All Dry In New Orleans

Preservation Hall, front right, a landmark in the French Quarter, stands on deserted St. Peter Street, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2005, in New Orleans. The historic structures, buildings and gardens in New Orleans' French Quarter, its main tourism district, survived Katrina with little damage. But officials are asking leisure travelers to wait until the end of the year before returning. AP

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Tuesday that it has finished pumping out the New Orleans metropolitan area, which was flooded by Hurricane Katrina six weeks ago and then swamped again by Hurricane Rita.

The initial flooding during Katrina was caused by water surging over some levees and breaking through others. At one point, 80 percent of New Orleans was under water.

Some puddles remain in areas of the city that had the deepest water, but "you can drive anywhere," said Col. Duane Gapinski, the engineer leading the task force assigned to pump the city dry.

Much of the water had been pumped out from Katrina when Rita caused tidal surges that pushed more water into the city.

Engineers were able to lower the water level by about 6 inches a day using temporary pumps along with the city's permanent pumps, some of which didn't always work, Gapinski said.

He said temporary repairs to the levees along the 17th Street and London Avenue canals, responsible for flooding in the downtown, are nearly complete.

Another task force has begun rebuilding the levees to their pre-Katrina condition. That work is scheduled to be finished by the time the next hurricane season begins June 1.

For now, there are no plans to rebuild the levees stronger than before. The Corps would have to get Congress' approval for such work.

In other developments :

  • CBS News correspondent Byron Pitts reports that in New Orleans, construction work and day labor is .

  • A federal civil rights investigation has been launched into the police beating of a man in the French Quarter of New Orleans on Saturday night. But the victim, Robert Davis, said he does not believe the beating was racially motivated.

  • President Bush said a lot of work remains to be done to rebuild the Gulf Coast after Katrina, as he visited the hurricane recovery zone Tuesday and hammered nails into a home being built for displaced residents.

  • Gov. Kathleen Blanco said Tuesday she disagrees with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin's idea to revitalize the devastated city with gambling revenue. The mayor pitched the casino plan as a way to jump-start New Orleans' economy and help its people get back to work. But Blanco said the city needs federal tax credits and stronger public schools to stimulate growth and reconstruction.

  • Chemicals in New Orleans floodwater from residential neighborhoods posed little risk to people but may raise a long-term hazard to wildlife in Lake Pontchartrain, a new study says.

  • About 200 people including New Orleans residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina rolled into Metairie, La. on buses Tuesday, seeking to share in government jobs to rebuild the city. The journey, organized by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, started Monday in Chicago and wound through St. Louis and other cities that gave shelter to evacuees.
    • Stephen Smith

      Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com

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