Sunday Night- Monday Morning
After most of those who had vehicles or other ways to get out of town, everyone at the radio station began focusing on what the rest of the night and Monday had in store for the city.
Rob, Shane, Daniel and Justin were handling all of the on-air duties at this point. I would guess it was around 10 pm that we started getting word from Accuweather that this might be a direct hit on the city. We were also in constant contact with elected officials in some of the lower-lying areas of Southeast Louisiana. We began getting reports out of Plaqumines Parish around midnight of higher storm surges and the winds at that point had really picked up. We also were talking calls from area residents who decided to ride out the storm. The one that stands out to me more than the others was Bert. Bert was from St Bernard Parish, Arabi actually and was in constant contact with us at the station.
The studio in Metairie lost electrical power around 2 or 3 in the morning. Obviously, it was pitch black around our area. When we lost power, I had the generator ready to go so it was rather quickly that we got back on the air. We had received reports that the Government Designated Emergency Management Station had went off the air around 11p and that they were still not up. It was everyone at the stations understanding that we were the only AM station in New Orleans still broadcasting and that we were the only broadcast entity still remaining in the New Orleans area. We understood how important the information we were broadcasting was to the area and in my opinion, the station staff was fantastic.
When power is lost at a radio station, generally all heck breaks loose. In this case, it was even worse. Phones systems, TV Monitors, computers, anything that runs off of electricity started buzzing. While we got back on the air quickly, getting power to just the essential pieces of equipment was a challenge. With only a flash light to work with, no "fresh" air at all, I think I might have sweated 20 lbs out within an hour trying to make sure that we would not waste any back up power feeding non-essential equipment. It was a continuing process throughout the morning.
Around 4am we began receiving phone calls from around the country and across the globe. Radio stations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington Dc, Chicago, etc.... along with the BBC Australia, BBC Europe, Denmark, Mexico, Canada were all in constant contact with us as we reported to the world what was happening to New Orleans.
The winds picked up considerably as we got closer to day light. I went outside around 5 am (which in New Orleans is usually the beginning of the day brightening up) but on this day, the sky remained pitch black.
Our Accuweather Meterologists were on top of this storm from the get go and around 5 ish I think (please forgive my unsureness about some time's) they told the Station Staff and our listeners that Katrina had made somewhat of a "eastern" turn. We all took a big sign of relief - a direct hit on the city was everyones major concern. As the eye passed Buras LA, which we think was around 6 30 am, I saw some things that still baffle me. Never before in my life had I seen rain drops being suspended in mid-air. Yes, I could actually see the rain drops frozen in time for a second or two as the winds (which were swirling now at angles and strength that shacked me) would "hold" the raindrop as it was heading to the ground. I have never seen anything like it before.
We were continuing our broadcasting in the New Orleans area as well as doing live reports for radio stations around the world. Daniel did a live report with a station in Brazil I think. The only problem was his spanish was very limited. He got through it but there is no telling what listeners to that radio station heard. Hahahaha
The morning became a little brighter around 730. We were doing a simulcast with Neal Boortz out of Atlanta at that time and we could see some of the damage in our little area in Metairie. The water had already risen at that point to about 2 to 3 feet close to I-10. In the Clearview Mall shopping center, water was around 5 feet probably. The Mall sits lower that where we were located. Being able to somewhat look around, I knew that this was bad.
I've been through Hurricanes all of my life. I grew up in Louisiana and have lived most of my life there. I knew that if the water was already this high and the eye of Katrina was just getting close, that major damage was in store.
I had a battery operated radio always close by so we could monitor our own on-air status. At about 8:30 am CST Monday Morning, AM 690 WTIX stopped broadcasting Hurricane Katrina Storm coverage. I wouldn't know why until many days later. The stations towers and transmitter building had been completely destroyed.
Monday afternoon till Evacuation in my next update.