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Hurricane Gustav Blog, Days 3, 4, and 5

September 6, 2008

Left for San Diego on Friday. The weather there was beautiful and no one was worried about being hit by a hurricane. Made me understood how big the world is. At dinner that night, got a call from one of my staff that the New Orleans airport was going to close down Sunday afternoon. Our fall back plan to leave on Sunday instead of Monday was falling apart and it looked like we would probably have to return on Saturday, the next day.  In that case we would spend less than 24 hours in San Diego before it was time to go. Not a great value-for-the money trip.

Fretted instead of sleeping Friday night; so, got out of bed Saturday morning at 5 and made the final call to return that day. Earliest we could get out of San Diego put us on a plane to New Orleans from Houston at 8pm. The whole time we were flying, we were concerned we would get to Houston only to find flights to New Orleans had all been cancelled. Another thing to worry about. Fortunately, the New Orleans airport remained open and we were able to leave Houston.

The plane was filled with news crews carrying their bulky video cameras. There was one woman who wearing Red Cross volunteer credentials. It is amazing how many people turn up to help us in times like this. You can’t understand how appreciative we are about that. And, of course, there were native New Orleanians who, like us, had cut trips short to get home and begin evacuating.

What we were hearing about the hurricane on the national news had not been good all day. By the time we landed in Houston, there was news that it had grown to a category 5. We knew that was supposed to happen. The same weather people had predicted it but also said it would reduce in strength as it passed over the cooler water to the south of Louisiana.

Another worry was whether contraflow would go into effect before we got home. Contraflow changes highways from two directions into one. That one is aimed out of town to the East, West, or North. You can’t use them to get into New Orleans at all. In addition, I live in a suburb across Lake Ponchatrain. I have to cross a 24-mile causeway to get home. We didn’t know if it would be open or, if it were, what the traffic would be like. Again, if there was anything that needed worrying about, I was doing it.

Before coming home, I stopped at the store to pick up computers, checkbooks, and insurance papers. As I left the store, I looked around thinking how good it looks now and how bad it looked after Katrina. I wondered if I was going to have to face the same thing in less than 2 days. I also wondered if this would be the last time I would see the store at all. This is not an encouraging state of mind.

When we got home, we started listening to the local weather reports. They are much more detailed and less alarming that the national reports. While the storm had gotten very big and very organized, it was till predicted to hit far enough west of us that its effects would be like a tropical storm or Category 1 hurricane. The worst part is going to be the water surge. The water in the Gulf is going to be pushed north and flood the same outlying areas that flooded during Katrina. If the levees hold, the areas of the city that flooded because of levee breaches would be safe. Our winds would not be as strong as Katrina. Not a good scenario, but much better than we had heard from the rumor mill while we were away.

Having said all of that, the mayor was still calling for mandatory evacuation, a wise move in the light of our experience with Katrina. In addition, we had resources for evacuating people with special needs or without transportation that we didn’t have for Katrina. Buses and trains were used to get out anyone who couldn’t leave before. The smartest thing our government learned was to make accommodations for pets. During Katrina, if the government evacuated you, you couldn’t bring your pet(s). Many people who should have left stayed to take care of their pets. It was a “Sophie’s Choice” and I understand their predicament.  I have four dogs and a bird. I could no more leave them than flap my arms and fly to the moon. This time, provisions were made to let people take their pets with them. I think this move alone made the evacuation work. Of course, having the transportation available before the storm rather than after it, as they did in Katrina doesn’t hurt.

After hearing all of the predictions, I have decided to stay in Mandeville. I am keeping a watchful eye on the weather. I have my whole house generator tested and ready to go. I have canned food, bottled water, and VODKA. Don’t know when or if I will be able to blog again. To those of you who have called and emailed me your concerns, thank you. Your thoughts, prayers, and kind offers of help make a difference in my life.

Yours in confused retailing, Bruce