posted on Oct, 8 2005 @ 08:19 PM
Greetings from Southern Louisiana!
I am finally back online and, boy, do I have a story to tell you! First, let get a few things straight – the following is MY experience so, please,
if you haven’t walked in my shoes for the last 6 weeks – don’t flame me. Second, I was born and raised in New Orleans, though I now reside
north of Lake Pontchartain. (Approximately 40 miles from the NOLA line.) This is what to me…
The Friday before the storm when I left work at 3:30, I checked WWL’s website (www.wwl.com) to see how bad Katrina was going to pummel poor Florida.
(Side note, my father lives in Pensacola.) That is when the tracks began to change – 2 of the 5 tracks had the storm heading straight to NO, 1 to
Texas and 2 to Mississippi. Either way, we were screwed. But these damn storms have minds of their own and will stop or turn on a dime. I was
concerned but not worried. I went about my life and never had a second thought about Katrina.
Saturday morning I woke up to feed my dogs (I have 4 including a 140 pound Rottie) and checked the news. Now we were definitely in Katrina’s path.
I freaked. Please understand, a major hurricane has not hit NO since Betsy which happened in 1964, (I think) and I was not born. I called my mother
who lives in Jefferson with the 17th Street canal in her back yard. She didn’t want to come over because it took her 5 hours to make a 45 minute
drive for Ivan. I headed for Hell-Mart to get water, canned goods, etc. All day Saturday I asked, begged, pleaded for my mom to come over. She said
Sunday morning, I called mom and she finally gave in. This time the drive took only 4 hours. I have some friends who own a pet store so, mom, hubby
and me went to help them prepare for the storm and get the cats they have up for adoption ready for evacuation. I signed on to this board for the
last time that night. At 4:00 AM Monday, the lights went out and the worst part was about to begin.
Monday morning the winds were incredible. I mean howling like you only read about in a book and I am not that good of a writer to describe the noise.
I hadn’t slept much the night before so, I decided to take a nap. I kept telling myself that this was all a dream and I would wake up and life
would be boring and normal. Unfortunately, I wasn’t dreaming.
The parish (aka county) I live in has LOTS of trees. We watched one in my neighbor’s back yard (a 30 foot pine) sway back and forth like a wet
noodle and worried who’s house it would land on. (It crushed their fence into their neighbor’s backyard.) Monday, we couldn’t go out at all.
There were feeder band of rain but not that much. The wind was horrific. We listen to WWL radio (the ONLY radio station to stay in town) to try and
get news. The reporter was eventually forced to broadcast from a closet because the hotel they had evacuated to started to have the windows blown
Tuesday, the fun really began. All we could see was our street, two trees down on one end and a telephone pole snapped in two on the other end.
There was no way in or out. We cleaned out the fridge and sweated most of the day while listening to the radio. I was already bored and anxious. I
wanted to go shopping, play on the Internet, watch a movie. All I could do was sweat.
By Wednesday, we were tired of being trapped and waiting for help. Food and water were getting low. Mom, hubby and I cleared our street of as much
debris as possible. Thursday, we were able to drive our small car under the two downed trees. One grocery store was open but there was no ice, water
or bread. We had to wait in line for an hour to get in and all that was left was canned fruit, chili, etc. (Side note – my stove is electric.)
We were glad for the food but the water situation was starting to concern me. We had filled both bath tubs up the night of the storm and that water
was starting to disappear quickly. Our favorite neighbors returned (a small tornado damaged part of their roof.) so, now we knew we could pool our
I don’t remember which day, Wednesday or Thursday, we bought a generator and a small AC window unit. We do not have city water but well water. We
were assured the generator was big enough to run the well. It wasn’t. The next morning we went back to get a bigger generator and with the help of
our neighbors were able to hook up the well. Now we could flush the toilet, wash clothes (had to be line dried)! Then we found out FEMA had finally
arrived! (My dad said FEMA was in Pensacola the day after Ivan – we had to wait four days.) We headed over and got our water, ice and MRE’s.
MRE’s are not too bad. Besides, their so easy, even a husband can cook one! It took about an hour to get our supplies. Our neighbor started the
dreaded gas runs. Few stations were open and there were long lines. Gas and generators were worth more than gold. We then began to hear stories of
looters and quickly loaded a gun. We were hearing about the
nightmare in New Orleans and no one was going to break into our house.
My husband went back to work with permission to carry the gun and it was all cash only. (He works at an auto parts store.)
Things were getting a bit better. We had now rigged the house so we could watch TV (only WWL on the air and out of Baton Rouge) and run the ceiling
fans. Cell phones started to come up and mom realized she was going to be here a while. BTW, she was on the side of the 17th Street canal that did
NOT bust. Soon, she found out the office she works for (located in downtown NO) was opening a temp branch by us. My office was also opening after
being closed for two weeks. The pet store survived and my friends let me work there for a few days to make some extra cash. (They were the ONLY pet
store opened and we were busy!) A curfew had been put into place. Slowly stores began to open but with limited hours and limited menus.
Eventually, officials opened Jefferson only for a look and get. Mom and hubby went. It took them 6 hours to get there, two to get what she needed
(include clean the fridge out) and 4 hours to get back.
After 13 days without power, the lights came back on. (I know people who were without power for 5 weeks!) The phone began to work after 25 days and
cable and internet came up last night. There are more stories I could post but those are for another day if anyone is interested.
It has been six weeks since Katrina came calling and life is not normal yet. The curfew was lifted last week which helps but not everyone has
returned. Stores and restaurants are not a full capacity due to the lack of help. (Can you imagine McDonald’s closing at 6:00 PM?!)
The best way I can describe this was like Survivor the Home Game but there was no way to get voted off the island.
Where the levee broke, was near a house my husband and I rented that ended up with 20 feet of water in it.
I want to explain why I and many other did not leave. First of all, we were not concerned about the water. The lake is approximately 7 miles from
our house but mostly, WE COULD NOT AFFORD IT! The media has portrayed it that only poor African-Americans who stayed which is not true. But one
thing you have to understand, when a storm comes, they advise you to evacuate for 3 to 4 days NOT 3 to 4 weeks! At approximately, a $100.00 a day (5
dogs including mom’s) this was not feasible. My dogs are my babies and there is no way in hell I would leave them!
The rumor that the levee in the Lower Ninth Ward was blown to save the rich white people is total BS. The Lower Ninth Ward flooded in Betsy. Our
levees were not capable of with standing a Category 4 or 5. That is just a fact of life we all knew but if you on a fixed income and have no family,
where can you go?
Should New Orleans be rebuilt? Boy, when I saw that post I wanted to scream. Of course, NO should be rebuilt and, yes, this will happen again.
Don’t we always rebuild CA after earthquakes? Can you imagine someone saying, “SF got demolished after an earthquake. Let’s not rebuild. May
have another earthquake one day.”
Katrina was not man made but is part of the cycle of life. Like a said, it had been 40 years since a big one hit. We were due. We are not being
punished by our sins like I have read on other sites!
My thoughts on FEMA – well, they suck! I have applied for assistance (I am asking to be reimbursed for my generator and chainsaw) but so far it
doesn’t look like it will happen. And the fact that it took them 4 days to get to us is outrageous! We were hungry and thirsty and nothing anyone
can say will change my mind. i.e. If you’re in a disaster, don’t count on the government (local, state or federal). I did get a Red Cross debit
card but only because of the industry I work in.
So, like I said, there’s more I could say and one day I will have to write about mom and I’s adventure to BR to get a prescription filled.
BTW, mom goes back home next weekend as her bosses are moving the office to Jefferson. She had no damage!
I feel bad for the people who lost everything. It’s so overwhelming, you just can’t imagine how they feel or what they are going through. I left
NO after our house was robbed and I never plan on living there again. If I had lost everything, including my family or if I didn’t have family
here, I would move out of this state in a heartbeat.
Any questions, I will be more than happy to answer. Visit www.wwl.com for picture from local folks of the destruction.
And thank you for your thoughts and prayers.