Last year, when New Orleans was threatened two or three times by hurricanes (and people even evacuated for Ivan), I never thought the city would end up in a bad situation. I don't know why — especially given my safe perch in D.C., a thousand miles away — but I just didn't feel it. But with Katrina, ever since it crossed Florida and started building in the Gulf, I didn't like it. Maybe it's because I'm using RSS feeds to get every update NOAA puts out. Maybe it's because the way Katrina seemed to blow up so quickly, just like Camille, and the way it was tracking, again, just like Camille.
I was only two months old when Camille hit Pass Christian, and we were up in D.C. at that point in time, but I remember growing up seeing damage from Camille whenever we went across the lake to Bay St. Louis where my grandparents and other family had houses. My aunt and uncle had pictures of the damage Camille caused hanging in their (rebuilt) house, and when we would go picking blackberries, there were concrete slabs underneath some of the bramble patches where someone just decided not to rebuilt.
As a kid, I remember a few good storms — one that blew away our rabbit hutch and my and my brother’s rabbits; another that knocked down several big pines in the backyard (my dad made us a neat fort out of some of those); another where there wasn't official word as to whether or not school was closed so my mom drove us to school only to find a tree across the entrance to the school parking lot — but for the most part there was maybe a power failure, some flooding or at least really high water in the ditches and streets, but never anything too bad, at least for us (I did have some friends who had water (and snakes) in their homes with more than one or two storms).
Last night, Evelin had to practically pull me away from the computer as I was watching the tracking and the radar and the updates and googling other storms for historical comparisons.
I talked to my mom and pretty much all my family that is in New Orleans decided to evacuate, except my grandmother (who e-mailed that she figured that even if they did have flooding — and you can see over the levee into the river from her balcony — that it wouldn't get up to the eighth floor) and one cousin (who is an auxiliary deputy with Jefferson Parish and would have to work as part of the public safety response).
My folks are north of Lake Pontchartrain and therefore aren't in the danger that New Orleans is, but this morning they had an old oak slip and clip the back of the house. I talked to my mom early this morning and it sounds like the house is going to need a bit of work, although it could have been a lot worse. My dad and the neighbor got some tarps up to help keep some water out, and they moved the furniture and other stuff out of the damaged area, but it sounds like the foundation took some damage and the AC unit was flattened. And the bulk of the rains have yet to arrive, so there could be further damage yet to come.
Right now, it looks like the rains are picking up and Katrina continues to churn to the southeast of the city. Maybe it will cross the sound and go into Pass Christian the way Camille did, or maybe it will stay west and do more damage to New Orleans. In either case, as it heads up the Tennessee and Ohio River valleys, it's going to continue to dump water into the Mississippi watershed, which won't make any post-storm recovery easier.