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Remembering Katrina, Louisianans Prepare For Isaac


We're going to stay on the Gulf Coast for a moment. Earlier today we caught up Acy Cooper. He's a shrimp boat captain. And when we reached him, he had sought safe harbor on the intercoastal waterway near Belle Chasse. As you just heard, many of the locals have braved these storms before and Cooper is no exception. He lives in the town of Venice, but today we found the captain docked on his boat far inland from his home.

ACY COOPER: We just had to get away from the coast because it's definitely going to get bad. You know how Katrina was, we lost a lot of vessels and, you know, we can lose our homes, but we can't lose our boats. This is our way of life. We have to have them. Without the home and without the boat, then we have no way to start over again.

BLOCK: Now, what's the weather doing as we're talking?

COOPER: At home, I'm talking back and forth to people at my house in Venice and the lights just went out. The telephone goes down when the light's out so it's starting to get pretty bad down there now. And where we're at now, we're probably got around 50 miles an hour winds. It's just starting. (Unintelligible) is just starting to come through, so we're getting a lot of rain and it's gusting to maybe 55, 60 miles an hour. So it's just starting to hit where we're at now.

BLOCK: And Mr. Cooper, are you planning to stay on your boat?

COOPER: Yes, ma'am. We're going to stay with the vessels. I have my father's vessel and my son's vessel tied on the side. I mean, we're just going to hunker down until the wind calms down enough for us to get back down the river to get that buoy (unintelligible).

BLOCK: So even though this is looking to be a category one, no question for you, you wanted your family to get out of Venice.

COOPER: Oh, yes. You know, there's some places this storm that will pass east of the Mississippi River. It's not so bad on us on the lower end down there because we stick out into the Gulf, you know. But if it passes on the west side of the river, then that's the water side and that's just how Katrina came. It came from the bank side, which would be the west side of the path and that's when the water comes up to the levees and comes over.

And that's one thing we want to make sure, you know. Smaller storms, we don't have any issue, but if it comes up to 85 to 100 mile an hour wind, we have to get your kids and all, you know, family has to get out of there because, you know, you can't save anything in that kind of weather anyway. So the best thing to do is just go ahead and get out of harm's way.

BLOCK: Mr. Cooper, what happened to your house during Katrina?

COOPER: We lost it. It was pretty much wiped out. We lost just about everything we had. We had to come back and start from scratch. You know, we hate to see it done like that but we can do it again. We really don't want to do that. We just hope and pray that it goes on around and doesn't hurt us too bad.

BLOCK: You know, I remember when I met you two years ago down in Venice, seeing lots of houses that are way, way, way off the ground now. How much higher is your house now off the ground than it was when you - than it was before Katrina?

COOPER: It's not much higher. We pretty much put it back on the same platform that I had. It's a trailer, you know. We're not going to build a home again. We're just going to get some house trailers and live up in that. We fishermen, we have to live next to the coast so we don't want to put a whole lot into something that we may lose in two or three years, or five years. I know it's been seven years since Katrina.

It don't seem like that long, but we just can't afford to go build anything too big and have to worry about it every time you turn around because, you know how we are in these storms in the Gulf. They come and they go, but we see a pretty many of them a year we have to evacuate.

BLOCK: So do you figure if the flooding is bad in Venice, what's going to happen to your trailer?

COOPER: We're going to have to start over again. We just have to take it out and get another and put it back in place and try to get back on track again, you know. It's hard to do all the time and we do it because, you know, we have to live there. You know, being a fisherman, we have to live next to the coast. The water gives us our life and I guess it takes it away. So we learn just to deal with it.

BLOCK: Well, Mr. Cooper, thank you again and please stay safe.

COOPER: All right. Thank you all for having me tonight. We're going to be okay.

BLOCK: That's shrimp boat captain, Acy Cooper, speaking with me earlier today from his boat, the Miss Marla Kay(ph) near Belle Chasse, Louisiana. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.