Aftermath of the Storm
At the moment my house is silent. E and the dogs are all in the bed asleep. M and Megs are in the guest room doing the same. I'm the only one who can't sleep because I've got this post swimming around in my head that I just have to get out.
The events of today are some of those which we will never forget. Baton Rouge was spared the brunt of the storm. Our sustained winds never got over 40 mph and our gusts never topped 70 mph. I can, however, tell you that Katrina has crippled this city. Nearly 90% of the city is without electricity and may not have it restored for up to a week. There are trees and lines down everywhere. Most traffic signals are not functioning which creates a traffic nightmare. Very few gas stations, grocery stores, and pharmacies can open. Our mayor made several appearances today asking people to stay put. Of course, when 90% of the city can't hear the request, I guess it doesn't do much.
We have obeyed our mayor's request. We haven't left the house since 2 pm yesterday. We sat nervously watching a combination of the local and national channels waiting for Katrina to do her bidding. Just after midnight last night, we realized we needed some sleep and that lasted until the winds and rain moved in at around 6 am.
As the day dawned I was able to see limbs down in the backyard and the trees swaying as 50 mph gusts blew through. Out front, our mailbox pole broke causing the box to hit the ground. We kept watching the news and were told that the worst we would see would arrive around 9 am. Sure enough, as if by invitation, 9 am brought huge gusts and the heaviest of rains, knocking out our power with the explosion of a transformer nearby. We settled in, resigning ourselves to the fact that we would probably remain without power for several days. Thankfully we were wrong and 30 minutes later our power was restored.
Throughout the day we never lost power again. The rain and gusts continued until Katrina tired of us at around 3 pm. Exhausted, we all headed off for naps and a break from the television coverage that wasn't giving us the information we truly needed.
It has been over 12 hours since I've heard from my brother Keith. But I know that he's ok because I was able to contact someone at the City Desk who had seen him shortly before I called. The Times-Picayune is out of power for the most part. They are running minimal equipment on battery generators so they are able to publish to the website. Keith had sent word early today that as long as we kept seeing stories about Entergy, we could be certain he was still alive. True to his word, he's managed to keep them coming. I do know that windows in one of the executive suites blew out in the building, gutting that office and causing some leaks in the cafeteria below. Keith said that they watched an air conditioning intake fly off the roof and land on someone's truck below. They also watched all the trees around the building blow down. Geographically, he is directly across I-10 from the Superdome so they kept an eye on the Dome's roof from their windows. His car is parked in the parking garage at the Dome but he's unsure when he'll be able to get to it. His house isn't very far from some of the flooding but hopefully it will be in good shape.
I am most worried for M right now. She hasn't heard from D since 6 am this morning. The phone lines are pretty much down now. She was able to reach the 800 number at the hospital this afternoon but they couldn't track him down. She left a message for him to call here but hasn't heard anything yet. They live on the Westbank of New Orleans, an area which has been pretty much ignored by the media today. Fortunately, we were able to see their neighborhood in the helicopter footage that all the stations have been carrying. It didn't appear that their house would be flooded but we did see some houses with severe roof damage in the area. The apartment building that collapsed with people in it is just down the street from their house.
The helicopter footage that was released this evening is sobering. We were able to pick out specific buildings and neighborhoods in the devastation. We have no idea when they will be allowed back into Jefferson Parish. Right now, D can't even leave the hospital to go check on the house because they've ordered all the roads closed.
What we're not seeing in this early footage is areas like Plaquemine Parish, Lafitte and Grand Isle, all of which are probably totally submerged. All of the models the professionals were running last night showed that there would be no dry land left in Plaquemine Parish when all was said and done. No one knows how many people stayed behind in those areas.
As I was laying in bed just now with this post swimming through my head, I was filled with a sense of awe because of the strength of nature, something which none of us can control. Many thanks to all of you who sent prayers and good thoughts yesterday and today. Tonight I realized that sometimes on ordinary days, when I'm frustrated that E's without a job again and I'm worried about money or anything else, I forget to be grateful for what I do have. Today has been one of those days that brings it all home. In that bed across the hall right now is everything I need - all the other "things" are just that. Yes, life gets hard some days but today was a day when Mother Nature could have taken it all away in an instant. Today I know that I'm one of the most blessed human beings on this planet and for that I am truly grateful.