Among the many rumors circulating in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is the claim that sharks have been seen prowling the flooded byways of New Orleans. "Sharks were reported swimming in the streets," declared an overseas newspaper account credited to AP and Reuters. "Sharks and alligators are eating people in downtown New Orleans," an unidentified rumormonger was overheard saying in Shreveport.
While I wouldn't want to chalk these reports up entirely to hysteria, I think we can safely say they're a tad exaggerated. Sifting through earlier news accounts in an effort to track the rumor back to its origin, I found repeated references to unnamed "authorities" and "officials" reporting one "3-foot shark cruising the city." Which authorities? Which officials? Digging further, I could only find mention of one by name: Mayor Aaron Broussard of Jefferson Parish (a New Orleans suburb), who, according to the Aug. 30 issue of the Palm Beach Post, "told residents Tuesday that at least one 3-foot shark had been spotted."
Again, that's one small shark reportedly sighted exactly where and by whom, we don't know and as far as we know he hadn't eaten anybody.
As for alligator sightings, those are to be expected in Louisiana waters under the best of circumstances, as are snake sightings, and even the occasional floating ant ball.