AP News

N.O. gets ready for Isaac's arrival


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — As Hurricane Isaac targeted the Louisiana coast, New Orleans made ready.

There were boards on windows at some businesses near the French Quarter and sandbags at one hotel.

Some tourists said they would ride out the storm in the French Quarter. With the airport closed until Isaac passes, they were planning to make the best of it.

Coastal areas were emptied of people, but in New Orleans there was a businesslike-sense about Isaac.

On the eve of the seventh anniversary of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, many people said Tuesday that they don't expect Isaac to approach that gold standard of fear.

Still, Mayor Mitch Landrieu warned residents not to become complacent. After Isaac was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane at midday, he told residents "The city of New Orleans is on the front lines."

Landrieu said officials don't expect a Katrina-like storm, but heavy rain could flood city streets and wind could disrupt power. Residents, he said, should remain calm and diligent.

On Lakeshore Drive, the popular play area along Lake Pontchartrain, water was lapping over the seawall though levees protected homes. Landrieu was visibly irked about reports that people — he called them "deranged" — were going out into the water. Police chased them back, fearful they would be swept into the lake and drowned.

Earlier on Canal Street near the French Quarter, several people were out for morning walks with their dogs. But there were few signs that a tropical storm or hurricane was imminent.

Adrian Thomas, 30, crouched down to read headlines on the front page of a newspaper in a vending box. He was interrupted by a group of apparently intoxicated tourists who asked him to snap a photo.

Thomas said he was waiting for his father to wire money so he could get a bus out of town to his home in Greenville, Miss.

The New Orleans native had been through other hurricanes, though he said he was in New York when Katrina struck in August 2005. He's heard the stories of the horrors endured by those who stayed for Katrina.

"Why leave? Don't want to make the same mistake twice," he said. But the reality was he might have to stay for Isaac. "I believe it's going to be all right. If I have to stay here and ride it out, I'll ride it out."

Nearby, Nazareth Joseph, 45, who works at a Hyatt hotel in the French Quarter, was bracing for a busy week and fat overtime paychecks.

Joseph said he was trapped in the city for several days after Katrina and helped neighbors escape the floodwaters. He sees no comparison between Katrina and Isaac.

"We made it through Katrina, we can definitely make it through this. It's going to take a lot more to run me, I know how to survive," he said.

As the winds began to pick up and the first rain bands of Isaac showered the city, residents scurried to make last-minute storm preparation.

In Broadmoor, a neighborhood hit hard by Katrina, Margaret Thomas, 59, retrieved furniture from her front porch and brought it inside. T

Thomas, no relation to Adrian Thomas, and her husband, Cleveland, had been planning to drive to Atlanta to avoid the storm. But Mayor Mitch Landrieu's announcement on Monday that there would be no mandatory evacuation made them decide to stay.

The Thomases were trapped by Katrina's floodwater for a week before their rescue by boat.

"Now we do leave when they say it's mandatory because we'll never forget Katrina." However, Thomas saw meaning and comfort in the name of this storm, Isaac.

" Isaac is the son of Abraham. It's a special name. That means 'God will protect us'," Thomas said .

On the fashionable Magazine strip of shops and restaurants in the Uptown area, Dan Stein was having a busy day though most businesses were closed.

Stein was working the register at Stein's Deli and fielding calls from locals in search of an open lunch spot.

He said he had a generator ready to keep food cold in case power failed — a lesson he learned after Hurricane Gustav struck in 2008. "Am I worried about this? No, he said."

Maureen McDonald strolled the French Quarter on her 80th birthday wearing a poncho and accompanied by family who traveled from three different cities to meet her in New Orleans to celebrate.

"We could have gone anywhere, but she said 'I want to go to New Orleans,'" said Mary McDonald, Maureen's daughter-in-law from Indianapolis.

Maureen McDonald is from Long Beach Ind. A son, Bob, from Michigan City also flew in. The group arrived on Sunday.

"We've had the best time," said Maureen McDonald, who said she's hit many of the French Quarter's bars and munched beignets at Cafe du Monde.

Monday night, a band at the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon Street serenaded her with renditions of "Happy Birthday" and "Hello Maureen" lyrics in place of "Hello Dolly."

"I've had an absolute ball," said Maureen McDonald. "The storm hasn't slowed us down. We're having the best time."

Maureen's son, Bob McDonald, said the group considered canceling the trip, but the thought passed quickly.

"We just figured why not get the full New Orleans experience, hurricane and all," Bob McDonald said.

As they walked through the French Quarter Tuesday morning, they took pictures of media trucks parked near Bourbon Street and businesses boarding up windows.

"We're just waiting for something to happen," Bob McDonald said. On the eve of the seventh anniversary of the devastation of Katrina, some early risers said Tuesday that they don't expect Isaac to approach that gold standard of fear.


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