Locals unmoved by Hurricane Isaac

Meeting "Fred" or is it "Isaac" the skeleton as hurricane bears down on Mississippi.


    Sometimes in this job you stumble upon a story that is just too good to be true - except, guess what, it turns out to be true after all - and then it becomes just a total pleasure to report. This happened to me, producer Tom Szypulski and cameraman Gordon Durnin, in Mississippi today.

    Relieved of our live TV duties for a few hours we took the SUV to see what damage Hurricane Isaac was doing to the coastal towns of Gulfport and Biloxi near where we were staying.

    The wind was so fierce it whipped spray off the Gulf and we could hardly see through the front window as we drove along the seafront.

    Standing water was everywhere - traffic lights simply blinked - and it sounded as if a freight train was passing-by permanently.

    Tom, who was driving, ended up following some railway tracks through Long Beach township, when we came across a set of bright lights and a group of people standing in the rain outside the New Alibi bar.

    Inside, customers were hunkering down for a game of pool and a few beers.

    Mississippians, you see, are relaxed about storms like Isaac, which they've seen come and go before.

    Mary Jimmerson, the barmaid of seven years, told me: "We just pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and keep on going - that's all we can do."

    But the New Alibi has a unique selling point that sits right inside the door - just as you come in - keeping a beady eye on everyone who enters. It's Fred - and he's what you might call a part of the bar's skeleton staff. That's because Fred IS a skeleton!

    Fay McDaniel, who owns New Alibi with her husband Mack, told me: "We dress him for every occasion, you know, (October 31) he has his wig and Halloween stuff on - Mardi Gras he wears a big green jester suit ... but today (in recognition of the storm) he's Isaac (with a yellow protective rain suit and a US flag between his teeth)."

    As we spoke, Fay and Mack were getting ready to serve their customers free barbecue. They don't have a food licence so they give it away to their regulars.

    As the smoke billowed from the grill in their undercover porch, and with the rain coming down even harder, they reflected on "Isaac the storm" as being uninvited and outstaying his welcome.

    Isaac's been a very slow moving storm which has dumped far more rain than forecasters expected.

    And that's something they - nor any of their customers - would never even dream of saying about "Fred" - or is it "Isaac - the skeleton."





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