New Orleans Convention Center to Bounce Back Quickly After Gustav; Mobile, AL Convention Center Open for Business

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR
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New Orleans, LA – The staff of the New Orleans Morial Convention Center was tentatively expected to be back on the job Thursday. September 4, following the city’s Labor Day battering by Hurricane Gustav.

Tim Hemphill, vice president, sales & marketing for the center, told Trade Show Executive Tuesday that the facility appeared to have weathered the storm well. “Superficial damage was sustained,” he said. “But all systems are operable at 100%.”

A more-detailed estimate of damage to the convention center and downtown hotels was not immediately available, but it appeared the Crescent City avoided any serious damage.

“No significant damage to the hospitality infrastructure of New Orleans has been reported at this time and it is not anticipated that the storm will have any impact on the Fall convention and meetings calendar,”  was the latest update posted by the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau on its website late Monday.

The status report added: “The reopening of hotels will depend on the mayor lifting the evacuation order. Then properties will make individual decisions as to when to reopen based on the return of staff and other variables.”

The convention center noted on its website that Wednesday would not be a work day and advised evacuated employees to “adhere to your parish governments’ rules for re-entry.”

There were no trade shows or other major events taking place over the holiday weekend in New Orleans or most other venues in the region. The convention center was used as a headquarters for the Louisiana National Guard during the storm and was not opened up as a public shelter as was the case during Hurricane Katrina three years ago.

Utility crews from across the United States were streaming into the greater New Orleans area Tuesday while the task of cleaning up debris in the streets got underway. Thousands of New Orleans evacuees were still waiting for the green light to return to the city. Media reports Tuesday said shelters such as the Dallas Convention Center were already beginning to empty out.

In Mobile, AL, some 200 miles from New Orleans, the city and its waterfront Arthur R. Outlaw Mobile Convention Center received a good soaking from Gustav, but apparently came through unscathed. “The center’s parking garage had a couple feet of water and debris from Mobile Bay,” said General Manager Bob Brazier. “The lower level carpet took on a little water from the wind blowing water under the doors. Other than that, we are fine and open for business.”

Meanwhile, at least two other tropical weather systems posed potential hurricane threats to the U.S. coast. Tropical Storm Hannah was forecast to strike the Atlantic Coast in northern Georgia or South Carolina sometime around Friday night and potentially roll north into North Carolina and Virginia. Tropical Storm Ike was in the mid-Atlantic Tuesday and on track to enter the Gulf of Mexico over the weekend.

Reach Tim Hemphill at (504) 582-3023 or themphill@mccno.com; Bob Brazier at (251) 208-2100 or bbrazier@mobileconventions.com