Hurricane Gustav did hit New Orleans head-on, but it proved to be a weaker storm than expected, and though there was damage, the levees, at least in the New Orleans area, held. The storm spawned a number of tornadoes, however, including ones that struck Gulf Breeze, Fort Walton Beach and Destin in Florida. We were beginning to get the rain in Memphis as well, so we cancelled our barbecue plans and decided to go out to Longhorn Steakhouse for dinner, since a new location had opened near Wolfchase Galleria.
Just beyond Big Sandy, I drove past a sprawling campus that signs announced as the International ALERT Academy, although signs on some of the fencing read “Property of Ambassador University.” I wasn’t sure what the International ALERT Academy was, but it was a big place.
In Longview, I was looking for a place to get coffee, but nothing was open, apparently because it was a Sunday. Driving up to Loop 281 looking for a Starbucks, I came upon a Jucy’s Hamburgers instead, and, seeing that they had won an award for having the best burgers in East Texas, I stopped and ate lunch there. I still wanted coffee, but in Marshall, nothing was open either, so I drove on into Greenwood, Louisiana to the flea market, and bought some records there, but all the vendors were closing early because of the approaching storm and the risk of flooding. Signs along the interstate announced that the shelters were already full in Shreveport and Bossier City, and buses of evacuees were being directed to the Alltel Center in Bossier City. I decided not to eat dinner in Shreveport, but I did stop at the PJ’s Coffee on Youree Drive for a breve latte, and on the TV there, Governor Jindal of Louisiana was warning that “this storm could be the worst one yet.” At Ruston, I began encountering outer bands of the hurricane, with rain and heavy wind in places, and I decided not to eat at Monroe either, but to go on into Jackson, since I felt that I would be fighting sleepiness after eating.
In Jackson, all the storm shelters were full and people were being advised to go further north. I stopped at a Lone Star Steakhouse for dinner, and the restaurant was full of people from Louisiana who were running from the storm. Rain was fairly steady from then on, and traffic was practically bumper-to-bumper on I-55 north as people were fleeing the coast. Periodically we passed cars that had broken down along the side of the road, and I stopped at Batesville for an energy drink, and then drove on into Memphis.
On the internet at home, I learned that the International ALERT Academy I had passed earlier in Texas was affiliated with Christian evangelist Bill Gothard, and was a military-style training camp for young people who were then sent around the world to the scenes of natural disasters to rescue victims. The campus however had formerly been Ambassador University, a college affiliated with Herbert W. Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God cult. It had closed abruptly in 1997 due to financial crises brought on by the church’s gradual drift toward mainstream Christianity. Ironically, as the movement’s new leadership began to remove much of Armstrong’s doctrinal error and bizarre beliefs such as “British-Israelism”, many members broke away to form splinter groups that adhered to Armstrongism. Nowadays, the Worldwide Church of God is considered a mainstream Christian denomination rather than a cult.