Good Riddance, Gustav
As I woke each morning of the long Labor Day weekend, I quickly turned to CNN for the latest on Hurricane Gustav, which was making a beeline for the Louisiana coastline. Tuesday morning the news was about as good as could be expected: Gustav was downgraded to a tropical depression and, while many along the Gulf Coast are still without power today, the damage was not disastrous. Gustav, as it turns out, was a drop in the bucket compared to what the region has already rebounded from.
Unforgettable were the images on the news the morning of Aug. 30, 2005, the day after Katrina ripped through the Gulf on its destructive path: flooded streets, houses without roofs, upended boats atop interstate bridges and office buildings with the windows blown out. New Orleans was completely devastated and, three years later, is still on the path to recovery, as are many lesser-known areas in rural Louisiana and Mississippi. When you speak to anybody down there, they frame nearly every aspect of everyday life as pre-Katrina and post-Katrina; the storm created a new world for them.
Fortunately the gruesome scenes of that day did not have an encore performance this weekend. But another Katrina-level hurricane was such a fear that many shrimpers motored their boats as far up the Mississippi River as possible, some as far north as Baton Rouge to escape harm's way. While a lot of hardy folks decided to ride out the storm at home, commercial fishermen have learned not to tempt fate too often.
Unfortunately, I have been unable to contact industry sources in southern Louisiana. Most calls have reached only the dreaded busy signal - a sound not heard much in this age of cell phones and voicemail. I did reach Café Giovanni in New Orleans' French Quarter and the friendly voice on the other end of the line said the damage in the city was restricted to downed palm trees and power lines. For the One on One feature in the July issue of SeaFood Business, I interviewed the restaurant's founder and owner, Chef Duke LoCicero, who embodies the essence and resilience of New Orleans. His restaurant hopes to open on Friday, when Big Easy citizens begin returning home.
More storms are on the way in what looks to be an active hurricane season. Thankfully, New Orleans and its outlying communities have learned from the past and are better prepared for catastrophic weather.