With Gustav churning just outside the Gulf, New Orleans made preparations even as citizens also did what they could to focus on commemorations of the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the region on August 29, 2005.
On Friday, Kevin Mercadel and I spent part of the Katrina anniversary at one our HOME AGAIN! New Orleans projects, the home of Mrs. Imelda Skidmore, in Holy Cross, making sure that the building was stable and secure. Workmen nailed cross-pieces and enclosed the newly-framed rear addition, while Kevin and I worked to dismantle the remnants of a large above-ground swimming pool in the back yard.
Staff members of our partner, the Preservation Resource Center, spent Friday securing their headquarters, warehouse and the building projects of Operation Comeback and Rebuilding Together, and working out communications and computer issues. AmeriCorps staff working with Rebuilding Together's director Kristen Palmer has been trained to assist with the evacuation of citizens from the Union Passenger Terminal, where those without personal transportation are placed on trains or buses for trips to shelters in North Louisiana and in Memphis. There are no shelters provided in the city. The AmeriCorps members will remain until eight hours before landfall and then caravan by cars to Atlanta.
Projections of the hurricane's general direction at this writing peg its landfall west of New Orleans. Leaders of all surrounding parishes have called for mandatory evacuations, and Mayor Nagin has said citizens should evacuate now as well. Hotels are evicting tourists--many of them who came here for the Labor Day's large gay celebration Southern Decadence. The airport closes for commercial traffic Sunday at 6 p.m. A call for mandatory evacuation from New Orleans is likely tomorrow.
I anticipate leaving New Orleans early Sunday morning and driving north on I-55. It's tough making plans, not knowing what will really happen in the city, but I prefer to be conservative and cautious. Kevin's and our new staff member Stacey Danner's plans were to head up toward Baton Rouge.
Landfall, wherever it is, will be very early on Tuesday. Later that day, we all plan to convene by phone with National Trust for Historic Preservation headquarters and Southern office staff to assess where things are and how we will move forward.
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