New Orleans braces itself for arrival of hurricane


FOR NEW Orleans, yesterday morning brought an all-too-familiar dilemma: to flee or not to flee. With Hurricane Isaac bearing down on the city, residents scrambled to either leave the low-lying city or gather supplies to weather the storm.

With no mandatory evacuation orders in place for New Orleans’ 360,000 residents, streets were largely quiet. Traffic along the Interstate 10 highway ran smoothly, despite predictions that both sides of the busy thoroughfare would be needed to accommodate motorists seeking to leave the city.

Thousands of people, including many from low-lying parishes outside the city’s $15 billion (€11.94 billion) flood protection system, decided not to take their chances with Isaac, a massive, slow-moving category-one hurricane expected to strike the Louisiana coast early today.

The city’s main airport was closed yesterday, and Amtrak trains and Greyhound buses were no longer running, limiting evacuation options for residents without cars and for tourists visiting the southern city, which is known for jazz music, Creole cuisine and colourful architecture. “We were supposed to fly out Wednesday, but that’s not going to happen,” said Kevin McCarthy (54), who was visiting from Long Beach, New York.

The city has yet to issue evacuation orders, which are triggered by category-three hurricanes.

Isaac was due to arrive a day ahead of the seventh anniversary of the landfall of Hurricane Katrina, which breached protective levies and flooded 80 per cent of the city. Some 1,800 died and thousands of others were trapped, many of them in the city’s Superdome stadium, for days without food and water.

The trauma of that disaster has lingered. In 2008, with Hurricane Gustav bearing down on the city, then-mayor Ray Nagin ordered all residents out of the city. Hundreds of thousands heeded his call.

City officials are telling residents to gather three days’ worth of water, food and other essential supplies and to anticipate power outages. But some were taking no chances, having left on Monday when roads out of the city were clogged with traffic. – (Reuters)