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Spray-Painted FEMA X Still Marks the Storm in New Orleans

To mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, this week Curbed is looking at how the housing, architecture, and neighborhoods of New Orleans have changed since the storm. Here, writer Christopher Romaguera and photographer Michael Winters on the FEMA markings left on New Orleans houses.

"I see you still got it up?"

I was talking to my neighbor, local writer and woman-about-town Pamela Davis-Noland, when someone leaving her house asked her this question. She had a retort ready: "Baby, you know that's never coming down." She was talking about the FEMA markings placed on New Orleans houses weeks, and sometimes months, after the levees broke.

The FEMA markings form an X shape, with four blocks to be written in. The top block shows the date that the house was checked. The left block is signed by the task force that inspected the house. In the right quadrant are special instructions, anything from "Gas Off" to "F/W" (food and water left) to any pets or other issues the houses might have had. The bottom block records how many people were found in the house. Often, the solitary number counts those who have died. But sometimes, the block contains two numbers, one with an A ("alive"), another with a D ("dead").

What the markings mean to the city >>