Is seven an unlucky number for the city of New Orleans? As freshmen walk out of the dorms they've freshly decorated and into their first university classes, enjoying their newly-found freedom, they are aware that their first week in school might be a different but not unique one.
Exactly seven years to the day that Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, claiming more than 1,800 lives and causing over $81 billion in damages, the school is preparing for a frightening repeat.
With Hurricane Isaac threatening to hit the port city late Tuesday night, Tulane University has cancelled classes after 5 p.m. Monday, and all day Tuesday and Wednesday, the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
Unlike their wild predecessors of the pre-Katrina days, who would throw "hurricane parties" inviting friends to ride out the storm by filling bath tubs with alcoholic "Hurricane" punch, students now eerily eye their cell phones and await text messages from friends to confirm an empty seat in their escape car, while parents frantically try to reserve a flight out of Louis Armstrong International Airport in case this year will be a repeat of 2005.
For the many new to New Orleans who have been enjoying the mild breeze of a sweet summer afternoon in the South, it is difficult to think much about how the 2005 freshman suffered in their first week of college. Today's new Tulane students were only children, 12 or 13 years old, in August 2005, and they are preparing for the hurricane by loading up on bottles of whiskey and wine, not water.
One 19-year-old chemistry major fresh from his first college class said, "It will be fun. A bunch of guys are stocking up on liquor for the lockdown on our floor... nobody's worried."
Most people with hurricane war stories load into the city's many bars to wade out the storm, and in 2005 many did just this as Katrina hit. What came next was displacement, loss, and chaos. Isaac is not anticipated to carry the same gravity as Katrina, but University Board members assure, "we are well-prepared."
"I remember gas stations being out of gas all the way up to Lafayette... but imagine getting accepted into your college of choice and then being told -- sorry -- your college is gone," said Thomas West, 25, of Fort Worth, Texas.
As Isaac begins approaching the shore and the weather starts to sour, Tulane will begin implementing its precautionary steps, specifically, launching its residence hall lockdowns.
First-year students at Tulane are required to live on campus, and they will be held in their residence halls with a mandatory lockdown to ride out the storm. Administrators have made sure to provide provisions for the expected duration of the lockdown. If the case becomes extreme buses have been prepped to evacuate students to a satellite school in Jackson, Miss.
These freshmen are ready for an experience, a survival story, and are not expecting much danger from their first hurricane. However, there are some who, along with their parents, are unfamiliar with hurricane operations and are only privy to the photos of the 2005 devastation. Rather than run around with a sandbag in one hand and a rum punch in the other, there are those that have after one day surrendered their new-found freedoms to avoid Isaac's potential danger and fled New Orleans.
Thirty-four-year-old student government adviser and Flash Call Counter Representative Jered Bocage said, "We have a shelter-in-place strategy... but there's no reason for [the storm] to last longer than 24 hours. Each track has moved west consistently for the past 36 hours. We are expecting wind and rain, but not too bad."
However, this sort of fear and anxiety should be expected, especially with the infamous date predicted for Isaac's strike. However, seasoned NOLA residents and hurricane veterans have voiced their frustration with the situation.
"I've seen worse with less coverage," said Jennifer Suder of Blackwater Midstream, who has lived in New Orleans since 1982. "There are people waiting 40 minutes for gas. I've never seen this before. This is ridiculous; it's the media."
The city is prepared, the university is ready, now the freshmen need only bunker down to ride out their first hurdle in college. It's not always simple in the "Big Easy," but for West it was worth it.
"It was not a kid's normal 'first year' of college, but I am proud to call myself a Tulane Alum. Only at Tulane, only in New Orleans does an experience like that take place."