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New Orleans Residents Anxious As Tropical Storm Barry Heads Toward Them


A slow, drenching rain is headed to the Louisiana coast. Forecasters predict that by the time Tropical Storm Barry passes through, more than 20 inches of rain may have fallen. And this makes people in New Orleans especially anxious because the Mississippi River is already unusually high from all the runoff farther north.

These fears bring back memories of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Rachel Jordan lived through that disaster, and now she is preparing for the possibility of another one. She and her siblings spoke with NPR repeatedly after Katrina, and Rachel Jordan joins us again now from her home in New Orleans East. Welcome back to the program.

RACHEL JORDAN: Hi, Ari. How are you?

SHAPIRO: I'm all right. So you and your family are New Orleans musicians. Remind us what you all went through now more than a decade ago when Katrina hit.

JORDAN: Well, I mean, I think everybody who lived through Katrina remembers it. I mean, we all basically lost our houses except for two brothers. One was close to the lake, which is amazing that his house stood. And my other brother who lives across the lake in Algiers Point - his house was safe. But the rest of us - we all lost our houses in Katrina. During that time, I actually had an accident where my arm was broken - so not good for a violinist...


JORDAN: ...You know?

SHAPIRO: So how worried are you about this storm?

JORDAN: I'm pretty worried. You know, you see all the - I'm looking at the news as I'm speaking to you, just watching, you know, the levels. I mean, the Mississippi is really high. And everybody is concerned about the rain and the amount of rain that happened two days ago. I mean, basically the city was flooded. We didn't flood back here in New Orleans East, which we never did. But Katrina was our Waterloo for New Orleans East. And so it was the first time that we actually flooded. But two days ago, the city - so many holes in the system because Uptown, the French Quarters, Gentilly - I mean so many different areas in town were really flooded.

SHAPIRO: This forecast to be more of a rain event than a wind event, so what kind of precautions are you taking - sandbags or moving things up onto the high shelves of the second floor of the house? Like, what are you doing?

JORDAN: Oh, yeah, well, I don't have a two-story house, but I've taken every picture off the wall, and I've - I can't afford to lose any more music. Or the few pictures that I do have, I've made sure I have all of those things with me plus my computers 'cause that was the devastating thing - losing all the pictures of my lifetime.


JORDAN: That hurt more than anything. I mean, I can part with all of the things because we've parted with things before. But my pictures - no, and my computer - no. I can't do that again.

SHAPIRO: Are you ready for the possibility of days without power? I mean, do you have water and other supplies that you might need to get through?

JORDAN: Oh, yeah, yeah, I have water. And I just went to Home Depot to get a fan that can operate on battery as a precaution for my parents. And my sister Steph (ph), who has a two-story house - we have the keys. She left. And if things should get bad, we're going to either go to her house and ride the storm out on the second floor 'cause the option that my brother had, pounding through the roof, was just a traumatic experience for him.

SHAPIRO: You mean escaping floodwaters by punching through the roof from underneath.

JORDAN: Yeah, yeah, exactly. He was on the roof for, I think, six days.

SHAPIRO: Oh, my goodness.

JORDAN: And he actually had to - Marlon (ph) had to save - some people's house caught on fire, and they couldn't swim. And they were, you know, like my house 'cause we live right up the street from each other. But they didn't have a two-story house.

SHAPIRO: I'm sure anybody who experienced Katrina has some measure of PTSD. Does watching another storm like this approach trigger feelings in you that you haven't felt in a long time?

JORDAN: Well, yeah because all your things that you've finally collected - I mean, at least this time I can say goodbye if it's it. You know what I'm saying? The last time it was like, you hurry off. And I actually was playing a concert in New York. And watching this storm from television was like, oh, my God, it's really actually happening. The storm that - you know, the hundred-year storm, whatever it was called, finally came.

But now we're at the point where we have so much global warming. This, a regular rain event, is like a hurricane Katrina, and it's only - it might not even be a Category 1 storm, but the rain - the amount of rain that we're experiencing is off the chain. So the Mississippi is high. And so if we get a lot of rain and the levees can't hold, we are in the same situation as Katrina. So it's not a nice thing, and it's not something that you would want to wish on anybody.

I think a lot of people across the country have been experiencing all kinds of unusual weather, and they know exactly what we're going through. And every time I see a rain event anywhere in the world, I'm like, my heart goes out to those people because you don't know until you know.


JORDAN: And when you're in this moment, you know, you say to yourself, wow, it's really that bad.

SHAPIRO: Well, Rachel Jordan, thank you for talking with us. Stay safe, and I hope we can check in with you next week after the storm has passed.

JORDAN: Thank you so much, too.

SHAPIRO: That's violinist Rachel Jordan. She is the talented strings teacher at Jefferson Parish, and she plays with the Loyola string quartet in New Orleans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.