August 28, 2005 – Hurricane Katrina: “We Don’t Know Where This Thing’s Gonna Go”.
August 28, 2005 – Hard to imagine it was twelve years ago that residents all along the Gulf were wondering where Katrina was heading. After plowing through Florida, leaving a path of death and destruction, what was coming next was unpredictable. Across the Gulf Coast preparations were underway for what was looking like a major hurricane, one which was gaining strength by the minute. But pinpointing exactly where it was going to land wasn’t easy. By all accounts, it was looking to take aim at New Orleans. Shortly after midnight it had reached a Category 4 with a wind intensity of 145 miles per hour. Just a few hours later, it grew to a Category 5 with winds upwards of 175mph and gusts of up to 190 miles per hour.
It was enough to prompt New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin to declare an emergency and issue mandatory evacuation orders. At a press conference given at 10:00 that morning, Nagin, with Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, issued the mandatory evacuation order, saying it was shaping up to being “the storm most of us had feared”. Katrina was expected to make landfall sometime Sunday night (the 28th). Preparations were made to open the Louisiana Superdome as a “refuge of last resort”, prompting the arena to quickly fill with some 20,000 residents, and more on the way.
Shortly after Nagin and Blanco met, and with Blanco placing a call to President Bush to send in the National Guard, the National Weather Service issued a bulletin anticipating “devastating damage” to New Orleans and surrounding areas.
During the hours leading up to landfall, and with the uncertainty that prevailed, people turned to whatever communication device they could find in order to stay informed. One of those radio stations giving bulletins and advising people on the situation was WJBO in Baton Rouge – far enough away from the immediate damage but close enough to sustain their own, the station stayed on the air all through the storm and its aftermath, advising, warning and hoping.
As a reminder, here is an hour, from around 11:00 pm onward from WJBO, as it was happening – as people waited; twelve years ago today.