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Aspenites, too, await Gustav

Katie Redding
Pitkin County correspents
Vail CO, Colorado
Bill Haber/Associated PressLevee workers close a flood gate near Lake Pontcartrain in New Orleans on Sunday. The gates are intended to stop flood waters from entering adjacent neighborhoods.
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Levee workers close a flood gate near Lake Pontcartrain in New Orleans on Sunday. The gates are intended to stop flood waters from entering adjacent neighborhoods.

Levee workers close a flood gate near Lake Pontcartrain in New Orleans on Sunday. The gates are intended to stop flood waters from entering adjacent neighborhoods.ENLARGE

ASPEN ” The impact of Hurricane Gustav’s landfall Monday on the Gulf Coast was already being felt this weekend in Aspen.



The New Orleans-based Stanton Moore Trio, scheduled to play Friday at Jazz Aspen Snowmass After Dark, were forced to cancel. The trio’s flights were called off because of the storm, production manager Chris Steiner said.

Worried Aspenites with New Orleans connections, such as Damian Guillot, remember Hurricane Katrina. The director of the Royal Street Fine Art gallery, which relocated from New Orleans to Aspen after Katrina, said he evacuated from Hurricane Katrina three years ago. He hit such gridlock that in six hours, he only traveled 15 highway miles.



With Hurricane Gustav, many of his friends and family evacuated days ago, he said, and reports from friends and family say the emergency is being handled more smoothly than Katrina.

Authorities have set instituted “contraflow” on highways, so all traffic flows out of the city, Guillot said.

“What they’re saying in New Orleans is that this is the storm of all storms,” said Peter Calamari, owner of Royal Street Fine Art.



He said his family had already evacuated as well. His mother and grandmother were on their way to Austin, Texas, his father was in South Carolina, and his sister had gone to Destin, Fla. They bought tickets a week in advance, he said.

The last time his mother evacuated to Austin, for Hurricane Katrina, she ended up staying three months.

Speaking by phone from New Orleans, Andre Salvail ” a Louisiana native and former Aspen Daily News reporter ” said there was a significant presence of police officers and National Guard in New Orleans. Officials announced that all looters will be sent directly to Angola State Prison, he added.

“In that respect, I’m optimistic that there’s not going to be the crime, the looting, the deaths” this time, Salvail said.

Salvail, saying he lives in the highest part of the city and has no children, had decided not to evacuate. He said he had enough water and food for two or three weeks, a generator, 50 gallons of gas and roughly seven cases of beer, he said.

“I think I can weather it out, as long as the streets don’t flood,” he said. “I don’t have a raft, and I have only a vague promise of a friend with a boat.”

Salvail called the city “a ghost town,” noting that authorities had called for a mandatory evacuation by noon Monday. The streets were empty, the businesses shut down, and the wind was just starting to pick up, he said Sunday evening.

He worried about those in town who had stayed but had not prepared.

“That’s how New Orleans is,” he said. “The majority of people here are very laid back. They’re not taking the storm seriously.”

This time, however, the authorities have been very clear that there will be no shelter of last resort and no services for those who stay, he said.

Back in Aspen, Calamari was glad his family would be safe from the storm, but he worried about the devastation to which they might return. And he was concerned that if the storm does devastate New Orleans, some people might lose the hope needed to rebuild.

“People are worn out, you know, they’re tired,” he said.

But Aspen Institute President Walter Isaacson, who helped start the nonprofit Friends of New Orleans, noted that if the city does survive the storm relatively intact, people might realize the city is safe.

On Wednesday, the organization co-sponsored a benefit called the New Orleans Traveling Road Show. The show, scheduled before Hurricane Gustav grew into a serious threat, raised money to help fund clean-up efforts from Hurricane Katrina.

If the storm hits, Isaacson noted that those who want to help can visit the organization’s website at http://www.friendsofneworleans.org.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

kredding@aspentimes.com


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