TITLE: LOUISIANA MONEY MOUTH AND KATRINA'S BIG BLOW
The humidity hung like a noose around Arlen Phelp's sweat-stained collar. Just below him, cars packed with heartbreak and panic jammed the interstate. Arlen had a cell phone to his ear.
"Johnny, it'll be blowing before you get near a pump."
"Then hold my place in line," Johnny said over the phone.
Arlen glanced at the gas starved motorists behind him. His lips thinned with pain. The improvised bandage was too loose. Sweat was dripping into the bullet wound.
"They got a cop here, Johnny. Limit's twenty gallons per customer. Youâ're not getting fuel before she hits."
"Then what am I supposed to do?" Johnny said. "This damn thing came up out of nowhere."
Arlen frowned. Like everyone else around New Orleans, Johnny had expected Katrina's path to shift, hurricanes always did. Only this storm didn't jog and Katrina's fury was coming to the Big Easy. Nobody was ready.
A woman and child walked through the police barricades on the interstate's exit ramp. Arlen watched them head toward the gas station where he stood. The woman had a red gas can cradled under her arm like an out of fashion purse. She was pulling along a girl with sandy hair and freckles. The child was exhausted, an anchor with two legs.