Officials Say New Orleans Better Prepared For Hurricane, But Residents Still Nervous
While soon-to-be Hurricane Isaac isn't looking like another Katrina, the storm is expected to pick up steam as it heads toward a landfall, conjuring up powerful memories of the disaster seven years ago.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu declared a state of emergency for New Orleans on Sunday, warning residents to "think about how you will spend time without power or water."
City officials asked residents to be prepared to shelter in place with food and water, check on elderly neighbors and secure loose objects and trash cans.
Gov. Bobby Jindal issued a statement on Sunday "encouraging everyone to get prepared now to ensure that you have an evacuation plan in place."
"In addition to issuing a State of Emergency for the storm, we are in touch with parish leaders and we are recommending voluntary evacuations within the hurricane watch area," Jindal said. "Specifically, this is for people in low lying areas, areas outside of levee protection, and areas south of the Intracoastal Waterway."
As of 11 a.m. EDT Monday, Isaac was still classified as a tropical storm with top sustained winds of 65 mph. Its center was about 310 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, and it was moving northwest at 14 mph, the National Weather Service reported.
Given the history of Katrina, some residents are understandably nervous. That storm killed at least 1,400 people in Louisiana and caused $14 billion in damage in Orleans Parish alone, according to the communications department for the city of New Orleans.
"Today, seven years later, it's still fresh on people's minds," Linda Jackson, president of the Lower 9th Ward Homeowners Association, was quoted by The Shreveport Times as saying.
The lower 9th Ward was one of the worst-hit areas during Hurricane Katrina, with residents there trapped on rooftops amid the massive storm surge.
Now the Ward has levees that are 16 feet higher than at the time of Katrina, but even so, most of the neighborhood's 4,000 residents plan to leave ahead of Isaac.
According to The Shreveport Times:
The miles of levees and pumps surrounding the city, which the Army Corps of Engineers spent billions of dollars rebuilding and fortifying after Katrina, make New Orleans a much safer place than it was in 2005, said Ryan Berni, a spokesman for Democratic Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Residents are also better prepared for big storms, having gone through Katrina in 2005 and Gustav, which just missed the city in 2008.
One resident of New Orleans, 56-year-old John Corll, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying he thinks "the state and local governments are much better prepared for the storm surge and emergencies."
After Katrina, the city's 133-mile long levee system is being rebuilt at a cost of $14.5 billion. A spokesperson for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in New Orleans told NPR that construction gaps in the levee system were being temporarily plugged with Hesco baskets and conventional sand bags.
"We've closed off everything except for two areas that are actual evacuation routes," Corp spokesperson Rachel Rodi says.
We're watching the storm closely," Rodi says. "We've closed off the main gate in the inner harbor and will close other gates if the water levels rise to specific trigger points."