After Hurricane Isaac Residents Answer The Question “To Stay or To Go?”

September 4, 2012 | By | Comments (2)

This is a guest blog by L. Kasimu Harris. Harris is a writer and photographer living in New Orleans. His column “Parish Chic” appears weekly in

hurrican isaac new orleans1 After Hurricane Isaac Residents Answer The Question To Stay or To Go?

Harris snapped this photo in his Mid-City neighborhood today, five days after the storm

As a child, growing up in New Orleans, I prayed for hurricanes—I didn’t like school much. Now as an adult, I run from them. In the last seven years, I vividly remember three hurricanes, and each one had its own set of challenges and adventures.

The day before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans on August 29, 2005, I was partying at a concert in The Grove at the University of Mississippi. I didn’t know a hurricane was coming. It was my first year of journalism graduate school, but I hadn’t watched the news lately.

In 2008, for Gustav, I wanted to stay and report from the front lines—until I realized how unprepared I was—I didn’t have the proper equipment to charge and protect my camera, rain gear, or a plan of action. This year, for Isaac, I had no desire to cover the hurricane, but briefly considered staying. Ultimately, going to Birmingham, Alabama, was more appealing than staying home without electricity. Fleeing the city is costly—gas, lodging, food on the road—it all adds up. Yet, even people with the financial means to go sometimes choose to stay.

“Evacuation is a pain in the neck,” Tad Bartlett, 40, a writer and attorney, said. “Do you want to put your family through a 16-hour drive to Jackson, [Mississippi] or stay and deal without power for a few days.” Traveling out of the city can take four times longer when everyone is trying to evacuate at the same time. Bartlett stayed and endured Isaac with his wife and three young children. Since 1998, he and his wife remained in the city for hurricanes category three and below. Now, with kids, the number is two.

Bartlett contended that people not from New Orleans don’t understand the difficulty of what an evacuation entails, where leaving can be as difficult as returning. Outsiders always second-guess your decisions.

Bartlett said from a healing standpoint, it was important for New Orleanians to know the new walls and pumps can withstand a strong category one. “We are no longer physically fragile and brittle,” he said.

Jewel Bush, 34, a communications specialist, remained at her home with her nine-year-old son. Bush said the wind was scariest part of Isaac, but her son slept through it. Her parents remained in their home too on the West Bank of the city and wanted Bush and their grandson to join them. “That was not an option,” Bush said, adding that they had a home full of people. “I’d rather be hot and uncomfortable in my own house.”

DaVida Chanel, 36, a producer, remained alone in her Mid-City home from Tuesday night until Saturday night without electricity. She passed the time reading the first book in the Hunger Games series, praying, and meditating a lot—things she often puts off when all modern amenities are available.

Chanel watched her fresh foods spoil; the non-perishables dwindle and contemplated if she made the right choice. When asked if she would stay again, Chanel said “No, not like this.”

Thousands of homes are still without power (The Times-Picayune put the number at around 65,430 as of Sunday morning). I was one of the lucky ones, when I got home on Friday night my power was on. These days it seems there are more electric repair trucks than police cars on the city streets. Riding out a hurricane has a certain romance and comes with a badge of honor. But for the foreseeable future I’ll pray that a hurricane does not come and run if it does.

Tell us about your experience with Hurricane Isaac and why you chose to evacuate or stay in the comments.


  1. New Orleans: Why I Return – The Daily South | Your Hub for Southern Culture

    […] Links: Southern Living: The Bar That Stayed Open When Isaac Hit New Orleans Southern Living: After Hurricane Isaac, Residents Answer the Question “To Stay or To Go?&#8221… Topics: community, Hurricane, L. Kasimu Harris New Orleans Southern […]

    September 9, 2012 at 10:01 am
  2. thomastoday

    There were at least three comments yesterday, one mine and two others that may have been more on point. I see none this evening. Am I missing something in my settings? I thought it was shaping up to be a good conversation, jumping off from this thoughtful piece.

    September 5, 2012 at 9:33 pm

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