New Orleans gay party threatened by tropical storm

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

As tropical storm Gustav barrels towards America’s Gulf coast, the organisers of the New Orleans Southern Decadence gay celebration are watching its every move very carefully.

Three years ago, almost to the day, the Southern Decadence festival was cancelled when Hurricane Katrina hit the city full-force, resulting in one of the nation’s most devastating natural disasters.

Although Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has already declared a state of emergency to prepare for a possible Gustav hit, so far Southern Decadence organisers say the celebration is still on track.

Governor Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency on Wednesday in Louisiana, putting 3,000 National Guard troops on standby as Gustav continued its trek toward the Gulf coast.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin cut short his stay at the Democratic National Convention in Denver to return to his home city.

Emergency shelters are being readied and evacuation plans are ready to be implemented should Gustav continue its path toward New Orleans.

Friday will mark the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005, leaving more than 1,800 people dead and displacing tens of thousands of residents.

In New Orleans, nearly 80 percent of the city was flooded when almost every levee protecting the city failed.

Many of those evacuated from New Orleans, which suffered the greatest damage from the storm, never returned. The culture and demographic makeup of the city was changed forever.

Although Gustav is currently at tropical storm strength, forecasters expect the storm to strengthen to a possible category three or higher hurricane before striking the US coast somewhere between Florida and Texas.

Current tracking projects Gustav to make landfall sometime on Tuesday morning.

Officials in Louisiana are preparing to begin evacuations of New Orleans and other threatened locations as early as Friday.

A mandatory evacuation of New Orleans will be given 60 hours in advance if the storm is expected to threaten the city.

In 2005, the Southern Decadence gay celebration in New Orleans was officially cancelled due to Hurricane Katrina. Nonetheless, a rag-tag group from the LGBT community staged a parade through the French Quarter in the midst of the hurricane’s destruction.

The parade was noted as the first in the city following Katrina’s devastating hit on New Orleans.

Southern Decadence re-launched in 2006 to mass celebration, attracting a near-normal crowd of participants. Southern Decadence 2008’s theme is Decadence Does Disco.

Although organisers are currently keeping a “watchful eye on Gustav,” there are currently no plans to cancel any of the events.

Information on any changes will be posted to the Southern Decadence web site.

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