'Cane hits close to home

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:44 AM ET

While Hurricane Katrina's devastating force was rocking the U.S. Gulf Coast, waves of concern were sweeping over the Calgary Stampeders locker-room.

New Orleans native Danny Wimprine has been unable to contact some family and friends since the storm hit the backup quarterback's ravaged hometown.

Demetrious Maxie, a native of Shreveport, La., said six aunts and some 50 cousins are fleeing the floodwaters while he's been unable to contact three close friends who play for the NFL's New Orleans Saints, directly in the hurricane's path.

Wimprine's greatest concern is for his girlfriend, Ashley Frommeyer, in Baton Rouge, La., but is confident she escaped the storm's wrath.

"For two days, I haven't been able to get in touch with anybody," said Wimprine, whose parents, coincidentally, were in Calgary visiting when the storm hit and have just started trekking back to New Orleans, although the international airport there has been closed.

While vacationing in Banff, Wimprine and his parents watched TV reports tracking the hurricane's approach forcing thousands of Louisiana residents from their damaged homes while millions are without electricity.

Wimprine said seeing massive holes ripped in the roof of the city's Louisiana Superdome, where he's played more than a dozen football games, is a shocking example of the storm's force. Despite the damage, the building is being used by thousands of displaced residents as a shelter.

"That's all I've been watching and it helps but it hurts, too, because you see how much damage it did cause," said Wimprine, 24.

"It's tough to see. That's your home and where your life is. To see it destroyed and to see people you care about in your home city -- even if you don't know them, you know they're from New Orleans and you care about them and about what's going on back home. To see people who have to start over again is devastating to everybody and I think everybody is feeling their pain right now."

Maxie's many family members and friends are thought to have escaped to higher ground north of New Orleans, much of which is now underwater with death tolls expected to reach into the hundreds.

"I talked to one of my aunts who lives in a small town just outside of Shreveport and everybody was just trying to make their way to her house three hours from New Orleans," said Maxie, who now makes his off-season home in Arizona.

"I've been watching on TV and I've never seen anything like it. They always talk about the French Quarter of New Orleans would flood because it's so low but it's never happened like this until now. People are on top of their houses, people cutting holes in their roofs just to get out. It's crazy.

"I've tried talking to a couple of my buddies who play for the Saints -- Willie Whitehead, Terrance Melton and Brian Young -- you can't get in touch with anybody.

"Twenty feet of water and you look at downtown New Orleans with all the windows blown out. That's powerful. It's bad but I hope my family is OK."

Many of Wimprine's friends were sent scrambling out of the state as flood waters have threatened to breach the many levees that protect parts of New Orleans than sits below sea level.

"Any time the water can go over or break a levee ... there are a lot of people who've lost their lives that we still don't know about," Wimprine said.

"New Orleans is like a big bowl, all surrounded by water. There are parts of downtown that are 15 feet below sea level so if you get 20 feet of floodwater, that's 35 feet in parts of downtown. People can't survive something like that. The damage is devastating."


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