M?bah woman in US hurricane

MURWILLUMBAH'S Gale Youngelutt hardly slept a wink on Monday night.

Her niece, Fiona Seidel, was stranded in a hotel room in New Orleans, in the direct pathway of the destructive category-five storm, Hurricane Katrina.

Ms Youngelutt, a travel consultant with Travelscene in Murwillumbah, had only a few months ago booked Fiona and her sister-in-law Katie McClean on a whirlwind five-week tour of the US with a room for a few nights at the Hotel Monteleone in the city's historic French Quarter.

"With the hurricane approaching, people were advised to stay at the hotel rather than go to the Superdome where a lot of people were going, because the hotel is supposedly old enough and stable enough to be able to handle the winds," Ms Youngelutt said.

Fiona, 28, had always wanted to go to the US and finally decided to do it last year.

Fiona and Katie had already visited Disneyland, San Diego and Las Vegas before arriving in the Gulf of Mexico city.

"They arrived in New Orleans on August 27," Ms Youngelutt said. "I think they have had enough of New Orleans and would really like to get out about now. I only spoke to her prior to the hurricane hitting, but she sounded very anxious and concerned, as you would be with such a massive storm."

Ms Youngelutt spoke with her niece at around 8pm on Monday night and did not know the full extent of the damage in New Orleans.

"I don't like the chances of them getting out any time soon, but it depends how the authorities deal with it all," she said.

"Their plan is to get to Miami and then up to New York City, but they can't do much about it because the airports are all closed."

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