La. couple finds shelter here – again

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Ronald and Nancy Root’s hurried flight from the looming threatof Hurricane Ivan made the couple the first evacuees to register ata Brookhaven shelter Tuesday.

When the Roots, of Metairie, La., were encouraged by stateofficials to evacuate their home, they didn’t hesitate to beginpacking and left the next morning.

“They started telling us last night to get out,” Nancy Root saidTuesday. “It was voluntary at that time. We waited until thismorning to leave. We didn’t hit that much traffic this morning, butnow they say it’s gridlocked in the city.”

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The couple knew to get out of the city quickly. The retiredcouple had also fled when Hurricane Georges threatened the coastalarea in 1998 but left late and got snarled in the gridlock. Theystopped in Brookhaven during Georges and didn’t think twice abouttheir destination under the looming threat of Ivan.

They remembered the treatment they received here while holing upaway from Georges at Brookhaven’s First Baptist Church and decidedto make a return visit.

“I didn’t want to go anywhere else,” Nancy Root said. “We wereso impressed by the people here.”

The Roots were the first family to find shelter at FaithPresbyterian Church when it opened around 1 p.m. Tuesday. It wasthe first shelter to open here. Faith Presbyterian and othershelters have since filled with evacuees, and other shelters arebeing opened to accommodate the large number of displacedguests.

The couple said their home survived Georges with only minimaldamage but worried that Ivan may not spare it.

“We’d be ecstatic if that’s all that happened this time,” Ronaldsaid. “We live three blocks from (Lake Ponchartrain), and they toldus during Georges that if the right storm comes in we could have 18to 20 feet of water.”

In addition, some of the state’s disaster plans call for NewOrleans to breach levies if the capital becomes threatened. Thatwould certainly flood their home, Ronald said.

The Roots prepared for the harsh weather but left before totallysealing the home.

“We didn’t board up the windows, but we did clean off the patioand bring in everything that would blow around,” Ronald said. “Wedidn’t sleep much last night either, so we’re exhausted today.”

They also placed their valuables and keepsakes as high aspossible in case of flooding.

“We’ve got a few clothes, important papers and some pillows withus, but that’s about all,” Nancy said.

The Roots said they had some family still in the Metairie areabecause of employment demands but hoped they would leave soon. Asister and brother-in-law were staying in a camper trailer at PercyQuinn State Park.

The Roots said they take hurricanes seriously. Ivan is just thelatest setback of this hurricane season for their family.

Nancy, originally from Punta Gorda, Fla., said family membersthere were still reeling from Hurricane Charley, which devastatedthe state a few weeks ago.

“One of my sisters lost her house. The other three came outfine, but they were all without electricity for about a week and ahalf. It was tough on them,” she said.

Her sisters immediately fled Florida when initial reports hadIvan bearing down on that battered state, but “they’re on their wayback home now,” she said.

Home is where she wants to be, Nancy said, but added she willstay with her “neighbors and friends” in Brookhaven until the stormpasses.