Hurricane Katrina: Evacuation

Dad woke us up at quarter to five this morning with bad news. Hurricane Katrina strengthened to a category five hurricane and was on a beeline for New Orleans. That being the case, evacuation was no longer a matter of debate. Having packed last night, I didn’t have too much to do before being ready to leave this morning. We did a lot of double checking and I got a number of things off the ground in my room, most notably my computer and everything at the bottom of my book shelf. We managed to pack the trunk with comparative ease as everyone packed pretty light as we were expecting Jeff’s stuff for college to take a lot of trunk space. We left the house at 6:15 this morning. We got off the highway just after crossing the bridge, the interstate was well backed up. We got on Airline highway where there was smooth sailing. We made a stop at Doc’s apartment to drop off a room key for the Astor Crown Plaza on Canal. As he is unable to evacuate, staying in a hotel on the 9th floor would at least be a somewhat better circumstance. After making that stop we headed down I-10 towards Slidell. As we were in New Orleans East, Dad remembered that he did not unplug the automatic garage door opener or lock the door inside the garage. This was a matter of concern to him as the opener acted up briefly a couple weeks ago, opening and closing on its own. I thought it was sheer lunacy to turn around. Traffic was fine for us and I was afraid that we could be set back by several hours as more people would be leaving as the morning wore on. We did go back and secure the garage and leave again. I think we got pretty lucky as traffic was just fine and in the end it only cost us an hour, about what it would be any other day. With New Orleans East behind us, again, we continued through Slidell. Contraflow started where I-10 meets I-59, which caused a mild bottleneck. Traffic was perfectly smooth again once we got past the fork. The only other slowdown we experienced occurred where Contraflow ended. As far as traffic is concerned, I’d say we were remarkably lucky, or maybe just responsible, as traffic grew exponentially worse as the hours went by. We continued down I-59 and made a stop in Hattiesburg for gas, to switch drivers and get something to eat. There was a Subway attached to the gas station and we Andrew, Dad and I got sandwiches… ham and cheddar for me, they were out of swiss. After getting back on the road we made our way to Jackson, Mississippi. As I look at a map, however, I don’t recall getting on I-20 and heading due west to get there. I was sleeping on and off for that part of the trip though. We stopped there again and one other time before reaching Memphis. Once we reached Memphis it took only a short while to find our hotel downtown. We arrived there at about five in the afternoon. With all our bags in our room on the ’14th’ floor, we got settled in and I got my laptop online. I was able to immediately get in touch with Christy, who went to Atlanta and Khadijah, who is currently residing in the Florida panhandle. I also called Andrey. When we spoke last night he said he and is family were staying, but this afternoon they left after a mandatory evacuation for Orleans parish was called. Unfortunately, left late like so many people and was caught is parking lot traffic. He told me he left at 11:30 from the westbank. At 5:30, he was still in Slidell. I was also in touch with Bianca while on the road. Bianca and her mother hit the road at about 1:45 this afternoon and headed north towards Hattiesburg. About an hour after arriving at the hotel, we took a short walk to get something to eat. We ended up at a restaurant called Big Foot, a small, sharp looking place serving burgers, ribs and sandwiches. I got the club sandwich myself. I fed a little money to the jukebox while there. We walked right back to the hotel after dinner. We had the TV on the weather channel. We were also able to watch local TV, WWL, via a live video stream online. I must say it was very good of them to offer that service free of charge. Nothing we saw was especially encouraging. There was still a category five hurricane heading right for New Orleans. At about nine o’clock, Dad, Jeff and I left the hotel to go to the train station. Jeff was leaving tonight to go to Michigan for college. We waited with him for about an hour until he boarded the train at about quarter past 10. After seeing Jeff off, Dad and I went to Silky O’Sullivan’s on Beale St. for a couple drinks. After that we went back to the hotel. We watched some more TV, I took a shower and typed this entry. I talked to Bianca at about 1:30 AM. She said she and her mother were ‘lucky’ enough to find a hotel room in Hattiesburg. I was hoping she would have reached at least Jackson as there will be severe weather in Hattiesburg. Even so, I was glad to know she was safe. If she is going to be close to the coast, at least she’s not stuck in a car. Throughout the day, I did my best to stay positive, and I think I was pretty successful. While there’s a good chance we won’t have a home to return to, my family, friends and MP3 collection are safe. Money can replace most of what may have been lost although my parents were unable to take a good number of photographs.

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