Will Tropical Storm Isaac Hit New Orleans on Katrina's Anniversary?

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As I awoke this morning to the sun shining in Central Louisiana, it was difficult to believe that a hurricane was slowly making its way toward our Gulf Coast...toward New Orleans, where two of my children now live.

We, here in Louisiana, are not unaccustomed to the threat of hurricanes. During this time of year, our eye turns more frequently to the Weather Channel, checking for those threats. With all of my traveling lately, I haven't kept up much with the tracking of these tropical storms -- and now it appears that Isaac has sneaked upon us eerily, reminiscent of Katrina -- and this Wednesday is the seven-year anniversary of Katrina's devastation.

Palms in hurricane, Credit: Shutterstock

I realize that Isaac does not appear to be capable of packing the punch that Katrina did, however, that will be where our minds always wander when a hurricane threatens our coast or state. What I recall about Katrina was how we were just going about our business, and then suddenly it was upon us. It was a serious threat that had us scrambling. My own sister was out on a cruise ship that had left the Port of New Orleans and had to be rerouted to Galveston. Her son, working Search and Rescue, was able to retrieve it before it was destroyed. I remember the lines of traffic rolling into our city and at the gas pumps. I remember the setting up of shelters in our area and driving past each day to see the uprooted individuals standing around outside...waiting to see what would remain of their homes.

And so Katina will always be in our minds in Louisiana. Rita hit within a few weeks of Katrina, and actually affected us here in Central Louisiana, causing flooding and power outages, along with all of the hundreds of ousted New Orleans residents living in shelters. It was a bad hurricane season that year for us. Gustav was the last big hurricane disaster we had here. The road I live on was without electricity for over a week.  

I'm not sure if folks who do not live under the threat of hurricanes realize what happens before, during and after this threat. First, there is the preparation for the threat. Once we understand that there is the possibility of the high wind gusts, it is necessary to take precautions for all items that can move. In other words, all patio furniture, umbrellas, plant stands, lawn ornaments and the like must be moved to a safe place. Next, people who live in an outlying area (like I do...) begin examining all trees that look as though they could be brought down by the winds and damage buildings, and cut them down. We make a trip to the grocery store to purchase batteries and water and food that does not have to be cooked. Water is a big deal for my family, since the water supply is run on an electric pump and, although we have a generator that will run electricity, all water is immediately shut down. One does not realize how much thy depend on water until they have none. We also fuel up our vehicles and get extra gas to run generators. Those who do not have generators and lose electricity for a week risk losing food in their refrigerators and freezers. Once all of the preparations have been made we sit...and wait...and watch. When the storm passes, the clean up begins; trees, limbs and debris must be cleaned up...and it is usually very hot and humid. For those who lose electricity, the heat is quite unbearable.

This storm is the first to hit while I have two sons living in New Orleans. Last night, public schools in New Orleans began to close, oil rigs began to evacuate and a state of emergency has been declared. David, in his residency program with LSU Health Sciences and Ryan, in LSU Dental School, have both been told they cannot leave the city yet. And so they have fueled up their vehicles and made preparations in the case that they are able to leave before the storm hits. Me? I am constantly texting to see if there had been any word on when (or if they can leave).

They told me that it was pretty crazy down there last night with many people already leaving; they had to sit in line for 30 minutes to be able to fill their vehicles up with premium (no regular fuel left...) gas. I worry about the traffic situation if they actually are able to get on the road. The evacuation route from New Orleans through Baton Rouge is brutal. On a normal day, one can get caught up in Baton Rouge for an hour.

The other thing I worry about is the flooding that will surely take place in New Orleans. Ryan lives near the levee that broke during Katrina and I do not believe that this will happen again, but as they say, New Orleans is a bowl, and with heavy rainfall, it is very difficult to pump the water out efficiently. When we were visiting the boys a couple of weeks ago, a heavy downfall caused people to flood out on the roads.

And so I just sit here and watch and wait to see what will happen. Ryan told me that he guessed they would just be storm chasers and ride the storm out...after all, they had never ridden a storm out while actually on the coast. Hmmm...Mama doesn't like that idea one little bit, but this really isn't in my hands, now is it?

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