New Orleans

With Katrina veering only slightly east, moving fast and staring New Orleans in the face, I’m worried about my friends there. We spent eight years in that amazing city and went through many hurricanes. We were there in 1969 for Camille, the one that’s being compared with tonight’s monster storm. I covered Camille. WDSU-TV was the only station in town with auxiliary power through most of it. I was on the air for something like thirty-six straight hours broadcasting to those who had electricity, hadn’t fled and were watching television. There was a surpisingly large number of them.
On average, the city is three feet below sea level, a massive dish. Camille hit the Gulf Coast considerably east of the city. When a cameraman and I went there a couple of days after the storm, we were stunned by the extent of the devastation in that relatively unpopulated area. I just now looked at the film we made, shaking my head at what would have happened if Camille had made a direct hit on the city.
It doesn’t seem possible that New Orleans will be as lucky this time. Everyone from Mayor Ray Nagin to President Bush has urged people to get out to higher ground. Reports are that many Orleanians, unable to accept that this really is the big one, have decided to stick it out. Some of them, apparently, are observing the old tradition, defying nature by hunkering down in their homes and throwing hurricane parties. How I hope that none of them are the folks I know and love.
Terry Teachout and Laura Demanski have set up as part of their Arts Journal About Last Night a clearinghouse of bloggers sending reports from the city or from where they have sought safety. If you are concerned about or interested in what seems certain to happen to New Orleans, I suggest that you check in with Terry and Laura, along with your traditional news sources.

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