Sunday, August 31, 2008

Staying put as Gustav bears down

Some Britons living in and around New Orleans have decided to ignore orders to evacuate from the path of hurricane Gustav.

James Lewis, 38, originally from London, is landlord of the Crown and Anchor English pub in New Orleans. He says he is determined not to see a repeat of the looting that destroyed his business after hurricane Katrina.


I just have a lot of friends here in the neighbourhood who are staying and the pub is a community centre for the neighbourhood.

[Last time] I was forced by a friend to leave at the last minute - I wasn't going to. We snuck back in as soon as [hurricane] Rita had passed. That was three weeks afterwards and it looked like the day afterwards.

The ceilings were down, no roof, the kitchen wall was halfway down the street and the damage and destruction done by the looters. I'd only bought the pub a month before.

All the booze was gone, the place was pretty much wide open, so people just helped themselves.

Make sure you've got a hammer or an axe or a crowbar, you know, the usual stuff

We're all very prepared here, it's the old adage - prepare for the worst, hope for the best. We're not a bunch of idiots staying here.

Make sure that you've got food, water, ice packs in the freezer, board up the windows, make sure you remove any debris so that it doesn't turn into flying debris.

Make sure you've got a hammer or an axe or a crowbar, you know, the usual stuff, to make sure if the water goes up dramatically you are not stuck in the roof.

But err on the side of caution of course - particularly if you are going to be by yourself, absolutely, get out, don't be the only idiot staying there.

[There is a real] nervous energy, you could feel it start to go up last night in the pub. Everyone runs on adrenaline for the next four days.

Of course I don't actually enjoy it, you would have to be psychotic to be like that, my psychologist would come over and give me a smack if I said that.

But we've got a wonderful community here, everybody pulled together as a community and stuck our heads down.

I opened up within 24 hours of being back, and we were packed for a month afterwards with first response and National Guard, we met some wonderful people.

What would make me leave? I'm not sure. I'm a bit stubborn like that. I really don't know. This is my life.

Mr Lewis said his pub's website would be made available as a message board during the hurricane.