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Hurricane Isaac Wouldn't Leave
My Neighborhood on Monday: Calm before the Storm
Let me preface this story by saying that Joe, my husband, and I have never evacuated for a hurricane except Katrina. When we were younger, we usually sat in the driveway with a case of beer sitting between us in an ice chest and waved good-bye as all our worried neighbors left town.
Monday morning, we first heard that Isaac had decided to leave Florida alone and head our way. By Monday night, a friend had sent me an email with a news photo of the cone headed straight for us. My daughter called and said she and her family were leaving, going to Tuscaloosa. We weren't particularly concerned as it was still only a Cat 1 and highest winds were 80. Later that night, the word was a Cat 2, sustained winds of 90 with gusts up to 125. We began leaning a little bit toward leaving. The fact that it was approaching Katrina's anniversary made everyone a little antsy. We went to bed thinking we'd decide what to do the next day. By Tuesday, it had downgraded to a Cat 1. We were staying. My daughter called and said they were too.
The Wind Begins: Across the Street from My House.
Tuesday, Joe went to the grocery early in the morning. By noon everything was closed. He bought enough batteries to power up the entire toy aisle at Wal-Mart. The wind began around noon and continued all afternoon and into the night. It was probably 50 to 60 miles an hour. Lots of trees and branches fell, but nothing major. My biggest concern was a huge oak tree in our backyard. It is 40 years old and the trunk is huge. We had had several days of rain before Isaac came along. The ground was saturated already and that causes the roots of the trees to come loose from the ground. We learned on Station WWL that two of the huge oaks that line St. Charles Avenue fell during Isaac. I told Joe I was concerned about the big oak and he said: Don't worry. "If it falls, it will fall this way." Okay. Now I'm comforted that I will die instead of one of the neighbors."
We are friendly with all of our neighbors, especially one couple who have lived here 40 years, just as we have. When our children were teenagers, we opted to build a large family room instead of moving to a bigger house. I like the sense of community here and the fact that we all look out for each other. Ivy, the female half of the couple we've known so long, called Tuesday asking for some C batteries. Of course, we had plenty. I think Joe took them four. He said Donny had gone to the local supermarket to get some, but the security guard at the door said they were closed. Donny asked him to ask the manager about batteries, if he could buy some. The wind began to blow the door inward along with gusts of rain, so Donny walked on into the store. The security guard turned around, pointed a Taser at him and said: "Don't take another step. " Of course, Donny said: "Man, all I want is batteries; please don't Taser me." After the manager came and let him in, Donny went to the battery aisle and found they were out of Cs. Joe and I got a tray of Ivy's homemade brownies and raspberry muffins, which was quite a reward for batteries. And Donny learned how nervous everyone becomes during a storm!
Anyone who has ever ridden out a hurricane knows that the night before it hits is not a good time for sound sleep. There's always the possibility that they will gain strength and be a real problem. I listened to the wind howl outside my window and wondered what the next day would bring. We still had power, no trees were down yet, so we were in pretty good shape so far.
Of course, the first thing Joe did was move the four-wheelers to higher ground. I like the way the raindrops and an occasional orb appeared in this photograph. I'm convinced they have something to do with the atmospheric conditions, but the popular theory of dust particles just doesn't work in all that rain. Knowing my husband like I do, his main concern is leaving next week to work on his hunting stand in Arkansas and we can't have the equipment damaged!
From My Front Door between Bands of Rain Wednesday
Wednesday, Worst Day
Wednesday was the worst day of Isaac for us in Metairie, Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans. Of course, we were heartbroken for all the people in the outlying parishes who had flooded homes and vehicles. We drank coffee and listened to Station WWL on the radio, the voice of the city during Katrina. It was comforting to hear Garland Robinette who is older than we are and was once an anchor on Channel 4 News, taking calls from people all over the city and surrounding areas. There were only 16 incidents of looting and in 13 of them, the perpetrators were caught. Because of a new law that was enacted after Katrina, if they are prosecuted they will spend a mandatory three years in jail without benefit of suspension, probation, etc. It seems harsh, but after the blatant mocking of the law during Katrina, it's hard to feel sorry for them.
An ambulance came flying down the street Wednesday morning, braving the wind and rain and took my neighbor's mom to the hospital. The heat had simply been too much with no A/C, and they were having trouble waking her up to even drink water. She fell during the storm and hit her head and after an MRI, they found she has a clot and will have to have surgery. Old people don't do well during hurricanes.
The wind was worse during the day Wednesday than any other day. Around 2:00 p.m., we heard a tremendous crash. I was convinced that our huge tree had fallen on the house behind us. I was afraid to look but finally did. A tree from my neighbor's backyard had broken through the fence, demolishing our storeroom as it fell. My feral cat usually stays in the storeroom. I didn't even let myself think she wouldn't survive. She's had more than her nine lives already and always seems to come through.
At 4:30 p.m., we lost power. Wednesday was cool, with the cloud cover, probably in the high 70s, low 80s. Then the bad part of the hurricane began. We knew the next day was supposed to be hotter and Friday was estimated to be in the 90s. There is nothing more frustrating than a dark house and overwhelming heat and humidity. We were already beginning to snarl at each other a bit. As I listened to the announcers on the radio say: "Don't let the tension and frustration get to you and cause you to hurt someone," I wasn't quite there, but I understood!
Neighbor's Tree Came Crashing Down
Sleeping in the Heat and Dark
Joe goes to bed early. When he headed off to bed at 9:30 Wednesday night, I said: "Aren't you going to stay up? What if a tree falls or something?" His answer was a sleepy, "Well, wake me up if it does." He slept soundly through the night. I felt like someone should stand vigil and decided to sleep on the couch in the den. I lasted ten minutes. Every time a new band of wind came through, it whistled and moaned and woke me up. I went to the front bedroom with a battery-operated fan, radio, and flashing light my daughter gave her dad years ago. I slept with the fan blowing in my face. Even at that, I woke the next morning soaked with perspiration.
There Is a Storeroom Under That Tree!
Thursday Was a Long Day
Thursday was just plain awful. The house was incredibly hot. We sat outside, sprayed ourselves with bottles of ice water and bug spray, drank cold water and were absolutely miserable. It still rained on and off all day, but it was obviously moving on. We listened to WWL and to the account of the people in the lower lying areas and felt terrible for them. As uncomfortable and unhappy as we were, our houses weren't flooded and we weren't forced to evacuate. The day passed slowly. Our neighbor offered to let Joe plug our freezer in to his generator to save the contents. Our generator didn't work and I've made Joe promise to be certain it's fixed by June of next year!
Thursday was a hideous night. We didn't sleep much; it was just too hot. The house felt like a sauna. When we got up Friday, there was a rumor in the neighborhood that it could be Monday before we had power. Oh, no, I just couldn't bear it. I had a deposition that had to be done, regardless, for a reporter in Florida. Work went on for them as usual. I sat in Joe's truck all day plugged in to the plug I use when we travel and using my air card for Internet to send work to her. I had my faithful fan with me every moment. Could not have survived without it. I turned on the A/C occasionally but didn't want to overheat the engine.
We saw more of our neighbors yesterday than we have in years. Everyone was outside because it was too hot to be inside. I understand how neighborhoods before A/C were closer and helped each other more. They actually talked to each other and knew each other. I remember that from my own childhood. There was a new rumor that we might have A/C by evening. When we saw the Entergy truck rolling down the street at 9:30, a huge cheer went up from everyone. It took them about an hour, then a very large noise -- everyone's windows were open, and you could hear the power coming on in the houses -- and voila, lights! We gave them a large round of applause and everyone hurried inside. Some of us won't see each other again until another disaster. I called my daughter at 9:30 p.m., and when she said they didn't have power on the Westbank, told her to come and bring the family here. So here we are on Saturday. The grandboys are playing their DSs in the den with Grandpa, who's reading a book. I am watching as a neighbor across the street saws up a tree that fell. The grandboys are delighted to be here and out of the heat. My daughter says Entergy spokesmen are saying it will be Thursday before they have power on the Westbank where she lives. Her friend in Plaquemines Parish says the Entergy people are saying perhaps months for them before they're up and running. The snakes and alligators are a huge problem there as they look for higher ground as it floods. It will take a long time for things to be completely normal.
This link will still be extremely important to all of us here until the end of the hurricane season!
A Peaceful Ending
Well, Frankie, the feral cat who's lived in our backyard for 13 years, emerged from under the fallen tree yesterday, looking for food. And to WWL, we are all grateful to you for your presence in good times and bad. You are truly the voice of New Orleans. As for Isaac being on the anniversary of Katrina, we all forgot about that fact after the storm got here. Isaac was a small, slow storm that did more damage than expected. Katrina was the mother of them all. There is no comparison.
A lot of people were upset because Isaac was so much stronger than they expected it would be. I couldn't be upset, just glad that we fared as well as we did. Joe just came back from Home Depot. He said that Kenner, the city where I operated my school for so many years, is totally dark with no power, or at least the part that he saw. We are lucky to have power so soon. Hurricanes bring out the best and worst in people. I enjoyed becoming reacquainted with some of my neighbors and meeting some for the first time. I also enjoyed exchanging texts and emails with friends and family I hadn't heard from in a long time who got in touch to check on us. I enjoyed talking to my son in England, who called every day to see how we were. I didn't enjoy the heat, mosquitoes, humidity, and grouchiness between Joe and me and probably ever other couple in the city and surrounding areas. They say we don't grow character during good times. Maybe that's why Louisiana has hurricanes, to give us a chance to grow. I drank less beer than I would have 20 years ago and we had not one hurricane party on the block. We're all getting older. But I do remember the old greeting when a hurricane was coming in and I heard it often during Isaac: Bottoms up!!
- The Big Easy
We moved to New Orleans 40 years ago. It is filled with friendly, fun-loving, mostly religious people. Although they work very hard when they work, the people here love to play and that is what they do best: From backyard crawfish boils to Mardi Gras
- Remembering Katrina
Bad things happened during and after Hurricane Katrina. Desparate people did desparate things. However, the thing I want to remember is that people did heroic things. People put others first and did without so that others might have. There were angel