This morning while getting ready to head out and look for our story, CNN photojournalist Ric Blackburn stopped us to tell us of a guy he met passing out water and food to people in the French market.
His name is Russell Gore, and after hearing his story, we went to his home for an interview. Gore is not leaving his home when Hurricane Gustav hits New Orleans early tomorrow.
He lives in New Orleans east, what he calls the “bottom of the bowl” where flooding ravaged his neighborhood during Hurricane Katrina. It was here where his wife died in his arms 3 years ago yesterday after flooding from Hurricane Katrina forced Gore and his wife into their attic.
Gore says she died while waiting for helicopters to take them from their home.
He is struggling with the loss of his wife and can’t imagine leaving his home. He has rebuilt his home the way he says his wife would have wanted it. He tells us we could never understand how he feels and why he has decided to stay unless we walked a mile in his shoes.
Gary Tuchman will have his story tonight.
I'm sitting at a bar.
I know, I know, there's a massive storm coming. Don't worry, I’m not drinking. I hadn't eaten all day and this is the only place I could find open in the French Quarter.
"We never close," the bartender yelled out as he waved me inside. "I knew you would be here," the chef said, rushing into the kitchen, "I'm going to make you up some crabcakes."
How could I say no? It's a small place called the Oceana Grill, and it’s packed with cops and reporters. That's a good sign, it means most of the residents and tourists have left. The Quarter is empty, boarded up, calm. I've spent today walking and driving around, checking up on evacuations and preparations.
So far the differences between the response to this storm and Katrina are obvious. Lessons seem to have been learned. The governor appears on top of the evacuations, city officials seem to be working together.
We haven't gotten a final count on how many of the estimated 30,000 people who needed help to leave have actually gotten out. But there have been buses evacuating people since early yesterday. As for the levees, we simply don't know. The work on them is not completed, and there are serious concerns about how strong they really are. we will be watching them closely.
We will be broadcasting a two hour special tonight. We have a large presence here, and are ready to cover whatever happens. We have staked out multiple locations to be at during the storm, and we hope to stay on the air as long as possible even during the worst of it.
"How long are you staying open for?" I ask the bartender as I pay my check...
"til," he says.
"til we get tired."
The French Quarter is all but deserted as Hurricane Gustav bears down on New Orleans, but at least one French Quarter eatery plans on staying open through the storm.
“I’m a gambler by nature I guess. That’s why I opened a business in New Orleans.” Says Eric Cohen, who moved to NOLA last year from Philadelphia to sell cheese steaks at his Bourbon street restaurant Mister Chubby’s.
“I’m staying open through the storm. I’m here to help people get fed. That’s my job” he says while serving up eggs and hoagies to a steady stream of police officers, national guardsmen and journalists.
“I’m going to stay here until the National Guard kicks me out. I’m here to help them get fed and help the cops because they’re here to help people and they protect me and it’s something can do in return.”
His father Barry, working the grill behind him, looks less certain but Eric looks like he is ready for an adventure.
“My mom’s in Vegas right now doing some gambling, I figure I’ll do a little gambling myself down here with my father.”
Here are some images:
Mister Chubby's a French Quarter eatery plans to stay open during the storm
The sign in font of Mister Chubby's
David M. Reisner
AC360° Digital Producer
Three years ago, it was the failed levee system that inflicted the most damage to New Orleans.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said his concerns for New Orleans related to areas of potential weakness in the levee system.
There were over 50 levee breaches 3 years ago. Rebuilding the levees is still a work in progress.
In fact, New Orleans’ levee infrastructure is not expected to be complete until 2011.
When you hear the term ‘levee breach,’ what does that mean exactly? A levee breach can come from any number of scenarios. I put together a slideshow to show you all the different ways a levee can fail. Take a look:
Location: New Orleans, Sunday 9am Mass St. Louis Cathedral
There were just a dozen of us at the 9am mass at St. Louis Cathedral. The last Sunday in August should find this church filled with Labor Day weekend visitors and locals, spilling out into Jackson Square, strolling to Café Du Monde and plotting the day.
Today, the few locals in church hugged each other, shared plans of escape and quietly left.
The French Quarter is empty. Shuttered doors have padlocks; plywood covers the first floor windows. You have a hard time buying a cup of coffee and there is nowhere to buy last minute supplies.
The last minute is up, you should be gone. For those of us still here, the priest who said mass wasn’t praying for Hurricane Gustav to miraculously go away, he was praying God would intervene in a more human way:
“Pray we use our God given brains and heed the warnings.”
There will not be another mass said at St. Louis Cathedral until Wednesday morning, that’s the plan anyway. Let’s hope that mass will be one of thanksgiving.
I took these pictures to show you just how empty New Orleans is:
Chartres Street, French Quarter
St Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square
St Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square
AC360° Editorial Producer
We are gearing up for a special edition of AC 360 tonight, live from New Orleans. Hotels are closed, businesses boarded up on Saturday and people started evacuating Friday night, in advance of Gustav.
Anderson, Sr Producer Ted Fine and I arrived in New Orleans Friday afternoon, straight from Denver. I noticed an immediate difference from 3 years ago, when I got to town 2 days before Katrina. In 2005, the city was not as crowded as normal, but still pretty hopping. In fact, it seemed like most of the people I met didn't really think Katrina would really hit here... Until Sunday morning, one day before Katrina hit, when it became a Cat 5 storm.
Fast forward 3 years, and things have changed. Of course, there are people staying until the last possible second or not even leaving: including the gang at our favorite hot spot, the Spotted Cat.
Another big difference lies on Canal Street. Stores started closing midday Friday all along Canal. Most of the outdoor and in store ATM's were already drained of cash in preps for the storm. Many of the tourists I ran into Friday afternoon couldn't believe how seriously the city is taking the storm. In fact, a few seemed irritated that they couldn't get cash. I, for one, and glad to see the change.
Now, the NOPD has started closing off streets, and I’ve seen National Guard trucks driving up and down on Poydras, outside the CNN offices. The waiting game has begun, as we see over the next day or so where Gustav is headed. Most people in the New Orleans area are hoping all of this planning is for nothing. We'll know if that is the case soon enough.