Thursday, June 01, 2006

 

Katrina - My Story

At the behest of my good blog-friend, AubreyJ. I write this article. It is an account of my personal experience during the days of Hurricane Katrina. This is in remembrance of the first day of the hurricane season that is upon us once again. What he originally asked me to post was too far in depth for one article. He asked of my personal experience and what I thought about what was done in the aftermath, mistakes and good.

This will be a trilogy, to include this article, what I think went right or wrong and a human interest story that I personally lived. I decided the human interest story should be posted last to leave a positive impact for those who may face this situation in the future.

I hope you enjoy this article.

Please visit Aubrey's Photo Journal here. It is a great account of the devistation following Katrina.

Max

Hurricane Katrina – My Story
I became concerned about this hurricane long before it struck Florida. All the conditions were right for this storm to become a monster. The Gulf of Mexico was warmer than usual and the Loop Current was warmer and further north than usual. As an old sailor, I kept a sharp eye out for this storm.

As Katrina entered the Gulf, it was very apparent that the Louisiana and Mississippi Coast were going to be hit. As the storm gathered strength and began moving WNW, it sealed the fate of thousands.

We left our home Saturday, the 27th about 10 AM, heading to Tunica, Mississippi. I was fortunate enough to have made hotel reservations on the Internet early that day. We caravanned in three vehicles. What is usually a seven-hour ride turned to over ten. Fuel was another concern, but we were able to get what we needed.

Upon arrival in Tunica, it was time to wait and watch. The storm moved so slowly that we had too much time to contemplate the devastation it would cause wherever it landed. In Tunica, we met some of the most wonderful and kindest people I have ever had the pleasure meeting. This includes evacuees also. But, that is another story in itself that I will write about it in the last of this three part series.

By late Sunday evening, Katrina was destroying my home town of Venice, Louisiana near the mouth of the Mississippi River. At the time, I did not know if some of my extended family, that lived there, had evacuated the area or not. Some of them can be very stubborn at times. (I later found out that all of them had evacuated.)

I watched TV most of the night keeping track of the storm, catching a nap in the wee hours. By 0500 I was awake again as the storm was pounding New Orleans and the surrounding area, all the while watching the story unfold live. All of my immediate family lives in Slidell, La. We knew that Slidell was going to get a direct hit. All we could do was watch Katrina’s progress, pray and wonder.

By the afternoon of the 29th, New Orleans was devastated. I watched film footage of a housing area known as East Over. I had worked on building several houses there not long before Katrina. East Over was devastated, totally flooded. This area is an affluent part of New Orleans East. As I watched the TV, I could see many areas of the city I know well. There was no place untouched by this hurricane in the city.

After the storm passed, I could tell the water was not receding. As I watched Canal Street water levels rising, there was only one explanation. There had to be breaks in the levee system. This was confirmed the next day, of course.

As we watched TV constantly, waiting on news of Slidell, we could only wonder if the house was still there. It was Wednesday before we received any news. We had seen footage of the devastated I-10 Twin Span that connects New Orleans and Slidell. The footage also showed Eden Isles and Oak Harbor subdivisions, most underwater. Then we saw downtown Slidell with about two feet of water. We still knew nothing of our home. All we could do was wait.

My oldest son called Wednesday night and told us he was heading to Slidell and would call us when he was near. He called early Thursday morning, said house was well, and he was going to find out what he could about his friends and girlfriend’s homes. His girlfriend lives closer to Lake Pontchartrain than we do. Her home had 4-1/2 feet of water and was still flooded.

My Brother-in-Law and I proceeded to Slidell early Thursday morning. We took with us several gasoline cans and also firearms for personal protection. We knew there was much looting in the entire area. What we found upon our arrival was shocking. Thousands of trees down, power lines, missing roofs, you name it. But, we were fortunate as our house had superficial damage. A few shingles were missing, our wooden fence was down, a missing shutter and some trees in the yard were down too. We were fortunate. So many others were not. I know many people that lost everything.

The house had no power, but did have water. We had no idea when the power would be restored, so we headed toward Baton Rouge for what turned out to be a fruitless search for a hotel room. I want to thank Wal-Mart on College Drive in Baton Rouge for their hospitality and use of their parking lot. Before returning to Slidell, we picked up some provisions for our elderly neighbor, who did not evacuate and would not leave. In the end, she did well.

We returned to Slidell on Friday morning to gather some more items we might need. At the time we had no idea when we could return home. My Brother-in-Law had a trailer he used for hauling his four-wheeler for hunting trips. Since we had about $1500 worth of meat and other food items in the freezer, we loaded it and returned to Tunica on Friday night. We were in Tunica for another week.

On Friday, September 9th, my Brother-in-Law and I decided to go back to Slidell to see what the situation was. Power had been restored, water was still on and the sewer was working. By this time, the National Guard had set up station, dispersing water, ice and MRE’s, so we stocked up on these items. The house was livable, although shopping and other necessities of life would be a challenge.

I remained behind to guard the house, began cleaning the yard, cleaned the freezers and refrigerators and tried to bring some order to life again. I had everything I needed; .357 cal. with two speed loaders, MRE’s, water and ice. My Brother-in-Law returned to Tunica to bring the rest of the family home on Monday, September 12th.

Our life has been back to normal for some time now, but so many I know are not even close to that. There are so many displaced people. But as stated earlier, God spared our family.

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