The internet news headline says the people of New Orleans are “nervous” about Hurricane Gustav which at this moment is battering Haiti, but is headed toward Jamaica and the Caymans and then into the Gulf. After that, who knows?
Well sir, all the prognosticators we check with show the storm coming this way. They’ll say that, then turn right around and say, “But no one knows; it’s too early.”
Local radio talk shows today are dealing with 90 percent Gustav and 10 percent the Democratic convention. They “take you live” to a briefing by the city, the parish, the highway patrol, this emergency board or that one, and they all say the same thing: “Too early to say where Gustav is coming, but it’s not too early for citizens to begin preparing to leave. Better start planning your exit and your destination.”
A friend in Jackson, Mississippi, has invited us to come to their place. My son Neil contacted his aunt Carolyn in Jasper, Alabama, to see if her guest rooms were available. Hotels up and down the interstates are working overtime taking reservations for the weekend.
Governor Bobby Jindal has indicated that if Gustav does come toward Louisiana, he will begin the contraflow on Saturday. For you highlanders, a contraflow is when all lanes of a highway become one way and that way is “out of here.”
I had lunch with a pastor today, Wednesday, who tells me his church is ready, that they have all the contact information on his church members in case they evacuate, and that they are fine financially if they have to miss a Sunday or two.
Lynn Gehrmann, our office’s administrative assistant, canceled a scheduled medical procedure set for tomorrow, Thursday, in order to handle some office financial things we need to have with us in case of evacuation and shutdown.
We think the city is safer than it has ever been, thanks to the steady work of the Corps of Engineers and FEMA over these three years, but the question no one can answer is, “Is it enough?”
On the East side of New Orleans, the Industrial Canal which burst its levees into the Lower Ninth Ward has been secured, however the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, called MR GO, is still in place, ready to funnel in massive amounts of water from the Gulf just as it did three years ago. The Corps has planned to close it off, but that is a major undertaking and has not been done.
The river levees held firm last time and have received no further attention, to my knowledge, but canal, lake, and bayou levees all over the city have been raised and fortified. Out on the lakefront, the levees were raised five feet. That sounds good, however, there’s a problem: the streets that intersect and ride over those raised levees have not been raised. Therefore, the higher levees are worthless at the moment.
On the West Bank, we’re told that the Algiers Canal and Harvey Canal are still vulnerable to flooding.
One thing we can pretty much agree on: if New Orleans gets hit anywhere near the way we did in Katrina, it’s all over for this city. The federal government is not going to want to invest another 100 billion dollars in rebuilding the city, the state government is going to tire of it, and churches and denominational groups around the country are surely going to say, “Sorry, New Orleans. Been there; done that. No more.”
If we incur massive devastation again, thousands of citizens who are “on the bubble” about leaving will decide “that’s it for me” and relocate.
You can see why a direct hit by a hurricane is the last thing we need around here.
Thanks for praying for us. Not that we wish a hurricane on anyone else. But in some respects, we’re still on life support around here and do not need Gustav to unplug the IV.