 Congress Drive, Ponchartrain Park,” Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, accessed April 20, 2019, http://hurricanearchive.org/items/show/45925.