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ND students prepare for hurricane

Jenn Metz | Monday, September 1, 2008

Just three years after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, students from the area are anticipating the outcome of Hurricane Gustav, and remembering the last time a hurricane headed for their homes.

Senior Paul Cordes sat in Reckers Sunday afternoon, angled toward the television, in almost the same position he was in the night before Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf coast of the United States in 2005, destroying thousands of homes in her wake.

He, along with other Notre Dame students who claim Louisiana as their home state, remember anticipating that storm on the eve of Hurricane Gustav.

Gustav was downgraded to a Category 3 storm Sunday, according to the meteorologists at the National Weather Service, a classification it is expected to keep when it is forecast to make landfall today.

Cordes, a native of New Orleans, has lived in his home for 21 out of his 22 years. During Katrina, his area was spared most of the flooding, but others he knew were not as fortunate.

“I have a lot of friends, a lot of friends at this school even, who lost their entire houses, so I consider myself extremely lucky,” he said.

“[Gustav] has a lot less of a surprise factor than Katrina,” he said.

“Then again, there’s always going to be surprises, because even Katrina wasn’t a direct hit, so you never know what’s going to happen,” he said.

Cordes said he’s not “that worried” about the storm.

“I just hope we get lucky again, that’s all we can hope for. We’ve done all we can. We’ve evacuated, boarded up, gotten our relatives out,” he said.

People on campus were very “curious and very supportive” after Katrina, Cordes said.

“Everyone, all my professors, all my friends, everyone I would meet here was just so curious,” he said.

The numerous amounts of service trips to the city that took place after the hurricane impressed Cordes, and that sense of volunteerism told him something about his fellow Notre Dame students.

“It makes me know that they’re not forgetting about New Orleans, that it’s in their consciousness,” he said.

Cordes’ family evacuated this weekend to Calloway Gardens, Georgia. His younger brother is safe from the storm at the University of Florida. His grandparents are also safe.

Freshman Cameron Vitter hails from the same area as Cordes, and he was in New Orleans to experience the Katrina evacuation first hand.

During the storm, the flat portion of his roof blew off, and it rained inside the whole time, he said.

“Everything got destroyed,” he said.

His family relocated to Atlanta for the school year.

“It was nice, they were really nice there. We went to a very good school. I have seven classmates from there who came here this year, and it’s really nice to know them. And there are a few kids from back home in New Orleans who came here as well,” Vitter said.

Vitter’s thoughts on Gustav are centered around his brother, who is in the same place in school as Vitter was during Katrina.

“My brother is three years behind me … he’s taking virtually the same classes as me, he’s only been to school four days before it. I just couldn’t help but see him in my position,” he said.

Vitter echoed Cordes’ in saying this time, Louisiana is more prepared.

“The governor, Bobby Jindal, started evacuating people a lot sooner. Everyone learned from Katrina. He’s doing a really good job,” Vitter, who has lived in New Orleans his whole life, said.

Vitter’s family was in Virginia for his younger brother’s golf tournament and are safe from the storm. His older brother evacuated to Florida and his older sister is at the University of Pennsylvania.

Vitter’s residence hall – Alumni – prayed for the Gulf Coast at their Sunday Mass.

“It was nice to add that petition in – to pray for New Orleans. I’m just going to hope for the best,” he said.

Sophomore Charlie Landry comes from the city of New Iberia in South-Central Louisiana, which is in the projection cone for Gustav. His city is about two hours from New Orleans and is also under a mandatory evacuation.

His family is still debating what they will do. Since a strong surge would seriously threaten his city of 30,000 people, Landry said his family will probably go to Lafayette, Louisiana, where he has family.

Both of his parents, his two brothers, sister and grandparents are at home.

“I was pretty worried when there were a couple of projections,” he said. “I’m still a little nervous about it, you never know what could happen.”

Junior Katlyn Patterson relocated from the New Orleans area to Ohio after Katrina. By the time the storm made landfall her senior year in high school, evacuation was a thing she was used to.

“It was weird, but normal because had evacuated before. Though, we thought we were going home soon,” she said.

She went to school in Ohio for the first semester that year and then went back home to Louisiana to finish her senior year and graduate high school. Two days afterward, her family made the move to Ohio permanently.

“Honestly, my dad, he’d been through too many evacuations. He didn’t want to do it anymore. And so they decided it was the time,” she said.

However, her friends are still in the city she grew up in.

“I’m scared for them,” she said. “I know how it feels and it’s just something you have to wait out. It’s not something you can fully prepare for. And it’s hard to know the emotions that they’re feeling and not being able to do anything about it.”

This time, Patterson is reliving the experience from afar.

“It just brings back all those memories from Katrina, and wondering when you’re going to be able to come back, what you can bring, what will be safe at home, where you’re going to go,” she said.