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Isaac scene: 'It's not fun anymore,' says one hurricane veteran

August 29, 2012|By Tina Susman
  • A vehicle drives thorough storm-wracked Bay St. Louis, Miss. Wednesday marks the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina hitting the Gulf Coast.
A vehicle drives thorough storm-wracked Bay St. Louis, Miss. Wednesday… (Rogelio V. Solis / Associated…)

NEW ORLEANS -- Louisiana resident Neo Rambo remembers hurricanes the way a lot of people remember their children's birthdays. "Let's see," the small, dignified-looking woman said, "Betsy was 1965, Camille was in 1969, Katrina was 2005."

That doesn't include the countless smaller ones that became a regular part of living and working in and around New Orleans over the years.

In fact, evacuations became so routine that Rambo, a retired recruiter for the FBI, developed a system: She would pack enough belongings for about three days and head to Baton Rouge to stay with friends and family.

PHOTOS: Isaac lashes Gulf Coast

"It was like it was a vacation," she said of her evacuation from her home in advance of Katrina, which made landfall in New Orleans seven years ago Wednesday. "I was just in the groove of evacuating."

Then, she packed enough for three days -- but ended up in Baton Rouge for two months. Rambo returned to find her home in the town of Slidell, on relatively high ground, unscathed. "I lucked out."

The experience taught her not to take storm warnings lightly, but even so, she considered staying in her home this time around because Isaac sounded so mild compared to Katrina. "And we compare everything to Katrina," Rambo said.

MAP: The path of Isaac

On Wednesday, she spoke to a reporter in a hotel lobby in Kenner, near the New Orleans airport, as the sluggish storm churned outside. A power pole had crashed to the ground next to the hotel, and the parking lot and some nearby streets had water well above knee level. A bored guest was trying to muster up interest among other people for a game of Spades as hotel staff debated how to feed the guests.

Rambo was regretting not leaving her home earlier and driving to Baton Rouge. She also was wondering aloud why, despite her fear of these powerful storms and the toll they've taken on the city, she doesn't move elsewhere.

"Since I retired, I've thought about it," said Rambo as she recalled her various evacuations. "It's not fun anymore."

Still, Katrina remains the worst hurricane she's endured. "So far," Rambo added with a laugh. "I hope this one doesn't turn out to be."

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tina.susman@latimes.com

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