St. Louis producer arrives in New Orleans as Isaac thunders across the gulf

St. Louis producer arrives in New Orleans as Isaac thunders across the gulf

Credit: Getty Images

NEW ORLEANS, LA - AUGUST 27: Workers place plywood on the windows of the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon St. to prepare for Tropical Storm Isaac on August 27, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Tropical Storm Isaac is expected to strengthen into at least a Category 1 hurricane before making landfall near Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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by J.J. Bailey / KMOV.com

KMOV.com

Posted on August 27, 2012 at 9:09 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 5 at 6:32 AM

NEW ORLEANS (KMOV.com) -- Exiting the plane at MSY, the air crackled with nervous energy. There is a storm coming, and the locals in New Orleans are anxiously aware of it.

Isaac approaches on the eve of a dark anniversary. Set to make landfall Wednesday morning, the newest threat to coastal cities is following in the footsteps of one of the most damaging natural disasters in U.S. history.

It was seven years ago on August 29 that Katrina struck the gulf shores. Residents here in New Orleans have rebuilt, repaired and moved on, but Isaac's approach has brought back memories that have proved unsettling for many.

I was in the taxi less than five minutes before the driver, a man named Spyridon, was voicing his concern.

"It sure doesn't seem like a hurricane is headed this way," I remarked of the sunny skies and light breeze.

"That's what worries me," he said. "It was just like this seven years ago. It's always like this right before it gets really bad."

It wasn't until he said the number that I realized the eery similarity of the timetable. I paused, then asked him what it was like during Katrina.

"I lost everything I had," he said. "I came home and my roof was gone- three feet of water in my house."

We traveled in silence past gas stations with lines 15-20 cars long. Spyridon was nervous, and his words were making me so.

"If I were you I would get a car, and I would fill it up tonight." That particular scenario was out of the question, but the message was not lost: a storm is coming, and it has even the most weather-hardened on edge.

In the French Quarter, New Orleans' signature tourist district, bars and restaurants often filled with visitors seeking a good time were empty. The staff, initially jovial about the lack of a crowd, are slowly drawn in by the myriad broadcasts playing the radar image if Isaac barreling toward the coast over and over.

I sat there, munching on catfish, as one-by-one the staff of the Chowder House stopped joking and started staring. After a few jokes about this being "my first hurricane," the laughter soon faded into nervous silence.

Isaac's approach is too familiar for jokes. The swirling arms on the radar are too recognizable, especially on August 27. Even the bartender, another New Orleans native, was soon shifting from foot to foot, rubbing his face fretfully.

A quick post-dinner walk back to the hotel was full of the customary sounds of the Quarter. There were hammers, engines, drills and car horns. But looking up and down the famous Bourbon Street, it was quickly apparent they weren't the sounds of construction.

Boards were going up, windows were battened down and doors were being secured shut. It seemed so out of place as the sun was shining over a peaceful summer day. The only thing to convey that danger was approaching was the attitude of the local population. So often carefree and genial, the air in New Orleans has become more similar to a hospital waiting room. Everyone is waiting to see how bad it is going to be.

By the time I left the hotel for the second time and made my way to the station, the sun had disappeared behind a darkening evening sky. The gentle breeze had picked up enough speed to remind pedestrians of what was on the horizon.

A storm is coming. And New Orleans is anxious to see if Isaac is a student of history.

...JJ Bailey is a web producer for KMOV.com and arrived in New Orleans this morning to assist with storm coverage at our sister station WWL-TV.

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