New Orleans will rise, authorities hope

Burnt-orange rubble from terra-cotta tiles, wrenched from roofs and scattered about the French Quarter, wait in neat piles for collection along the curb. Bourbon Street is cleaner than it ever is during Mardi Gras. And Donald Jones, a 57-year-old lifelong resident, is no longer armed when walking his street.

"The first five days I never went out of my house without my gun, now I don't carry it," Jones said, starting to laugh. "The only people I meet is military."

Though 50 percent of New Orleans remains flooded and teams are still working to recover the dead, there are signs that hopelessness is beginning to lift two weeks after Hurricane Katrina plowed ashore.

"Each day there's a little bit of an improvement," Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen, commander of the New Orleans relief efforts, told NBC News on Sunday night. "And in the end run, maybe a week, two weeks from now, someone's going to wake in the morning and have something they didn't have the day before, and that's hope."

President George W. Bush was scheduled to get his first up-close look at the destruction in New Orleans on Monday. He started the day with a briefing aboard the USS Iwo Jima after spending the night aboard the amphibious assault ship, anchored in the Mississippi River.

Bush also planned to tour the devastated town of Gulfport, Mississippi.

The waters in New Orleans, which once covered 80 percent of the city, have pulled back far enough to allow for a scenic drive down Esplanade Avenue, past the handsome, columned two-story home where French painter Edgar Degas once lived to the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park.

Authorities raised Louisiana's death toll to 197 on Sunday, and recovery of corpses continued. Teams pulled an unspecified number of bodies from Memorial Medical Center, a 317-bed hospital in uptown New Orleans that closed more than a week ago after being surrounded by floodwaters.

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