New Orleans We checked the storm reports on Tropical Storm, wannabe hurricane, Barry, constantly as we prepared to leave Milwaukee. We were confident that we could get to Houston, but the last leg into New Orleans, scheduled to land at 9PM, might be a different matter, if winds were rising before landfall. Everything seemed to be “go” though. The lines were forming by their numbers to board the flight. The United agent took the mike, and announced there would be a delay. Our hearts skipped, and then hopes rose again when he said it was expected to be brief. Seems President Trump and Air Force One were on the runway with the same scheduled 4pm departure time from MKE as ours. We have all read that he likes to go home, so we had hope, and, frankly, Milwaukee is not really his kind of town, so we crossed our fingers that he wouldn’t be lingering but instead would be ready for the bright lights. Luckily, we were out by 430pm.
Landing in Houston, the flight board read “On Time,” so we hustled. All standbys were cleared. I could overhear the crew talking about whether they would be stuck in the city and whether this might be the last flight out. We landed in some wind, but less than the 40 mph that shuts down runways. An airport official was clearing the airport. He asked me if I had a taxi, and I answered, no, my truck was in the lot. When I inquired about the deal, he said they were closing the airport after the last flights landed and wanted to make sure no one was caught overnight. We had the conversation near a young soldier spread out on the floor in camo with his gear everywhere and his orders lying near his leg.
The predawn found the city dry as I hustled to get gas, cash, and check on all the family properties since my son was still in route home and my daughter was temporarily exiled. There was a car somehow parked in the Fair Grinds patio on St. Claude. Both coffeehouses were closed.
It was eerie driving the streets. They were almost totally empty. Cars were parked in the neutral grounds everywhere. Cars were parked on sidewalks. Mostly cars were gone, as if there were an evacuation notice that we missed somehow. City buses were lined up in a parking lot at the University of New Orleans near Elysian Fields as I left my parents’ house. As I stopped to take a picture, the campus cops were blocking the street into the campus. Some gas stations were open, but Loews looked closed, but it was still before 7AM, so who knows? Our radio station was still broadcasting.
This is a post-Katrina experience for so many, for too many. People have lost trust. In the city, this is a water-event with rain expected to get up to two feet in some areas. Pumps can clear five or six inches in the beginning and then one inch and hour or so afterwards. Landfall is expected to the southwest around Morgan City, a working-class oil town. The Mississippi River is high, but in most areas should be no problem, and certainly is secure in New Orleans.
We may not be able to fly to France for our organizers meeting as scheduled, but we’ll be fine. Will this new scare, change the government’s policies on climate? We can wish, but trust is gone there as well.