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.


Mriveraemt said...

I am glad things are getting better, even if just little by little. I lived in Puerto Rico until five years ago, I'm 33. I know how it is, I've lived through so many myself that reading your blog felt like relieving my own memories. I will always have the memory of a huge mango tree twisting and bowing to the winds of a category 5 hurricane with me. It's something you never forget. God bless you all and help you everyday to get back to normal.

Carol B. said...

I'm still reading, Charlotte. I'll be out of town for a few days, but keep these posts coming. They're good therapy for you - and good reading, too.

I notified the RWClist that you were doing this, so you'll probably get a lot more hits.

Miss you...

Elvina Payet said...

So glad to read you, the family and your pets are okay after such a traumatic time. Watching TV coverage from Australia made me sick to the stomach and cry at all the devastation.
My love, best wishes and prayers for a quick return to normality - and for the insurance company to stop being stupid and pay you the money you need.
Lots of love from "Down Under"

Serena said...

Hi Charlotte,
We were relieved to hear that you were safe. Reading these pages just tears at my heart. What a terrible time for so many people. Who would have thought...?
Can't believe the insurance company.
I hope tomorrow dawns a better day for you and yours and everyone affected by the devastation.
Love and hugs from Down Under...

Charlotte Dillon said...

I'm pretty darn happy to be safe too. (Smile)

Sorry if my posts caused some of you to relieve your own nightmares with hurricanes.

I don't know if writing most of it down helped me or not, but I figured it was better to write it down once, get it out, and have it here in a place so I could reach everyone at once and answer questions they might have, help them fill in info if they need it for a story, and most of all, let family and friends know that no matter how bad it was, it's getting better and we are alive and well.