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He Survived Hurricane Katrina. Now He's Dealing With Ida

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

We spoke with an old friend this week, Randy Adams of New Orleans - first came on our show soon after Hurricane Katrina struck his beloved hometown in August 2005. And Randy drove his wife, his father, his wife's uncle, his son, his son's girlfriend and the five Adams family dogs in a two-car caravan to take shelter in Memphis. We were impressed by Randy's humor, humility and eye for detail and have kept in touch over the years and, of course, wanted to speak with him this week in the wake of Hurricane Ida.

Randy Adams, thanks for joining us. And how are you and your family doing?

RANDY ADAMS: Well, we alive, so thank God. And thank all y'all for letting us come on and talk about it. Physically, we fine. Mentally, we kind at the edge of the limit. All of us just recovered from the pandemic, and we just started getting back on our feet good. My wife worked the whole time because she's in the front line right there, face to face, cheek to cheek with COVID every single day.

SIMON: Yeah.

ADAMS: And finally started making some turnaround, and now this here - obviously, the economic impact is (scoffing). And loss of life was very minimal. And physical damage to the buildings in New Orleans and in our region is bad - I mean, terrible. But it's not Katrina bad. However, everybody's running on generators 'cause we have no electricity because of the massive damage to the infrastructure - and then, you know, the cost of trying to live on a generator.

SIMON: Yeah.

ADAMS: It takes about $60 a day for the generator and the car and the gas you burn going to get the gas to keep the generator going.

SIMON: Your wife's in health care, we'll underscore, and as you said, had a hell of a year and a half even leading up to this, right?

ADAMS: Oh, yeah. You know, we've been together a very long time. And I love my wife.

SIMON: Yeah.

ADAMS: But I didn't know her true grit till she had to use it. She's phenomenal.

SIMON: Randy, this is a delicate question, but do you have enough to eat?

ADAMS: For now we do. That's the main thing we keep on the generator - the freezer, the refrigerator and two window-unit air conditioners - one in the back in my room and one in the kitchen all the way at the other end. And I'm really scared this is going to be the straw that breaks the back for a lot, a lot of people, myself included.

SIMON: What do you - when you say the straw that breaks your back...

ADAMS: You know, that this is it, man - what are we going to do? We can't leave. We can't go to a hotel because she has to be here to work. I understand that. I know the cost of moving all the COVID patients would be phenomenal. What I don't know is, what is the cost of expendable human life? You know, I'd like to know what my life is worth a little bit. We can fuel the aircraft carriers in the Arctic, but we can't get water and fuel to people who are living in America.

We knew hurricane season was coming. We know, due to global climate change, they are getting more intense. But we don't take no steps. You know, we wait till the school bus goes over the bridge to say, we probably need to put a rail in on that bridge. But we needed to have an overall big plan. Every hospital is full of COVID patients. There's nowhere to move them - none. Forest fires...

SIMON: Yeah.

ADAMS: ...Floods in Tennessee, nor'easters in Boston - emergencies happen. They all have COVID patients, too. And now you got a whole city full of COVID patients running on backup generators that are driven by mechanical engines that are subject to fail. It's pretty frightening.

SIMON: Randy, I'm really worried to hear you say that this could be the straw that breaks your back. I don't like the sound of that. What do you mean?

ADAMS: I'm not going to jump - no, no, don't quit - I'm not going jump off the bridge. I don't mean that. I mean just to the point where you go, where do I turn? What do I do next?

SIMON: Yeah. What would you like people around the country who have gotten to know you on our show over the years to know this weekend?

ADAMS: Well, if I was in college, we used to say, hey, send money. But I would say, send gas.

SIMON: (Laughter) I don't know how to fill an envelope and do that, Randy. I'm sorry (laughter).

ADAMS: I'm not really sure how you mail gasoline, either.

SIMON: Randy, let's talk sometimes when it's just fun, OK (laughter)?

ADAMS: Yeah. We got to quit meeting like this.

SIMON: Randy Adams, the soul of New Orleans - thank you so much, Randy.

ADAMS: NOLA strong.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE LIBRARY TAPES' "RUNNING BY THE ROADS, RUNNING BY THE FIELDS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.