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Louisiana urged to prepare

Responders in Louisiana were warily watching Tropical Storm Rita - but they also vowed to keep the faith in recovery.

BY SUSAN KIM | BATON ROUGE, Louisiana | September 19, 2005

"You have to live each day and be prepared."

—Rev. Darryl Tate

Responders in Louisiana were warily watching Tropical Storm Rita - but they also vowed to keep the faith in recovery.

Rita could pass south of the Florida Keys by Tuesday, head into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, grow into a major hurricane, and make landfall - perhaps in Texas - as soon as the weekend.

Though Rita may miss the areas devastated by Katrina, forecasters also urged Louisiana to prepare.

Wind and rain along the Louisiana coastline could swirl debris around, hamper recovery efforts, and increase the already-pronounced psychological trauma.

Emergency management officials expressed concern that, if New Orleans receives more rain, weakened levees will not hold.

On his first official day as director of the United Methodist Storm Recovery Center - set up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana - the Rev. Darryl Tate was moving forward with recovery efforts, even as he watched the new storm.

"You can't let that be the driving force of your worries or your anxieties," he said. "You have to live each day and be prepared. We know there's always that possibility - a tropical storm or a heavy rain or a hurricane."

Nevertheless, Tate said he reminds himself - and others - that it's still hurricane season. "But you can't let that be the fear factor. You have to keep the faith. You have to have hope. You've got to go through the motions of recovery."

Tate, a displaced New Orleans resident himself, said he remembers evacuating when Hurricane Ivan threatened the city last year. "Living in New Orleans, you always know there is a possibility. You know the scenario of a Category 5 storm. The possibility of devastation was always part of our life there."

When Tate and his family evacuated from Katrina, they thought they'd be home in a few days. "We only packed for three days. Last year, we came back and everything was fine. This year, we were going to stay if it was less than a Category 3."

But when Katrina ballooned into a Category 5 monster storm, Tate and his family got out. "That Sunday morning, I told my wife - let's get going. We had a prayer service, then we got out."

Tate was pastor at St. Lukeís United Methodist Church on Canal Blvd. in New Orleans. Now heís living a couple hours away - in Lafayette, Louisiana.

"The Asbury United Methodist Church helped me find housing," he said.

His church took in several feet of water, and his home in New Orleans was engulfed up to the middle of the roof. He hasnít been back yet, he said.

"I'm going on Thursday for the first time to look at the church. I'm not ready to look at the house yet," he said.

"And now," he added, "now there's another hurricane approaching the Gulf."

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