Eyewitness to a Hurricane

New Orleans high school teacher Jim Randels is an eyewitness to the storm smacking the Gulf coast. He tells Steve Inskeep about this hurricane and past experiences with major storms.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The mayor of New Orleans tells us that about 80 percent of the city's residents have fled the approach of Hurricane Katrina. We're going now to one of the 20 percent who did not. His name is Jim Randels(ph). He was born and raised in New Orleans and he's on the line now.

Mr. Randels, good morning.

Mr. JIM RANDELS (Resident, New Orleans): Good morning.

INSKEEP: Can you describe where you are now?

Mr. RANDELS: I'm in American Can Company building and it's an old factory that's been converted into apartments, condominiums, huge brick, steel, concrete construction building.

INSKEEP: You're emphasizing the construction there. Does that explain why you've gone there?

Mr. RANDELS: Yes. Left my house, wasn't going to stay there.

INSKEEP: And why did you decide to go there instead of fleeing the city?

Mr. RANDELS: We didn't have a car that worked so we stayed.

INSKEEP: As a high school teacher, have you been in touch with any of your students?

Mr. RANDELS: Yeah, there were a couple of families who decided to leave town and helped them with some money for gas money to get out of town and things like that.

INSKEEP: You helped them with some money?

Mr. RANDELS: Yeah, their decision was contingent on--they basically didn't have the funds to leave, which is what happens to a lot of folks in town. I suspect, you know, most of the folks who are in the Superdome--you know, if don't have a car, it's difficult to leave and even if you do paying for gasoline and a place to stay and things like that can be difficult. So I would expect the folks who say for the most part are the ones who have difficulty affording leaving.

INSKEEP: These are in some cases then people who are risking their lives for want of $50 of gas money or a hundred dollars of gas money.

Mr. RANDELS: Or a car--I mean, you've got to have a vehicle, too.

INSKEEP: What did you say as you handed over the money and these families prepared to leave, as you prepared to stay?

Mr. RANDELS: Mostly that I would see them in about a week or so and good and be careful.

INSKEEP: There have been other terrible hurricanes that have struck New Orleans. Are you old enough to recall them?

Mr. RANDELS: Yeah, I was about five years old when Betsy came through and I remember being in the house then with my parents, having the chicken house of the neighbors blow over and having pieces of metal caught in the car port and banging on our car and flying debris and leaking roofs and pots and pans. I'm in a much more comfortable situation right now than I was then.

INSKEEP: And in that location, Jim Randels is experiencing the latest hurricane to strike New Orleans.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And to update our major story, New Orleans is being pummeled this morning by Hurricane Katrina. One hundred thirty-five mile an hour winds hurled boats out of the water, and heavy rains flooded some homes to their ceilings. The city seems to have been spared the full brunt of the hurricane, which passed just east of the city. But officials worry the storm surge could still cause major flooding.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

INSKEEP: And I'm Steve Inskeep.

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