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Slidell Mayor On How His Louisiana City Is Preparing For Ida

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Heading northeast now to the city of Slidell, La. Sixteen years ago, that city was also battered by Hurricane Katrina, although much of the nation's attention after that storm was devoted to recovery efforts in nearby New Orleans. Now, though, Slidell is bracing again for extreme wind, flooding and power outages as Ida makes landfall. Greg Cromer is the mayor of Slidell, and he is with us now.

Mr. Mayor, welcome. Thank you so much for joining us.

GREG CROMER: Thank you, ma'am. It's good to be with you today.

MARTIN: So, first of all, where are you? And how are you?

CROMER: We are on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. And we're sitting on the west side of Pearl River. In fact, we'll have some flooding from the Pearl River into some of our lower-lying areas with all the rain we're getting.

MARTIN: Yeah. So I was going to ask, what are you seeing now? What's going on now as we speak?

CROMER: Some of the camps and houses along the lakefront are losing shingles off their roofs already. We're expected to get about a 5 1/2-foot surge sometime between now and midnight tonight. So there is going to be a lot more water coming into and around our community. So we probably won't get many homes with water in them. But folks will be locked in their homes for a short period of time until the water recedes.

MARTIN: Sixteen years ago, Slidell was hit pretty hard by Katrina. And you were council president during Katrina and the aftermath. I'm just wondering how that experience may have shaped your thinking about now, like what should happen now. Or did it inform your thinking in some way?

CROMER: Sure, sure. Absolutely. I mean, it - so much has changed in that 16 years, though. The federal government has learned an awful lot about how to respond to disasters and are better prepared to support us. We've got a hurricane incident plan that we use and put together based on our experiences from Katrina. So we are very well-prepared for if we do have a catastrophic event.

When the faith-based organizations and the relief organizations come in, we know where we want to stage them, where they'll have the most benefit to reach the people in the community that need it the most. In Katrina, when these organizations started bringing relief supplies in, we didn't know where to put them. So it's really enabled us to put together a fairly sound plan to support and take care of our residents, our community.

MARTIN: Is there any part of you, though, that - I mean, I see - you know, you signed up for this. And, you know, you were there before, and here you are again. But was there any part of you that said, oh, no?

CROMER: Oh, absolutely. Every time you see a storm come in the Gulf, you start to get a little weak in the knees. And your stomach churns a bit. And so, yeah, you - any time you have something like this that could be a life-changing event for your community and for your citizens, you're absolutely worried for your friends, your neighbors that may lose their homes, may lose loved ones. And you feel for those people.

MARTIN: So before I let you go, what are you doing to take care of yourself?

CROMER: My wife and my daughter and her son, they're all in - at my home right now that's just a couple of blocks from our public works building here. And unless the weather gets real bad, they'll weather the storm at home. The home held up very well throughout Katrina. Probably at some time this evening, we'll lose power in most of the community. And I'll lose power at home. And I'll go get them tonight, and they can sleep on the floor in my office with me. We take care of each other here. So that's how I'm taking care of myself.

MARTIN: That is Greg Cromer, who's the mayor of Slidell, La. Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for talking with us. I hope things go well for you and yours.

CROMER: Thank you very much.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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