Hurricane Isaac: Katrina, Part II

After being in a heightened state of anxiety for most of the past ten days due to the 24/7 reporting on the approach and devastation surrounding Hurricane Isaac, I feel compelled to give my first person narrative as one who experienced Isaac first hand.

My 90 year old father and 84 year old mother have been 35 year residents of the State of Louisiana, living in the New Orleans metro area, approximately 25 miles from Slidell, Louisiana. 

After losing a home in Arizona five years ago and political and quality of life issues there at the present time, after 45 years I have taken up residence with my elderly parents for both financial, and personal reasons as their part-time caretaker.

Which, at almost my retirement age with absolutely nothing left in savings to speak of, is no small task.

I was mostly entertained over the weekend watching the reporting from the mainstream news media, especially the weather channel and Fox News. 

One Fox report from Slidell, an area hard hit by the flooding which occurred, had a young, blond reporter wearing L.L. Bean hip waders, a powder blue (tight) t-shirt, manicure and spray tan standing in the middle of Old Town Slidell while the waters rushed by.

I hope she got her shots, but I guess her commander in chief was unaware that there are water moccasins in those waters, and those L.L. Bean hip waders weren’t going to give her much protection in any event.

But such is the reporting on this major "natural" disaster.

The drama all began a week ago today, when the path of the hurricane was taking it’s northwestern turn toward New Orleans.  Each and every hour the reporting confirmed the path, and those in the area started preparing for the worst.

We were going to leave, as my parents had done for both Katrina, and Gustav before only this time my father was on thrice weekly dialysis, as he has congestive heart disease and has been in and out of the hospital at least a dozen times in the past year.

He has stabilized for the time being (this month), but we knew due to the severity of his condition, we couldn’t go far so decided to "hunker down" for the duration, as one of my sisters who still lives in Arizona so aptly put it.

My other sister and brother-in-law, also long term Louisiana residents, decided to also do likewise since they, at least, did own a generator which my brother-in-law purchased during Katrina when he patrolled the neighborhoods with his neighbors during the month long power outages at that time. 

He was born and raised in Pennsylvania, but became one of those dreaded gun-toting Southerners within a few short years of moving here.

My parents truly do not get out much anymore as both suffer from heart disease…my mother merely to the store and back, or to my father’s dialysis appointments.  Short trips, mostly, to places she is familiar.  Due to also his debilitating arthritis, my father stopped driving years ago.

I went to three stores looking for "D" batteries since the entire community was out.  None at Wal-Mart or Walgreens.

I got the last two at the local Radio Shack.

Why is it that all flashlights require "D" batteries, anyway?

There were lines and lines at the gas pumps.

And, surprise, surprise…only Supreme was available at $4.25 a gallon.

There were recurring messages here to report any and all "gouging" to a local enforcement agency. 

I just wonder how many reported those out of control gas prices…up over $1.25 a gallon from where it was a month ago around here.

Then the grocery stores.

When the power goes out, there is no electricity for those ovens and stoves, or crock pots.  So I bought tuna, canned chicken, snack crackers, energy bars, water, bread and peanut butter.

My father is on a special diet due to his dialysis, so other than the peanut butter which was a no-no, I thought we were set for the long haul.

I decided to go to the local bookstore to get a book, just in case.  Walked in about 7:00 Monday night and all the shelves were covered with blue tarps and plastic wrap.  The store was closing and wouldn’t reopen until after the storm had passed.

We decided that as soon as the electricity went out here, we would all go to my sisters where there would be a room air conditioner. 

Six of us in one room for the duration, since my niece had decided to stay at LSU and attend the Hurricane parties there.  Of course, the real brunt of the storm had yet to come.

Tuesday passed, and we waited…as did everyone…there were no cars on the road, all who were leaving had left on Monday or Tuesday morning and there was an eery quiet that night as we waited for it to make landfall. 

I was up until after midnight listening to the progression.  It hit around 12:30 and it was windy for an hour, and then silence again.

Isaac had gone back over the Gulf again, waiting…

I slept on the floor that night since my parents house is surrounded by trees…pines, oaks, and number of other varieties.  Huge trees that had also experienced both Katrina and Gustav during their ownership, and for which they merely got a new roof for Katrina.

But then they were not living where there was the most damage that time.

My father was a wood technologist, and bought this house in the late 1970′s due to its brick construction, and an old 100 year oak on the property which he liked. 

The builder had built the house for his son, who had died in an auto accident when they were looking for house to live in.  I, asthmatic that I am, had stayed in Arizona when they moved, but had visited since my children were babies almost annually until a divorce.

Living in Arizona, I had experienced our annual monsoons (now haboobs?) and flash flooding.  The desert isn’t used to quite so much rain, and there is nowhere for it to go in the parched ground which is the Arizona desert.

But this was unbelieveable.  Almost 24 straight hours of gusting winds, and pelting, horizontal rain.

I had also been here during Gustav in 2008 (my mother had two heart attacks that year).  The winds were much stronger then, but it only lasted about six or seven hours.

We were fortunate.  We never lost power, although the neighborhood looked like a tornado had gone through it.

The rebuilding has started, although Slidell and the surrounding communities are still under water.  And the heat now is unbearable, even to a former desert dweller who isn’t used to the off the charts humidity which is also a result of the storm.

Traffic was backed up for miles on Friday, with all those who left returning to survey the damage to their property.  The Lakefront took a huge hit, and the rivers are swollen and overflowing, with a number of dams in danger of breaking.

Life goes on.

But the question I would have liked to ask those reporters, and photographers with all their equipment and spray tans, and the manufactured dramas in many instances…

Why is it that science can now create life in a test tube, created the nuclear bomb, put a man on the moon, and can seed clouds for agricultural purposes in order to make rain – but at this point we don’t have the technology to redirect or stop a hurricane?

Or due to all the coincidence with this hurricane which occurred…not to be a conspiracy theorist or anything…but with the timing of this during the Republican convention (as with Gustav), seven years to the day after Katrina, and with all those out of work and with the oil companies continuing to use any excuse imaginable in order to continue to bleed the public dry at the gas pumps.

Maybe, just maybe, perhaps we have the technology to create these hurricanes for "economic" and political reasons?

Where is that female reporter in those hip waders, anyway?

I watched part of that convention…at least the end…and I have only one observation with all the hoopla and celebrating that went on.

As with the many here that suffered through Katrina, and seeing the literally hundreds of dollars per month my parents pay for their medications in order to survive, and what I have experienced personally in the years since Katrina…

No, we are not better off than we were four years ago…or even ten years ago…

This tragedy was definitely not a Katrina, Part II…the government did not fail the citizens of New Orleans THIS time.

But as an aside, in order to assist my parents and myself as an Arizona homeless refugee…

I’m working a temp position that pays me what I was making in 1982, with no benefits, the only position that I had been able to find, and which is not at all in my field of expertise (corporate law, and then subsequently leisure travel & tourism, which just about died with 9-11, and Katrina here).

And what’s broken politically, can not be repaired as easily as the Louisianans will rebuild after Isaac…

Not by a long shot…