Friday, September 23, 2005

An eerie mood

1:00 p.m. 9/23/05

An eerie mood in South Louisiana…

Times columnist and reporter Teddy Allen and photojournalist Jim Hudelson are positioned in southwest Louisiana, providing reports online and for each newspaper. I spoke to Teddy by phone this morning. Many businesses in Opelousas and the surrounding areas are closed – even a Wal-Mart. There is an eerie feeling in the air. This was also mentioned by Opelousas Managing Editor Lisa Faust (former Times assistant managing editor).

Teddy will report scene-setting descriptions as Hudelson works to capture, visually, the effects of Rita on our neighbors south of Alexandria.

What might occur?

Former Associate Editorial Page Editor Martha Fitzgerald sent me an e-mail this morning, reminding us that Morningside neighborhoods flooded in a storm many years ago. Some staffers remember a series of thunderstorms in 1991 when people were using boats to navigate Youree Drive. Will we see that again?

We prepare

I bought a generator yesterday, moved the lawn furniture and bought a few extra batteries. Everyone should be readying for power outages that we hope will never come. Prepare for the worst; hope for the best.

At the office, we set up a second newsroom connected to a generator. A myriad of planning is going on to assure we publish a newspaper and get it to you quickly. As a matter of expediency, we will be inserting Sunday circulars in the Saturday paper (delivering to all Sunday readers). This will help speed delivery in the middle of a rain storm.

A beefed up Baton Rouge bureau is chasing news stories such as the levee break in New Orleans and reports from the Office of Emergency Preparedness. Times reporter Melody Brumble shared in a recent report:

War against hurricanes now a two-front battle

 She goes on to highlight the gas concerns in her story, “ Instead of collecting in Baton Rouge, people headed north, with many running out of gas in Alexandria and Monroe after bypassing shelter checkpoints," said Col. Jeff Smith, deputy director of OEP.

Smith estimated that 2,000 evacuees are without shelter in Louisiana because all the spaces here are full. Plans call for them to be flown elsewhere from Alexandria and possibly bused from a collection point in Minden to shelters in Arkansas.

"Gas shortages are adding to the problem.”

National Hurricane center reports a change to Rita

Hurricane Rita, making a beeline toward the Texas coastline with landfall expected by 7 a.m. Saturday, has been downgraded to Category 3, with winds of 125 mph.

Alan English, executive editor


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