Remembering Hurricane Katrina

I had planned on posting about other things today but then I realized today was the 6th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina so instead today I’ll be recapping the events from 6 years ago. I apologize for the length of this.

Let me start off by saying that my husband and I weathered this storm a hundred times better than most did. I still hear stories of how some people are trying to recover.  So I cannot make light of this experience.  I cannot stress enough that my minor experience through this storm is nothing compared to what most went through.  It’s amazing how everything in our lives and in our story telling if you’re from Louisiana or Mississippi everything is pre-Katrina or post Katrina.

The Saturday night before Katrina was a fantastic night.  My husband and I went to a charity function and had the best time. I remember standing out on the lawn of the venue talking with some friends having the best time dancing the night away when someone mentioned there was a hurricane in the Gulf.  I remember everyone just being like, “Really, well, okay.”  We stayed out way later than we normal we do so of course Sunday we over slept and didn’t’ make it to church.

My husband is a very patient man and understanding. He has to be to deal with me!  So Sunday morning when we woke up and heard that we were going to feel the effects of the hurricane I asked him if we could go get some water and batteries.  He looked at me like I had lost my mind.  So after insisting that he go with me I’ll never forget the look on his face as we walked into Walmart and Sams.  It was the look of “I’ll die if anyone see’s me walking into here to buy hurricane supplies!”  I’ll be honest at that point we really thought it wasn’t going to be much of anything.  Just like every other hurricane we’ve had we get some rain, wind and we move on.  Lucky for him the guy that handled our cell phone account saw us and gave my sweet hubby a free cell phone charger since he couldn’t find his.  That would prove to be a huge blessing later on. Who knew?!

So Sunday night with a hurricane on the forecast the dearest hubby went to work. Yes, they had football practice.  Neither rain, sleet nor snow stops them!  I however stayed home to secure any loose objects we had in the yard and filled the tub with water.  By the time my husband came home that night from what I remember the forecast was a little more severe but we still had no clue what we were in for.   He also brought home a friend to stay with us that he worked with. Jareel lived in an apartment which is not the safest place to be during a hurricane and we always love having friends over so it was just one more person to add to our fun. The storm wasn’t forecasted to hit till the next day so we all slept well. From what I remember it was just a hurry up and wait type situation.

Monday morning we woke to a very dark day and from what I remember some rain.  The day of the hurricane is sort of a blur for me.  I remember watching TV for the most of the morning till about 10ish which is when the power went out.  At that time we had been living in our house since April and there were only a few houses in the whole neighborhood and there was one or two unfinished houses and a small bulldozer was  left parked on an vacant lot..  Later on this would be a huge blessing!  So since there were unfinished houses in the neighborhood that mean flying debris was seen.  We had at least two tornadoes to come through our area.  I just remember two separate times when it seemed like the roof was going to come off of the house and there was lighting when there hadn’t been lighting.  We watched neighbors houses slowly tear apart but nothing too major.  It was just long stressful day. Meanwhile we had no clue how bad it really was outside our little neighborhood.  That evening when the storm finally passed we sat in our driveway and ate like kings!  We had so much meat that we had stored (my husband’s dad had cows that he would slaughter at least one a year so we had plenty of meat).  It wasn’t just us but our whole little neighborhood.  That night it was dark. When you live in a neighborhood out in the country (like) and there are no street lights it gets very dark.

The next morning we woke to someone ringing our doorbell.  It was one of our neighbors to let us know a “party” had been formed to clear the main road. Why? Well apparently it was like there was no road there ever!  Trees had covered the road to the point where it was unrecognizable.  Thank goodness for that little bulldozer that got left and thank goodness for someone’s skills to hotwire!  Between the bulldozer and chain saw or two the men in our neighborhood started clearing a path. If we had waited for the county or city to do this there’s no telling how long we would have been stuck there!  It was noon before we were able to leave our little area. My neighbors needed toilet water and since I was still refusing to break into our last tub of bath water we found a nearby lake to get water out of for them and us.  We had very spotty cell phone service so we didn’t know what was really going on in the outside world. We just knew that Hattiesburg was bad and there was no power or water.

By the way, when the power goes out guess what, there are no ATM’s or working gas pumps.  It was just nasty the situation we were in. But we were still thinking it would be a couple of days and things would be back to normal.  By 3ish that day my husband and I had a startling discovery, IT WAS HIS BIRTHDAY! With everything going on we BOTH had forgotten it was his birthday!  So that night we found a coke machine near the power company that was working so we bought two cokes out of there and those were the best cokes I’ve ever had!  Down the road at the local catfish stand they were working off natural gas so they were frying all the fish they had at a dollar a filet. So we bought a couple of filets and went home and feasted for his birthday on catfish filets and coke.  Later on that night we had a little portable DVD player that we sat on the front porch and watched in the pitch black dark.  When we went to bed that night I’ll never forget laying in my underwear in the middle of the living room with the windows open thinking “Oh my what if someone sees me laying here in my underwear?” Then I realized, “Hell, I can’t even see my hand in front my face who’s going to see me in my underwear!?” By that time Jareel had already headed back to his apartment with the parting words, “Never again!” Meaning, he was not sticking around for another hurricane!

Day 2 after the storm we went over to a friend’s house to help clear up debris in their front yard when my husband received a phone call telling him the University of Southern Mississippi’s football team was being evacuated to Memphis for an undetermined amount of time.  That was my breaking point in all this chaos. I started crying. I thought I was going to be alone in that dark neighborhood while my husband was hundreds of miles away.  I was done. I wanted out of all this uncertainty and chaos.  I had myself a good cry. Luckily later on that day they (being work) called my husband back to ask if I wanted to go. I had to work if I wanted to go with the team but there was my little glimmer of light. So we went home to pack in the dark with no certainty of when we would be back.

The morning we were to leave for Memphis we still had not had a shower. Keep in mind that I can sweat with the best of them so there was nothing sexy, hot or loveable about me at this point. So after daring anyone to touch the one bathtub of water I had been harboring I got up bright and early to boil water on the grill so that I could bath the nastiness off of our body’s.  There was no way we could go all the way to Memphis in a Ryder truck (since we were carrying support material needed)  with that funk on my body.  Luckily we had just enough gas in that big old Ryder truck to get to  the Tennessee state line since there was no gas pumps working in Mississippi.

Day 3 was exhausting. It wasn’t until we arrived at the same time as the football team at our new home (a hotel) and saw the TV’s in the hotel lobby that we truly understood what we had just came from. I’ll never forget walking into the hotel lobby and seeing the televisions on CNN reporting on the apparent devastation we obviously had just come from. I remember looking around the lobby at every person who was with us and we looked like we had never seen a TV before. We all just stood there in awe at the destruction while others stood there and just stared at us. I can only imagine what they thought.

We truly had the hardest time grasping what was going on. That night we were at dinner and there again just glued to the news because none of us could believe we had just left all that behind. When it was time to pay for dinner we realized our bill was way less than what it should be. After questioning our waitress she explained that Hurricane refugees got a discount. We kept arguing that we weren’t refugees that we were there with the football team. That poor teenage girl had to explain to a bunch of adults that the reason we had come to Memphis was that we were fleeing from the hurricane wreckage. We in fact were refugees. It was a sad humbling experience.

We were away from home for 2 weeks since the team had a game in Alabama the second Saturday after the storm. That’s a long time to be away from home under those conditions.  We stayed busy with practices and when practice wasn’t going on there was work to be done. I even had fifteen minutes of fame when ESPN did a documentary of the team being displaced. I was doing laundry! Go figure.

We finally came home two weeks later and not soon enough. We were so mentally exhausted. Apparently just before we had pulled in the driveway our lights had just got turned on. We didn’t care that the house was still smoldering hot we collapsed in the bed and slept the remainder of the day away.

Like I said at the beginning what we went through is nothing compared to what others went through. I am not complaining by any means. This is just my account of what we went through this time 6 years ago.

So what did I learn from this experience?

  1. When there’s an approaching hurricane threatening my area whether it be a category 1 or 5 fill up all vehicles.
  2. Fill up grill gas tanks
  3. Have extra water on hand
  4. Fill up the bath tubs so you can flush the toilets
  5. Have some extra cash on hand so when the power goes out ATM’s and credit card machines don’t work
  6. Have batteries for flash lights and radio.

This morning as I was watching the news, Matt Lauer was insistent everyone had overreacted with Hurricane Irene this weekend and kept asking all his interviews if everyone over reacted. Let me just say, no!  Here’s how I see it. If the hurricane had come to shore and caused as much damage as Hurricane Katrina and had they not overreacted and told people to evacuate then it would have been, “Well why didn’t you take warning and evacuate people?” Since the hurricane fizzled out and people were inconvenienced for a weekend the he wants to wonder why they “overreacted.”  It really burns me up that he seemed so hell bent that officials overreacted.  What about the areas that are flooded and without power. Had they not evacuated would they be stuck in flooded houses today? Maybe I misread his tone and the point he was trying to convey, maybe I’m just being too sensitive.

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6 years later post Katrina I sit here and remember some of the things that we went through and I thank God everyday things for our family weren’t worst than they were. I also say a prayer every time I meet a true victim of this event that reshaped all of our lives.  I also pray I never have to go through anything like that again. I feel like I would be somewhat more prepared but I don’t really want to find out either.

Thank you for letting me share.

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