Friday, August 27, 2010

Joads in a Jaguar, My Katrina Story

The week before Katrina hit I had oral surgery and was under the influence of some very nice pain killers. Therefore, I was oblivious to the weather reports in the week leading up to the storm. The afternoon of Friday, August 26, we were all blissfully going about our business secure in the knowledge that Hurricane Katrina was heading for the Florida Panhandle. Later that day the track took a drastic change to the west and it looked like it was headed for New Orleans. A period of denial set in and we waited to see if the track would change. (Our weather talking heads seemed to give us some hope that it would) By Saturday morning, it was clear that the track would not change and that we finally going to get our worst scenario hurricane. By now the storm was already inside my personal evacuation demarcation line. (The local phased evacuation plan required 72 hours to be put in effect. They now only had 50) I went to the bank, picked up clothes at the cleaners, put gas in the cars and hurriedly threw wood on the windows. Our daughter-in-law had made reservations in Houston but they were for Sunday. I called American Express and had reservations made for Saturday as well. My wife grabbed some favorite family photos. We then took her mother and one of our nieces (Mike's daughter - he is on the parish council and had to stay behind), packed them in my wife's Jaguar and headed to Houston feeling sure that we would enjoy a short holiday before returning home as we have done several times before.

We arrived in Houston at 9:00 PM Saturday and met up our son, his family and his in-laws. We spent Sunday watching a storm track that showed no intention of changing. I was up early on Monday morning and doing the math (If a hurricane is heading 360 degrees and it is 130 mile SE of your location, how close will it come?) in the hope that it would stay far enough east for us to miss the worst of the wind. By mid morning, we know that it hit Buras in full Category 4 strength. As there was nothing else to do, we took a family trip to the Houston Space Center, which our oldest grandson J loved.

On Tuesday, August 31, the first news reports are coming in from Biloxi and it was bad, real bad. Worse than Camille! However it looks like New Orleans did OK, until a levee broke and flooded the city. We take a trip to Old Town Spring to get our mind off of things. Brother-in-law Mike calls and tells us that our house only had minor roof damage and that Belle Chasse was dry. But now we hear about looting in the city. Mike tells us that Plaquemines Parish is locked down and no one is getting in - especially looters. It was this day that my wife took grandson J out to get some popcorn in the Embassy Suites lobby and our son had a breakdown when he couldn't find J in our hotel room and thinks he is lost - an indication of how much stress we all are under.

By Wednesday, the news crews are in New Orleans and showing the flooding, the looting and the misery at the Superdome. We move to Lake Charles as the casino wants our son to work out of the casino there and they are willing to provide rooms. It is surreal to be in a brand new casino hotel knowing that on the other side of the state a major disaster has occurred.

Thursday, September 1: Our 27th anniversary. We went shopping for some extra clothes as it is now clear that we could be gone for a few weeks instead of days. Bro-in-law Mike stopped on his way to Houston where he was going to escort a supply truck of relief supplies back to our town. New Orleans is stopping and diverting any supply truck that does not have an escort for themselves. Neighboring parishes get nothing unless they protect it. More reports of looting and shooting at rescue workers. We talk to my wife's sister, who is locked down at the West Jefferson Medical Center. They need a cordon of National Guard with armored vehicles to protect them from looters. Sheriff Harry Lee has blockaded the Greater New Orleans bridge to prevent looters, and everybody else, from coming over the river from Orleans Parish. His action will probably drive a wedge between inter-parish cooperation for years to come but will draw praise from residents of Jefferson Parish.

Friday, September 2: The casino wants to move us to some corporate apartments as they want the hotel rooms for Labor Day weekend. The apartment was a mess but we clean it up, go shopping and prepare to settle in for several weeks. But by Saturday, the CEO reneges on the apartment offer and wants our son back in Harvey to help clean up the casino there which is housing the electrical crews who are living in the parking lot. At lunch we have a spat with my wife's mother. We are going to Morgan City where our daughter-in-law's parents are using a relatives' empty house. My wifes's mother was told she will have to ride with stuff on her lap as the Jag was not designed to carry the amount of stuff we have. (The hotel gave us blankets, sheets and pillows and we have to take them with us to Morgan City.) She was not happy about being crammed in the car and the discussion escalated from there. At least the fights on this trip are inter-family and not with the in-law grandparents as in past evacuations.

(OK.... why, you ask, are you in the Jaguar with 4 people and their baggage and not the Durango? The answer is that we can afford to get another Durango but not a Jaguar. Therefore, the Jag was our primary evacuation vehicle.)

We are packed so tight in the Jag that passengers have to get into the vehicle and then I pack soft goods - pillows and blankets, etc. - around them. No need for seat belts - it's like riding in a big marshmallow. In order to deter any attempted car jackings, I have two hand guns within reach in the car. Both of them locked and loaded.

We are in Morgan City for Labor Day. The word is that there are car jackings still going on there so I always pack a gun when running errands. (In Louisiana, a car is considered an extension of your house and you are allowed to have a gun in your house)

Now that we are established with a kitchen and grocery stores, my wife does a little cooking. Our first home cooked meal in many days was crawfish etouffe. Another notable occurrence happened on September 7 when D, the middle grandson, lost his second tooth. And, yes, the tooth fairy can find you where ever you go.

The remainder of the week is spent waiting for Plaquemines Parish to open up again, which finally happened on September 11. The baggage was shifted to our son's car. He had returned for the weekend with his second vehicle and the Jag was stuffed with an ice chest and other groceries. Still tight but at least we could leave the pillows behind. Power was on at our house by Monday, September 12 and I was back in the office on the 14th.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Riding the Tube

On the Senate subway to the Capital Building.......

Soup Line

I told the boys they will need practice in standing in soup lines, given our current administration. Luckily, the Franklin D Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, DC has a place for them to get practical experience.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ramadan Mubarak

Ramadan starts today.

And just to make sure that you are all sufficiently warned, Gulf News in Dubai has been publishing warnings about eating and drinking in public during daylight. You can get one month in Dubai jail for commiting such an offense to Allah (PBOH). Such is life in the progressive, western friendly Emirates.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Arcin' and Sparkin'

Yesterday my wife called me while I was driving home. It seems there was an electrical problem and power lines were arcing and sparking in the back yard. I arrived home to find that a limb from my back yard neighbor's pecan tree had shorted out on the 8 kV feed. In addition, it had burned the lines feeding my house. The limb was hanging and on fire.

I made a call to Entergy and punched the "3" option to signify an electrical emergency. After all, they had a line shorting out on a tree. The tree and ground around it could have been energized. I immediately told the operator that this was an emergency involving live power lines in a residential area. I might as well have been talking to my hand. They had to go through their entire list of questions before telling me that they would report my "outage" and that someone would be there within an hour or so. "NO", I told him, "this is an emergency - you need to get someone here ASAP. There are live wires arcing and sparking." No use, the operator could have cared less. As far as he was concerned, this was an outage that required no unusual measures.

In the meantime, my other neighbor had called the local fire station. They, of course, could do nothing with live wires about. A deputy showed up and went around the neighborhood to warn folks to stay inside until the problem was fixed. Since we didn't have any power, my wife and I decided to go out to eat. When we returned about 2 hours later, the repair crew was on site and had finished half of the splice required to fix the wires - and trimmed the tree. I don't know whether they had responded to my call or if our fire department had brought them out.

The lesson, our public utilities hire idiots to work the phones so if you see something dangerous happening, just run the other way!

Head Count

As of the end of July, 2010, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has beheaded 17 people. But don't feel too badly. They were either murderers or rapists.

The Kingdom is way down from last year. By this time last year they had separated 46 heads from their torsos.