Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Katrina's Aftermath

I grew up in New Orleans and hurricanes were a way of life. As a school kid you hoped to get enough of a scare to get school cancelled. More often than not, however, there was a lot of fuss and nothing ever happened. I cannot recall EVER evacuating although I know we did discuss it prior to the landfall of Hurricane Andrew.

My parents evacuated at the last minute before Hurricane Ivan and almost ran out of gas sitting still on the interstate. They could find no place to go and with my elderly grandfather in tow, it was a tortuous twelve hour drive to my house in northern Texas. They were disgusted by the whole process, swore they'd never evacuate again, and New Orleans escaped unscathed. I remember my father sitting in my living room and saying that "next time" he was just going to pack a bag and go to the Superdome.

The "next time" would be Hurricane Katrina and they were eager not to repeat the Ivan experience. The Superdome didn't allow pets, so they booked a room in Houston, packed the crazy cat and my grandfather, and headed out early. The idea was to make a mini-vacation out of it. At no point did we expect that my parents wouldn't return to their home for a month. I had been planning to visit my parents over the weekend (I was living in Little Rock at the time), and was perturbed that my plans were being interrupted. Again, we never thought that Katrina would amount to much. Hurricane warnings had become like the Boy Who Cried Wolf: after a while, you stopped thinking anything would ever really happen.

Most of you saw on TV that Hurricane Katrina was not a pretty thing. Flooding, death, major destruction. My family watched in on TV too--wondering about friends, homes, belongings. Reports were conflicting and no one knew what was going on. Cell phones didn't work and the overall feeling was one of helplessness. To put it bluntly: it sucked. I could get into the whole thing, but you've seen it or heard it, and if you haven't, then go get Spike Lee's documentary on it--I couldn't get through thirty minutes of the damn thing without either screaming or crying.

Which brings me to the point of this long, rambling entry. Hurricane season has kicked it into high gear. Gustav is predicted to hit the Gulf of Mexico somewhere between Monday and Wednesday and people are making plans with one eye on the Weather Channel. I have house guests coming and I'm wondering if they're going to be able to fly out when they want to.

My husband and I weren't here for Katrina, but many of our friends rode it out over here, north of the Lake. This is the stuff you didn't see on TV: People living north of the evacuation zone. There, many people went without power for about two weeks. Some had generators and many did not. Gas was in short supply and trees and power lines made road travel dangerous. Talking to the people on the phone had a definite end of the world/apocalypse kind of feel as they talked about looking for fuel and keeping the doors locked and guns drawn.

So, the Hub and I are wondering and cautious. We don't have to evacuate. Our house isn't in the evacuation zone, we are fourteen feet above sea level, and our house is raised. Our plan is to prepare for a few days without power, and if it looks like things are going to take a while then we're packing our bags and heading for Little Rock. We'll stay with some friends. Our primary motivation is keeping Charlie close to fully-functional medical services. Power is nice, but if your shunt fails. . . you need a neurosurgeon. Also, your average, run-of-the-mill epileptic needs their medicine and if there's no power than there might not be medication either. My parents are taking my elderly--now terminal--grandfather to Baton Rouge.

So, keep us in your thoughts and let's hope Gustav will just deteriorate into nothing worry about.