Friday, September 23, 2005

Night notes on 9/23/05

8:20 p.m. 9/23/05
Night notes
The swirl of Rita's clouds cover the entire state of Louisiana. Wind advisories spread throughout the state – set at 30-40 mph in the upper corners. Rita's rains are starting a steady pace in the south moving north. Thunderstorms and tornados looms – promising flash floods in low-lying areas.

Tonight, families sit in shelters wondering whether they will find their homes tomorrow. Journalists bed down after a tiring day of chasing a storm which is slowly having an impact on an entire state.

In Teddy Allen's column tomorrow, reporting from Lafayette:
"South and west in Abbeville, James LeBlanc screwed plywood over the windows of his bedroom, where he would ride out Rita. 'Lilli (in 2002) just knocked these porch posts out,' he said. 'We'll see what happens tonight.'"

This from Times photographer Shane Bevel in Lake Charles at 7:32 p.m.:
"The press corp is bunkered down for the night. Many of us are staying at the Lake Charles American Press building. Reporters and photographers from Shreveport, Dallas, Houston, Lafayette, Austin and Lake Charles are all present.

The weather is beginning to worsen, and we are all in for the night. Periods of heavy rain and strong winds can be heard through the solid brick walls, and the lights have begun to flicker at times. Each time a band lets up and the weather breaks, it comes back that much stronger the next time around.

Earlier in the day the sun, I met Michael and Lori Reinauer leaving their boathouse over the edge of Lake Charles. They are staying in their home just off the lake front for the duration of the storm. As soon as they saw my camera they said 'Oh, another one of you!' Driving around and visiting with people it is obvious that aside from a few hard core residents there are only media and emergency personel in this otherwise dead town."

A few displaced journalist are here in Shreveport-Bossier City, having tracked evacuees from their hometowns. Eric Cormier from the American Press, Lake Charles, is planning a shower in the Times locker rooms beside a press that dates back to the '60s. He filed a report from Minden on his newspaper's blog earlier.

Some news may break overnight and journalists are watching as they get some rest, knowing tomorrow and Sunday are big reporting days. Times Melody Brumble will be sending updates from OEP in Baton Rouge. A team that includes our John Hill is poised to report New Orleans news at first light. Craig Durrett, editorial page editor, will be in the Times offices to help get the story online through this blog and helping New Media Editor Scott Anderson post updates and organize information which will be flying fast and furious.

We have news crews throughout the state to reveal the impact of Rita's winds and waters. A full partnership with our sister newspapers in Alexandria, Lafayette, Monroe and Opelousas strengthens this report for our communities.

Today was just a news coverage warm-up for some. It was the beginning of severe storm coverage on the coast. We expect the wind and rain to force a two-pronged focus tomorrow: the statewide story and the local impact of Rita's rains.

At my house, we have created little dams around the front door and garage to protect our belongings. We are a little relieved that the storm has weakened for the sake of those in Rita's eye and for the safety of our family. You see, we have these two gigantic pine trees in the front yard. I hope they bend.

-- Alan English, executive editor


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