Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Some Thoughts, Observances, and Opinions

Bogalusa Is Gone – At least lots of companies seem to have us listed that way, as destroyed, as no more. It makes it really hard to get a lot of things trucked or sent in here to us.

We are here. I swear we are here. It was bad enough when it seemed the government or the powers that be forgot about us in the first days, more than a week really, following Katrina, but now I feel like salt is being rubbed in an open wound. The repairman came, and joy oh joy after everything we are going to have to replace, he said that my freezer, which is less than two years old, can actually be repaired, but there’s one little problem. The parts’ company says Bogalusa is gone, so they won’t send in parts. The repairman said the office here is working hard on it and hopes to have things fixed in a couple of weeks so they can get the parts and fix my freezer.

Jellyfish – We have some. Well, we did. I doubt they are still alive. After all, jellyfish need saltwater and that’s not around here. How did we get jellyfish? Katrina brought them. There are a couple of large ponds at the sawmill where my husband works. When they where able to go back to work after Katrina, they found a new addition to the ponds, and it wasn’t more logs or big loud bullfrogs. It was small little bell-shaped jellyfish. Alive and swimming around. They don’t really swim though, do they? Well, they were alive and doing what ever you call what they do to get around. (Smile)

My Car – She’s gone. I know she flooded and has really been gone for four weeks, but the insurance company paid me her (very low) blue book value and then sent a tow truck to haul her away yesterday. I know it’s silly for me to be upset about it. I mean I’ve known for a month that she was dead, but she was my first nearly new car. The best car I ever had, I’ve babied her and cared for her to make her last, I didn’t owe one cent on her, and the insurance company just plops down a little money and hauls her away to some car graveyard without a glance back or a second thought. Like I said, silly of me to be so upset about it. But I guess we feel what and how we feel.

And While I’m on the Subject – I don’t understand insurance companies. Especially those that sell homeowners insurance. I’ve paid mine for over twenty years without one claim. Now I really need it and it’s hardly worth the paper the policy was written on. We made sure we had hurricane coverage, but guess what, that doesn’t cover water damage even when it’s caused by a hurricane. Go figure.

Blessings – I know I’m whining and complaining above--that whole weak human thing I’ve mentioned before. (Smile) But I know I’ve been really blessed. Sometimes I think we get so caught up in the bad that happens that we forget about the good, like that old saying about feeling sorry for yourself because you didn’t have shoes until you saw someone who didn’t have feet.

I might only get one station on our little black and white TV, but I’ve seen enough there on news in just the last couple of days to remind me of how blessed my family truly has been and is. After all, we might have lost our shoes, but by darn we still have our feet.

On top of that, I sure have a lot of great friends to dance with, even if we have to do it on line through e-mail and blogs. Thanks to every one of you who has danced the Katrina jig with me. Can’t say it hasn’t been interesting. (Smile) If it’s all the same though, let’s sit the next fast one out.

Monday, September 26, 2005

There’s No Place Like Home!

It’s been four very long weeks today since Katrina turned the world upside down for me. But yesterday, things righted in a huge way. I moved back into my own home! (Smile) I’m writing this on my own computer in my own tiny little office under my own lights using my own DSL. (Smile)

We can’t use the whole house since half of the rooms--the ones we’ve added since we bought the place twenty-two years ago--have to have the sheetrock and insulation ripped out and redone before they will be safe to use. But luckily the older part of the house is brick with interior block walls. We’ll need to repaint them and do some work in the older rooms, but nothing that will keep us from living in them while we work. We lived in this house while we built each new room on, so we can deal with the mess again. At least we’re home!

We had worked hard and planned to move in Saturday, but Rita messed things up for us. We still have two trees on each side of our house. The two biggest ones are next to the two rooms we are going to be sleeping in each night, so we figured it was best to wait until the winds from Rita were over before coming home. (Plus, we mostly stayed under a tornado watch because of Rita from Friday until early Sunday.)

Rita hit the Louisiana/Texas state line, and since we are on the Louisiana/Mississippi state line, I really didn’t believe the weather reports I found on line about the winds and rain we were going to get from her. But we got it.

Friday was a little rainy and windy and cloudy, but not bad. Saturday morning though the wind really picked up. The gusts were pretty strong, probably the highest about forty miles per hour or so. They were the worst about the time Rita was straight across from us. A few small limbs came down that were already weakened probably, some of my plants we had moved outside got knocked over, and a couple of pieces of tin and a lot of the blue tarps and such covering damaged roofs, including our own, got blown off. By late Saturday night I think the worst of the winds were over, and from the weather channel website I knew she was moving up and dying down, but we still got some good gusts all the way through the night, and even had a good wind going Sunday morning sometimes. The spells of rain we got didn’t last too very long though and were far between and then finally none.

Heck, after Katrina, Rita was next to nothing here in Bogalusa.

I will admit she played havoc on already threadbare nerves and ragged emotions. Almost everything in Bogalusa shut down Thursday evening and didn’t reopen until today, even the banks. The mail hasn’t even run since Friday morning. My son’s college is about an hour and a half away, closer toward where Rita hit, so it was closed too and the parish beside us was partly evacuated. (The schools here in Bogalusa haven’t ever reopened, though the hope is for them to be able to next week.)

Each time a heavy band of rain moved through Friday and Saturday I thought it would bring rolling water with it or last until it reflooded my home. It didn’t. I just knew those strong wind gusts were going to bring another tree down on my home, or on my husband’s truck. My son had already replaced his car since he has such a long drive back and forth to school each day and his wife’s car wasn’t in good enough shape to keep making that trip. His new car was parked under the half of his carport that made it through Katrina. Most of the day Saturday the winds we got from the side of Rita were strong enough to keep lifting the end of the carport. He just knew it was coming down on his car, but there was no where safer to move it because of the trees, or parts of trees, that are still standing, as well as the debris that the wind flung around.

I’m more than happy to report that through all of the weekend bad weather our power didn’t go out, though it flicked and blinked a few times and I feared it would go.

By Sunday we were a little worse for the wear, but we packed up our things and brought them home. Things aren’t perfectly clean here, but it’s our mess. (Smile) We spent a few days here after Katrina, what a nightmare that was, then we spent over a week all the way up at the top of Arkansas with my sister. She had one tiny spare bedroom. My husband and I shared the bed in there and my daughter slept on a cot-size mattress on the floor near the foot of our bed. My son and his wife slept on a mattress in the living room.

When we came back to Bogalusa we stayed with our son and his wife for two weeks. They didn’t have an extra room so we slept on a mattress on their living-room floor and my daughter slept on the couch.

I can’t tell you how great it feels to be back in my own home! I’m not back in my bedroom. That was one of the new rooms. But my daughter is back in her room and we are in the bedroom that used to be my son’s. We also have full use of the kitchen, my little office, and the bathroom. Not a bad setup at all! (Smile) We worked our butts off the last two days, and today won’t be much better, but that’s just fine.

We bought a new refrigerator last week. Yesterday we got out and bought milk, eggs, butter, cheese, mayo, lunchmeat, and all that kind of good stuff that you find in your fridge every day. I even have a gallon of sugar-free tea in there. Something I haven’t had any of since the hurricane. I planned to be refilling my freezer too. We plugged it in to check it a couple of weeks ago when we got back to Bogalusa. It ran so we thought it was working. We found out this weekend that we were wrong. I just finished paying for that darn thing a few months ago too. There’s so much we need to replace, repair, or redo, but I guess the only way to do it is just one step at a time. The most important needed things first and then every thing else as we can. I supposed the freezer, hot water heater and my car should be the next three things. We’ll take the others in some kind of order as we get to them.

Cleaning up more is first on the list for the next few days. Since we stayed after Katrina I was able to get all of our wet clothing out of the house and hang it around on lines and the fence to dry. (Got an awful sunburn doing it.) Being dry saved most of the clothes, but didn’t clean them any, so I have tons of wash to do. We’ve cleaned the mud and everything off of the floors, but everything in the house has a coating of dirt and grime on it. Some things are worse than others. I went to get a bowl out of one of the lower cabinets last night, one I thought was fine, but when I pulled the biggest bowl from the bottom of the stack, I found a little water in it and nasty dried stuff where it had been filled much more. I guess everything in the bottom cabinets will have to be pulled out and washed…. I probably should just wash every dish in the house. There’s just so much cleaning to do, and don’t we all hate housework to begin with. (Smile) We are still working in the yard too, cutting up fallen trees.

Now that I’m home and have my own computer and internet hookup back, I will finally be able to begin catching up on e-mail, hopefully by tomorrow. Of course I have a ton of messages to get through and I’m not even sure I got a lot of them. Seems sections of them, like a day or two’s wroth at a time, just never came through when I finally got where I could get to a computer and get mail. I also plan to be taking my place back over the RWC groups in the next few days or so. I’m sure the ladies who have worked so hard to watch over those groups and keep things going smoothly are sure glad to read that sentence after so long of a spell. (Smile) Now that I’m on my own computer, and can even get into my website and do an update on things when I have the time.

In other words, life is going to get back to normal here. I never realized what a great thing normal is.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Rita Go Away!

We only get one channel on our little portable black and white, and that’s a station out of Biloxi, Mississippi that we barely pick up. (New Orleans stations were our local channels here and they aren’t there any more. Even most of the radio stations we always listened too are gone.)

That one Mississippi television channel is enough for us to get news and to know that Rita is out there and will be in the Gulf soon. They have her path heading to Texas right now, but are saying that Louisiana isn’t in the clear and we won’t have a better idea for sure of what her path will be for a couple of days. I’m not wishing her on anyone, but the thought of another hurricane, another really bad one, hitting us right now is enough to make me want to curl up into a ball and stay there.

The last bad hurricane we took a direct hit from before Katrina came about twenty years ago, and even then it wasn’t as strong as her. They are saying that Rita won’t be as strong as Katrina either, but she’ll be close. With houses already damaged and trees and tin and wood every where still, if a hurricane hit here right now, even one a good bit weaker than Katrina, it would be a horror. All of that loose stuff would become deadly missiles in hurricane force winds. Trees and structures already weakened by the first strike would give way with ease. It’s just too awful to think of, so I’m trying really hard to just not think about it.

I mentioned yesterday that we started getting our local newspaper again at last, but then I found out later that they are only publishing it on Sunday’s and Wednesday’s. At least that does give us some local news and lets us know what’s going on here around us. We are getting mail daily, but it is a piece here and there. My sister mailed me something almost a week ago and I haven’t gotten it yet. It used to take about three days to get mail from her. Bills are coming in that were mailed just before the hurricane. Guess I should have known those would get through sooner or later no matter what. (Smile)

We went into our house yesterday with a pump sprayer like you would use on bugs or fruit trees, but we filled ours with bleach. We sprayed every where we dared and a few places we probably shouldn’t have. That mold is no doubt dying a painful death even as I type this…or maybe as I slept last night. We need to get it under control before we start ripping out sheetrock and insulation and flooring.

Sadly going through to spray meant looking close enough to find some things I had lost to the water that I hadn’t been in the house enough to notice or just hadn’t spotted or thought of until yesterday. Like some of my iron pots, things I had in the bottom of my hope chest, and even my huge collection of stamps that I kept in a big thick plastic box under my bed. The lid was floating on top of it and the inside was filled with water. I bought a lot of the stamps new, in what they called mint condition, but more than half of them were used stamps. I liked collected used ones, different pictures, different kinds, from different places. Thanks to a couple of dear friends, who are both gone now, I had used stamps in my collection from all over the world. I had sections that were made up of butterfly stamps, horse stamps, different shape stamps, you name it. I’m not sure what hurts worse, losing the stamps or the connection to those two dear lost friends I felt when I looked through the stamps they helped me find.

I hope we have found all of the ruined stuff now.

Before I post this I want to take a moment and say thanks to everyone who has called, posted a comment, or sent me an e-mail checking in, checking up, or just sending good wishes and thoughts or prayers. I know I haven’t had the chance to really respond to more than a couple or so, but every single call or message or comment has meant so very much to me and to my family.

Thanks from the bottom of our hearts! You’ve all made me feel so very special and cared for!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Life with Katrina - Part Seven

Sunday September 11 through Sunday September 18

Life might not be what it was before Katrina, right now it doesn’t feel like it will ever be again, but it’s much better than it was for the first two weeks after her visit. We have power, running water, phones, and even internet--though I’m not on my own computer. The water pressure dipped a few times during the week, but is about normal now. The water is still unsafe to drink, so we drink bottled water and I boil water every day for the dogs.

We are so grateful to have phone and power. There are lots of people here who have only one or the other, or neither. We were lucky in the fact that our homes are along the main grid that supplies the hospital and other important things. (Something you might want to think about next time you’re looking for a house to buy or rent.)

The home phones weren’t working too well when we got home, but have gotten a little better each day. Now they seem to be fine most of the time, of course there are lots of people and places around here we can’t call because they don’t have phone service yet. Our cell phones still don’t work, but my son’s does now and then. The internet is a little less reliable. Sometimes I can get on line and sometimes I can’t. Often it means trying over and over, and then only getting on for a few minutes before I’m kicked off. I’m really not doing any e-mail for now but will play catch up later, I promise. If you sent me a message it might take me awhile, but if I actually got it, I will get around to sending a reply.

I’m writing my blog entries off line as I have a moment here or there, then when I manage to get on line, I post it. There’s not much time to be on line anyway really. We only have one phone line here and dial up, so being on line ties up the phone, and we are stilling getting calls from our insurance companies with questions and follow ups and such, and better still, from caring family and friends.

Needless to say, there is no cable. We tried to find an antenna but there isn’t one even in any of the towns around us. Satellite systems are sold out too, and there’s a waiting list weeks long to get someone out to add one to your home. At least we do have a little portable black and white that picks up one channel out of Mississippi. Of course it’s a station that plays nothing we like to watch and the screen is so tiny and the picture so snowy we’d all have to hover around to see it anyway. (Smile) At least we can watch, or should I say listen, to news on it, although they only talk about Mississippi.

I’m not too happy about the news right now. Yesterday they mentioned Rita. She will reach hurricane strength this week and work her way into the Gulf. They are showing her going across the Gulf below us, maybe getting Texas it looks like, but Katrina was supposed to go up and get Florida when she came here. Watching that weather report made me sick, literally. There’s nothing we can do though, but watch and wait and pray. To be honest, I’m too emotionally battered to even think about it much right now.

There is still damage every where here in Bogalusa and the places around us. There will be for a long time. I know with so many trees gone, the area won’t look even near to the same for probably twenty years or maybe double that time. Tress are still down in yards every where and huge piles of them, or even whole trees, are stacked high on both sides of most roads. There are still down lines and leaning tress over many streets. Our little city can only do so much.

Smaller communities like ours and others here in Washington Parish and the surrounding areas, what you would call rural areas, haven’t received the same aid and assistance or even attention as larger more metropolitan areas. We kind of got over looked in the shuffle with those bigger cities like New Orleans, Gulf Port, Biloxi and others all getting so much coverage. The reports say that they are having trouble locating and accessing the resources they need for smaller communities. I know our mayor and others are doing the best they can in a very difficult situation.

We have had help too though, and it’s been very greatly appreciated. Crews from Duke Power in North Carolina showed up in Bogalusa in huge numbers. It’s thanks to them that I have power all ready. We are safe here thanks to the Pennsylvania National Guard. I will admit watching those trucks roll up and down the roads filled with armed soldiers or going into Wal-Mart and finding them strolling the aisle on guard with loaded M16 rifles in hand, gives me a little pause, but in the same second it gives me comfort. Things had gotten bad here before we left, and from what I’ve seen and heard, it got worse after we left. More people fighting in lines or parking lots trying to get food or water, looters not only breaking into stores and taking what they wanted, but then setting them on fire, and, well, I guess you get the idea.

The Pennsylvania National Guard has been handing out lots of bottled water, ice, and even MRE’s. Let me tell you, those little ready to eat Army meals aren’t so bad when you’re hungry or sick to death of can goods or sandwiches. (Smile.)

Others have come in and set up shelters, fixed meals, handed out can goods, clothes, and what ever they had collected and could bring in. I guess it’s been a group effort with cities, churches and groups of all kinds and from all places helping out how and where and when they could. I know it’s all meant so much to everyone here in Bogalusa and every where else that has needed and gotten help, slow or how ever it came.

Monday September 19

As I write this, it’s been three weeks to the day since Katrina left. There are still armed shoulders riding around, walking around, and watching. We still have a curfew in affect, but many stores and even some fast food places are opened during the day. Each day more and more things are becoming available. I walked down to the store by my house yesterday and they had fresh vegetables and fruit and even ice cream. (Smile)

The insurance people and FEMA have all come now to see our house and cars. The auto insurance actually showed up the quickest, days ago. They totaled my car. I think I mentioned that in one of my earlier posts though. I wish they would come get it already, so I don’t have to keep looking at her just sitting there. I don’t know what I’m going to do about getting another car yet. Mine was in great shape and best of all, she was paid for. We have a truck that we are still paying for, so I’ll just have to see if I can use the little they are giving me for my car to make a down payment on another one and then stretch the budget enough to pay a car note along with a truck note. If not, we’ll just make it with the truck. We’ve done it before, for years, and that was when I had two kids to run to school and to all those meetings afterwards. I only have one to run around now. I’ll just take hubby to work at five in the mornings and then I can keep the truck to go and do what I need to.

The house insurance was a real disappointment. We have hurricane coverage, but when the man came out he said all of the damage inside our home was done by flood, and we aren’t covered for that, even though the flood was caused by a hurricane. That just doesn’t make any sense to me. If you have hurricane covered and that hurricane brings in a surge and floods your home, inland, well away from where anyone would even expect a flood, then it’s hurricane damage. They say no and they aren’t paying. They are going to pay something to fix the roof and the fences, but won’t say how much yet. FEMA came the same day, last Friday, so I’m hoping they will help. We won't know for a week or two more. I’ve heard they will loan money to do repairs and to replace things like my living room furniture and our refrigerator and all, at a really low interest rate with long-term small monthly payments.

We started working over at our house this weekend. We are hoping to at least get a few rooms livable in the next couple of weeks so we can finally go home. I’m really happy that my sister took us in for a week. And I’m happy my son was able to have us here in his home for now, but I just want to be back in my own home, even if it’s only part of it. I think everyone can understand that feeling.

My husband has gotten to go back to work, my daughter-in-law has too. My son’s college, SLU, which is about an hour and a half away has started classes again and he is using his wife’s car to go back and forth. (The insurance company totaled his car, too. He had only had it a year or so. They are going to pay it off and he'll still get a little bit for a down payment for another one.) My daughter’s high school here in Bogalusa isn’t supposed to be able to open back up until about October the 3, and that’s if they can get all of the damage repaired well enough by then to hold classes.

We started getting mail a little over a week ago, the day before we came back home. It comes in a piece here and there, and seems to be taking a long time for it to get here, but it is getting here. We also got our first local newspaper yesterday since Katrina. Each little thing is one more step back into the normal world, and right now the closer to normal things can get, the happier we all are.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Life with Katrina - Part Six

Saturday September 10

We got up at three that morning and intended to leave at four, but it was nearly five before we heading down my sister’s long driveway and then up the steep rocky road that lead to the highway.

The tranquilizers didn’t seem to be helping the dogs much at first, but after about an hour they settled down and we decided to drive as straight through as we could, only stopping when we had to for gas or to walk or water the dogs.

We didn’t have trouble finding gas until we got about three hours from home. Another hour or so and we hit the damage we had left behind. Instead of fourteen hours it only took us eleven this time.

When we hit our parish the roads were all mostly opened, but it almost seemed as if things looked even worse than they had when we left. Now all of the pulled up, broken down, and splintered apart trees were dead, their oak leaves or pine needles brown instead of green. Roof tops were covered with big blue tarps and power trucks, tree trucks and army trucks were every where.

When we reached our street we found our homes were still there, waiting for us. After a few moments we were thrilled to find no looters had entered or damaged either house and that the sewer hadn’t backed up into them either. Everything was just as we and Katrina had left it--including no power.

We expected that we wouldn’t have power since the main line to our home had been ripped from the pole, but since the business below us and above us had power because of us being on that main grid, there was no reason for my son not to have power. I wanted to just sit down and cry as I thought of the miserable nights ahead of us. I was also worried about my dogs, two of them really. One is a big husky who has too thick of a coat to handle the heat well, and the other is my dog that has the seizures. He has short hair, but because of his health and meds, he can’t take the heat even as well as the husky.

My husband got back into the truck and went in search of the power crews, of someone who looked like a boss maybe. When he found a lone man sitting in a power company pickup talking on a cell phone, my husband approached him and explained that our street didn’t have power and that the lady who lived next door to us was on meds that had to be refrigerated and the next neighbor over was in an electric wheelchair, and that we were on the grid that had power so he didn’t understand why we all didn’t have it.

The man came and took a quick look, moments letter he had bucket trucks here, and moments later we all had power! I think the whole street celebrated.

Our happiness soon came to a sudden halt though.

In celebration I headed through the house turning on each light. I didn’t really pay much attention at first. Things had been left in a pretty good mess. Furniture stacked up, stuff scattered about, flashlights and lanterns and such here and there. It just all looked like the way we had left it until I got to my bedroom. When I flipped the light switch in there, I couldn’t miss the colorful mold that covered all of the walls from the floor up to about two feet. Closer inspection revealed it on the walls of all the newer rooms we had built onto our house over the years, including the second bathroom, the living room, and the utility room. It was also on cabinets, shelves, furniture, and so on.

We had cleaned all of the water out of the house after the hurricane, we had left a number of windows open when we headed for my sister’s so the house wouldn’t be sealed up, but it hadn’t done any good. The mold had taken over anyway. There was nothing we could do but gather up the things we had unloaded from the truck and carry them across the street to our son’s home. (Thankfully his interior walls are paneling with no insulation behind them. Nothing there to soak up the water and hold on to it in the walls.) We couldn’t even begin planning a clean up or repair work until our issuance company and FEMA came and looked at things.

Everyone we asked said it wouldn’t be safe for us to stay in our home until the mold is gone, which means throwing some things away, cleaning what we can, and ripping out all of the sheet rock and insulation from the floor up to about four feet and then replacing it all. I don’t even know what we will be able to save. It seems the water destroyed motorized things and the mold is trying to get the rest.

It’s hard to live right next door to my home, to be able to look out my son’s front door and see my house sitting there, empty; to see my totaled car sitting in the driveway. But it’s hard to walk through the yard too. I’ve spent years on my yard, on roses and fruit trees and lovely plants and shrubs. That giant oak tree that fell through my whole back yard pretty much did them all in with one fall, including my large Japanese persimmon trees that took me over ten years to grow big enough that I was getting a decent amount of fruit from them each fall. They were both loaded with persimmons too, and you can’t buy Japanese persimmon fruit around here.

I even feel guilty for feeling sad--and sometimes even angry. We lost so little compared to what many others have lost. We are all alive, we have a running vehicle, our home is still standing, we have a roof over our heads and food and water and power and I know everything and anything else above or beyond that is more than I should ask for, but being human as I am, I guess I can’t help but have an occasional pity party for one or a special moment as my husband has named them.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Life with Katrina - Part Five

Friday September 2

We arrived at my sister’s house at a little after four Friday morning. We had left Bogalusa a very long fourteen hours before. We were exhausted, dirty, sick, hungry, and so glad the ride was over.

It took us a while to unload all of the pets and to get them situated. My sister had a pen out side for my son’s female dogs since one of them was in season and all of my dogs are male. We put our two big yard dogs out in another pen, and then brought the six others in with us.

Everyone soon crashed into the nearest bed, not even worrying about eating or cleaning up. I wanted to follow but my sister and her husband were about to leave for work so I stayed up a few moments more to see them off. When they went to leave I found my two yard dogs had gotten out of the pen so I ended up staying up alone for a good while catching them and fixing their pen. I just didn’t have the heart to wake hubby or the kids to help.

I finally got to sleep for about an hour or so, and then couldn’t rest any more. I guess I was just too wound up. When a neighbor brought a meal over for us before my sister got home from work that evening, my daughter actually cried as she fixed her plate. I can’t even think of a way to explain how great it felt to have hot food, ice in a glass, and an actual shower, clean clothes, and air conditioning. Things we have every day and never think anything of it.

We also had television and got to watch news. What we saw was so awful and since we had already been through it, we didn’t watch much more about Katrina for days. My husband said I was still having enough of my ‘special moments’ without the new stations helping me. I think we all were still having those moments, even when the tears didn’t show.

Saturday September 3 through Friday September 9

We went to bed early Friday night and got our first full night’s sleep in nearly a week. We got up early still, but I felt so much better. My sister and her husband had a three-day weekend, so they stayed home with us until Tuesday. We still had family members missing in Mississippi, and spent a lot of time on the phone looking for them. My sister didn’t have internet so the phone was the only way we could try and find out info. I also made a lot of calls to Bogalusa, my friends, my neighbors, my doctor, my vet, the city hall, the police station, hoping just one phone was working in one place. Nothing was.

My sister did her best to make us feel at home, and soon we did. Even the dogs settled in and enjoyed her wide open yard in the mountains. She lived out in the middle of no where.

Tuesday my sister drove us to the nearest town that had more than a gas station and a little market. It was in Harrison. The Super Wal-Mart there had a special program going so even though I didn’t have a refill left on my bottles, they let me buy a one month supply of both of my important meds. We stopped by a veterinary office too. When I explained where I was from and about my dog’s seizure meds, the vet there let me buy enough for a month without seeing the dog, even let me buy some tranquilizers for my big dogs to help make the trip home better. It seemed everyone we ran into was so open and friendly and nice to us.

Just when we finally located the last missing family member and knew for sure that everyone was okay, my brother who lived in Mississippi, had a heart attack. His daughter and wife kept us updated as best they could, but things looked really bad that first day for him. (I’m happy to say he came through fine, had some stints added and is now home doing well.)

Thursday evening we got our first answer in Bogalusa, a friend who lived near the highway. She said only a handful of people had phone service and pretty much no one had power. The water was on, but still not safe to use. We tried everyone and every place else we knew, but couldn’t get another answer.

Friday the police station answered. They had just got phone service but still didn’t have power. They said help had made it in and that the power companies that were working on things had the main grid up and going, the one that went to the hospital. That was great news since our home and my husband’s job and even my daughter-in-law’s job, were all along that same grid. My husband still couldn’t reach the sawmill in Bogalusa where he worked, but was able to reach another one owned by the same company. They said he could start back to work Monday. My son goes to college about an hour and half from Bogalusa in Hammond. He was able to reach them and find out he could start back to school. That meant we really needed to be home for Monday. We tried off and on, but couldn’t get any other calls through to anyone else.

As we made plans to leave for early the next morning, I wondered what we would find when we got home. Did the looters break into our homes? Did we really have power and water and maybe even phone service? Would we be able to find gas once we got close to home? Would the drive back be as ruthless as the drive up had been? Would there be stores and places to buy food and supplies?

There was only one way for us to get the answers to any of those questions. It was time to go home.

Life with Katrina - Part Four

Thursday September 1

By Thursday morning I had really had enough, about all I could take in fact--both physically and emotionally. I started the day feeling even worse than the day before. I’m only forty, but I felt sixty at least.

Our local radio station came on the air at a little after eight with an announcement from the mayor. He expected that it would be at least thirty days before even partial power was restored to Bogalusa, probably ninety days before every home had power again in the area. There had been no shipments of bread, ice, or supplies, and he didn’t know when there would be. The water was unsafe and he expected sewer to begin backing up into homes soon. He said, “If you have a vehicle with a tank of gas in it, and there is any where you can go, leave.” They did have one highway opened leading out. There was just nothing more the city could do for us. Even the police station had no power or phones or gas for their cars.

My husband still didn’t want to leave, just drive off and leave our home and everything in it to looters or what might come, but I think at that point I was getting sick enough that he feared losing me was becoming a real possibility. He told me he could replace things, but not me. All I could do in return was cry. I had begun doing that a lot. He started calling my little outburst of tears my special moments. I’m still having them even now, but they are much fewer.

We were lucky; we had our truck and our daughter-in-law’s car, and we had filled both with gas before the storm. Together we went through our homes and picked out the few most important things that we could fit in. I thought we were doing this quick, but it took hours. It’s so hard to stand in your home of twenty-one years and look around and decide what you should take when you can take so little. I wanted to save it all. The things from my children growing up, things from my parents since I had already lost them both, pictures, family papers, things like my computer and my research books, but there was so little room because the ice chest and four big dogs were going to be in the back of the truck and three of us and four small dogs were going to be in the front. My son and his wife had less room since they had a car and pets too.

So we all got what we thought best, grabbed a few days’ worth of clothes for each of us, and some how loaded up all of our animals. We tied each of our four big dogs to one corner in the back of the truck. Two of these dogs had never been around the other two and didn’t like them. None of them had ridden in the back of a truck before. To say this was awful is putting in mildly. I just knew one of them was going to hang himself. We finally had to put my daughter back there with them while we drove through town, working our way under fallen lines and around fallen trees that had been pushed over so one side of the road was open, weaving our way through, finding a road open here and there until we finally made it to the highway.

We didn’t know if we’d be able to find gas when we ran out, but we knew where we were heading, to my sister’s near Lead Hill, Arkansas, and we hoped and prayed for the best.

It took over two hours of driving mostly west, away from the path the hurricane had taken, before we stopped seeing down trees and damaged homes. That’s when we realized just how big Katrina had been. I’ve looked it up now and we caught the left side of her eye in Bogalusa, but hurricane force winds extended out over 120 miles from the center of that big powerful eye wall.

Bogalusa is right on the Louisiana/Mississippi state line, about thirty miles up from Lake Pontchartrain, about forty miles up at an angle from the Gulf. We were actually a little closer to the eye than New Orleans. Most of the land before New Orleans does nothing to weaken a hurricane. The weather man said that’s because it’s marshes and swamps so it’s almost the same as open water to them, so even though Katrina crossed over that little toe of Louisiana that sticks out into the Gulf before getting to us, she didn’t really start getting too bad of a beating for a good ways. Still, looking at the maps and charts, it looks like she did weaken from a category four to a category three before hitting Bogalusa. I don’t know what would have happened to us if not.

As we drove we watched for a place to buy gas, but there wasn’t one. We had to keep pulling over to calm the dogs down in the back. Those first four hours seemed to take twenty. Finally our cell phones began to work and I got to call my sister. We both cried. She had thought we were all dead. She had called the Red Cross and everyone else, and no one could tell her anything about us. The Red Cross had told her that morning that they had sent help in to Bogalusa, but they didn’t even have a way to contact their own people there. All my sister knew was that our city had taken a direct hit and everything there was out. She was so glad to hear from us and even glad we were on our way, pets and all, to stay with them. I also managed to reach a couple of friends for short calls, so they could maybe let other friends know we were alive after all, but then our cell phones went back out for hours.

We found gas just in time. We had to wait in a huge line, but filled up and heading on. We thought after that we would be able to find gas without trouble, but mostly we only found stations that had no gas at all. A few times I really thought we were going to end up on the side of the road with empty tanks. Other times I thought my son or husband was going to fall asleep behind the wheel and some of us were going to end up dead. We were all so tried. I needed sleep so badly, but didn’t dare doze off and leave my husband to keep himself awake. I tried to keep an eye on him, on the dogs in the back, and on my son’s car behind us. Every time I saw my son’s car swerve I held my breath. Our cell phones weren’t even working so I could call back and ask if he was okay.

A little after midnight I got really sick and started having chest pains. I didn’t tell my husband, I just tried to force myself to relax, to stay calm, to hang in there a little longer. It was almost over. Just a few more hours and it would be over.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Life with Katrina - Part Three

Tuesday August 30

We stayed up late Monday night trying to get as much water out of our house as we could. (We found a crawfish that had gotten into the house and waited out the storm with us. We put him back outside where he could go on his crawfish little way and tried not to think about what else might be in the house.)

By the time we were done, we were so exhausted that even in the heat we managed to sleep some. I think I probably slept three hours at the most though. I can actually take the heat better when I’m up moving around then when I’m in bed. It just feels hotter for some reason.

The sun rose Tuesday morning, the day after Katrina, and brought more heat with it. The air was humid and still, thick and heavy. The shade my oak trees had once provided around my home was gone. Even the trees left standing didn’t offer much shade since most of the leaves had been stripped from them by the wind. When I first looked outside that morning I felt shocked all over again. Maybe I just thought it had all been a bad dream and things would look normal. I don’t know.

When I stepped out on the front porch I did notice one thing that was normal again. The day before the hurricane came, three long days ago, our trees went silent. I don’t think I saw one squirrel rushing around or heard one bird sing. It was kind of eerie. But they were back Tuesday morning, fewer in number it seemed, but there. Usually after a hurricane or sometimes even a really bad thunderstorm, I end up with some new family members for a time, either baby birds or baby squirrels. At first I was relieved that I didn’t find any to care for this time, and then sadly I realized that the flooding had probably washed them all away. Poor little things.

There was a new sound filling the air; Chainsaws that went from dawn to dusk. My husband’s is one of them. From what we saw around us, almost every single street was blocked by fallen oak trees. We know now that the whole city of Bogalusa was in the same shape, and even all of the roads and highways leading in and out were blocked. We had been cut off from the rest of the world. No way to drive out, no way to call out, just our little city here all on her own.

While my husband was trying to cut the oak trees away that had fallen in front of and behind his truck, I found out something about my car. My son and I had been so thrilled to find no trees across our cars that we didn’t even think about the flood. Flood water has never gotten high enough here before to get into cars. But of course this time it did. I opened my car door and sat down to try to find a radio station with news. When I sat, there was a squish. I looked down to find water on the floorboards. I said the word please aloud even as I raised my gaze up from the floor. The little tray that holds my sunshades was filled with water, a glance at my gearshift showed dried mud over it. Both of cars were ruined.

Tuesday we had cold bottled water and dinks thanks to the ice we had put in our new five-day cooler. We cleaned up inside some, tried to drink plenty, and even though none of us had much of an appetite, we ate sandwiches and some chips. (Not a good diet for me since I’m a diabetic.) We didn’t have power, phone, or even running water. We had saved some buckets of the flood water to flush the toilet with. I had hoped our cell phones would work at least, so I could let my family know we were okay, but they wouldn’t, still aren’t working often even now as I write this almost three weeks after Katrina.

That hot tuesday we were all sweaty and still wearing the same clothes we had on during the hurricane. We sure didn’t smell pretty, and neither did the house. The flood water hadn’t been rain water, but a mixture of probably creek, river, ditch, and by the smell of it, even sewer water. But there was no water to bathe with, or to even wash up with. We didn’t know how long we would have to depend on the bottled water we had for ourselves and our pets. We couldn’t afford to waste any on the luxury of a bath.

I tried my best to sleep Tuesday night. My husband finally got up and went and slept on the porch in a chair. I soon followed him even though the mosquitoes were doing their best to eat us alive in spite of the bug spray we applied. I dozed a little, but never did really sleep. Our daughter slept better. Our son and his wife had gone across the street, home to sleep. They slept most of the night. I guess being younger and in better health is a big plus in the heat.

At around four in the morning I came back outside after trying to pick up something on our battery operated television. All we could ever get was one little blurry station out of Mississippi. When I came back out and sat down I thought I heard something, so I switched on my flashlight and pointed it into the yard. I didn’t see anything, but then I heard a soft female voice say hello. I turned my light back on and pointed it at the gate as I elbowed my husband. Two young girls, probably about nineteen or so, walked up to the gate and asked if I could help them please. They had walked all the way across town in the dark, trying to reach the home of a family member, which was still a long ways off and down a curvy road that runs through a pine forest. They both had backpacks on. I have never been one to pick up hitchhikers--writers just have too vivid of imaginations--but I couldn’t just let them keep going.

My husband brought the truck around, even though we were breaking the law since there was a dusk to dawn curfew in effect, and we drove them out to their family’s home. I did make them put the backpacks in the back of the truck though. (Smile)

Wednesday August 31

Wednesday morning the ice was holding on well enough to keep our drinks and lunch meat somewhat cold in our cooler. We were almost out of bread and lunchmeat, but I had can goods. I tried not to worry too much over our shrinking supply of water.

The heat, the high carbohydrate foods, the stress, the mosquito bites and the lack of sleep were already catching up with me. I felt awful, my head hurt, and I was staying sick to my stomach a lot. I was beginning to run low on my blood pressure meds and didn’t have many more of my diabetic meds either. One of my dogs is on daily seizure meds, and his was getting low too. If any of us got sick, there would be no 911, no hospital, no vet, no help. All I could do was to try and not think about it.

Five great things did happen Wednesday. First, my husband got our road cleared, at least the end behind his truck, so we could get out. The Army Reserve and the city had cleared the main road in front of our house with a big bulldozer since that road led down to the Army Reserve building that was about six blocks from my home.

Second, one of our local radio stations came on the air, not full time, but most of the day and was sharing info with us. Even at that point our little city was still isolated from the rest of the world.

Third, our local Piggly Wiggly opened up with no power, but was allowing two people at a time into the store to buy what ever was there as long as they had cash to pay for it. After a long wait in line, my husband and son came out with buns and more can goods and drinks. There was no sandwich bread or water left. Not a lot of many things left, so they got what they could.

Fourth, a huge convoy rolled by the front of my home. Truck after truck from light companies and tree removal companies. I never knew a convoy of trucks could make grownups cry.

Fifth, our water came back on. It wasn’t drinkable without boiling and it had very little pressure behind it so it was little more than a pencil-lead thick stream, but it was water.

We spent that night out on the porch again, in chairs, dozing some, slapping bugs a lot. If you haven’t ever lived way out in the country, where no street light or any human made light can reach you, then you have no idea how dark the night really is. All of us were out there, when we heard the sudden sharp sound of glass breaking and then shattering. We knew it was looters breaking into the little mom & pop store on the next block. There was nothing we could do but sit and listen and hope they didn’t come down our way and start going into houses.

In that pitch darkness, with no phone, no way to call the police or anyone else for help, I felt more afraid than I had even in the middle of Katrina’s wrath.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Life with Katrina - Part Two

Monday August 29

By two in the morning we were getting some pretty good gusts, some of them hanging on longer than others. Of course it was night, but with the help of the moon and streetlights we could watch the wind in the trees, as well as hear it.

As we watched news over the next couple of hours we learned that Katrina hadn’t weakened any more and she hadn’t turned any more either. It looked like we were going to get the eye. It felt like a trapdoor had fallen open in the pit of my stomach, but all I could do was look at my daughter, my son and his wife, and assure them that we’d be fine. When my husband spoke those same words to me, I knew he was doing the same thing.

By daybreak it had gotten bad enough that I was wishing we had left the windows unboarded and gotten out of here the day before. But like stepping off a cliff, once the fall has begun, you can’t jump back up. There was nothing left to do but stay and pray for the best. I had prayed for help to make the right decision before we decided to stay, so I hoped I had made the right one, for my children’s sake most of all. My daughter is seventeen and in her last year of high school. My son is twenty-one, recently married, and on his fourth year of college. His wife is nineteen.

We kept getting powerful blast of winds, but since they were hitting the left side of my house we are able to leave our storm door shut and our wooden door open to the inside so we could watch the trees across the street in front of my house. By seven that morning power was out, so that open door gave us cooler air and light. I think the phone was gone by then too, or within a short time there after.

Through that open door we heard the roar of each gust as it came, we saw the trees bend and bow toward the earth. Along with that load roar was the pops and cracks of trees that gave way. The pines were the ones to usually pop while the big oaks cracked. We didn’t hear them crash to the ground, just the almost gunshot-sounding pop of those that snapped and the crack and crunch of those that broke. With the passing of every few minutes the gusts seemed to build and to last longer. A huge pine right on the other side of the road snapped and we watched it fall. My son’s home is across the other street, beside my home, so we couldn’t see it.

I wondered how much stronger the winds would get, and how long the giant oaks around my home could hold on under such an onslaught. Some how I made sure I appeared unworried. All three children -- yes I know how old they are, but they are still my children -- were sick to their stomachs. I guess just from nerves.

I told myself that it couldn’t get much worse, and then it did.

Slowly the gusts built, pushing the rain sideways so it became a white sheet that we couldn’t see through. Finally those winds got strong enough that even though they were hitting the side of my home, we had to shut the door. We turned on a lantern for light and listened as the wind became a constant roar, almost like a jet engine getting ready for take off. We could no long hear anything else unless it was something big that hit one of the plywood covered windows near us.

My husband held tight to the front door, his back and weight against it, but we felt the air moving in the house. We had closed every interior door, making us a center haven in the middle of the house in the kitchen.
(An hour before then my husband and son had taken the mattress off of my daughter’s bed and brought it into the room so we would have something to throw over us if the roof did come off.) The only exterior door in that area is the one in my little office that was really supposed to be a dinning room. That room is open to the kitchen. Those closed doors rattled, adding to the noise around us.

At around that time, the first true wave of undulated fear hit and almost knocked my feet out from under me. I have been through hurricanes and even tornados before, but this was worse. I was still telling the kids we would be fine, but inside I honestly thought the roof would be ripped away or an oak tree would come crashing in at any moment. It just went on and on and on.

After about an hour more, when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, suddenly they did.

Water began to pour in under the front door. As my husband took off his shirt and began to jab it under the opening, I noticed that water was also coming into the kitchen from my bedroom door. There wasn’t an exterior door in my bedroom. I opened the door and found water coming in through the walls, and since my bedroom was lower than the old part of the house, it was already an inch or two deep in there.

We had lived in that same house for over twenty-one years, and although water had made it onto the porch a couple of times before and even threatened to come higher once, it had never come in on us. Now here it was. My son can’t swim and has a fear of water, so after already hearing all of the news and warnings about hurricanes and how many people drown, he went pale. So did his wife and my daughter.

I promised them the water wouldn’t get more than ankle deep. I thought I was telling them the truth.

My son looked out the little window in our front door and then called for his father. The front yard and street that had still been there only moments before, were suddenly gone. There was a lake there, a lake of deep dark rushing water. I could see the top half of our high chain-link fence and our mail box. I figured the water outside was at least three feet deep and rising. Inside the water was rising too, trying to match the outside, going over our feet, our ankles, up our legs, almost to my knees but still it stayed lower than what was outside the door.

The wind didn’t sound like it was letting up at all. I picked the smaller of my dogs up and actually put them on my kitchen table to keep them out of the water that was deeper than they were tall. Even the big dogs walked around in it crying. There was nothing we could do but stand in the dark smelly water, in the heat of the house, and listen to the hurricane roar on outside, wondering if it would ever stop, if the water would keep rising, if the roof would tear away or fall in on us.

I think it was about one that evening before we finally heard the roar lessen.

In a short time we were back to gusts and we could open the door again and breathe. A little longer and the gusts became further apart and weak enough that we were able to step out on the porch into the water and get our first look at our new neighbor.

All I could do was cry.

It was over and everything looked like hell had blow up around us, but we were alive and our house was still standing. The water level was already falling some. We ventured out a little further and realized that although oak trees had fallen in front, behind, and even beside and between our cars and truck, they were okay other than some good dents in the truck -- my husband’s pride and joy. My husband and son made it across the street to my son’s home to find it flooded, but there.

Bogalusa is a saw mill and paper mill town. We are surrounded with pine forest and every street is lined with big old oaks. (Well, that’s how it was before this.)

The huge oak tree next door, in front of my son’s home…my childhood home…had been pulled up by the roots. A tree at least a hundred years old that probably five men couldn’t touch hands and reach around. It was resting on its side, all the way down my son’s fence and then on the mom & pop type grocery store next to him. The oak trees next to my house had held ground, but the top half of them had been snapped out and dropped into the road and my yard. These were huge oaks too. The one in our neighbor’s back yard had come up by the roots and falling across our fence, over our new shed, across my fruit trees, over my birdbath and picnic table, and then through the other side of the fence into our driveway. The pecan tree beside my house was now on top of my roof.

Every where I looked it was just a jungle of limbs and green leaves. There was no yard or street left.

While we were still looking around and celebrating the fact that our houses and cars had made it, the wind suddenly changed directions and began to increase. It was then that I realized that the hurricane must have not turned at all, and that we had gotten the eye wall.

Katrina wasn’t through with us yet.

My husband rushed us all back into the house. Soon we had to shut the door back and the wait began again. My daughter and daughter-in-law cried. My daughter sobbed, “Please not again.” I added my own silent prayer as I told them the back side wouldn’t be as bad. Back sides were weaker. If we made it through the front we could take the back. I was wondering what winds from the opposite direction were going to do to things that were already weakened, but I kept that thought to myself.

We were lucky; the back side was weaker and quicker. By three that evening or a little after, it was really, finally over with.

Little did I know that a new form of long-term hell was just beginning.

Life with Katrina - Part One

I didn’t write the below as each day came and went. In fact, until this morning, which is almost three weeks after all of this began; I haven’t thought much about writing anything more than a couple of messages and blogs to let people know we are okay. I guess I’m writing this for me while my memory still holds most of it in order and in sound and vivid color, and for people who have asked why we stayed, or why we left afterwards, or what it was like.

Friday August 26, 2005

This was such a very normal day. The last normal day we would have for a long time. I bought groceries, paid bills, did e-mail, cleaned house, just like any other Friday. But of course just like with all last normal days before the abnormal ones begin, we are often clueless and left expecting the expected to go on.

Since I’m in southeastern Louisiana -- in Bogalusa actually, right on the Louisiana/Mississippi state line a little ways above New Orleans -- I always keep an eye on any tropical reports that come in during weather, so I knew about Katrina. I knew she was out there, that she had crossed over the bottom part of Florida and was in the Gulf, but I wasn’t worried. The expected path was for her to hit a high building over us and turn back north and give Florida another punch.

Then Friday evening came and suddenly all bets were off. She hadn’t made that turn and we begin to get our first real warning that we needed to watch this one close, just in case -- though they still expected her to stop moving west and to take that north turn. Of course there had been about six in the last couple of years that were slow to turn that we had to watch close, but the bad ones always turned.

And yet, even if not, Friday evening late is a bad time to tell people in and around the Big Easy that, surprise, a hurricane might be a comin’ before the weekend is over. People are out at football games, either pro or high school, people have gone out to party with friends, or just to share a good meal, or have curled up on their couches with the latest hot DVD rental or newest novel to entertain them. They aren’t watching local television where they have a chance to catch a special weather report.

I was, but it was still only a watch and wait game.

Saturday August 27

This morning we find that Katrina still hasn’t turned, but they’ve seen a couple of jogs east and a little more north, so those are good signs. Now they are saying she’ll probably hit Alabama, maybe around the Alabama/Florida state line, but we need her to take that straight north turn soon. She’s still supposed to. There’s a high over the east side of Florida and a high over us in Louisiana, which leaves an opening in the middle. She’s supposed to turn and follow that opening.

Since nothing is for sure, they say to get prepared. Time to do the hurricane dance.

For those of us who live this far south, we know it as well as our parents knew the two step. I consider it my own little hurricane-go-away dance. It always works. You simply go to the store and spend bill money or add debt to your credit card to buy tons of bottled water, batteries, bread, can goods, ice, dog food, snack foods, and such…oh, and stop by the gas station to make sure your car is filled to the brim and get cash from the bank -- more bill money. Once you’ve done all of that, the hurricane smiles and heads away, or if she comes, she gives you a good blow without much damage and you find out you bought way too much stuff and spent way too much money.

So just to run her off or weaken her down, I went out and did my dance that morning.

Something went wrong this time though. The update that came in after lunch -- we call it dinner but I don’t want to confuse anyone -- was worse. They were now saying the Mississippi/Alabama state line probably. That’s too close for comfort. We could get a good side blow from that, depending on how wide the storm was, though we would be on the good side of the hurricane. The left side is the weakest.

But there was a threat of worse news. The chances were building that Katrina might take the turn too late and even make a Louisiana land fall.

I still didn’t believe it would hit here, not really.

Better safe than sorry, so we headed back out to buy more supplies. The news was reaching people by then though, so it was hard to find more of some things, like water, bread, ice and batteries. But we did get them. Even bought a five day cooler that promised to keep things cold for five days in ninety degree weather.

While out I met up with more than one friend who asked what was going on, and had to explain to them that Katrina hadn’t taking her north turn yet which put us more in her expected path.

It was too late for some things at this point. I’m on three daily medications. Two that I can’t miss. One for high blood pressure and one for being a diabetic, what we call having sugar. My drug store where my doctor had called my next refills in to, closed at noon. I have a dog that has seizures and he can not miss his daily meds either. I couldn’t get him more this late, since his vet has to order it and it takes three or four days to arrive at her office. It was also too late to buy plywood to board up the windows with, since the lumber store closed at noon.

Sunday August 28

Long before daybreak Sunday morning I was up checking on the news. Katrina hadn’t turned during the night, she was heading for us and had gotten stronger over night, reaching a category five. To give you an idea of how bad that is, there is no category six.

I didn’t know how we were going to do it, where we were going to go, but I knew it was time to prepare to run from this one.

(I’ve heard people say harsh things about those who didn’t run, especially those in New Orleans who stayed because everyone knew it would flood so badly, but you have to remember that leaving for a hurricane is hard. It takes money, lots of it, it takes a tank full of gas just to get started, it takes a vehicle and one that is in good enough shape to get you far away, it means leaving almost everything you own behind for looters to do with as they will, it often means leaving family and friends behind because some can’t and some won’t go, it means finding a place you can go to, and if you have pets, finding a place that will take you and them, or it means leaving them behind to die. Lots of people had also just left a short time ago for another hurricane, which like the others turned at the last moment. It’s a very hard thing to do, to leave, and this time there wasn’t much warning or time to prepare or decide.)

On this morning for this hurricane, even though I had never left once in my whole life and we are above sea level and our area was only under a voluntary evocation, I decided this was the one to leave for.

And then we didn’t.

We spent a few hours getting things packed, figuring out where to go -- the only family I had outside of the warning areas was my sister way up at the tip-top of Arkansas almost on the Missouri state line -- how to fit eight dogs in our truck, what few possessions we could squeeze in and what those should be. That was really hard too. My son lives next door to me, so he was doing the same things, getting ready to follow where we went.

Then we found out the lumber store had opened so people could get plywood and we rushed out to buy some. I think that’s where we lost the momentum we had going to leave. It took hours to board up the windows on both our home and our son’s. During that time Katrina took a little jump to the east and she dropped from 175 mph sustained winds down to 155. That lowered her from a category five to a three. We also heard from one of my son’s friends who had left that morning and was now stuck in crawling traffic up in Jackson Mississippi. She said service stations were running out of gas and lines to get any were long even up there and that she feared it would be worse as the day went on.

By the time the windows were all boarded up, we were all packed up and knew we were going to head to my sister’s, it was nearing nightfall and we decided it was probably safer to stay and face a category three hurricane in our brick home that to risk being stuck in traffic or running out of gas some where, still maybe in Katrina’s path.

Was it the right decision? Even now I’m not sure.

We didn’t sleep Sunday night at all. Not long after dark the first feeder bands from Katrina began to let us know she was coming. Really they are just gusting winds that give us a little hint that a storm is out there. We weren’t supposed to feel the real start of Katrina until after midnight. Which will take us to Monday.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Ice, bread ease some suffering in Bogalusa

The below was taken from the Bucks County Courier Times at

Ice, bread ease some suffering in Bogalusa

September 10, 2005 10:08 AM
Bucks County Courier Times

Three days ago, the first "luxury" items in nearly two weeks arrived in hurricane-ravaged Bogalusa, La. - ice and sandwich bread."

They gobbled it up," said Richboro retiree Keller Taylor, a Red Cross volunteer.

Taylor is helping feed thousands of people in this eastern Louisiana suburb, which took a direct hit from Hurricane Katrina. About a third of homes have been leveled.

The volunteer is one of two Bucks men who arrived last week into the chaos of Louisiana to help with the historic Red Cross disaster relief effort. Bristol Township retiree Ed Sherman is assigned to an emergency shelter in Lake Charles. Three other local Red Cross volunteers arrived in Louisiana this week, and a fourth is in Massachusetts helping coordinate volunteers.

On Thursday, the first shipment of bread that Bogalusa residents had seen since the Aug. 28 storm arrived. The day before, Taylor drank his first iced beverage since arriving there a week ago Friday.

Bogalusa remains mostly cut off from the rest of the world, Taylor said. Aside from the Red Cross, the only other relief agency there is the Southern Baptist Disaster Group, which has chainsaw crews removing fallen trees on people's homes and on the roads. Utility crews are bulldozing debris to clear roads.

Most residents are living without power or running water, which aren't expected to return for weeks. Inactive, downed power lines remain scattered all over the roads. Some much-needed trash collection has started. There is little communication with the outside world. Local officials are putting out fliers with general relief information updates.

Taylor said he was told food stamps soon would be available. "But frankly it won't help until supermarkets are repaired."

Martial law is in effect, with the National Guard enforcing a dusk-to-dawn curfew. There's a ban on alcohol sales throughout Washington Parish, where Bogalusa is located.

Twice a day - at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. - the Red Cross trucks, with police escorts, pull into the parking lot of a destroyed gas station off Highway 21."

When we come in, there are people waiting in their cars for us," Taylor said.

Instantly, lines 40-people deep form. Taylor serves about 500 to 600 meals in an hour - an average of about 1,150 meals daily. But it's never enough, he said. Some people leave hungry.

Over the last few days, supply lines have improved significantly. Several truckloads of food arrived, along with propane, which is used in portable kitchens to cook hot meals, Taylor said.

"We're just going right through it," he said about the latest supplies.

Bogalusa is a town where people lay down roots that only burrow deeper with each generation. Families with severely damaged or destroyed homes have moved in with relatives - living 17 to 20 people in a house - rather than go to an emergency shelter, Taylor said.

Taylor says it's hard to say if there are any emerging signs of a return to normalcy.

"Folks are coping. At this point, we're coming up on the two-week mark. They know what has happened. They know what their situation is. They know what their circumstances are. It's tough."

After two weeks in the chaos, Taylor is scheduled to return Monday to Bucks County. He's undecided about whether he'll return. "I need time to think about it," he said.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Phone In And Out -- More Out Really

After I sent that post to my blog yesterday morning, my phone went again. I haven't been able to get a call, make a call, or get on line, since then, until now. Even the cell phones went out again. I thought we were going to lose water again too. The pressure went down to almost nothing for a couple of hours, but then came back to normal. I might have to boil it to use it, but at least it's there. Anyway, I better make this quick since the phone line could go again at any minute. Just wanted to let everyone know that I'm not being stuck up here. (Smile) I will answer comments and messages as soon as I have the time and the phone line long enough to do it. (Smile) Thanks so much for all of the good wishes and thoughts. They mean more than you know.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Katrina is Gone and I'm Back

So great to be able to send a message or post to my blog! Just wanted to let everyone know that I'm okay and home. Well, kind of home. I'm actually living next door to my home in my son's home. We ended up heading to Arkansas after all, three days after the hurricane. My sister lives in a little place at the very top of the state. From the bottom of the MS/LA state line up to the top of Arkansas is a lot longer drive than I would have guessed. (Smile)

We spent over a week there and then came home Saturday. We were lucky and got power back to our homes a few hours after we got here. We have phones too.... though they often work only when they want to. We have running water, but it's not safe to drink. As you can see, my son has internet service back even, but it's dial up and there are five of us in the house and only one phone line....which like I said is up and down, so I'm still set to no mail on all my groups and won't have many chances to be on line. (I'm still a little shell shocked and have a lot of other stuff to take care of too.) I'm not even on my own computer, so I don't have my address book or anything from it.

We are fine though, and that’s what I want to let people know. We have food, bottled water, power, phone, meds, and can even flush a toilet. (Smile) Those are important things! Water first in line, food next, but the other things are important too. If your whole town doesn't have phones, there is no 911. Without power there is not only any lights or refrigeration, but hospitals can't helppeople, a heat index of a 110 can be deadly, and stores lock their doors and if they do open they take cash only.... which you can't get because the banks are closed too. I'm on two meds that I can't miss, and I have a dog on seizure meds, and drug stores for people and vets for animals don't open without lights either. (I was able tobuy a month's worth of all three while staying with my sister.) I managed to get a call through to our police department from my sister's last Thursday or Friday, they did finally have phones, but even they didn't have power then though the hospital and some other places were getting it. Since about 60 percent of our town has power now, and maybe almost as many have phones, a few stores and even some fast food places are opening during the day. The stores seem to have most items, the fast food places have a very limited menu, but it's a menu.

People still aren't allowed out before dawn or after dark, and going to Wal-Mart yesterday meant driving through roads pilled with hunks of cut up oak and pine trees on both sides, and walking by armed soldiers to enter the store, but just being able to go to my own Wal-Marts and buy some supplies felt great.

I lost my car -- gotta love the insurance companies -- since my car was eight years old, they are going to give me a whole 1,500 for it. Never mind that it only has 50,000 miles on it, was in great shape, and has been babied and cared for and never even missed an oil change. It was flooded, and to them it's a total write off. My son lost his car too, but it's newer so he'll even get a tiny bit more back than he owed for it, or that’s what they said.

His wife's car and my husband's truck came through okay. The truck only got some minor damage from a falling tree and was tall enough that water didn't get into the important stuff. My daughter-in-law's car was parked at a friend's house and was up high enough that it is fine too, so we were really lucky. That left us two vehicles to get out of here with. It took us a couple of days to cut enough trees away from them to get out....but it took the local National Guard and the city that long to clean enough roads and a highway for us to get out on anyway. My home....which I can see from my son's front door.... doesn't look too bad. It's got a little roof damage and there are huge oak trees down through the yard, over the shed and through the fence and such, but it looks like I should just be able to walk across the street and go home. My little old brick house stood the wind and the one tree that hit her -- a pecan which is much smaller than the giant oaks that fell around her. My home hadn't flooded in the 21 years I've lived in it, but during the worst part of the hurricane when we were waiting for the roof to comeoff, it was water that came. It poured in under the front door and, even to my shock, through the bedroom walls. Those walls we had put up with our own hands and unlike the older part of the home, they weren't brick. Seems wood does little to stop water.

We were lucky and the water only got knee deep. But it left so much damage, and now along with it, mold is covering all of those newer walls as well as lots of other stuff. The water went down before night fall after the hurricane, and then we mopped and cleaned and soaked up every bit of it that we could, the doors and windows were open for days before we left, and even when we left we kept some windows open, and the mold still won. My husband has gone in and gotten a few things out for me since we got lights and found the mold spreading over the walls, but he won't let me go back in.

So here I sit, waiting to see when our insurance man will come and what he will say and wishing I had gotten more insurance, including flood insurance.I'm not complaining though. We are all here, our pets are here, though one of them is really sick right now. We have a way to travel, we have a roof over our heads, we have food and water and lights and from this point on, as my mom would say, everything else is gravy on top!