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Isaac scene: Stuck in New Orleans -- but not in French Quarter

August 29, 2012|By Tina Susman
  • A car drives down Canal Street during Hurricane Isaac in New Orleans.
A car drives down Canal Street during Hurricane Isaac in New Orleans. (Chris Graythen / Getty Images )

NEW ORLEANS -- Jerry and Barbara Thibodeau first came to New Orleans about a year ago, and, as Jerry puts it, "We absolutely fell in love with the place."

They came back again. And again. And again. Four times in one year. But on Wednesday, they couldn't wait to get out.

That wasn't going to happen, though, as Hurricane Isaac, a broad, slow-moving storm, kept the city under virtual lock-down with dangerous winds, massive power outages, downed trees and flooding. The airport was closed for the second day and was not expected to open until Thursday at the earliest.

PHOTOS: Isaac lashes Gulf Coast

The Thibodeaus had arrived Saturday from their home in Massachusetts for what was supposed to be a four-day spree of great food, great music and great fun in New Orleans' fabled French Quarter. They briefly considered canceling the trip as Isaac developed into a tropical storm, but it was far from the coast. Anything could happen, the couple figured.

"You know how they track hurricanes," said Barbara Thibodeau, a paralegal. "You never know exactly where it's going to go."

So the couple checked into their French Quarter hotel, thinking that even if Isaac worsened, their scheduled early morning plane would leave Tuesday, long before the storm made landfall.

MAP: The path of Isaac

Jerry Thibodeau said the big mistake they made was moving Monday from the French Quarter to a hotel near the airport, in hopes of making an easy getaway. When the airport closed late Monday, and without a vehicle to get around in, they were stuck.

"It's too bad -- it would have been fun to ride it out in the Quarter," he said as the airport hotel's lobby grew increasingly sauna-like after hours without air-conditioning.

Occasionally, stragglers would stumble through the rotating glass doors, hair tangled like wet birds' nests and clothes twisted awry by the wind. "We were hoping and praying we could get a room here because we don't have any power at our house," said Vilma Machado, as she arrived with her husband, Clarence. Upon learning that the hotel was similarly hot and swampy, they went back home.

Behind them, another woman came inside cradling a chihuahua wrapped in plastic, looking dryer than its human companion.

Meanwhile, guests searched for some of the few outlets available, which were delivering limited power from a generator.

Barbara and Jerry, a technician, were banking on their unexpectedly costly trip ending Thursday. Then, Barbara's cellphone chirped a message. The Aug. 30 flight was canceled.

"I'm gonna cry," she said, half-jokingly.

"We gotta do something about getting out of here," her husband said of the city they love.

Still, they'll be back -- just not during hurricane season. Their next trip here is in November, for the Po'Boy Festival.

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tina.susman@latimes.com

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