After an Anxious Boat Trip Home, Jubilation

By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 3, 2008

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 2 -- They came home aboard a skiff, a determined father and his burly son rocking for hours Tuesday morning across the still-violent waves of Lake Pontchartrain. They worried themselves sick. Would it happen again? A flooded garage, again. A shredded roof, again. Snakes and rats swimming in their front lawn, again.

With only the dirty shirts on their backs and rubber waders on their feet, Anthony and Brandon Rodi raced to see whether Hurricane Gustav replayed the horrors of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated their home in Venetian Isles, a quiet middle-class neighborhood prone to flooding along the marshes on the eastern edge of New Orleans.

"We couldn't even talk about it," Brandon Rodi, 26, said of their worries on their four-hour journey home from Slidell, where they rode out the storm. The roads were so flooded that they could arrive only by boat.

"Five minutes ago, we didn't know what we were coming home to," he said. "We had no idea in the world. . . . We were scared to death."

"We didn't even know if we'd have a house," said his father, a 45-year-old crane operator.

The concrete garden statue of a lion had fallen over in the driveway, and Brandon, a machinist, picked it back up. Then they opened the garage door. There were only a couple of inches of mud water on the floor. The American and Confederate flags still hung in the windows. The green swing still swayed from the ceiling.

Suddenly, the Rodis expressed relief and jubilation.

"It's a glorious feeling," said Anthony, his thick brown hair blowing in the breeze on his front lawn. "I'm gonna get drunk tonight."

"It does feel good!" his son cheered, chuckling before going upstairs to fetch a 20-pack of Bud Light.

After the fury of Hurricane Katrina, which wreaked havoc on most homes in this waterfront community, residents of Venetian Isles who braved the waterlogged roads to return by pickup truck or boat celebrated their good fortune.

Jim Roos, 82, a widower twice over, was one of the few residents to resist the mandatory evacuation order.

"This is my home," said Roos, a retired jazz and symphony musician who has survived many a hurricane in his decades in Venetian Isles. "A captain doesn't abandon his ship."

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