The Gray Line Tour

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 5, 1998

By Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / October 5, 1998

Hopefully, I won’t have to write anymore about hurricanes for a while, at least until next June when the 1999 season begins.

One curious fact about Hurricane Georges is that it arrived in the area on the anniversary of the 1915 hurricane which wiped out the villages along the shoreline of Lake Pontchartrain.

At that time, one Isaac M. Cline, district forecaster for the U.S. WeatherBureau in New Orleans, not only predicted the impending storm’s path but also issued warnings to area communities, including in St. John theBaptist Parish. It was the first time a hurricane warning had been sowidely disseminated.

Despite the warnings, 25,000 buildings in New Orleans were destroyed and 275 lives were lost.

In another note, just about the only person to accurately predict the landfall for Georges was the venerable Nash Roberts of WWL-4, he of the crayon and non-computer graphics. Every hurricane, the station resurrectsRoberts, drawing open sneers from competing stations with their Super Doppler 6000 radar systems and seat-of-the-pants guessing, only to be topped by the old pro.

There were certainly tragedies involved with Hurricane Georges. Forexample, a St. James Parish mother and daughter lost their lives in a northLouisiana traffic accident while evacuating the area last Sunday. Losinghomes and possessions are certainly tragic but fortunately, such was not the case here for most people.

The latest hurricane pointed out several shortcomings that local, state and federal officials should immediately address. Interstate 49 needs tobe completed through to New Orleans. Louisiana Highway 3127 needs to befour-laned to West Baton Rouge Parish. Interstate 55’s foot at U.S.Highway 51 needs to be safeguarded from flooding, so the LaPlace/Reserve area can use it to get out. Airline Highway needs to be overlaid andupgraded.

Some families who evacuated from St. Charles Parish returned to discovertheir homes had been burglarized, despite increased neighborhood patrols.

Perhaps if the residents had been allowed to return earlier, a few of those burglaries would not have taken place.

Some residents asked why there were no local evacuation shelters in the River Parishes. Current American Red Cross policy urges evacuation, notsheltering. Yet, scores of nursing home patients found themselves unableto leave.

We in the River Parishes came through this episode all right, for the most part. However, more could have been, should have been done and must bedone to safeguard our future.

Political posturing and finger-pointing are not needed at this point.

Reason, determination and action are needed. There’s too much at stake.

Leonard Gray is a reporter for L’Observateur.

Copyright © 1998, Wick Communications, Inc.

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