4/08/2008

Hurricane Katrina: Part II








About 5AM August 29, 2005 (a Sunday morning if I remember correctly), the wind was starting to pick up considerably. Branches from trees were starting to come down and wind gusts were maybe 30-35 MPH at this time. However, this quickly changed a couple of hours later. Ominous clouds started rolling in...I mean OMINOUS clouds. They reminded me of the scene of the tornado from The Wizard of Oz. We ate breakfast about 7:30AM, wondering if it would be our last hot meal for a while. An hour later, we had our answer; electricity was cut all over Mobile County. The wind and rain continued to increase dramatically as the morning wore on.

About 10AM, the first tree in our backyard went down. The tree had been dead for some time and I was surprised it had lasted this long in the hurricane. Not long after the initial tree went down, we heard a loud boom at the back of our house. A 25-30 foot pine tree had collapsed on top of our house. I went up into the attic to see if it had broke through the roof. We considered it a blessing it had not. The wind now had reached such a crescendo that our ears started popping. Creaks and groans were throughout the house. We managed to tune in to a radio station in nearby Pascagoula, MS where people were being devastated by Katrina. I can only imagine what they went through. I greatly feared our roof was going to be blown off. The winds, while not nearly as intense as what southern MS endured, never seemed to slack from the purported 80-85MPH range we later found out we experienced. My nephew and I were thinking what we would do if the roof went when we heard another loud crash, this time in the kitchen. The tree I had feared most, a 20 foot cedar tree, had collapsed on the roof near the kitchen. This time, the branches of the tree went through the roof and water was pouring into the kitchen. We gathered up as many towels, newspapers, tarps as we could to catch the water. It was not enough. Our carpet in the hallway was getting soaked and we could do nothing about it.

The hurricane raged on until about 3-4PM that day. Only then did we see an abatement of the wind. I have been through perhaps as many as 20 hurricanes in my life. I thought Hurricane Frederic was the worst. But, it was mild in comparison. Despite Mobile largely escaping the catastrophic damage that New Orleans and southern MS received, we still had our share of problems to deal with after Katrina had swept through this area. The worst thing for us was the overbearing, oppressive heat and humidity in the aftermath of the hurricane. It was impossible to sleep at night. We felt as if we were in the Stone Age. There were lots of people grilling out the next couple of days. We went without electricity for about 3 1/2 days. That may not sound like much. But, when the heat index in the high 90s and low 100s, it is miserable living conditions. Kudos to Alabama Power and the numerous power companies in the region who came to get power to thousands and thousands of desperate people.

As I have said, we suffered nothing like MS and LA did after the hurricane swept through. But, the thing that will always stick out in my mind (besides the lawlessness that took over in NO), was the scant amount of coverage given to the tragedy that had befell southern MS. You would have thought only New Orleans had suffered. Only after people started criticising the networks, did you see any coverage of the tragedy of Ocean Springs, Bay St. Louis, Van Cleave and Biloxi. The coverage of New Orleans was controversial because of the screaming for the Bush Administration to do something even though the LA governor had turned down federal help. While New Orleans residents were screaming racism, people in southern MS started cleaning up and helping themselves (with help from church groups, I might add). That is what I will carry with me the most from this tragedy.

There were plenty of people to blame for Hurricane Katrina, with FEMA definitely topping the list. But, to be fair, no one could have ever prepared for a disaster of this magnitude. It was just unprecedented. 2005 was one of the worst, if not the worst year of my life. A simply devastating divorce, homelessness, little or no income and then Hurricane Katrina. It's not something I would wish on my worst enemy. I pray that no one will ever had to endure what I did that year.

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