If there’s one city that can sympathize with New York City as it recovers from Hurricane Sandy, it is New Orleans. The Louisiana city has undergone its share of hurricanes, and has learned a few lessons along the way. As Manhattan deals with flooding, loss of electricity and hospitals shutting down, New Orleanians share their experiences and subsequent advice with New Yorkers.
Hurricane Katrina killed an estimated 1,836 people and left about $81 billion in property damage in 2005. Greg Rhoades evacuated New Orleans when the hurricane hit and came back home to a flood-damaged house when he returned. “I went into my house afterward for a rescue mission,” said Rhoades. “I had to throw everything out. My leather belts looked like strands of moss from the mold. I found frogs in my laundry bag.”
Approximately 80% of New Orleans was under water after Katrina hit. Marie Mussman’s house was also damaged by the storm surge. She said before you throw out anything damaged by water, you should photograph it in order to provide it to your insurance company. “Take pictures of everything that was damaged by the storm,” she said. “You often have to show the insurance agent what is going on. Sometimes you have to fight for every single dollar.”
Mussman said that while the insurance companies can be tough to deal with, sometimes hurricanes can bring out the best in people. “I’ve never seen so many people help each other than after a storm. People are generally really nice about it. They help their neighbors.”
The most recent hurricane affecting Louisiana was Isaac this past August. At least 901,000 houses lost electricity in the state, and in some parts of New Orleans the power outage lasted for four days. Local resident David Bordson-Bozzo is a Tulane law student, and he had one thing on his mind when Isaac shut down his power: get coffee. “If your power goes out, dig out a coffee maker that doesn’t require electricity, like a French press or percolator,” said Bordson-Bozzo. “It’s a good thing to have in case the lights don’t work but you still have gas for the stove. This might not be crucial for everyone, but it is necessary for people like me who like to stay caffeinated.”
As it turns out, New Yorkers and New Orleanians may have more in common than one would think.
Top Ten Tips From NOLA To NY:
1. Listen to local authorities. Bob Breck, the FOX8 WVUE weathermen for New Orleans, said don’t make the mistake of underestimating the damage a storm can cause. “People often think ‘Oh, it can’t be that bad,’” he said. “You should pay attention to what experts say.” If the news is saying it isn’t safe to go outside yet, then wait.
2. Do not drink the tap water until you’ve heard it is safe. The water may have been contaminated, particularly if generators powering the water pumps lost electricity.
3. If you smell gas, open a window and leave your apartment. Call your gas company or 311 and let them know you have a possible gas leak. Do not return home until you know it is safe.
4. Find out which coffee shops, restaurants or bars have electricity nearby and always keep cash on you. You can venture over to these places to charge your phone and regroup. Report power outages in your neighborhood; don’t assume your neighbor has done so. Power outages may mean credit card machines in stores are not working. Bring cash when you go out to restock your supplies.
5. Conserve your phone’s battery. Call or text one family member outside of your area to let them know you are safe, and have them reach out to other family members and friends to pass the message along. Texting is a great way to communicate without using too much battery. If you have a car, charge your phone in the car but do NOT leave your car running in a closed garage. Turn off your phone’s “push notifications” and Bluetooth, lower the brightness of your screen and keep it plugged into the charger until power goes out.
6. Take pictures of any damage from the storm. Insurance companies will often use these pictures when assessing how they will compensate for damage. Look at the windowsills in your apartment or house; often high winds and rain can make for surprise leaks in unexpected places.
7. If you are evacuating your apartment because it is unlivable, bring important documents with you. Unless you need to leave your apartment quickly, take the time to find your and your family’s birth certificates, Social Security cards, passports and marriage license. If you think the electricity might go out while you are gone, leave a penny on top of an ice cube in the freezer. If it falls to the bottom of the ice cube and refreezes when you get back, it means the power has gone out and you should throw everything away in your refrigerator.
8. Don’t open your fridge and/or freezer until necessary. The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for approximately four hours if it is unopened and a freezer can last 48 hours (24 if it is half full).
9. Be careful when leaving your apartment. Stoplights might not be working; live power lines may be lying in the street. Watch where you walk and/or drive, especially when it is dark out.
10. Relax. The aftermath of a hurricane can be very stressful and emotional. It is important to keep calm and help your neighbor. Avoid what some New Orleans residents call “post-destruction depression” by relying on moral support and an upbeat attitude.
Bonus tip: If you like your beer cold, switch to liquor. Make sure you have your dog with you and a shotgun loaded for the looters.*
*Northattan does not advocate for the loading or owning of any guns.