- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 28, 2005

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Tip Andrews knew it was time to leave when he saw the green shutters on the mustard-colored Cafe Lafitte, one of the French Quarter’s most legendary bars.

“When they close, you know it’s bad,” the Bourbon Street resident said yesterday as he took his two dogs, Gigi and Dijon, for a last walk before heading north. “They never board up.”

The Big Easy neighborhood famous for never sleeping was looking like a bar after last call yesterday as Hurricane Katrina barreled toward the Louisiana coast with winds near 165 mph and a potential 28-foot storm surge.

The sweet “hurricane” drinks that normally flow right up until landfall were nowhere to be seen as city workers did a last sweep of spent plastic cups and party debris. Purple, green and gold balloons fluttered forlornly on gas lamps in front of shuttered bars in the growing afternoon breeze.

“Where’s everybody going?” one obviously drunk man shouted along an empty street. “It’s just a little storm.”

Despite his bravado, the man said he was leaving, too. But many decided to stick it out and stare Katrina blearily in the face, despite a mandatory evacuation order.

“You can sign my death certificate,” cigar bar owner Michael Kincaid said, standing in line at Mattassa’s corner grocery with a six-pack of beer, a bag of potato chips and a package of chocolate-chip cookies. “My biggest investment is here, so I’m going to stay with it.”

Roommates Michael Seward, 45, and Jesse Rowe, 28, went out yesterday to buy a battery-powered radio. They don’t have a car to get out of town, but they feel perfectly safe in their second-story apartment.

“The house we live in was built for Napoleon’s nephew,” Mr. Seward said. “It’s been here awhile.”

Mr. Seward pointed out that the Quarter was on some of the highest land in the city, “on the upper lip of the bowl.”

Mr. Rowe said “hysterical” family and friends were calling to beg them to flee to Mississippi.

Not everybody who stayed did so by choice.

Tim Smith, a machine technician from New York City, was in town for a family reunion when Katrina began its turn toward New Orleans. With no rental car and after several hours trying to get bus or train tickets, he decided to ride out the storm in his Bourbon Street hotel room.

“I was in 9/11,” he said defiantly. “I mean, we’re concerned, but we’re not going to lose our minds over it. It’s nature. Nature’s got to take its course.”

Mary Lind was trying to reassure Mr. Smith and his family, telling them they would be fine if they stay away from the windows. Mrs. Lind, 56, who lives in a 174-year-old pink brick house, also was staying, much to her family’s chagrin.

“My son’s having a fit,” the real estate agent said as she drove to Mattassa’s for some last-minute provisions. “We’re kind of a different breed of people down here, people in the Quarter. Heck, if we can put up with Mardi Gras, we can put up with a hurricane.”

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