Listening to WWL-AM online, with reports from the scene. (You can too.) The national media have been
tits on a bishop pretty useless when it comes to reporting on Gustav. From watching CNN and the rest, it all looks just like Katrina. Like an ugly baby, one big blob in the GOM is much like another.
What I can tell you is that at least a dozen people I know (some of whom didn't leave even during Katrina) are right this minute throwing what they can in their cars and preparing to flee.
What makes Gustav different? Katrina hit as a Category 3 storm, which the city was able to withstand for 24 hours or so until the levees built and maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed and inundated 80% of the city.
Gustav is different. Gustav is a Category 4 at landfall (probably) and it will be striking the city in a more vulnerable place, from one of the worst possible directions, where it can stall and drop more water with the winds. While Katrina was largely an engineering disaster (as well as a bipartisan cock-up of major proportions), Gustav is shaping up as a natural disaster...one that will flood different areas of the city, not only from broken and overtopped levees but also by the sheer amount of water coming from the sky.
Well, then, why in God's name do you live there?
Because it's home. And it's interesting. And the food is good. And the people are great. Look, bunky, there are thousands of miles of U.S. coastline that are susceptible to hurricanes. Having two storms like these hit the city within three years of each other (in fact, on the third anniversary) is so improbable that it's mathematically astronomical. Had two storms like this hit Miami within three years of each other, I don't think people would wonder why people live in Miami; they'd just think Miami had drawn some jaw-dropping, astoundingly bad luck.
Meanwhile, I've broken into my hurricane evacuation kit:
(The yellow bag on the left is Mello Joy coffee. Even under duress, we have standards.)
JACKSON, MISS. -- I left the Northshore of New Orleans at 4 pm and reached Jackson, Miss. about 7 pm. Not bad. Every car on Interstate 55 seemed to have a Louisiana plate instead of a Mississippi one. This was my companion, Daniel:
Daniel was pretty good, but very unhappy. Didn't meow too much. Barfed once.
Kept the radio on WWL-AM until the signal gave out in central Mississippi, around the time that state and parish officials were warning residents of New Orleans' West Bank that evacuation was not only mandatory, but that their homes were likely to be inundated. According to the Times-Picayune, Mayor Ray Nagin said:
"This is worse than a Betsy, worse than a Katrina," he said.
The mayor speculated that Gustav is so fierce Baton Rouge likely will experience 100 mph winds.
"You need to be scared and you need to get your butts out of New Orleans right now," Nagin said.
Nagin said he expects Gustav to "punch holes in the Harvey Canal," which could cause the West Bank to become a bathtub.
The West Bank has 8-foot-high to 10-foot-high protection, he said. Gustav's storm surge may be 15 to 24 feet high.
I have many friends on the West Bank (including some Gambit employees) and I am trying not to be sick right now. (If you are reading this, please check in in the comments.)
More under the cut, including some of the people I've met in the motel that will be my home for the next few days...
In case "big guns" doesn't immediately bring anyone in the federal government to mind, they're talking about Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and FEMA Administrator David Paulison. Ohhhhh, THOSE big guns! Heck, say no more, Washington, that is all I need to hear. We can sleep easy tonight, New Orleans...
WWOZ will be signing off at midnight tonight from their French Market studio, which was shuttered up and locked down already Wednesday night when I closed my own show, and will stay off the airwaves till Gustav passes. They've moved one of their mobile broadcast trucks to the Louisiana Public Broadcasting building in Baton Rouge as a failsafe measure to get back on the air ASAP if things... you know. I tuned into the Problem Child's regular Friday afternoon blues set today... and I'll give her Mac Rebennack's "Storm Warning," because it's her theme song, but I got the barometric creeps as I heard song after foreboding song. "Mississippi Heavy Water Blues?" Spencer Bohren's post-K lament "Long Black Line"? And a track I didn't know, with howling-wind sound effects under the lyrics "There's a lady in the Gulf/ who you don't want to know?" Jeez. At least this one doesn't have the euphony of the name "Katrina," whose easy meter spawned an unfortunately large catalog of musical paeans, most using the gimme rhyme "FEMA." "Gustav" just rhymes with "buzz off." EDIT: As of Saturday afternoon, 'OZ was broadcasting pre-recorded shows on CD from Lafayette on 90.7 FM. All the better for an evacuation soundtrack.
The state of New Orleans three years post-Katrina is the subject of a special edition of City Limits Investigates, a magazine published by City Futures Inc., a New York-based nonprofit devoted to rethinking, reframing and improving urban policies in New York and, by extension, other cities throughout America. Because of the storys relevance to New Orleans, the special edition of the subscription-based magazine is available free online (www.citylimits.org/neworleans).
Louis Crovetto, the 77-year-old Sheik of Arabi is leaving the decision about evacuating to a higher power.
It depends on the great, high, exulted mystic ruler, Crovetto says.
But when will Crovetto know the final decision?
When she tells me, Crovetto says.
Crovetto says his girlfriend has already reserved two rooms in Arkansas, so hes just waiting for her to make up her mind.
She owns a million-dollar home on Transcontinental Drive and shes 20 years my junior, Crovetto explains. Do you blame me?
Follow her orders, Mr. Crovetto, and Godspeed.
Across the city, fuel tanks are being filled while freezers are being emptied as just-in-case measures for next week's nerve-wracking weather predictions.
As one bellwether, yesterday was probably the most sparsely-attended edition of the Mid-City Green Market to date. Very few people seemed interested in a week's worth of peaches, tomatoes or fresh lamb from the Northshore. Buying a gallon of exquisite Mauthe's Dairy milk could be seen as an act of faith or defiance of the tenets of hurricane season home economics. Many of the shoppers who did turn up vocally expressed their optimism for a merciful storm track when they made each purchase from the less-than-busy farm vendors.
So now, it's showtime for leftovers. I'm imagining increasingly unique combinations of chicken, shrimp, sausage and ground beef from the freezer, the Tupperware tops coming off week-old sauces and a positive din of crinkling as plastic wrap is removed from one bundle of vegetables after another.
Of course, we're hoping that next week sees us all at our local grocery stores and farmers markets, restocking and wiping our brows more from relief than the heat.
- Ian McNulty
Forget what you think you know; here is The Katrina Timeline as it unfolded.
If, say, this was the first week of the regular season, there might have been some reason to pay serious and close attention to every aspect of this football game. But it wasn't. So yea, the focus last night wasn't entirely on football. To be fair, this was after waiting for Sean Payton to emerge from the locker room for almost 10 minutes. He was apparently briefing his players on their hurricane plans (or so he told us when he finally came out some 20 minutes later).
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