I was in my hotel about 5:30 p.m. Friday night in New Orleans when I heard a loud explosion. Really loud, about as loud a noise as I had ever heard. I went to the window and looked down, fourteen stories, to the intersection of Iberville and Royal. Smoke had started billowing from a large grate, filling the sky, but it was possible to catch glimpses of flame beneath the street. The response to whatever was happening seemed somewhat sluggish. Attendants from a parking garage on Iberville stopped traffic from moving forward, but that was about it.
Then the lights went out. I grabbed my cell phone and my room key and left. I risked the elevators, which were still working, and went downstairs. No one was being allowed to leave the hotel by the front doors, on Royal Street, so I went out the side exit to Bienville.
Almost twenty-four hours later, a large swath of the French Quarter is still without power. We’re in another hotel and you won’t catch me bitching about being inconvenienced by a power outage, not in this city. The problem is probably the result of heavy rains Thursday night; we heard an Entergy guy saying into his cell phone that “water got into the chamber.”
But I won’t stop thinking for a while about those first five minutes after the explosion, how tricky it was to figure out whether to go or stay. I would have been safe in my room, as it turned out, but I decided I liked the options afforded being on the street, as opposed to the single option of being fourteen floors above whatever was happening. But I can see how hard it would be to make any decision in a true emergency.
Anyone here ever have to think and act quickly with little or no information available? Did you make the best choices?