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Gustav sends evacuees to Hall

POSTED: September 5, 2008 5:01 a.m.
TOM REED/The Times

Aaron Plecenik looks up Sunday from watching coverage in his hotel room on the preparation of New Orleans for Hurricane Gustav. Plecenik has come to Gainesville from New Orleans to escape Hurricane Gustav.

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Fearing another Hurricane Katrina, electricians and friends Aaron Plecenik and David Green decided to leave New Orleans on Friday.

Plecenik, accompanied by Lisa James, Green, with Louise West, ended up in Gainesville, where Green lived and worked for nine years before going to New Orleans four years ago.

On Sunday, staying at Days Inn off Queen City Parkway in Gainesville, they watched MSNBC's coverage of the Gulf Coast's newest threat, Hurricane Gustav.

"There is going to be some trauma, real trauma," Green said. "These people can't take that no more."

Weather forecasters expect the storm to make landfall by midday today with frightful force, testing the three years of planning and rebuilding that followed Katrina's devastating blow to the Gulf Coast.

Col. Mike Edmondson, state police commander, said he believed that 90 percent of the population had fled the Louisiana coast. The exodus of 1.9 million people is the largest evacuation in state history, and thousands more had left from Mississippi, Alabama and flood-prone southeast Texas.

Green lived in New Orleans during Katrina. After fleeing that storm, he returned to help residents "get their houses together."

He and Plecenik recall running into dead bodies while doing work.

Many New Orleans residents have had enough. If Gustav causes havoc as predicted, "I don't think they're going to return to New Orleans like this again," Green said.

"They've just redone their houses - (they are) beautiful. We've done a lot of their houses," he said. "That hurricane hits, they've lost everything again."

After they learned of the evacuation, the friends gathered some clothes and headed on their way.

"Everything ... is in New Orleans. Who knows when we are going to get it?" said Plecenik. "Everything we own."

"I don't know what's going to turn out, how it's going to be, but it's not going to be good," Green said, occasionally shooting a glance to the TV screen.

The friends dismissed the idea of returning to New Orleans, especially if Gustav strikes with the same force as Katrina.

"The only reason we'd have to go back is money we're owed we have to collect," Green said. "A couple of jobs we had to do."

Plecenik said he and James might stay in the Gainesville area or go to Missouri, where James has family.

Green and West also are looking at working in the area.

"I don't mind cutting my losses, because my life is more important than my losses," Green said. "... You just never forget these things when they happen."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.




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