August 31st, 2008
04:17 PM ET

Katrina took his wife, still won't leave for Gustav

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/08/31/art.nola.gustav.jpg]
Ismael Estrada
AC360 Producer

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.

August 31st, 2008
02:52 PM ET

Anderson's View: The calm (and crabcakes) before the storm

Anderson Cooper

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 what?"
"til we get tired."

Filed under: Anderson Cooper • Hurricane Gustav • TV
August 31st, 2008
02:20 PM ET

Gamblin' man plans to ride out the storm

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/08/31/art.chubby.jpg
caption="Eric Cohen owns Mister Chubby's Cheesesteaks in New Orleans"]
Jim Spellman
CNN Producer

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

Filed under: Hurricane Gustav
August 31st, 2008
01:54 PM ET

Levee Breaches: Explained

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:

Levee Breach slideshow

Filed under: David M. Reisner • Hurricane Gustav • TV
August 31st, 2008
01:38 PM ET

'The last minute is up... you should be gone'

Drew Griffin
CNN Correspondent

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

Filed under: Drew Griffin • Hurricane Gustav
August 31st, 2008
12:55 PM ET

Preparing for Gustav, flashbacks of Katrina

Kay Jones
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.

Filed under: Hurricane Gustav • Kay Jones
August 30th, 2008
10:03 AM ET

Unease in the Big Easy

Gary Tuchman
AC360° Correspondent

A 44 year old woman from Alaska may soon be the Vice President of the United States; but that is not the main topic of conversation in the city where I am right now. In New Orleans, Louisiana, the name Sarah Palin is not nearly as well known as the name Gustav.

There is this creepy feeling of déjà vu in this city. I spent part of this day rollerblading around town and was struck by how many people asked me if I knew anything more than they did about Gustav's path.

When I was in New Orleans and Gulfport, Mississippi in the days before Katrina, I remember a lot of people saying they did not think they would get hit. Now, it's the opposite. We are still days away from Gustav hitting land in the U.S., but virtually everybody I've talked with today is actively planning for the worst.

At the Walgreen's, they are already sold out of flashlights and batteries. At a souvenir shop, they were sizing up windows so they could start boarding them up. On Bourbon Street, business owners were wondering if they would have to evacuate before the busy Labor Day weekend comes to an end.

On this three year anniversary of a hurricane we will never forget, there is fear and unease in the Big Easy.

Filed under: Gary Tuchman • Hurricane Gustav
August 30th, 2008
08:47 AM ET

Sarah Palin and the broad conservative tent

Amy Holmes
AC360° Contributor and CNN Political Analyst

As CNN viewers may know, I'm pro-choice. My former boss, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a committed pro-lifer, had no problem hiring me despite that (shocking!) news. Indeed, I became a conservative working for a women's organization that took no position on the issue. We welcomed women from all sides. Our ethos was that women are not defined by our ovaries. We care about taxes, national security, free markets and classic notions of equal rights. Abortion should not be a gender test.

I say all of this because I have been frustrated by the insistence in the media that John McCain's choice for vice president, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is defined by her pro-life position, as if that is the beginning and end of Governor Palin and of conservative women - and that her pro-life position is extreme. When one looks at the polling data on this issue, it's clear that it is not.

We've seen a concerted effort by the media to marginalize her as a far right-winger, out of touch with moderate and pro-choice women. This is unfair to her, and to all of us who respect her admirable decision to carry to term a child diagnosed in utero with Down's Syndrome. It's been noted that 90% of parents who receive the news that their child will be born with this disability choose to terminate. Governor Palin put her principles into practice. And as a pro-choicer, I can say with sincerity that I admire her act of character and love.

A few summers ago I was at a friend's beach house, and the topic of pro-choicers who work for pro-lifers came up (that's Washington for you). I made the argument that Republican elected officials are far more tolerant of differing views on this topic than Democrats. Count the number of pro-lifers on the staffs of senators Boxer, Clinton, Schumer, Durbin or any of the Democratic leadership. I'm certain the number is negligible, if not zero. Apply the same test to Republican leadership. I guarantee you, the number is much higher, pro-life Pennsylvania Democrat Bob Casey included.

The media would like to label conservatives as intolerant on the abortion issue and, as a result, intolerant of women. But the truth is the conservative tent is much broader than that caricature. And it's much broader than what the other side allows.

Filed under: Amy Holmes • John McCain • Raw Politics • Sarah Palin
August 29th, 2008
09:50 PM ET

Heroes at the height of a hurricane

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/03/art.vert.waveland.mayor.tommy.longo.jpg caption="Waveland Mayor Tommy Longo" width=292 height=320]

Mayor Tommy Longo
Waveland, Mississippi

August 28, 2005, Waveland was the fastest growing community in Mississippi.

On August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina chose Waveland as ground zero, slamming her with 40 plus feet of tidal surge and battering us with hurricane force winds for more than 12 hours. The result changed lives forever. Ninety-five percent of residential structures were destroyed. One hundred percent of water sewer, gas... destroyed. All 13 City buildings were destroyed. Our three story Historic City Hall, built in 1850, was reduced to a slab.

In essence life ceased to exist as we knew it and our beautiful town was covered in a 15-foot debris field.

Yet during the height of the hurricane, leaders rose to the occasion. Heroes were born and miracles experienced. Twenty Police Officers lashed themselves on top of a tree, taking care of the exhausted and those who couldn’t swim.

We housed seniors and patients with heart conditions on the top of the wastewater plant... We rescued two seniors trapped in an elevator by chopping through a brick wall, saving them before floodwaters could claim them as victims.


Filed under: Hurricane Katrina
August 29th, 2008
09:45 PM ET

Live Blog from the Anchor desk 08/29/08

Good evening folks, tonight marks the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Anderson reports live from NOLA, as residents prepare themselves for Hurricane Gustav. We'll track Gustav as NOLA and the nation remembers Hurricane Katrina three years later...

There's also a whirlwind in the political arena. Take a look at our evening buzz for a complete lineup of tonight's show... an in depth look at McCain's VP Pick, Alaska Governer Sarah Palin. Who is Sarah Palin? Our reporters will tell you what they learned tonight.

Let us know your thoughts.

We’ll start posting comments to this blog at 10p ET and stop at 11p ET.

Filed under: Live Blog • T1
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