Gustav evacuation: late Sunday morning



JACKSON, MISS., 11:15 AM CST -- The lobby is full of people cellphoning, Blackberrying, and generally trying to find some place to stay. The staff is being very kind, refilling coffee urns and answering phones that will not stop ringing. Cars keep pulling up, drivers run inside, get turned away, and head for the next hotel.

Some guys had set up an impromptu barbershop conversation in the driveway. One was talking about his friend who had been left in the city to work for Entergy, the utility company. "But he's in St. Charles Parish," he said dolefully. St. Charles called a mandatory evac yesterday at noon:

The current track presents storm surge implications for the entire parish. Because of Gustav’s likely angle of approach, storm surges will be pushed up into the Barataria Basin and into the unprotected West Bank of St. Charles Parish. Storm surge is of particular concern within the Sunset Drainage District in Des Allemands. East Bank hurricane protection levees could possibly be overtopped due to wind-driven storm surge in Lake Pontchartrain.

Storm surge modeling shows possible surges of 9 feet in Bayou Gauche and 12 feet in Luling’s Willowdale subdivision. Storm surges are projected at 12 to 13 feet on the East Bank, testing the muster of the hurricane protection levee there.

A woman was in the breakfast nook, making frantic phone calls. She had a stable in an affected region. Several of the horse owners had left town for Labor Day and could not be reached. It didn't look like she was going to have the resources to evacuate the horses.

A Pomeranian was checking out at the front desk, trailed by a family that looked like they'd packed for a 3-week tour on the QE2.

In the lobby, I met a family in the lobby who had been there since 7 am, waiting for a room that had been reserved. The grandpa looked like a bayou man, down to the burrcut and the suspenders. I asked him where he was from. "The woods," he said. "Des Allemands."

His daughter looked at the TV, which was broadcasting generic-weather broadcasts from CNN. She was disgusted. "I guess they don't get 4, 6, or 8 up here," she said, referring to the New Orleans stations and their meteorologists, which are greatly trusted by the general population during emergencies...and have fiercely partisan fans and detractors.

"I wish I could hear what Bob Breck was saying," she told me. "Though I could do without Margaret Orr."

"Yeah, I could use me some Carl Arredondo," a nearby woman said.

"Where you from?" I asked the Bob Breck fan.

She paused, and then said: "Gretna."

(Gretna -- the West Bank -- is not where you want to be from this week.)

"I don't know if I can live in hotels for three or four weeks this time," she said, "not even knowing if I'll have a home to get back to."

On CNN right now, both political parties are trying to spin Gustav to their advantage as fast as they can, and I am having my own fantasies of storm surges of 12 to 13 feet taking out a few political talking heads.

Which probably means I should get off the computer for a while.

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