New Orleans Residents Flee Katrina

As Hurricane Katrina, now a Category 5 storm, bears down on New Orleans, residents facing a mandatory evacuation have boarded up windows and crowded roads out of town. Host Jacki Lyden and Debbie Elliott speak with Greg Allen, who is in New Orleans.

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JACKI LYDEN, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Jacki Lyden.

The city of New Orleans is bracing for a huge Category 5 hurricane. In recorded history, there have been only three Category 5 hurricanes to make landfall in the United States. We'll have several segments on the preparations being made in New Orleans. The hurricane, Katrina, is expected to make landfall tomorrow morning.

We're joined here in the studio by NPR's Debbie Elliott. She becomes the permanent host of our show next weekend, but we brought her in early to take advantage of her expertise and experience in covering hurricanes.

And hello to you, Debbie.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT reporting:

Hi, Jacki.

LYDEN: This morning, the governor and the mayor of Louisiana called a joint press conference and ordered residents to leave. We turn first to NPR's Greg Allen, who is in New Orleans.

Hello there, Greg.

GREG ALLEN reporting:

Hi, Jacki.

LYDEN: What have you been able to see so far?

ALLEN: Some neighborhoods, like the French Quarter, or some shopping centers, they're boarded up, shut up and no one's around. It's really kind of eerie. But then you go out to some of the main thoroughfares, the streets that leave out of town, and traffic is still very much packed all the way out of town. It's going to--it's taking people several hours to get out. Traffic really started to get heavy after the mayor announced earlier today that there's a mandatory evacuation order.

ELLIOTT: Greg, this is Debbie. You have been out talking to folks. How are people handling this? It seems like it's a pretty scary thing bearing down on New Orleans.

ALLEN: Well, that's right, Debbie. And, as you know, a lot of people don't take hurricanes that seriously in the past in New Orleans. I mean, there's been studies that show that maybe 60 percent of the people would stay for a Category 3 hurricane. But that doesn't seem to be the case this time. Today at the Superdome, I talked to one gentleman, Michael Wilson, who lives in New Orleans, and he talked about how he feels about what's going on.

Mr. MICHAEL WILSON (New Orleans Resident): Oh, oh, looks like this one's a monster here. The other ones went pretty smooth, you know. I usually stay at home. On the other ones, I stayed at home. This is my first time out.

ALLEN: And I'm staying at a hotel right on the river downtown, and there you have people who also are hunkering down for the hurricane, staying in hotel rooms where they can be close to their homes and get back when--to check on them after the hurricane passes over.

LYDEN: And we'll be checking in with you. Thanks a lot, NPR's Greg Allen on the ground in New Orleans.

ALLEN: You're welcome, Jacki.

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