Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans

Mandy Silver and Sarah Kliff
KRT Campus

Tulane University sophomore Chazz Howard helped freshmen carry suitcases into their new dorms as Hurricane Katrina, with winds gusting to 165 mph, headed for their New Orleans campus. Just hours after freshmen arrived, the evacuation notices came in.

“Halfway through helping freshmen move in, we heard that classes were cancelled and we had to get out of the city,” said Howard.

Freshmen, on campus for less than 24 hours, repacked their suitcases and headed home. While some of his friends remained behind, Howard and his roommate evacuated the city, leaving behind newly set-up dorm rooms and all belongings.

“All of my stuff is still there,” said Howard. “I was living on Frat Row. When you’re in a hurricane, you don’t know the variables so you get out as quickly as you can…I made the decision to grab some clothes, get gas and get out.”

For students returning to Tulane this fall, the typical hurdles of move-in became miniscule as the city of New Orleans braced for Hurricane Katrina. On Monday the hurricane hit the Gulf Coast, leaving dozens dead and the city of New Orleans flooded. With 80 percent of the city under water-in some places 20 feet deep-the city was evacuated on Sunday.

Howard spent one night at the University of Mississippi before heading home to Nashville, where he is hosting his roommate and waiting out the storm. He has been unable to get in contact with friends who have remained on campus because Tulane’s Web site and New Orleans’ phone lines are both down.

Howard’s only source of information from the university has been a temporary Web site set up at In the site’s most recent update, it tells students that the university “cannot determine at this time when employees and students should return to campus,” only noting that classes will not begin before Wednesday, Sept. 7. The site also confirms that “all of [Tulane’s] people are safe, including all the students and staff who evacuated to Jackson, Mississippi.”

With phone lines down, some Washington University students are also waiting for news from New Orleans. Senior Zena Johnson has yet to make contact with her family. She is still wondering if they are among the 20 percent of residents who remained in the city.

“New Orleans announces a lot of evacuations, and I know my dad never leaves,” said Johnson. “I don’t know whether he’s waiting to be rescued on a rooftop or if he got out in time.

“I actually have no idea where my immediate family is because cell phones and house phones are not working in the whole southern region of the state. I have been able to get in touch with my other relatives,” said Johnson.

While some Tulane students remain behind and others wait for the storm to pass, sophomore David Schwartz has no plans to return to the campus. A Texas native, Schwartz was about to board a plane for New Orleans when he received a call from his father, whose friend, an administrator at Tulane, had warned him of the disaster. Schwartz returned home and now plans to stay there.

“If I don’t transfer to [University of Texas], I feel like I’m going to have to get a job or just sit around for weeks or possibly months,” Schwartz said. “Recovery looked feasible at first, but there was a storm surge-Tulane is literally underwater, toxic waste is in the city, and dead bodies are floating around. There’s no way Tulane is going to open for the fall.”

While Schwartz makes alternate plans for his sophomore year, Howard awaits his return to New Orleans. Even if the campus does not reopen for the fall semester, he will continue to pursue his degree at Tulane.

“If I don’t go back in the fall, I’ll probably go to work,” said Howard. “I’m not going to abandon Tulane by jumping ship and transferring. I’m loyal to Tulane. I have a scholarship, and I like it there.”

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