Waiting out the storm in New Orleans, a 'different city' since Katrina

New Orleans resident weathers the storm
New Orleans resident weathers the storm

    JUST WATCHED

    New Orleans resident weathers the storm

MUST WATCH

New Orleans resident weathers the storm 03:14

Story highlights

  • The owner of a business looted during Katrina says New Orleans is now "a different city"
  • A restaurant owner's quagmire: No employees because schools are closing
  • The manager of a store in a mall looted during Katrina looks forward to a cookout

Bill Coleman's business in New Orleans was looted during Hurricane Katrina. Now, Hurricane Isaac threatens to bombard the region with heavy wind and rain on Katrina's anniversary. He may have to close up shop again until the storm passes and, if necessary, power is restored.

But this father of two and grandfather of one said he is "not concerned."

"Katrina was a once-in-a-lifetime event," the owner of Coleman's Retail Store told CNN Monday, noting that forecasters aren't predicting Katrina-like catastrophic conditions for the city he's lived in his whole life.

Also, "We have a vastly improved police department," Coleman said. "A much higher level of conduct is expected. ... There have been a lot of positive changes."

"The city was under siege" during Katrina, with a "total breakdown of society," he said.

FEMA: We don't wait for storm to arrive
FEMA: We don't wait for storm to arrive

    JUST WATCHED

    FEMA: We don't wait for storm to arrive

MUST WATCH

FEMA: We don't wait for storm to arrive 03:07
Mississippi waits for Isaac to hit
Mississippi waits for Isaac to hit

    JUST WATCHED

    Mississippi waits for Isaac to hit

MUST WATCH

Mississippi waits for Isaac to hit 01:28
State of emergency in Louisiana
State of emergency in Louisiana

    JUST WATCHED

    State of emergency in Louisiana

MUST WATCH

State of emergency in Louisiana 01:05

Now, "it's just a different city."

Coleman isn't alone in his outlook and relatively relaxed state about the impending storm.

Jerry Amato feels confident that his restaurant, just a couple of blocks from the water, won't be flooded.

Preparing for Isaac, state by state

"I just don't think it's going to be strong enough -- but I'm not weatherman," he said.

When the storms come through, he'll "just lock the door" to Mother's Restaurant and wait out the storm, he said.

He doesn't think it'll be long before he reopens so the establishment -- which closed down for months in 2005 -- can resume serving the "world's best baked ham."

It hasn't closed yet. Amato planned to "wait until the last minute to decide whether to pull the trigger," but now he faces "a quagmire." He wouldn't mind staying open longer, but since schools are closing, his employees need to leave. "They have to stay home and take care of the kids."

Thomas Blais, manager of the upscale men's shoe shop Allen Edmonds at New Orleans' Canal Place mall, said his and other shops were closing Monday "because our families need to get home to prepare their houses for the storm."

But he, too, is "not overly" concerned about Isaac.

While the mall experienced looting and fires during Katrina, he doesn't expect a repeat. It's a "considerably smaller storm," Blais notes, and he expects the authorities to keep order.

In fact, there's something Blais looks forward to if the power goes out.

Disaster dining: How to stay safe and fed during a storm

"Neighbors will get together and have one big barbecue. As soon as we lose power, we're going to start cooking out the food in all the refrigerators."

If the streets are too wet, there are "rooftops, terraces, courtyards that are kind of covered," Blais said. "It's wonderful after the storm, when everybody comes out and starts talking, drinking, and hanging out.

"That's the good part about the storms -- it brings neighbors together."

Coleman said those neighborly feelings have grown in recent years. "I think we've got a really a much improved and a much higher level of thought and spirit in the city. There's much more unity."

The seeds of that came in Katrina's wake, he said. "In some ways there was a lot of good that came from Katrina. I'm still very emotional about it. It changed my whole life.

"It brought out some of the very best in America."

Share photos and videos of Isaac

      Hurricane season 2012

    • The storm that broke records, and hearts

      A mother learns that her newborn is part of a hospital evacuation. Facebook posts from a member of the HMS Bounty turn ominous. A man worries about the wind and rain, but another force of nature hits home.
    • In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, a storm that ripped so much apart, people have come together to provide help and hope.

      In Sandy's wake, help comes in unexpected ways

      Tourists become volunteer rescue workers. The connected provide power outlets and Wi-Fi. Performers lift spirits. Photographers preserve images. Doctors work overtime to keep hospitals running and patients alive.
    • Despite a mangled phone screen, volunteer Candice Osborne is able to quickly respond to the needs of Superstorm Sandy victims with the help of social media.

      Social media make helping personal

      It has been in operation only since October 30, but the Facebook page for "Giving back to those affected by Sandy" has a longer timeline than most Facebook members.
    • Steph Goralnick

      Let's not forget Superstorm Sandy's victims

      It's important to remember that even as the effect of Superstorm Sandy recedes from the news, there are still devastated areas that are without electricity, heat or hot water.
    • Americares volunteers help clean out flood damaged homes in Queens, New York during Operation "Muck-Out"

      Volunteers help Sandy victims start over

      Our AmeriCares "Operation Muck-Out" team immediately got to work, ripping out the interior walls and removing the insulation until only wooden beams were standing.
    • exp point harlow murray sandy_00013211

      Trying to keep the family business afloat

      Ashley Murray became the first female president of Liberty Industrial Gases and Welding Supplies Inc. in Brooklyn. But now the family history Murray was charged with preserving is at risk of ending after Superstorm Sandy.
    • Jeannette Van Houten and other residents of Union Beach, New Jersey, have found family photos such as this one scattered after Superstorms Sandy. They want to return them to their rightful owners.

      Finding joy among the wreckage

      The adage says "a picture is worth a thousand words," but when Leeann Lewandowski happened upon a photograph of her late mother on Facebook after her home was destroyed in Superstorm Sandy, she was speechless.