Notes from New Orleans: Evacuation & Early Reports

Posted on: September 1st, 2008 by Walter Gallas
Northbound I-55, Mile 1, Sunday morning, August 31

Northbound I-55, Mile 1, Sunday morning, August 31.

Watching the early reports of Gustav's effects on New Orleans from my viewpoint in St. Louis, I see that at least right now we will need to keep an eye on three areas -- neighborhoods in and near the Upper 9th Ward, the Lower 9th Ward, and the West Bank.

Whatever happens with the floodwall lining both sides of the Industrial Canal, waters pushing in from Lake Pontchartrain will affect neighborhoods on either side like Holy Cross, Bywater, St. Roch, and conceivably Treme and the French Quarter. On the West Bank, water pushing in from the Gulf side, will affect the West Bank including Algiers Point.

Clearly, it is too early to make any definitive calls, and with the storm heading away from the city, we could be out of the woods. In any case, we are all looking at this, and beginning to make some measured determinations as to what the National Trust for Historic Preservation will be ready to do once the storm passes and residents return.

Early Sunday morning, I left New Orleans at 4:30 am to get caught up in the mind-bending experience of "contraflow" -- the reverse commuting out of the city. Three hours after my departure, I had progressed 27 miles to the beginning of I-55. Traffic ground to a halt, and so antsy motorists jumped out of their vehicles to walk pets, visit with family members in other vehicles, and just stretch.

Nineteen hours later -- after finally abandoning the interstate for state route 61 through Port Gibson, Vicksburg, and Clarksdale, Miss., I arrived in St. Louis. This is a trip that should normally take about 10 hours.

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Updated to add photo.

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