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Escape from New Orleans

<bt>When hurricane warnings turned dire, Robyn Bernstein packed a week’s worth of clothes, and left her car and the rest of her belongings in New Orleans.

A Churchill ‘03 graduate and junior at Tulane University, Robyn and her parents Kim and Bruce Bernstein were in New Orleans last week to help Robyn move into a new house. Forecasts about the arrival of Hurricane Katrina forced the Bernsteins to change plans quickly. “We weren’t really aware of how serious it was getting until Friday night,” Kim Bernstein said.

Robyn Bernstein was among the many Tulane upperclassmen who arrived a week early to move in, and Tulane freshmen moved into their dorms on Saturday morning. “They were told to move in and leave,” Kim Bernstein said.

All of the Bernsteins flew out of New Orleans on Saturday. Kim and Bruce Bernstein rescheduled their flight back to Washington a day earlier, and Robyn Bernstein flew to Florida to stay with one of her college friends.

“Everything she’s got is down there,” Kim Bernstein said. “Now I’ve got to figure out whether we’re going to have to start all over again.”

Still, some perspective was in order once the Bernsteins reached their respective destinations. Robyn was concerned over her belongings, but Kim Bernstein told her, “It’s just stuff. … Consider yourself lucky that we got out.”

THE STORM PASSED south of New Orleans Monday morning, causing serious damage there, but less than officials had feared. The more severe impact, including more than an unknown number of fatalities, was in Mississippi's gulf coastal region.

A team of 35 rescuers from Montgomery County's Maryland Task Force One — an urban search and rescue team — departed to assist in the relief operations Tuesday.

The team is one of about 30 local search and rescue teams in the nation organized under the auspices of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Several others, including one from Fairfax County, Va., have also left to assist in the hurricane relief.

The Montgomery County team left at 11 a.m. Monday for Camp Shelby, Miss., about 70 miles inland from Biloxi.

The team, traveling with about 40,000 pounds of equipment, expected a 12-15 hour continuous drive, and a stay of 10-14 days. The team is self-contained and prepared to provide their own food and housing while running HAZMAT, canine, and other specialized search and rescue operations.

They are based out of Station 31 on Darnestown Road.

ROBYN BERNSTEIN also evacuated school last year when a hurricane threatened New Orleans. Like many Tulane students, she went to Austin, Texas. The drive, which normally takes about six hours, took 17 hours during the evacuation.

Kim Bernstein appreciated how the Tulane University operated in an emergency situation. “I think the university has done a wonderful job. They have a Web site that monitors the weather [and] they give play-by-plays and keep everyone informed about what’s happening,” Kim Bernstein said.

By Monday morning, as the hurricane passed just south of the city, the university announced that it would not reopen until next Wednesday at the earliest.