Gustav in the Gulf: Here we go again?

August 31st, 2008 by Josh Neufeld  

The third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina has just passed, and now another huge storm — Gustav — is bearing down on the Gulf Coast and New Orleans, with forecasts of it hitting the area late Monday. Predicting a hurricane’s path is a very imperfect science, so it’s possible the city may dodge the bullet (as it had so many times in the past—before Katrina). But Katrina taught us that it’s far better to be safe than sorry.

New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin called Gustav “the storm of the century” and ordered a mandatory evacuation of the city today. Thousands of people are streaming out of the region as I write this. Things seem to be proceeding much more smoothly this time than in 2005, with government agencies working together to provide transportation options for just about everybody. Trains and buses are ferrying evacuees to Alexandria, Shreveport, and other northern Louisiana locations—and this time people can take their pets. To deter looting, the National Guard plans on sending a lot more troops into the city this time around. As an incentive to get everyone to leave, New Orleans is not providing any “shelters of last resort” (like the Convention Center or the Superdome), which seeing what happened at those places after Katrina might be a good thing. Even though the levees have been repaired and “shored up” since Katrina, they are still not designed to withstand more than a Category 3 hurricane; Gustav could end up as a Category 5.

Our A.D. characters are all preparing for the storm in their own ways. Leo & Michelle left New Orleans for Little Rock, Arkansas, late last night. They have relatives in the area in case they can’t return directly after the hurricane. Denise’s mom and niece still live in Baton Rouge; now that Denise has a car, she has a lot more options in terms of evacuating. Hamid lives in the suburb of Metairie, and after his experience with Katrina has no desire to ride out the storm in his store again. This time, he’ll take his family to shelter together. Finally, Kevin is safely ensconced in his college dorm in Ohio; his father was planning a Katrina memorial with his church, but obviously will be overseeing the community’s safe evacuation.

The Doctor, however, in typical high spirits, said he would ignore the mayor’s mandatory evacuation, like “one-third of the rest of the population will do. A mandatory evacuation is not a forced evacuation. No way they can pry me out of the Quarter.” (Remember, even after Katrina, the French Quarter suffered minimal flooding. High ground is a wonderful thing!) In preparation for the storm, the Doctor has stocked up on dog food and water. He also took out a “wad of cash” and loaded his gun, which he got after Katrina.

So to my relief everyone seems to be preparing for the new storm as best they can. As for me, the Red Cross contacted me yesterday, asking about my availability for another Gulf Coast deployment. This time around, with a young baby and a much busier schedule—including a deadline for finishing the book portion of A.D.—I don’t think I can spare the two-week commitment. It’s painful to think I can’t offer my help this time, but I know that thousands of other volunteers are ready and willing, with many already on their way to the Gulf Coast.

3 Responses

  1. Melissa Bastian

    My sister and I FINALLY convinced my parents yesterday that they need to leave… of course they haven’t done it yet. But they should be going any minute now - I shudder to think the kind of traffic they will encounter. It’s completely bizarre to be on this side, simply worrying and waiting to see what will happen, glued to my computer and nola.com. Every three hours the projections update, and every three hours I’m disappointed as the storm seems to focus its aim even more closely on my city…

  2. Cree McCree

    Sorry I didn’t post during the evac; too busy keeping up with Gustav’s shifting path and trying to stay online to do my commercial work. Donald and I upped the ante this time by evacuating with 6 (count ‘em!) cats, up from Katrina’s 4. Waited till midafternoon on Sunday, so sailed right up to Mississipi, even stopping at a garage sale en route (!). Went to a friend’s rural haven outside Natchez, MS, surrounded by beautiful live oak trees — which came crashing down around us during the storm. Turns out we preceded the storm’s path into one of the hardest hit areas (next to the vulnerable wetlands in Terrebonne parish). But we definitely made the most of it and managed to baby the backup generator into several days of service. Like most New Orleanians this time around, the cats behaved like grownups and took the evac in stride. Back home, the old ladies (our 3 NYC black females) regularly torment our adopted outsiders. But forced to live in one small room, they somehow all got along. By Wednesday night, they made it clear they’d had enough by joining in a group chorus of howls. We all made it back safely yesterday with a minimal amount of traffic snarl-ups, returning to a home already connected to the power grid. Wow! The re-vac could have been handled better; Nagin keep folks out for too long. But all in all, our city officials, individual citizens and (most importantly) levees, gates and pumps passed their first big test with flying colors. Let’s hope we don’t have to pass another one with Ike and all his siblings heading our way…..

  3. josh

    Cree, so glad to hear you, Donald, and the kitties came out of Gustav alive! Thanks so much for checking in. Next time, though, post something as good as this as a new blog entry. (Well, I guess I hope there isn’t a next time! Good luck dodging Ike.)

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