Just One More Katrina Tale

Just One More Katrina Tale \r\nOn the masthead of this blog it states my intentions to report and comment on the inside nuances of the entertainment industry with an emphasis on the music section. Today will be the exception. Today marks the end of a year of personal struggle to get back on track from the horrible lady we know as Katrina.\r\n\r\nOne year ago today my wife, stepson, five fully grown dogs, two puppies and I took off from Mississippi to the northwest quadrant of the path of Katrina. Fortunate for us, we have a full sized van with the rear seats taken out. We ended up in a parking lot of a Cracker Barrel restaurant in central Louisiana where we spend two and a half days waiting for someone to check out of any close by motel room.\r\n\r\nThe decision to run from the storm came from deep inside. It was a seminal moment that proved to be most correct.\r\n\r\nMy wife is from New Orleans and had been through some of the big ones including Betsy. Her family had stayed through all of those storms with each one making my wife more afraid of each new one that came along. \"This is the big one\", she said. She made it clear that she wanted to run but being a G.R.I.T.S. (Girls Raised in the South), she left the final decision up to me. No decision to be made. Off we went.\r\n\r\nIf you want to hear the full story, continue on. If you have heard enough stories of Hurricane Katrina, just go to the bottom of this post and continue with the stories that make up this blog. The rest of this story is my psychological outlet for what has built up for a year.\r\n\r\nTraffic getting out of town was horrid, even with both sides of the interstate highways going north or west depending on which you were traveling. The trip to Alexandria, Louisiana should have taken about three or four hours. It was an exhausting thirteen hours before we arrived at the predetermined city. Now I had to find a motel room. Well, I really knew that was out of the question, but we tried. Most of the motels simply put signs in the office windows telling everyone to just keep moving.\r\n\r\nWe found a spot, as I mentioned above, in the parking lot of the Cracker Barrel at an exit along Interstate 49. I chose this location because there were four motels, three restaurants, three gas stations and an expectation of not seeing the brunt of the hurricane. I knew from my experience that hurricanes veered northeast as soon as they hit land. Or they are supposed to take that direction.\r\n\r\nIn one paragraph, I will finish the running and get to the return.\r\n\r\nWe spent three nights in the parking lot. Our reasoning had been correct about the course of the storm. The only winds and rain we saw in Alexandria were 25 mph gusts and a small trickle of rain. Our first sign of having made a correct decision made its mark. We finally got a motel room the third day. They normally did not admit animals, but they waived all the normal protocols because of the storm. The whole world as we knew it was so cooperative that it was eerie, even for the normally welcoming South. We could not get home yet because of the trees down on all major highways and also the authorities did not open some to the highways to traffic to purposely keep people away.\r\n\r\nFinally, September 3rd we were able to wind our way back to home in Hattiesburg, MS. Even though we had been in touch with my in-laws by cell phone that worked every once in a while, they kept telling us that they were ok but had not been able to get to where our house was. It was a nice lie considering what we saw when we finally got home.\r\n\r\nNo less than three trees had cut a path through our house. The main culprit was a massive pine (called tall pines) that had a trunk that measured four feet in diameter. It did not lean into the house like the others. This tree cut the house in half. The top of the tree was on the ground on the other side from where it fell. The house was a total wreck. Evidently the trees went early and the wind and rain had its way inside the house. But here is the reason I said in the beginning of this story that we made such a fitting decision to leave. The main tree had fallen on a slight angle that represented the place where I normally sit to watch TV and then on to the recliner where my wife normally sits. Would we have been in those seats? Who knows, and who wants to even think about it. Thank You Lord.\r\n\r\nThis story could continue on for almost book length. It at least could be a Readers Digest size special story. How do I condense the rest and make it meaningful. But continue I will because this is my therapy, finally.\r\n\r\nIf anyone else reading this is from the areas affected by Katrina, you know that the next ten or longer days were some of the hottest, windless, humid days ever seen in the area. We had no electricity to start any kind of cleanup. No communications with the local world except a couple of radio stations that had generators and stored up on their fuel to run them. No TV stations on the air. Hattiesburg, MS was cut off from the world.\r\n\r\nWe were not alone. Most of Mississippi south of Meridian shared in this fate. I suspect that some of the very small cities have still not been heard from. But the lack of communications is most likely the reason the rest of the world focused on the misery of New Orleans. But this semi-affluent community was also waiting in lines every day to get meals, water, ice and news. After the canned goods went and the propane fueled camping stoves were exhausted, it was MREs with the rest of the millions of other people.\r\n\r\nDoes everyone know that Hattiesburg, MS, sixty five miles from the Gulf Coast had 145 mph winds? Did you know that one in seven trees in the area was blown down? Did you know that eighty percent of all homes suffered roof damage? Do you know that at this date, there are still more than half of those homes that still do not have their damage repaired? A few streets are still impassible. This storm was as devastating to us as it was to anyone closer to the gulf coast. No matter how you lose your home, it is devastating. In fact, the storm veered northeast before it even hit land and missed a direct hit on New Orleans. I hope most people know by now that it was the back side of the storm that overtopped and breached the levees in New Orleans. The storm\'s main fury missed New Orleans and hit Slidell and east, taking out - meaning wiping out- the resort cities of Gulf Port and Biloxi, MS. My wife\'s three brothers still live in New Orleans and were forced to ride out the storm. One is a police officer. One is an EMT. The other is a nurse at one of the hospitals that was flooded out. All were involved in the massive rescue effort. But that is their tale to tell.\r\n\r\nThe house was totaled by the insurance company. State Farm and FEMA, contrary to other stories you hear, did right by us. The fourth day we were back, we had a nice temporary check from the insurance company and it was only a little over a week before we got a small check to help in cleanup from FEMA in our checking account. This took work on our part. We did not just sit back and wait for help. We needed to make choices. Damn it is hard to make choices that link to all of your past and will affect so much of the future. But make them we did. The life history that still lays in a now sun hardened heap in front of the old house shows that.\r\n\r\nCoincidental to the hurricane, my son living in Nashville, Tennessee had been told just a few weeks prior to the storm that he was to be going to Afghanistan. He had already been to Iraq the first time around. He had a two year old daughter that I had not been able to visit as much as I wanted. The perfect setup appeared. We would go to Tennessee, live with my daughter-in-law for a while to keep her company and help out until we settled with the insurance company.\r\n\r\nWith her permission to tell you, my wife was a basket case. The events from the moment we laid eyes on our demolished house until sometime later when we were in Tennessee are gone from her memory. Through the valiant effort of the Red Cross she was referred to a very well known and high dollar, psychiatrist in Nashville that volunteered her services. \r\n\r\nTo further compound the issue, my wife soon had to undergo another surgery in her quest to repair her badly injured back. And then she found out during the exams leading up to the surgery that she was diabetic. Enough I say. Give this lady some peace. There was just no time for me to go haywire at this point. But it was building. To speak of someone else\'s problems is sympathy for that person. To speak of ones own problems is sympathy mongering. I will not dabble in that territory. I will only say that I am a disabled veteran that has had to make over twenty visits to the local VA since moving here. I think all is ok now. At least that is what they tell me.\r\n\r\nWe\'ve decided that we want to stay here in the Nashville area. I lived here before and I loved it. My wife never lived here, but she loves it. We found a house next door to my son\'s house. That is providence working.\r\n\r\nWe are settled in and ready for the next test if it is coming. We made it through this one; we can make it through any of them. \r\n\r\nNow I feel better already.

Citation

Garey Wheatley, “Just One More Katrina Tale,” Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, accessed September 16, 2019, http://hurricanearchive.org/items/show/13301.