Siblings escape storm

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A local mom breathed a special sigh of relief when her "chicks came home to roost" last weekend.

All three of Judge Ed and Burke "Sweetie" McFerrin's children live in New Orleans.

Harris, Burke and Buzzie McFerrin all made their way safely to Greenville, accompanied by friends, pets and "a few clothes."

They just aren't sure what they'll find once they return to Louisiana.

"They don't know what's left back there, but the important thing is, they are all OK," Sweetie McFerrin said on Monday.

Since arriving on Saturday, the three found themselves largely glued to the Manningham Road home's TV sets, anxious for any news from the Big Easy.

"I think this one took everyone by surprise," Richard Wong, Buzzie's boyfriend and fellow evacuee, said on Monday afternoon. Wong, who grew up in New Orleans, said this is the first hurricane he could remember that caused him "real concerns."

"I do remember once when I was younger – and I'm not sure which storm it was – when my family left the city and came to Tuscaloosa. That's been it," Wong, whose parents had also evacuated their St. Charles Parish home, said.

"I know my family is headed north, so I think they're OK. Their cell phone is on the fritz," Wong said.

The New Orleans native expects the low-lying city to be a soggy place for a long time to come.

"Once that ground gets saturated, there is no place for water to go. It can take days, weeks, to dry out – and I'm assuming the same thing has happened this time," Wong said.

The New Orleans residents were worried about the state of their lakefront housing.

"I saw where the FOX News crew is staying at the hotel where I work, so that at least is OK," Buzzie, a pastry chef, commented.

"Antsy" and "anxious" are two good words to describe the mood of the evacuees.

"Basically, we haven't done anything except flip channels, looking for news about New Orleans," Burke said.

Sweetie McFerrin laughed. "Since the kids have been here, I can honestly say I can't find any of the remote controls or the phones – and you can quote me on that."

Buzzie wriggled in her seat as scenes of damage in the French Quarter flashed on the screen.

"I just wish somebody would show where we live. This is driving me nuts…I want to know if I have a submarine condo," she said with a wry smile.

New Orleans residents wielding shopping carts, apparently filled with stolen merchandise, appeared on television.

"Ah, the looters are out in force already," Wong said, shaking his head.

"And that's exactly why you all should be here right now," Sweetie said firmly.

As the lights flickered and the cable images were replaced with fuzzy gray static.

"It's hard not knowing. I'm on the third floor, but I may have a convertible condo," Burke quipped.

As they waited for the cable to come back on, the New Orleans contingent wondered what the total economic impact of Katrina would be on their city.

"You know, tourist season really starts kicking in soon, normally, with things going on right up until Mardi Gras. You wonder how it's going to affect things," Wong said.

"What about all those Mardi Gras floats they keep in those warehouses -" Buzzie said.

"And they're right on the levee," Burke added.

She turned back to the blank screen and clicked the remote.

"Maybe the cable is back on. Maybe there's news about us," Burke said, a wistful look on her face.

"I don't think any of us were expecting it to be this bad…I don't think New Orleans is ever going to be the same," Sweetie said.

"I'm afraid the kids' homes are gone. But they still have each other. They can get other places to live and other jobs if they have to. I'm just so glad they are all safe," their mother said.