Sunday, August 29, 2010

What I learned from Hurricane Katrina

I just couldn't let this 5 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina pass without noting it in some way.
So, just a few of my thoughts...
This is the view from our front yard at about the quietest time of the day.
The eye of the hurricane was passing just to the North & West of us.
(Lucky for us, that is the side you want to be on in a hurricane.)
We had been sitting at the kitchen table coloring in the dark, when we heard a big rumble.
We looked out the window to find that our BBQ gas grill was tumbling across the patio and down the backyard.
Since the grill was to be our means of cooking for the next few days,
Rick and I grabbed some rain gear and headed out to retrieve the grill.
I also grabbed the camera just to document the experience.
I figured that I was already wet, why not spend a few more seconds recording the days events.
It's a little hard to tell in the above picture but the really tall trees would bend over so that they were almost touching the houses when the wind caught them just right.
This was a barometer that we had in our house for a couple of years.
It never moved off of the 30 mark more than just one or two tenths.
So, we knew that when the barometric pressure kept dropping and dropping we were in for a big storm.

Below are some pictures taken near the coast.
The picture below is where the road used to cross Bay St. Louis.

The photo above is interesting.
You can see the concrete slab where the home used to be located.
Now, all that is left is the Rolls Royce and the FEMA trailer.

This photo was pretty typical of the ones along the MS and LA coast.
You can see how the water washed right through the house exposing the bedroom and the closet. Everything was left as a big muddy mess.
Also, on the left you can see the big red X that they would put on the homes.
Each quadrant would have a symbol or a number.
One of the numbers was to indicate how many bodies were in the home that still needed to be removed.
The above photo is what was left of the brand new Hard Rock Casino which was to open the following weekend--Labor Day Weekend.
About the only thing left was the giant iconic guitar.
A photo of the freeway from Jackson down to the coast.
This was taken days maybe even weeks after the Hurricane.
It looked like this for a very long time. Once roads were made passable, it didn't really matter what they looked like because there was no place to haul all of the trash and debris.

Some Thoughts...
I still remember going to Sam's Club about 15 hours before the hurricane made landfall.
the shelves were EMPTY.
People were hauling TP and water bottles out of the warehouse on those long bed carts.
Rick and I looked at each other and wondered if we should be doing the same.
We didn't because we had followed the counsel of our leaders and we had plenty of TP and water.
Our biggest concern was a generator and batteries for our flashlights.

About the generator...
We could not find a generator anywhere in the city.
Rick got up at 5 am on Monday morning and called a small, local lumber store.
They were not open for several more hours, but they were at the lumber yard tying down loads of lumber in preparation for the storm.
Rick asked if they had a generator and they said that there was one left.
He asked if they would hold it for him and they said no, they had to sell it on a first come/first serve basis.
Rick jumped in the car and drove 20 minutes to find that he was the first one there.
The other interesting thing was that it was the end of the month.
Medical residents do not make very much money. At all.
But, we happened to have the same amount of money left in our checking account as was the price of the generator.
And generators ain't cheap!!
All I can say is that good thing we paid our tithing that month.
Otherwise, I cannot figure out any other way that we had that much money left over at the end of the month.

As Rick was securing a generator for us, I was busy doing laundry as this would be the last chance to have clean clothes for quite some time. They had warned us that we would probably lose power at about noon. It was actually at 10 am when the lights flickered and went out--just as I was pulling the last batch of clothes from the dryer.

I remember how quiet it was once the power went out, before the winds really hit.
Then, it was just so noisy.
The wind was so loud, I thought it was going to blow our house away.
I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.
We had to keep the window open just a bit because it was so hot inside the house and it helped with the pressure from the wind.

We knew things were bad, maybe even worse than the news had prepared us for.
Our school bus driver called on Sunday evening to warn all of the children on his route that he would not be around to pick them up for school in the morning.
That was the hardest part--trying to keep things "normal" when school has been canceled, we have no power, and our home is about to be blown away.
It made me realize how dependent we and our children are on video games (electricity) to be entertained.
We had to restort to coloring, painting, playing card games and board games and just plain talking to one another.

After the first day, people ventured out to assess the damages.
One of the biggest problems was that with all of the millions of tall trees in MS, roads were virtually impassable. Power lines were down. People were commanded to stay home.
Plus, we had. no. gas.
gas lines were as long as city blocks.
If you could get gas, you were limited to 5 gallons.

One good thing that we experienced is that people came out of their homes and talked.
to each other.
It was weird.
and good.

Because we had a generator, some of our neighbors brought their food to our house.
We kept the fridge on during the day and the freezer on during the night.
The only thing you could hear for days was the hum of the few generators in the neighborhood.
We would open the fridge just once or twice and grab the food that we were going to eat or prepare.
Andy and Nickey come to our house to eat dinner with us.
We would cook extra and take it across the street to Damon and Georgeanna.
We ate their food that we stored in our fridge and cooked on our grill.
It was nice to get to know people during this experience that brought us all together.
I was just sad that it took something so huge to force us to get to know one another.

Schools were closed for weeks. There were 2 reasons:
schools were being used as shelters
there was so much rotten food that had spoiled while the power was out that they were not allowed to hold school until the power had been on long enough for them to clear out and clean up the lunch rooms.
Basically when school started again, it was like starting over for the year.
School children lost as much as 2 months of instruction. Maybe more for the children who were shuffled from school to school white their home and schools were rebuilt or they were able to relocated permanently.

The city of Jackson was without power for a week or more.
Rick was working about 18 hours a day for the first couple of weeks.
So many people would show up at the ER simply because of the heat or the lack of water.
(Jackson was on a boil order because their pumps weren't pumping because they didn't have power. Problem was, people couldn't boil for the very same reason--no power)
The air was so stagnant for that first week after the storm.
No breeze. No electricity. Humidity. Uncertainty.
So many people would show up at the ER for some relief. However, the temperature in the Emergency Department hovered at 90 or higher for several days.

I still tear up when I think of our experience with Hurricane Katrina.
I think of the Blackstock family from the coast who relocated to our city.
They lost everything except the clothes on their backs.
We gave them a bunch of our clothes.
I was pregnant so I passed on all of the clothes I couldn't wear--which was most of them.
Sister Blackstock was about 6 inches taller than me.
Rick gave away about half of his clothes.
And Brother Blackstock was about a foot shorter than Rick.

I think of how many lives were changed because of that storm.
I think of how many people died.
how many people lost their homes. their livelihoods.

The biggest lessons that I learned were
1. people are more important than things
2. if ye are prepared ye shall not fear. (D&C 38:30)
it wasn't raining when Noah built the ark.
3. we ended up with a generator, because we paid our tithing.


Amara said...

Could you have made it without a generator? Maybe we oughtta get one. I need to hear you keep telling this story. I can't believe these things with my whole brain I guess --- I can't get it to sink in all the way it is so horrible what happened. Please keep teaching us and reteaching us.

Jacobson Five said...

I always love hearing your stories, obviously not because they are happy but because they are motivational.
We should probably get a generator, it is on our "lets get prepared" list. Maybe we should start paying our tithing? JK

Carroll Family said...

Wow. Thanks for sharing. You were so blessed.

Tyler and Erika Anderson said...

I didn't know you lived there during that. we were in Fl at the time. A few weeks after the storm, Tyler, my brothers and a few other men from our ward went to Mississsippi with chainsaws, trucks, and gloves. Tyler said it was unbelievablle...the land and the stories the people would tell them as they helped