Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans has announced that he has issued a mandatory evacuation beginning first with the Westbank at 8 am and then the East bank by noon Sunday.

“You need to be scared. You need to be concerned,” Nagin said Saturday at a news conference. “You need to get your butt out of New Orleans. This is the storm of the century.

Hurricane Gustav is expected to hit shore just west of Morgan City and it is expected to be at a Category 4 storm by time it hits. Louisiana State University coastal wetlands experts say that the biggest threat to Louisiana residents is the flooding caused by storm surges. Large sections of the Westbank area could see surge overtopping pieces of the levee system which hasn’t been completely finished from damage done to them during Katrina.

Coastal biologist Robert Twilley said, “If it stays on this southwest Louisiana track, Gustav will be like a hybrid between Katrina and Rita. And right in the middle, you’ve got the huge Atchafalaya basin.”

“The bottom line is that what Katrina and Rita didn’t destroy in 2005, this storm has the potential to do,” he said.

Surrounding Parishes including, St. Tammany, St. Charles, St. Bernard, LaFourche/Terrebone, Jefferson, Plaquemines, Tangipahoa, and St. John the Baptist are preparing for the storm by sandbagging, taping windows, getting fresh batteries, food and water. Schools will be closing.

Three years might sound like a long time to some people but if you have experienced what most of these people living on the Gulf Coast have, that three years isn’t long enough to make one forget Katrina.

I was fortunate enough to be in Canada when it hit the Gulf Coast. I am from New Orleans and I lived in Slidell, right across the lake from the city. My home down there was destroyed by Katrina. We were only able to save a few family pictures, some of my kids when they were little. The bulk of everything in the house was ruined though. I had planned on going home but suddenly I no longer had a home to go to.

I located most of my family using the internet. Thank God for the internet. I feel blessed that I only lost my home and none of my family members. Unfortunately not everyone in the Gulf Coast area was so lucky.

Some have worked really hard trying to rebuild their homes and start over. Most lost everything they owned and had no choice but to start over. My sister left the coast and ended up in Washington State only to get sick and die of pneumonia. I blame Katrina on that because if she hadn’t have been left homeless herself she would never have ended up in Washington looking for a new life in the frigid cold of the north.

So how could one possibly forget Katrina? Even those that have no connection whatsoever to the storm or the Gulf Coast will remember Katrina.

Now just a few days past the anniversary of Katrina, the Gulf Coast is once against threatened by yet another monstrous storm, Hurricane Gustav. From what I can see on TV I think it is clear that people are taking these evacuation orders more seriously this time. Even though the people were warned for Katrina, what most people don’t know is that for years we on the Gulf Coast were warned that this would be the year for the one! We were told for 10 years that we were over due for the killer storm that would or could wipe us off the map. That is the main reason most people stayed thinking yeah right, they say that every year and then they thought it would be no big deal.

Only that time the warnings were right. It destroyed the city, it practically wiped out the Mississippi Gulf Coast areas and where I lived in Slidell which was something that wasn’t expected. Although 2 years before that with a Tropical Storm that went through Slidell it caused major flooding due to a storm surge, flooding parts of Slidell. I have two relatives that were flooded from that storm and it took them forever to rebuild their homes with the help of family and friends and then only to lose them completely later with Katrina.

So to be nervous about this new storm that the Mayor is calling the “storm of the century” is very understandable. I am not even there yet and I am nervous. My family is still down there. My two sons, daughter in law (who is pregnant with my third grandson) and my two grandsons, are all down there. I can only pray that they all will be safe when this storm does hit. I not only pray for my family but for everyone down there that is in the path of this hurricane and any other hurricane that heads their way. May God be with all of you during this storm.

Jan Barrett

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