Friday, September 23

Long trip to Baton Rouge

The usual two-hour trip to Baton Rouge dragged out to five hours Thursday afternoon as people fled Southwest Louisiana while raging Hurricane Rita approached.

Evacuating in two vehicles loaded with everything from photo albums to food, my family headed to hunker down with my older daughter who is a student at LSU. Other family members live in Lafayette, but we didn't think that was quite far enough east depending on the path of Rita.

Also making the trip were two stressed-out cats. After seeing the emotional toll of those New Orleans residents who were forced to leave or lost their pets due to Hurricane Katrina, we just couldn't think about letting them fend for themselves.

Traffic crawled on U.S. 171 to the Interstate 10 on-ramp and then all the way to the La. 165 exit where many vehicles were turning north. That part of the trip alone took two hours. We headed east however, and, until just before Lafayette, could actually drive the speed limit.

Traffic also crawled around the Interstate 10/Interstate 49 exchange where again vehicles were turning north. Continuing east, traffic flowed quickly until about 19 miles west of Baton Rouge.

On at least three occasions, traffic had to pull onto the shoulder to allow emergency vehicles to pass. Also, at least two convoys of military vehicles were seen traveling west apparently carrying supplies in preparation for the aftermath of Rita.

Other vehicles on I-10 were filled with orange-clad inmates being evacuated from area correctional facilities.

Rain began to fall in Baton Rouge around noon Friday shortly after national news services reported new flooding in New Orleans due to further breaches in the levee system.

We could only pray that that was not an omen for what would result in Lake Charles from the wayward Rita, whose meandering path has taken her closer and closer to our home in Southwest Louisiana.

Vincent Lupo
American Press Staff Writer

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