The Big Uneasy
The New Orleans area is bracing for Hurrican Ivan. Officials are desperately urging residents to evacuate:
We’re going to get hit. We don’t know if it’s going to be a punch in the mouth or a kick in the knee. But we’re going to get hit.
Problem is, about 10,000 people are in town for a convention, and there’s no way to reschedule flights now. Also, a large part of the city’s population relies on public transportation to get around – RTA bus service doesn’t go that far inland. 
But staying behind is riskier than the casinos in the area: New Orleans is below sea level – up to ten feet below in some areas. And nearby islands such as Grand Isle (which I visited in 2003) gets inundated even during tropical storms: Ivan is a Category 4 hurricane.
The New Orleans metro area relies on a network of large pumps to keep water out of the city. But if Hurricane Ivan hits the city, the pump system could get swamped – along with the city.
To make things worse, there are a number of refineries and chemical plants in the immediate vicinity: serious floodwater could bring with it harmful chemical waste.
Meanwhile, my uncle and his family are happily staying at home, hoping to ride out the storm. It’s far too late to join the bandwagon on I-10; traffic’s been jammed up for awhile, even with the eastbound lanes going west. They were offered a room at a high-rise hotel downtown, but declined.