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August 28, 2012

7 Years After Katrina, New Orleans Prepares for Isaac

by Brian Padden

NEW ORLEANS— Isaac has become a Category 1 hurricane and is bearing down on New Orleans, seven years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.

New Orleans' Ninth Ward is a low-lying area surrounded by water on three sides.  In 2005, the levees meant to protect it failed during Hurricane Katrina, flooding the area and killing hundreds of residents.

In the calm before the anticipated arrival of Hurricane Isaac, the streets were quiet.  Many residents evacuated.

Mary-Belle Nelson Jones has lived in New Orleans since 1947.  She rebuilt her home after Katrina, as she said, “washed everything away.”  Now she and her family are fleeing - driving far inland.  Jones says hurricanes are a part of life in Louisiana and while she prepares for the worst, she hopes for the best.

“No, no, no, I'm not upset or nothing like that.  I'm not afraid.  I'm not scared.  You know, I'm hopeful that the water don't come," she said.

It took Ronnie Smith more than a year and $80,000 to repair the damage Katrina did to his house.  He is staying at home for Isaac and does not think it will be as powerful as Katrina was.  But just in case, he has enough food and fuel, and two generators to live comfortably for a long time.  Smith says while hurricanes threaten this region, this is still his home.

“Where do I go?  California is on fire [has forest fires now].  Other places have tornadoes," said Smith. "We have hurricanes.  Where do I go?  Why run?”

Officials have urged residents along the Gulf Coast to stay in their homes or shelters even after the storm has passed to allow emergency workers to fix fallen power lines and clear downed trees. President Barack Obama has declared a state of emergency in the region and the National Guard has been sent to New Orleans to help disaster relief efforts.  

In one of the worst natural disasters to hit the United States, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 destroyed thousands of homes and buildings in New Orleans and along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.  Thousands of people were stranded on rooftops as floodwaters swept through the low-lying city, while others huddled in overcrowded and poorly supplied shelters.