August 31, 2008 / 9:25 PM / 9 years ago

Gustav holdouts turn to guns, knives and God

By Tim Gaynor and Matthew Bigg

NEW ORLEANS, Aug 31 (Reuters) - If the floodwaters rise and trap him in his home by the Mississippi River levee, carpenter Juan LeBoeuf plans to bust out through the roof with a knife.

Bar owner Joann Guidos has a cache of guns to protect her place from looters who roam a city emptied by evacuations ahead of Hurricane Gustav.

Window cleaner Julio Iglesia, who plans to stay in his rented home a block from the mighty Mississippi, is putting his faith in God.

They have been through the horrors of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, losing houses and health in the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history.

Yet they refuse to move under an evacuation order less than 24 hours before another dangerous hurricane is expected to make landfall down the watery coast.

"Katrina was here, but God won't let that happen again," said Iglesia.

For a few, the choice to stay is a calculation not based on recklessness.

During Katrina, Guidos' Kajun's Pub stayed open, business boomed and the bar became something of a local landmark as well as a community center.

The worst part was the looting, not the foot (30 cm) of water on the bar floor. Guidos has a pistol, a knife and an assortment of guns in her house next door to the bar, including a sniper's rifle.

"I haven't shot anybody yet, but if I have to, I will. You have a lot of real idiots in this city," she said.

Gustav is forecast to land west of New Orleans on Monday, possibly as a Category 4 hurricane with wind speeds up to 155 mph (249 kph) and causing a 16-foot (5-metre) storm surge.

'ALL I HAVE'

LeBoeuf, the carpenter, was made homeless by Katrina, which killed 1,500 people and flooded 80 percent of the city after faulty levees gave way to the storm surge. The 27-year-old is too weary to move this time.

"Once you start your life over, it's hard to keep doing it, you know. This is all I have," he said, choking back tears.

But he thinks he has the skills and tools to get him through Gustav.

"I'm a strong swimmer. I'm prepared to bust through the attic," he said.

That was a survival skill that saved many lives of people who holed up in their attics as the water rose rapidly once the levees broke three years ago.

Seamstress Marilyn Stokes spent two days on her roof during Katrina, fighting fear and mosquitoes. She was then evacuated to Atlanta and only returned home in November last year. Since then, her husband has died.

She has no car and could have joined the thousands of other vulnerable people leaving the city with government help, but she was resigned to staying.

"This is my house," she said of her tiny place. "If I am going to lose it, I am going to lose it. I am tired."

But she predicted Gustav would surely make his mark.

"This storm is going to change my life," Stokes said. (Writing by Mary Milliken; editing by Jim Loney and Mohammad Zargham)



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