Sunday, August 31, 2008

Surviving the storm

Two of the final three weekends as a Louisiana resident were spent in south Louisiana, a swath of swampland almost as near to my heart as my hometown of Houston. Unless you've been there before, you've probably never been to a place like it.

So today, I'm really, really worried about the future and long-term viability of places like St. James, Slidell and, of course, New Orleans.

With Hurricane Gustav bearing down on the Gulf Coast and set to make landfall Monday, I can't help but wonder if south Louisiana will be able to withstand its second devastating storm in three years.

My most recent trip, in December, along the I-10 corridor revealed an area still slowly recovering from Katrina. Whole neighborhoods still looked like dimly lit ghost towns, buildings still bared the scars of flood damage and the battered cypress swamps along the freeways looked like something out of "Tales From The Crypt." My favorite hotel, the Hyatt Superdome, remained abandoned more than two years after the storm, a towering reminder that some wounds still hadn't healed.

And here we are, with Gustav on the way, and Mayor Ray Nagin telling folks that "it's unfortunate, but this looks like deja vu. It doesn't look good down here...A lot of areas that didn't get hit last time might get hit this time."

I had made plans to return to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast of Mississippi later this year, with the First Lady of False Hustle in tow. It would have been a chance to visit friends, enjoy the sights, soak up the culture and mingle with the friendliest people anywhere in the country - I virtually adopted the good people of St. James Parish. So, I'm going to do some praying tonight and I suggest you do the same.

We all need south Louisiana to be there after the storm.

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