As I leave for Asia, the news from hurricane Katrina is increasingly grim. The projected path is directly over New Orleans (one of my favorite cities), which could be disastrous. The "Big Easy" is very much below sea level, and a large enough storm could send water surging into the city at a cataclysmic depth. Pat O'Briens... Cafe du Monde... The Garden District... St. Patrick's & Jackson Square... Soniat House... The French Market... Bourbon Street... The Hard Rock Cafe... and so much more that New Orleans has to offer is all at risk of being destroyed. I particularly worry about the animals at the beautiful zoo they have there.
CNN has shocking footage of people fleeing the city, and all major routes have been converted to one-way highways leading out of town. It's bumper-to-bumper traffic all the way, and authorities are worried that an accident on any of these routes could trap people in the hurricane's path.
I suppose there's always a chance that the weather will change and the city can be passed by... but wherever the projected "Category 4" hurricane makes landfall, there's going to be a lot of damage. 150mph winds do not strike quietly.
It's going to be difficult to think of much else during a 13 hour flight where I am cut-off from the world and unable to find out what's happening. All my thoughts are with those facing the hurricane, and the city of New Orleans where I have been a half-dozen times (and love more and more each time I visit). Nothing would make me happier than to visit another half-dozen times in the future.
UPDATE: I've arrive in San Francisco only to find out that the storm has been elevated to "Category 5," which is the most severe rating you can give a storm. I board the plane not knowing if I will ever see New Orleans again. I am severely depressed right now. If the city is destroyed, I suppose all I will have is great memories. I first went to New Orleans in 1983 during my Junior year of High School for a National DECA competition. It was my first trip unaccompanied by an adult. It was my first time drinking alcohol in a bar (even though I was a year underage, nobody cared). It was my first time... for a lot of things.
I feel like my heart is being crushed in my chest and I want to scream. If I had a choice, I would cancel my trip and go home to hide under the bedcovers until the fate of New Orleans was known. As it is, I will spend the next 13 hours on a plane trying not to think about it.
But I don't think there's enough of those little bottles of alcohol onboard to do that.