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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in New Orleans

Travel and Leisure has named our city one of the top five destinations in America for the holidays. So Thursday morning, tourism leaders brought snow down on their official holiday season kickoff party.

It wasn’t real snow, of course.

For years, December was always a slow month for out-of-towners coming to New Orleans, but aggressive tourism marketing has begun to turn that around and a sleigh-ful of holiday events and special promotions is turning New Orleans into a premier holiday destination, both for tourists and for locals.

“We have reveillon dinners, those traditional Creole holiday meals, being served at 48 restaurants around the city this year,” said Mark Romig, head of New Orleans Tourism Marketing. “And shopping is great, too, whether it’s in the French Quarter, Magazine Street, the Bywater, Mid-City, you know the new H&M store just opened here, too.”

Of course, the first big event is the Canal Street lighting ceremony, set for Tuesday, November 26 at dusk.


What could possibly be lower than stealing from someone on Christmas Eve?  How about stealing from a church on Christmas eve.

That’s what happened at Resurrection of Our Lord Catholic Church in New Orleans East.

“We saw it at 4:00 Mass,” said parishioner Kenny Rauch, speaking of the church’s white E-Z-Go golf cart with Silly String stains on its seat.

But after the 7:00 mass, parishioners delivered a message to Father Michael Joseph Vihn Nguyen.

“‘Father, there’s two guys who stole your golf cart’,” Fr. Michael Joseph quoted the people who delivered the bad news.

Parishioners used the golf cart for fun.  It was also used to pull a small train during the church’s annual fall festival.  But it served a more important purpose for Fr. Michael Joseph who used the cart to get around the church’s expansive property with his bad leg.

According to Fr. Michael Joseph, New Orleans police told him there’s little chance of ever seeing the golf cart again.

“They don’t think we will find it,” he said.  Whoever took the cart did not take its charger, so there’s a chance it could be abandoned somewhere after it runs out of juice.

According to at least one parishioner, there is a chance the golf cart was already abandoned and picked up by a tow truck company.

At this point, there’s no word of any reward.  But since the golf cart belongs to a church, maybe the reward would come later.

tornadoThe day after a Christmas tornado tore through parts of Pearl River County, Mississippi, the National Weather Service said there were zero deaths, eight people hospitalized, nearly two dozen homes damaged and countless trees snapped.

But numbers can’t measure the worry, stress and despair for those heading into the new year without a home.

Darlene Gros told us she rushed to the home of her aunt after it was ripped apart by the EF-3 twister.

Gros said she found her elderly family member sitting on her couch in front of the TV with her remote control in hand before she was rescued in good condition.

A couple houses down, Sue Hubbard was taking in the damage to her roofless brick home.

“It’s horrible, and I was a pretty neat housekeeper. I mean I kept everything as perfect as I could, so it’s very devastating“, Hubbard said.

She and her husband were celebrating Christmas with their children in Columbia, MS, when the tornado tore apart several homes on the Chapel Sones Road in Pearl River.

Hubbard, who returned home to find her 44-year-old three-bedroom house destroyed, said she is a three-time cancer survivor.

Near the worst damage the spirit of giving was still going strong Wednesday night, as the McNeil Volunteer Fire Department took bags and boxes full of donated items for storm victims.

More clothes and goods for needy families were being dropped off than volunteers could handle, but they said they were grateful, and even though her home is gone, so is Sue Hubbard.

“I survived cancer three times, (but) my family is here, thank God, and by the grace of God I can start over again. “

Eve Shopping It was another day of marathon-style shopping at area malls; as holiday shoppers rushed to spend gift cards and return unwanted items.

Holiday shoppers were at it gain; back at the malls for another day-long shopping extravaganza.

This time, they were armed with Christmas cash, and gift cards.

“Yes we have a lot of gift cards, like forever 21, and Dillard’s; stuff like that.” “So we’re just spending our Christmas money,” Brittany Bruno said.

Other shoppers were returning and exchanging holiday gifts for something more suitable.

People like Angela Dunn.

“I’m returning boots that didn’t fit but I’m going to do some more shopping,” Dunn said. “I see all these sales going on so I’m excited to rack up on some more clothes.”

Retailers are hoping day after Christmas deals will give them a final boost to reach projected sales goals.

“Our season was great this year,” said Catie Brown of Storyville T-Shirts. “We were really busy; you can really tell people were out boosting the economy and buying again.” “It’s been great.”

But early projections suggest merchants’ revenue may fall short of last year’s totals.

The Power family finds that hard to believe.

They got Michael Kors watches for the entire family.

“Well based upon what my wife spent me think we’re probably doing very well if you take the average person,” shopper Gary Power said. “It’s hard to say.” “It seems like a lot of people are out shopping so I think that’s positive.”

Even with all the returns, experts predict the day after Christmas will be among the top five shopping days of the year; because shoppers usually return one thing, and walk away with much more.

WGNO News Reporter Darian Trotter asked, “Are you going to spend more money? Yeah I think we’ll end up spending a little here today because of the sales gong on after Christmas and that always entices you to maybe look around and buy something you don’t have yet,” Power replied.

Trotter asked, “What’s your budget? Don’t tell my husband; I don’t have one right now,”  Dunn replied.

Final numbers for the holiday shopping season won’t be clear until after New Year’s.

Meantime, deep discounts will likely continue over the next several weeks, as retailers move merchandise to make room for spring lines.


Not A Quiet Christmas

Your 10pm Weathercast for Tuesday 12/24/12 with Meteorologist Jeff Robbins

Dozens of families survived what emergency workers are describing as a possible tornado.

It was a Christmas to remember, but not in a good way for people ravaged by storms.

Strong wind and heavy rain blew through neighborhoods in pearl river county… South of mc-Neal, near highway 11.

Dozens of families were devastated as they gathered for the holiday.

“It sounded like a train coming,” homeowner Tim Kahl said. “And I hollered and told him it’s a tornado you know, tornados coming get down get back in.”

WDAM storm damage picThis photo was taken during daylight hours, shortly after the storm by Mississippi television station WDAM.

Tim Kahl describes what he heard around that time.

“We heard the siren go off behind the store.” “After that it was all you know chaotic. Everybody running, fire alarms, the fire department coming out with the fire trucks,” Kahl said.

Emergency responders worked well into the night; blocking entrances to hardest hit areas and clearing roadways.

“We have a dozen homes damaged and we have had several injuries,” said the Emergency Management Director for Pearl River County. “We transported six people. Nothing life threatening. No fatalities.”

Several streets were blocked by downed trees and power lines, and front lawns were littered with debris.

The hardest hit areas were so dangerous, emergency workers wouldn’t even let our camera past the barricades.

“It’s a mess. Where it went through is like Katrina, except it blew the houses up it hit,” Kahl said.

Bad weather also put a damper on Christmas in other areas.

At Armstrong International Airport several flights were cancelled or delayed.

Wade Petite’s daughter was delayed in Dallas.

“We got word, she just texted their deicing the plane; so we’re in a holding pattern right now,” Petite said.

So too are some families in parts of central Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi.

For them, the clean-up, will be long.

“it was a definite tornado,” Manley said. “We’ve had several people call and say they saw it. The damage is indicative of tornado damage. We’ve had homes that are 90% destroyed. That doesn’t happen with straight line winds.”

The National Weather Service still has to determine the severity of the storm.

News with a Twist

Christmas at Bridge House

Bridge House opened it’s doors to homeless in need of a good meal this Christmas. Volunteers helped put together a great dinner. Celebrating the holidays a couple of strangers got to eat in communion on this special day.

Leading up to Christmas, Our Reporter Kenny Lopez has been performing random acts of giving all around New Orleans.

So far he’s given away toys, gas, flowers, compliments, and even lottery tickets.

Today, with the help of a friend, Lindsay Millet he gives away a TV to a woman from the Salvation Army.


Christmas came early at the Magnolia School for adults with developmental disabilities.

A Juggler, magician, carolers, a second line and of course Santa Claus brought miles of smiles to Friday evening’s yuletide extravaganza.

“It’s a party atmosphere,” says President Digges Morgan. “Particularly with the season of Christmas right here on us and all of our adult clients are just real excited about Santa Claus.”

Founded in 1935 in Jefferson Parish, Digges says Magnolia School is located on an old sugar plantation that operated before the civil war. “And they used to own all the lands from the levee which we’re close to right now all the way back to Lake Pontchartrain.”

Digges says Magnolia School maintains 19 group homes and when school is in session more than 250 adult students come to learn, “They even go out into the community and work and support employment endeavors.”

The adult’s come to school for vocational instruction and on Digges says on this night, to celebrate the holidays, “It’s just part of the Christmas spirit that we have here at Magnolia.”

The New Orleans saints quarterback was also given notice of tonight’s Christmas show as the Magnolia School is vying for a special grant through the Drew Brees Dream foundation.