With Tropical Storm Isaac looming, Saints to leave early for Titans game

On Sunday, the New Orleans Saints' planned day off after their Saturday 34-27 victory over the Houston Texans, interim head coach Joe Vitt called his players to the team facility and updated them on changes in plans connected to the impending threat of Tropical Storm Isaac, which could develop into a hurricane and batter the Louisiana coast in the next few days.

NOLA.com reports that Vitt told his players to prepare to make arrangements to evacuate family members. The team had originally planned to leave Wednesday for its final preseason game against the Tennessee Titans. The two teams are scheduled to play at LP Field, the Titans' home venue, on Thursday. Vitt told the team that they would have Monday off, and Saints personnel would monitor the progress of the storm. If necessary, the Saints could leave as early as Monday for Cincinnati, where they would prepare for the game.

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New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has declared a state of emergency, saying that the storm is moving at approximately 16 mph and would hit the coast in the next 34 hours. By those estimates, the storm would hit the shore late Tuesday or early Wednesday. Residents have been told to prepare their homes as shelters.

Of course, the Saints have seen this all before.

On Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina wreaked unspeakable havoc in and around the city of New Orleans, seemingly putting the entire area under several feet of water and providing a sympathetic nation with horrific pictures of a population holding on for dear life. The storm caused 53 different levee breaches, submerging 80 percent of the city underwater. Nearly 2,000 have been listed as losing their lives in the natural disaster -- almost 1,600 in Louisiana and over 200 in Mississippi.

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Katrina also caused extreme damage to the Superdome, longtime home of the Saints, and forced the team to play out of venue for the entire 2005 season. They started out as nomads in San Jose, Calif., where they had evacuated in anticipation of a preseason game against the Oakland Raiders, and completed an emotional and confusing season in LSU's Tiger Stadium and the Alamodome in San Antonio. The Saints set up camp as a franchise in San Antonio, and there was some talk that owner Tom Benson would push to relocate the team to the Texas City, or possibly to Los Angeles.

We all know what happened instead. The Saints acquired head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees before the 2006 season, and went on a miraculous run that included a triumphant return to the Superdome on Sept. 25 of that season. They defeated the Atlanta Falcons, 23-3, in one of the most emotional games in NFL history, went 10-6 on the season, and made it to the NFC championship game, where they lost to the Chicago Bears.

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