Tuesday, 7 a.m.

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Gustav updates from New Orleans
 Tuesday morning, 7 a.m.

After the power was restored last night, a band of rain finally found us. All Monday afternoon we had high winds with no rain. Later in the afternoon when we went outside, wind-driven sand pelted us.

But we got plenty or rain last night. A light wind and rain persists. The day seems cool as it begins.

Our first job will be cleanup and unboarding windows. We have decided to leave the upper windows boarded until the direction of the rest of the hurricane, tropical storm, tropical depression lineup decides which way to go.

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The big question now for evacuees is when they will allowed to return. Patience is wearing thin among them if the tenor of comments on the New Orleans Times-Picayune Web site is any indicator

Monday night, 6:15 p.m.

Power came back on at 6 p.m. Unbelievable! We had not really expected it before late tomorrow at best.

About 3 p.m. a man strolled down the sidewalk walking his dog in the still-brisk gusts. Laurel Street was returning to normal.

The dove who abandoned her perch in the crape myrtle when the wind shifted reappeared.

Lulu and Oscar, the back porch damncats also reappeared. Their porch was better shielded from the strong south wind than the front porch where Scratchy reappeared prematurely.

Scratchy and Splotchy are the front porch damncats. Scratchy has fare poorly this year. After an illness, he lost of lot of weight which he has not regained.

So we were watching the front screen when he strolled first strolled up the steps. He stood there, swaying back and forth in the wind, looked disquieted and went back down the steps to a calmer refuge.

As the wind gradually lost its strength, Scratchy reappeared. He’s hunkered down there now, waiting on his supper, still swaying slightly with the wind.

Stella-from-Pope was the first inside damncat to venture outside. She looked dazed, confused and delighted with the altered landscape of leaves, limbs and disarray. Cookout Kitty remained inside, lying on his back with utmost unconcern. He’s among his people who have not abandoned him in this storm as they did in Katrina. And Oreo is okay as long as Cookout Kitty is okay.

In the midst of damncat and screen-watching entertainment, we have listened to the TV over our small emergency radio. We’ve heard the mayor, parish presidents and officials from A to Z, including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

After listening to Jindal’s rapid-fire delivery describing the massive aid and relief that has been mobilized, I have felt some sympathy for his signer — the person who stands beside him and translates his remarks into visual signals for the hearing impaired. That person is either exhausted by the time he finishes speaking or handles his public remarks in relays with at least two other signers.

The foregoing damncat and frivolity report from Laurel Street is only appropriate given the light treatment we have received from Gustav. Out on the road there are over one million evacuees from New Orleans and surrounding parishes, wishing they could come home. I haven’t heard when they will be allowed to return, but if the power on Laurel Street has been restored so promptly, there’s hope for your quick return.

Be safe. It would be a shame for the casualty toll from Gustav to rise higher among evacuees than from the effects of the storm itself.


Wow! The wind is really gusting now driving hard rain, but not torrential downpour at this time. The dove has left the tree in the yard again. Probably won’t get any power crews out today with the wind. Probably will tomorrow. Downspout came off and had to do emergency repair with duct tape. Neighbors are still hunkered down on either side. Land line and radio with tv station audio is source of information…More Later.


Ailing privit hedge/tree inside yard broke off about half-way up in gusts of strong wind. With tv out we are sitting at front door watching wind through screen door.  Door faces south, we watch as debris fron Gritz Bar blows east to west, left to right across our “screen.” Next door neighbor’s fence has blown down. Wind comes in cycles, but there is not much rain.

8:45 a.m.

Land line call indicates that Howells are still ok. A dove that usually roosts on a small tree in the yard close to the house has returned and damncat food eating sparrows are again hanging around.

Phone call at 8:30 a.m. reveals Laurel Street residence ok but cell phone cuts out in the middle of the conversation.

7:00 a.m.

Text to Batesville–Power Lost at 6:55 a.m.

6:30 a.m.

Text to Batesville–(Blog test) When I lose power can I blog like this?

6:15 a.m.

Annunciation Street between us and the river has gone dark. We’ve heard several loud booms like transformers blowing out and bright flashes from electric lines shorting together.

Surprisingly to us, the only problems so far with satellite TV reception have been from the power flickers that have caused the television set itself to cut off. Once the TV is reset, receptions resumes.

Monday morning, 6 a.m.

The lights have flickered suspiciously several times, making me doubt predictions that New Orleans won’t have electrical problems. They will probably be localized and soon remedied.

The swaying of the trees we can see from our back porch is out of unison. We wish we had mentioned to Frank the overgrowth from his tree hanging over our yard and near our back corner.

Monday morning, 4:30 a.m.

Gustav’s winds were supposed to have picked up in New Orleans after midnight, I didn’t notice them until 4 a.m. Heavily-foliaged limbs of trees sway convincingly. Gusts may be between 30 and 40 miles per hour. There is a light rain.

The storm appears to be holding its course for landfall near Houma as a category 3 hurricane. Or it may have dropped to a category 2 as it enters the cooler, shallower waters just offshore. Some observers have told us that there may be a correlation between high water in the Mississippi River during the spring and reduced hurricane activity in the fall. Perhaps the huge addition of river water into the Gulf keeps the shoreline water temperatures slightly lower, according to that theory.

Gustav is expected to reach the coast by mid-morning. Coast may be something of a misnomer, especially south of New Orleans. Not many years ago — say, when Hurricane Betsy hit in 1965 — there were miles of terra neither firma or liquid that comprised the wetlands south of here. The Gulf was 80 miles away.

During the last 40 years, we’ve built levees, canals, only to have them overtopped and broken down.

“We have one of the largest land building machines in the world, the Mississippi River,” someone said. “It’s not rocket science, it’s mud and gravity. They’ve tried to convince us that levees are the problem.”

Gustav is atypical (Is any hurricane typical?) in that it’s strong side — the east side — continues to be weak. At present it looks like New Orleans will be spared hurricane winds, maybe even the loss of electricity.

The storm may be a good test for new construction and repair on New Orleans’ 17th Street and London Avenue Canals. Both carry water to Lake Pontchartrain from the vast pumping system inside the city, carrying rainwater out of this below-sea-level city. Katrina’s tide and storm surge pushed so much water into Lake Pontchartrain that it backed up into those canals and eventually broke through their walls and flooded into the city.

After Katrina, gates were constructed that can be closed to keep the lake water out of the canals when the lake levels rise and threaten. Those gates could get a test today.

The winds are picking up steadily now at 5:15 a.m. Rosemary lost her reading glasses — which she does dozens of times daily, but she usually finds them. Now they’ve been missing since yesterday morning. I’ve been questioned about my culpability, about newspapers I might have thrown out in the garbage. She last remembers seeing them on top of those newspapers. I deny everything. I don’t remember any newspapers and I don’t remember throwing any newspapers out. That’s my story and I’m … oh well, it doesn’t matter. She’ll be convinced I threw them out unless and until they mysteriously reappear.

Bob Breck, the channel 8 weather guy, says the next six hours will be the worst, that the city will probably have few problems.

I’m anxious for daylight now. My legs are sore from climbing up and down that ladder yesterday.

Later Sunday evening

The first band of thunderstorms that passed through shortly after 7 p.m. lasted about 15 minutes. Since then (it’s now 9:24 p.m.) it has seemed calm with an occasional erratic breeze. The second band of thunderstorms is forecast to be nearing the city now.

The bands of thunderstorms are expected to increase in frequency and intensity after midnight.
Sunday evening

We’re hunkered down here on Laurel Street in Uptown New Orleans. Vulnerable windows and doors are boarded up, yard debris put away, and Gustav tracking ever westward, according to the talking weather heads.

At midday we became concerned that the birds had left. That’s what our friend, Big Lee, who weathered Katrina, found especially disconcerting after the 2005 storm. They were gone. Instead there were clouds of dragonflys, he said.

This morning we had heard a group of Monk’s Parakeets fly over, noisy as ever. After missing bird noises at midday, we noticed blue jays and crows calling around later, somewhat to our relief. And butterflies. They kept drifting through our back yard to sample the offering of flowers there.

There have been occasional gusts of wind throughout the afternoon, but nothing that I would have associated with a hurricane if I had not known one was out there. It’s a hot, humid wind.

The outer rain bands will soon arrive, according to the radar. At some point we will probably lose our TV reception via the satellite. Rosemary said she will go into withdrawal.

At some point we will probably lose the electricity powering this computer. Then I will probably go into withdrawal. We’ve got a radio powered by a hand-turned crank. We will listen to New Orleans AM station WWL. It’s a powerful station that we could pick up at night in Batesville. We tuned it in every night after Katrina.

The device will also recharge cell phone batteries, it claims. We’ll see.

After the power goes out, I plan to communicate via text message to Rupert so that he can post the information to this Web site. It will be slow and more brief.

We’ve had phone calls from all of our children, mainly telling us to leave. I think that by now they are resigned to our staying. What they have seen on national TV is the mayor and governor standing on their heads to get people to leave. What we are seeing locally are reports that the storm is not behaving according to the models, getting weak where it should have strengthened and shifting away from its forecast track.

Still, Gustav is likely to bring catastrophic flooding to the area between the Mississippi River’s west bank and the Gulf and along the Gulf. The television just announced tornado warnings for areas in Jefferson Parish.

The first of the outer bands has reached us now at 7:05 p.m. Dark clouds and more business-like wind gusts are bending trees. The wind is driving a pelting rain.

More later.
Sunday noon

The boarding of the window upstairs was accomplished with less yelling than I anticipated. We boarded only three — those facing the east and south. My reasoning is that our house is sandwiched so closely between the next two that windblown debris flying low would have already hit something before it got to our windows.

A couple of yards over, several men worked to pull down the branches of a dead tree, crashing them to ground in a controlled fall, beating Gustav to the punch.

We began to eye our neighbor’s tree that is very close to the corner of our house. Too late now to do anything about it. Hope it doesn’t come crashing through the bedroom window tomorrow.

There has been much work to secure loose objects in the yard. I filled to large garbage cans and assorted smaller buckets with water. A friend who stayed during Katrina convinced me of how precious water became during that dry fall that followed the 2005 storm. Rita came a few weeks later and provided the only rainfall for many weeks. Besides, the water should keep them from blowing around.

Since early morning Gustav has appeared to either weaken or fail to gain the “mother of all storms” status Mayor Nagin gave it. “Great aunt, several times removed,” Rosemary said.

The governor, the mayor, the president and everybody else is trying to do with Gustav what should have been done with Katrina.

We’re not being flippant by staying instead of evacuating. We hope. People who live on the west bank–between the Mississippi River and the Gulf–are likely to have a lot of water from this storm. That area was little affected by the floodwaters but Gustav predicted approach puts the west bank at risk. If we lived on the west bank or any of those places that flooded from Katrina, we would have already evacuated.

We’re on relatively high ground in our neighborhood on the east bank of the Mississippi River. At least that’s what we’re counting on.

Our nephew John Nelson and his wife left around noon, headed roundaboutly for Batesville. They brought us their storm food and perishables from clearing out their refrigerator. Soon they will be in traffic gridlock. Hope they have a safe trip.
Sunday morning

We awoke this morning to better news. Gustav has weakened after passing over Cuba and into the deep, warm waters of the Gulf loop current where it was supposed to strengthen into a “Monster” — Times-Picayune headline description.

Go figure. Storms are marginally predictable at best. Someone said recently, “Don’t think of it as global warming; think of it as global weirding.” That fits my cosmic rationale.

Certainly Gustav will restrengthen as it crosses the Gulf, but praying for the storm to weaken seems to be the only petition to bring before God with a straight face. What else are you gonna do, pray for it to go to Houston or to Florida?

“What I’d like to do is turn the TV off and just let it come, just like Christmas,” Rosemary just said. Not a chance that she can leave that TV alone; nor me this computer.

Still ahead is the boarding of the upstairs windows on the east side. Rosemary is beginning to question the necessity if the storm is weakening. She’s been leery of my interaction with ladders ever since an unfortunate incident in 2000. I must start on this shortly. A more dependable prediction than those involving weather is mine that before I get those upper windows boarded yelling will have been involved.
Saturday night

It’s quiet in the neighborhood for a New Orleans Saturday night. We walked for several blocks up Laurel Street and then over to Magazine Street. We won’t be able to do that tomorrow night.

 The mayor ordered mandatory evacuation for the east bank of New Orleans starting at noon tomorrow. Those who choose to stay must remain within the confines of their private property.

But tonight it appears that many people are already staying within the confines of their homes. Lights are on. The neighborhood looks more like it does on a slow weeknight instead of Saturday night. Grit’s Bar is closed as is the F and M Patio Bar over on Tchoupitoulas and Le Bon Temps Roulet on Magazine.

We walked past several people loading their cars for evacuation. Vizards is one of the few restaurants open. It is full.

 Nevertheless, the area seems very subdued. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin came on television earlier this evening and described worse-case scenarios and dire urgency. The talking weather heads came on after him and described less-worst-case scenarios.

Although I started boarding up windows this afternoon instead of waiting until tomorrow, there’s still much left to do tomorrow to get this house ready for whatever-case-scenario it encounters.

And us. We still think it will be better to sit tight. Can’t exactly explain why and we may change our minds at any moment. But still, it looks like that unlike Katrina, Gustav will create a big storm surge and waves for the other side of the river — the west bank.

Noon Saturday.

Frank, the owner of the house next door, came by to work the house to prepare it for a new renter who planned to move in Monday. Frank called the man and told him he had better make plans for somewhere to stay in case Gustav won’t let him in

Frank said that he and Gwen will evacuate to a cottage they have rented on St. Georges Island in Florida. They recently returned from a vacation there.

Frank said that he would stay except for his old dog, Shaba. He’s trying to keep the ancient canine comfortable during his last days and doesn’t want him to have to endure the summer heat without air conditioning. Frank is like that about dogs.

My nephew John Nelson came by to retrieve hurricane supplies his mother had sent with me on my trip down. He and his wife, Madelynn are also undecided. The place where they live got five feet of water from the flooding after Katrina. John said that even if Gustav veers to the west, Hanna may move across Florida late in the week.

Meanwhile, my son called to tell me that at least one shelter is opening to receive evacuees in Batesville. New Orleans television shows bumper to bumper traffic crawling away from New Orleans. The talking heads tell us not to evacuate to the west towards Baton Rouge or Houston. That means north and east are the best directions.

Mid-morning Saturday

At mid-morning Saturday, Ed Siren is the only homeowner I’ve seen boarding up. Ed lives in the next block on Laurel Street.

We’ve decided to postpone boarding up until tomorrow while we keep hoping that Gustav will take a more westerly turn.

Neighbors on either side of us have told us that they also plan to stay. J. Monque’D told us he’s with us. Hmmm.

I began my hurricane preparations Thursday night in Batesville. Twenty gallons of water, two big bags of food for damncats. Our first rule is to buy nothing that we wouldn’t use under ordinary circumstances, but by Friday morning  I had added two sheets of plywood, each cut in half so that they would fit into my mini-van along with the water, damncat food, and miscellaneous purchases that were prompted by rhyme, reason or insanity.

A mid-day stop in Madison while southbound Friday made me glad I had already bought water. The shelves of a Wal-Mart there contained no water. Most of the canned goods that I had planned to add to my supplies and been ransacked also.

If we have to resort to the hurricane food I added in Madison, we will be eating a lot of La Choy Chinese food.

 Today we went to the Rouse’s supermarket near our home. Pretty good crowd for early Saturday but not the long lines of frenzied buyers Rosemary had seen on Thursday or Friday. Each shopper seems interested in other shoppers’ groceries — are they staying groceries or going groceries. Most look like staying groceries.

 More later.