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Katrina’s force reaches county
• Out of New Orleans in nick of time

Staff Writer

Chris Liddy, owner of Parkview Marigny Bed and Breakfast in New Orleans, and a group of friends enjoying a weekend there, successfully undertook the evacuation of all contents on the first floor and got out of town in the nick of time.

In 1995, Liddy and Larry Molaison bought and restored the historic home built in the French Quarter in 1853 and have operated it as a bed and breakfast for the last 10 years.

This has been the third hurricane Liddy said he has gone through in the Big Easy. After Hurricane Ivan last year, he made up his mind not to hunker down and ride the storm out.

His sister Sarah Liddy, and friends Tim Bisenius, and Jim and Jeanie Nolan were in New Orleans at his bed and breakfast for the weekend and Chris Liddy and friend Joanne Tominello were on their way to New Orleans to join them Saturday morning as Katrina was out in the Gulf gaining steam.

“That was when we realized what was happening,” he said. “I told them to fill their cars up immediately and then go out and buy plywood and other things. Jim and Tim boarded up the entire house - 25 windows. You can see a picture of what the house looked like before we tore it apart on the Web at www.bedandbreakfast.com/louisiana/parkview-marigny-bed-and-breakfast.html.”

Liddy said he has the business on the market and was planning to pack up some of the furniture that was not going to stay there after the sale. But he took no chances with Katrina bearing down on New Orleans.

With the help of his weekend guests, they rented a U-Haul and emptied the house of basically everything - antique furniture, specialty things and art work. Some furniture was left on the second floor.

“I could not have done it without these folks involved,” he said.

But packing up was just the beginning of a harrowing trip out of New Orleans beginning at 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon.

Liddy said New Orleans is nine feet below Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River. Pumps in the city will pull out about 2 inches of rain an hour. New Orleans was expecting more than the pumps could handle, primarily due not to the wind and rain expected, but due to the storm surge.

As Liddy and friends drove out of the city with the U-Haul and four cars, some loaded with art, the streets were clear and eerie looking, he said.

“It was like a ghost town - a no man’s land,” he said.

They had the street to themselves except for about three other vehicles. A mandatory evacuation by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Babino-Blanco was in effect.

Nagin had gone on television with the governor and said, “This is the real show. This is no drill.”

It was the third time Liddy had to close the bed and breakfast and the third time he had to relocate guests or cancel guests with reservations. Liddy knew what he had to do, he said, because he was familiar with evacuation procedures. He learned them as a hospital administrator.

The levies will hold a 12-foot storm surge, he said. First the westerly winds off a hurricane blow the water into Lake Pontchartrain. As the winds wind counter clockwise, they return from the north and push water in the lake to the south directly at New Orleans which is pinned between the lake and the Mississippi River.

When they got to the city limits they found a road block and contra-flow in effect. Vehicles were lined up on the ramp to I-10. Traffic would be routed from there to I-55 which would carry traffic to Jackson.

There they waited for a series of 30 ambulances carrying patients from the Veterans Administration Hospital apparently to Jackson.

“These people were laid out or propped up in airport shuttle buses and going north,” he said.

He said each hospital has a disaster plan and a sister hospital to take patients to during an evacuation. They waited for the V.A. shuttles to clear then drove from 4 p.m. arriving at the Mississippi state line 100 miles later at 7 p.m.

They were stopped at the state line because essential service vehicles - fire and utility department vehicles, levee board vehicles and sewer and water board vehicles - from three parishes were gathered there.

Liddy said the vehicles had to be removed from the parishes because they would be flooded with water in those counties with low elevations.

During one stretch of the trip it took one hour to go one mile, he said.

Arriving in Jackson at midnight, 93 miles from the state line, the group rested. They left Jackson and arrived in Holly Springs around 11:30 a.m. Monday.

Liddy learned from news reports Monday that a levee protecting the Mississippi River in the lower 9th Ward (southeast New Orleans on the river) had broken, flooding subdivisions in St. Bernard Parish and Chalmette.

At noon Monday the storm had pushed east of New Orleans and the city was getting the tidal surge from Lake Pontchartrain.

Katrina is a model storm for all the disaster and weather historians’ worst nightmares.

“They see this storm as the worse case scenario they have always trained the City of New Orleans for,” he said.

Over 1 million evacuated the city. Under a two-state area agreement, Mississippi emergency management and Louisiana emergency management implemented their joint disaster management program. Governor Barbour and governor Babino-Blanco got to work early ordering evacuation warnings.

“This is the first time I’ve seen the governor of Louisiana come to the city and help coordinate with Gov. Barbour,” said Liddy. “She assisted in press conferences with the mayor to express the necessity of the evacuation. There was a look on their faces of fear. There are a lot of old die-hards down there that don’t want to leave.”

Liddy expressed “deep appreciation” for the help of his friends and for those who called him on his cell phone offering concern.

“They are true friends,” he said.

Liddy said he had plans to sell his business in New Orleans and work full-time in family owned ventures in Holly Springs. He has been commuting back and forth while awaiting the day he would turn over his business in October so he can give his full attention to Holly Springs.

After the City gives the green light for evacuees to return, he and his brother Tim Liddy will go back to New Orleans, remove the plywood off the windows and reopen the bed and breakfast.

That is assuming the business is still there.

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