I started college in New Orleans the last week of August, 1998.
Only, we started class a day late because of Tropical Storm Earl, that turned at the last minute, so instead we spent a beautiful day in the French Quarter. The skies were blue, it was about 75 degrees (unheard of for NOLA in August), and we decided that forecasters were silly.
A couple of weeks later, we waded to class in water a couple of inches deep thanks to Frances. We waded back from class in water up to our knees. Some courageous/idiotic people went canoing down the streets of our fair city. Okay, so sometimes the forecasters get it right.
A couple of weeks after THAT, we all went home or were sequestered on the upper floors of a concrete dorm because Hurricane Georges was headed to NOLA. The mayor (not the same one as today) was on TV telling us about things like hurricane protection levees and floodgates, and my father begrudgingly booked me a ticket home to Atlanta, because - hey! what do those forecasters know anyway? That hurricane hooked east at the last minute and hit the Alabama/Mississippi line instead, a much-weakened storm.
We had all (because we were good kids who followed the university President's directions) read a book called Rising Tide by John Barry, about the last great Mississippi flood, and we learned that New Orleans was a bowl - the levees on the River and the Lake hold water in, and it takes something called Wood Screw Pumps to take it out. The pumps (designed by the fabulous Mr. Wood, a fellow Tulane alum), can pump out an inch of rain an hour. Thus, the couple feet of water from Frances couldn't be pumped out fast enough to prevent accumulation.
Following the trifecta of Freshman Year Hurricanes, things were quiet. We graduated, and most of us moved away.
Three years ago, we all know what happened with Katrina - which, might I remind you, turned east at the last minute and made landfall in Mississippi. We were as shocked and horrified as any of you, except we knew that it could happen. We were shocked that no one else seemed to know, not just about the water, but about so many things that are, no were, part of New Orleans. Our friends Bear & Emily lost their house - the water was within two inches of their crown molding. For a month.
Their house is gone now, and they had plans to rebuild. I talked to Bear yesterday as he drove, again, away from his house with no idea what will happen next. He's not alone.
Neither is New Orleans alone. So, tonight, as I obsessively stare at weather.com, and selfishly pray that this storm won't turn east, I hope you'll join me in lifting up all the people of the Gulf Coast, because truly only God knows what will happen next.