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Reporter’s Notebook: New Orleans residents brace for Tropical Storm Cristobal amid pandemic, protests

NEW ORLEANS – As Tropical Storm Cristobal sets its sights on the Gulf coast, those in New Orleans were preparing Saturday.

10:15 p.m.

The second live shot of the day is complete. We packed up and headed to the hotel to check-in and get some sleep before the storm coverage begins Sunday.

9:15 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

I grabbed a bite of dinner before our 10:00 live shot.

6:20 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

I interviewed several colorful characters, as you can imagine!

Greg Guimbellot, the manager at Spirits on Bourbon, said the area had recently undergone a total sewer and drainage system overhaul. He said he is hoping the new infrastructure will keep flooding to a minimum but said he’s preparing for the worst.

We filmed as he and a few bartenders helped to stack sandbags outside the business.

I also spoke with Sophie Abitbol and Seth Laskin. Seth used to live in the area, but the two are just in town for the weekend. They plan to ride out the tropical storm in an Airbnb.

“It’s going to be kind of a ride for the two of us,” Abitbol said.

Both told me they’re nervous about the storm but stocked up with plenty of food and water to last them a few days.

Also, they brought their 7-week-old puppy, who doesn’t yet have a name. I suggested Cristobal. It wasn’t a hit.

6:00 p.m.

Our first story in New Orleans aired during the 6 p.m. newscast, but the work wasn’t finished.

I heard from a source that businesses on Bourbon Street and The French Quarter were boarding up and preparing for floodwaters, so we headed to that area.

5:00 p.m.

We drove to a spot on the Mississippi River with an amazing view of the city. The area, Algiers’s Point, has been known to flood as the river swells. This was the spot we picked for our backdrop for our 6 p.m. live shot.

While writing my story, I spoke with a woman and her children walking in the area.

She told me the current on the river was stronger than usual and pointed to a spot that was already flooded. She said she and her kids were playing in that area last weekend.

4:30 p.m.

Driving around the area, we don’t see very many businesses boarded up or stacking sandbags. People are out and about on Magazine Street.

“We went for a walk, but we’re not stupid,” local resident Joanne Albrecht said. “We looked at the sky and knew we might need this.”

She was clutching onto an umbrella as she and her sister carried on their way.

We ran into another New Orleans resident, Chance Harden. He said he was supposed to be at work, but his supervisor told them not to come in ahead of the storm. He decided to take his two-year-old son out for a stroll.

“While it’s still wonderful weather,” Harden said.

He said he has learned the hard way to take mother nature seriously.

“We’ve moved our cars to higher ground just to make sure they don’t get flooded. Because last time, a couple of months ago, it did, unfortunately,” he said.

Another man, Jerome Bailey, was running some last-minute errands. He said his family struggled to stock up on supplies following coronavirus-related shortages. Bailey told us it’s been tough: first coping with the pandemic, then protests following the death of George Floyd, and now Tropical Storm Cristobal.

“It kind of feels like the plague from the Bible. It feels like things keep coming and coming and coming,” Bailey said. “But looking on the positive side, it’s a way to reset completely.”

4:15 p.m.

Photographer Wladimir Moquete and I arrive in “The Big Easy.” We have to scramble as we’re live at 6:00 p.m.