Newcomers experiencing tropical weather for first time


Posted on August 27, 2012 at 8:30 PM

Updated Monday, Aug 27 at 8:30 PM

David Hammer / Eyewitness News
Email: | Twitter: @davidhammerWWL

NEW ORLEANS -- We're a region of hurricane survivors and evacuation veterans. But more than ever before, we’re a region with newcomers, people who have never even seen a tropical storm.

Andy and Aleeza Adelman moved here from Israel. They're one of about 2,000 families participating in the Jewish Federation's newcomer assistance program. And they're getting out of Dodge, heading for Atlanta.

“We’ve not done this before, so we’re not so concerned about our stuff as much as just power, water and food and just windows needing to be boarded up,” said Aleeza Adelman, a teacher at the Jewish Day School.

The International School of Louisiana has 110 teachers and staff at its two Orleans Parish campuses, and 70 of them have never been through a hurricane before. Fifty of them come from Spanish- and French-speaking countries. Principal Melanie Tennyson tried to calm their nerves at a meeting at the school on Camp Street this morning.

“I gathered everyone this morning and talked to them about being calm and being careful and being cautious,” Tennyson said. “I encouraged those who wanted to scratch withstanding a hurricane off their bucket list, to stay.”

ISL’s executive assistant, Negah Shokri, moved here from Washington, D.C., two years ago. She said Tennyson helped her and other staff members relax, but she and her boyfriend are still leaving.

“I wasn't nervous,” she said. “But I think the hype of everyone else and going to Wal-Mart and seeing no water kind of scared me a liitle bit. Yeah, I think overall we're OK, but we're evacuating just because everyone's telling us to.”

Jason Kittle just got to New Orleans from Michigan as a part of the Teach for America program. Now, he’s driving to stay with his cousin in Fort Polk, La. He said he wanted to ride out the storm, but his family and girlfriend prevailed upon him to leave.

Similarly many Tulane students say they're excited to see tropical weather for the first time. The RiteAid pharmacy on Broadway was full of students stocking up this afternoon. Most claimed to be ready to party their way through the storm, but Anna Johnson, a freshman from Connecticut, said her parents are not exactly in the partying mood.

“My mom wants me to leave, really bad. She's like really freaking out. I didn't even bring rain boots, so I don't know,” she said, drawing a laugh from her friends.

This is a bigger issue than it's ever been because of the influx of new residents since Katrina. Tulane demographer Richard Campanella said New Orleans had more native residents than any other major U.S. city in 2000, but the percentage has been dropping since 2005. That’s why longtime New Orleanians have been reaching out through email list-servs, Twitter and Facebook to advise whole communities of newcomers.

504Ward has tips for its roster of new young professionals. Jeanne Nathan of the Creative Alliance of New Orleans said she was worried about the young artists who have come into places like the Bywater and Faubourg Marigny in the last few years, so she sent out a blast email laying out her lessons learned from Katrina and other storms.