As I write this, Tropical Storm Isaac is barreling down upon the Gulf Coast and it’s expected to make landfall sometime Tuesday evening/Wednesday morning right over Plaquemines Parish and pushing into the Greater New Orleans area. This will be the fourteenth storm I’ve been affected by and, if it becomes a hurricane, it will be the eight hurricane I will have lived through.
For those of you who haven’t lived through a tropical storm or a hurricane, you have to remember that each storm is different and unique. How they form, how strong they are, where they land, how fast they move inland; all of these factors all affect just how much of it you got to live through. Some storms appear weak and then they just park themselves over your place – and dump a ton of water that leads to street flooding. Others are massively strong and they rip trees, down power lines but move on so fast that, by next morning, the repair work can begin. And a few do absolutely nothing. I remember back to 2004 when Hurricane Ivan made landfall east of New Orleans in Mississippi. We got no rain but strong winds – which led to my brothers having a fun time tossing a football and watching the wind carry it.
If you’ve never lived through one, I would say it’s like living through the biggest torrential downpour you can imagine with one added effect: imagine a storm that rumbles. That’s one thing that you don’t quite get with normal showers, thunderstorms or rain. Hurricanes and tropical storms sound like there is a damn train running over your head at all times. The stronger the storm, the louder it is. It’s why, when the eye of the storm passes over you, you are almost shocked at the silence and tranquility of it.
Unlike most other natural disasters, you can see and prepare for hurricanes. It’s why I’d rather living in a place that gets them than a place that gets earthquakes or tornadoes or any of those natural disasters that spring seemingly out of nowhere. Hurricanes form and approach like the shark in Jaws, but they’re so big you cannot miss them. It gives people the chance to prepare or to get out of their way.
The decision to evacuate, however, tends to be the hardest one to make. It involves factors such as the ability to evacuate (do you have a car that can put up with the strain of bumper-to-bumper traffic?), a direction to evacuate to (not just where the storm is going but do you have someplace to go) and, most importantly, the financial aspect of evacuating. Can you afford to leave? To pay for a hotel room, gas and food? Can you afford to miss work if the storm swings away at the last moment and your boss expects you to be there at 9 AM?
This is the internal debate that occurs within each person who lives in a hurricane-affected area: Stay or go? Ride it out or leave while there’s still time? Risk the road or risk the storm, at some point, a decision is needed and made. And then the work begins.
I’ve opted to stay behind and just ride it out. Me and family have cleared up all the stuff out of the yard and brought in or bolted down everything that has to be out. Storm drains are cleared and gutters have been cleaned. Cars have been moved up off the street and onto the yard. We have plenty of water, food, medicine and candles. Cars have gas. Shutters are closed and boarded. Electronic devices are charging. The moment power goes out, we’ll use the battery-powered radio and have learned that while the cellular networks may go down, text networks will still be operational.
So I’ll be here, riding Isaac (still a Tropical Storm, even as every weather person in the 504 is desperate to officially bust out the Hurricane designation) out in New Orleans. If you evacuated, stay safe and I hope it’s not too much trouble getting back in. If you’re staying, batten down the hatches and stay warm. Don’t be foolish and try to drive through water. Or barbecue while the storm comes down on us. Remember: the emergency responders won’t head out into the storm – and risk their own lives – to come save you from your own idiocy.
Stay safe. Stay dry. Stay alert.