Escaping the heat, NOLA evacuees take a bus out of town


NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — Jan Faiella and Bill Gallagher sat in their car for hours this week, charging their phones and reveling in a full blast of AC.

They thought about using their remaining quarter tank of gas to get out of New Orleans and find a hotel room some place that has power, but all the hotels were full.

That’s how they wound up at the Morial Convention Center Saturday (Sept. 4), patiently waiting in folding chairs, petting their mixed Maltese, Marley. Marley was nervous, they said, but they were eager to go.

“I just couldn’t take the heat,” said Faiella, explaining why she and Gallagher and Marley were about to get on an air-conditioned bus to a state-approved shelter in Shreveport.

New Orleans Homeland Security Director Colin Arnold said the city didn’t like using the word “evacuation” but nonetheless, he said the city’s plan is working well – getting the most vulnerable residents, the elderly and those with children, out of the misery of days without power.

“It’s absolutely crucial,” said Arnold, “to make sure they’re safe.. it’s the best we can do, and it’s what they deserve.”

Arnold was overseeing a few dozen people patiently waiting for their names to be called inside the Convention Center, so they could board the city-chartered buses outside.

Every person- and pet- is listed on a city registry, and given a wristband – or a sticker for a pet carrier – with a bar code that can be used to trace every part of their journey.

Outside the Convention Center, Bob Leitzell was in charge of the busses.

“We load ’em,” said Leitzell, “give the drivers instructions, and it’s about a four and a half hour ride (to Shreveport).”

Leitzell held a clipboard in the glaring sunlight, writing down the number of passengers on each bus. He said the buses would take about 45 people each, and the goal was to get 50 buses a day on the road out of New Orleans.

At full capacity, that means that 2,500 New Orleanians will go to the Shreveport shelter each day.

On Saturday, Lawanda Bartholomew was in that number – along with her daughter, her daughter’s boyfriend, her two grandchildren, and their one-eye cat, named Pirate.

Bartholomew says her home in the 7th Ward, on North Roman at Touro, lost power a week ago, the night before Hurricane Ida struck on Sunday, (Aug. 29).

She says first the food spoiled, then the maggots and the mold arrived. It was time to go, but her granddaughter, a preschooler named Ivy, would not leave Pirate behind.

“He likes me,” she said, as the 6-week old cat lay on her shoulder.

When power is restored to their homes, Ivy and the other Ida evacuees will need a way to return to New Orleans.

“And then,” said Arnold, “we’ll do the reverse (with the buses) and bring everybody home.”

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