Weathering the storm: “This is part of life over here”

September 2, 2008

(Charles Abbyad, 58, is the maitre d’ at Arnaud’s, a classic creole restaurant in the center of New Orleans. With his wife, Jill, he keeps a guesthouse called The Chimes in the city’s historic Garden District. Abbyad chose to stay behind and ride out Hurricane Gustav with Reuters reporters Matt Bigg and Tim Gaynor.)

 

11:00 a.m. Monday

 

“Time was flying by yesterday but when the wind shifted to the south I felt a bit of relief. We were watching the water overlapping the western wall of the Industrial Canal. The walls on that side were the old ‘I’ walls, not the present ‘T’ walls. I was concerned. I had heard of two things: if the winds persisted for another two hours they had no idea how much water would come into the parish. And the two barges that were loose had not been tied down.”

 

“Around 11.00 or 12.00, the news came that the barges were tied up and the wind had shifted to the south. That was a tremendous relief. From that point on, my concern eased off tremendously.”

“The only thing I was thinking about at that point was preparing dinner: grilled Cornish game hens, steamed asparagus, sautéed potatoes, corn on the cob and Caesar salad. I was rusty on making the Hollandaise sauce but pulled out the recipe on the Internet and I managed to make the sauce without it breaking.”

 

“My supplies in the fridge, given that no grocery stores may open for two-three days, are sufficient. Following that they (the guests) will not starve but they will not enjoy the luxuries they have had until now. The good wines from the restaurant are now gone and we will be drinking ‘Yellow Tail’ for the duration.”

 

6:00 p.m. Monday

 

I had no concern about the well-being of the city although every now and then I had a slight déjà vu of Katrina. It was not till the next day back then that I knew about the levees having broken. Last night was the first night we slept with no air conditioning, the breeze was sufficient and thanks to two Tylenols we were knocked out for the night.”

 

9:00 a.m. Tuesday

 

“Today we have started cleaning up but I am not about to take down my shutters etc due to the fact that Hurricane Hanna may enter the Gulf and Ike is an unknown. I do not want to go through the whole process again.”

 

10:15 a.m. Tuesday

 

“I view the long term as this is part of life over here. If I was in California, I would expect an earthquake. If  I was in Lebanon, I would never know when things would change politically. If I was in the Midwest, I would not know when a tornado was going to hit. I made the choice of living here. It is a beautiful city and I am prepared for that. Every place has got its problems.”

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