Friday, August 29, 2008

Remembering Katrina and facing Gustav

Three years ago today I was braced with my family in the kitchen in my home, watching water rise beneath our feet and listening to the roar of wind and the resounding snap and pop of tree trunks. The wind was actually loud enough that we didn't hear the thud of the trees hitting the ground or other things, no matter how big.

I never would have guessed that day, that three short years later we would be preparing to face another bad hurricane. I've lived in Southeastern Louisiana all my life. In fact, in the same town, Bogalusa, all of it. I could count on one hand the bad hurricanes that have hit us hard in all of that forty plus years. So two within three years is just shocking to everyone I have spoken to.

If you are one of my fellow Louisianans, or even in one of our neighboring states since there's still a chance Gustav could change his mind about where he wants to attack, then this message is for you.

Please, if your parish has or does call for a mandatory evacuation, there is a reason, and you should following that recommendation. I know how hard it is to leave things behind, we had to after Katrina, but it's better to leave and be safe, than to stay if the authorities believe it is really not safe for you to do so.

No matter where you live, if you leave, please...

Check on your neighbors and family and friends. See if someone wants to go but has no way. Maybe you have a spot for them in your vehicle? Maybe you can help them find someone else to ride with, or you can see that they call for one of the buses that is set up to take people out of some areas.

Don't leave your pets behind to fend for themselves. Not in a yard, not inside a home. In a yard, there will of course be strong wind and rain, there will probably be flooding, if in a fence, the fence could come down. I saw where dogs actually drowned because they were chained up and couldn't get out of the water. Also during a hurricane, things fly about, and your pet could be hit by something, or a tree could fall on them, ect... If you leave them inside, then the flooding could also be a problem, things falling on the home, and even after, just the heat of being shut up inside a closed house. If they survive all of the above, then what if you aren't able to return home for days or even weeks. So many pets that somehow lived through the storm, then suffered and died from lack of water and or food. If you can't take your pets with you, check the news' stations, or with your local SPCA. They do have plans in place this time to help people with their pets because so many animals died last time, and a number of people died as well because they wouldn't leave their pets behind and had no way to take them with them. Remember your pets are pets, not wild animals. They depend on you to protect them, feed them, and care for them, even in hard times.

When you leave, take important things with you. Your meds of course, some clothes, food, water, paper work, any supplies or special food or items for anyone sick and for your pets, ect... You can make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches pretty cheap, and they don't have to be kept cold. The same with lots of snacks. You could be on the road for hours and might not be able to stop like you'd you might end up staying some where for a week or more, so these things are important. It's also a good idea to take pictures before you leave, of your home, the stuff in side, the stuff in your garage, of any car or such you leave behind, ect...

If you don't leave, you'll need the same things and maybe more of it. If you are in one of those places where they asked people to leave and you don't, they have said they will not be helping you. So if you stay, think about that and what it will be like to be totally on your own if a tree comes through your home, water floods it, you run out of food or water, someone gets sick or hurt, ect... After Katrina, the flooding went away, we had our home and enough food and water to make it those first days, but it was still so hard and so scary to be on our own and know that there was no 911, no help if needed because even though we weren't told we had to leave, things were so bad afterwards that help couldn't even get to each other, much less us. You also have not home phone or cell phone, so family can't reach you to see if you are okay, and you can't reach them.

If you are staying, I hope only in a safe place, make sure you have enough of the things I mentioned above, the same things you have been hearing them repeat over and over on the news. Food, water, meds, food for babies or pets, batteries, ect... If you are in a house, make sure you have something to cut your way out if you have to.

Some hints... A tent is actually great. It was so hot here at night after Katrina, and we don't have a lot of windows in our house, so that didn't help. It was much cooler outside, but people got sick from being bit by misquotes. A tent and an air mattress could mean the difference between you being able to rest at night, and you being too hot to sleep. I think part of the reason I got so sick after Katrina was the not being able to sleep. I think in the first four days I maybe slept a totally of that many hours.

If you have a grill, or a crawfish pot and cooker, you can cook some stuff outside. If the meat in your freezer is going anyway, cook it up and invite the neighbors over and even feed the pets. (Wish I had thought of this, but I guess I was kind of in shock and didn't think of a lot of sensible things until weeks afterwards.) If you have a gas stove, you can cook inside, but it will heat your house up so quickly.

Miscellaneous. Make sure you have a five day cooler. They work. Those cheaper coolers let the ice melt so quickly, and there's not going to be any where to get more ice for at least a few days probably. Make sure you have camping stuff, like battery operated lamps, flashlights, a radio, small portable TV, ect... Don't forget collars and lead ropes or carriers for your pets.

Food. Make sure you have more than enough food. Food that will keep without ice. Peanut butter, fruit, bread, Spam, canned stuff like stew, beans, ect... Lots of snacks too. Don't get microwave popcorn. I know someone who did for Katrina, and we both laughed about it later. Little Debbie cakes, cookies, chips, crackers, canned cheeses, nuts, all of that stuff is great snacks. Don't forget pet food, baby food, special foods for people who have special needs, like someone who doesn't have teeth or someone who is a diabetic, ect...

Water. It's more important than food. You can live longer without food than without water. And it's going to be hot, so you are going to need it. I keep some empty jugs strung together and hanging from a hook in the shed. I do buy water and some soda and such, but I also rinse out and fill up all of those jugs, even soda bottles. Don't forget you need enough for the pets too. Also fill up your tub, your sink, ect...

Here's an article I wrote about preparing for a hurricane. I did this weeks after Katrina when things were fresh in mind, so I probably thought of some important things I didn't think to add here. Also at the bottom of the article are some pictures and info from that time. Might help you make up your mind about leaving or not. That info along with the track of the hurricane, the type of home you live in, the parish you live in, your health, and every thing else, will hopefully help you make the right choice in the next day or so, no matter how hard.