August 29, 2008

ADVICE: Time to leave New Orleans. Maybe too early for mandatory evacuation, but not too early to get out on your own if you can. I think I would. “It is still far more likely, percentage-wise, that a calamity won’t strike New Orleans than that one will. But alas, that’s no reason not to evacuate, whether today or tomorrow. Forecasting technology is such that a calamitous direct hit is always going to be ‘unlikely’ at the time when prudent evacuation decisions must be made in major cities. But the decisions still must be made.”

UPDATE: Turning toward Little Cayman and Cayman Brac.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Don Zeiter emails: “I just talked to my daughter who is in law school at Tulane. She is on her way to St. Louis because of the evacuation order and school is closed because of Gustav. But she said the locals down there are acting like it’s nothing to worry about, the same attitudes before Katrina hit. They keep saying we only get hit by female hurricanes and we go years between hurricanes hitting the city. Fortunately they have a better governor this time, though the same mayor.” That’s not encouraging.

MORE: New Orleans reader Beth Blankenship emails:

One of your readers quoted his daughter, a Tulane law school student, as saying “the locals down [in New Orleans] are acting like it’s nothing to worry about, the same attitudes before Katrina hit. They keep saying we only get hit by female hurricanes and we go years between hurricanes hitting the city.”

First, please note that “before Katrina hit” we evacuated about a million people from the entire New Orleans Metro area. Our city population was just around 450,000 and just over 30,000 did not, or could not evacuate. That’s far too many, but hardly indicative of a “nothing to worry about” attitude for the vast majority of New Orleanians.

I suspect she was getting a little bit of a run around — after all, understated humor is a good way to deal with fear and anxiety. I don’t anyone who isn’t taking it seriously, and preparing both to stay or to go, depending on what happens when it gets in the Gulf. I’ve been all over this town yesterday and today, getting my supplies together, tying up what needed doing at my workplace, the University of New Orleans, quizzing my students on their plans, those that haven’t already left. I’ve met up with folks of all stripes at the Walmart, the veterinary hospital, the snoball stand, several gas stations, my favorite Vietnamese restaurant (where I was asked four times by owners and waiters “when you go?” not “are you going?”), the pet store (yay! all the cages and aquariums were evacuated. Way to go, Petco!).

I take it that as an out-of-state student, she might have found it very easy to pack up and go quickly. Most of us here have houses and apartments to secure, jobs we had to go to right up through this afternoon, decisions to make, assistance to provide to elderly relatives…so no, we probably didn’t throw some books and flip-flops into the back pack, fire up the iPod and leave Looziana in the broad daylight.

But the roads are already starting to fill up — I-55 North was full this evening. I guess your friend’s daughter left ahead of the pack and missed the traffic. Tomorrow, busses are moving along announced routes to collect those who need assistance (an old man who makes a living pulling up weeds and selling stuff out of his grocery basket told me he knew where to go, and was checking his cell phone and the TV at the laundromat for when to get to the bus stop). We’ll probably head out in the cool of darkness late Saturday or in the wee hours of Sunday, when it’s less crowded we can avoid some hours spent inching along in stark sunlight and 90+ degree temps.

Anyway, I just wanted to respond to the would-be lawyer. I hope she learns to dig below the surface a bit as she continues in her studies. But I can’t blame her completely. No doubt there are some who aren’t taking things seriously. This is not a New Orleans-only trait, but a human one.

Also, we have a bit of a twisted sense of humor here and while we’re quite hospitable, it’s fun to pull a visitor’s leg now and then.

If you’re ever on Bourbon Street and a kid bets you he can tell where you got them shoes you’re wearing, don’t take him up on it. The answer is “On your feet.” Well, you do got ’em on your feet, doncha?

Heh. Well, I hope everybody is taking this seriously.

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