Thursday September 22, 2005
My son's eighteenth birthday. Also the day we awoke to find ourselves under mandatory evacuation orders.
I have lived in this area most of my life and have never been under mandatory evacuation orders. And I can say that had it not been for the earlier news reports of the aftermath of Katrina, I probably would not have left for Rita. So many times, the weather guys would come on the television with all their dire predictions, and so many times, nothing too drastic would happen.
My oldest daughter left early in the day, which was good. She does not have the patience for what we went through in leaving later that afternoon. I almost did not have the patience. You cannot imagine how taxing it is to drive in bumper to bumper traffic for seven hours to arrive at a destination that is only seventy-five miles away.
My son, having turned eighteen, and deciding he was capable of taking care of himself, chose to go east towards Lafayette. That was the extent of his plan. He had a couple of his friends with him. He had the car, they had money. They ended up going on to Arkansas and staying in a hotel for a few days.
I did not have the energy to fight with him on this decision, so I released him to God (again!) and lovingly told him that I was going to kill him if he got killed in that hurricane! He said it wouldn't matter to him, he would already be dead. But still, I let him go with a heavy heart, because I knew it would likely be several days where I would not know how he was doing (cell phone service would be interrupted by Rita, as it had been by Katrina). One of the last motherly instructions I gave him was to always carry his ID on him so that if something happened, emergency personnel would know who he was. He sighed and said, "I know, mom. We have already talked about doing that."
Turns out, he did all right, thank God.
We spent our first night in the piney woods of Louisiana at my cousin L's.
Friday, September 23, 2005
L had a trailer and the storm was going to hit that night so we moved to my cousin B's house. My two daughters were already there. L went and stayed at his parents' house. His trailer was not damaged.
Waiting for the storm:
13 people (four elementary school age children, one high schooler, six middle agers; including one who was autistic and one who had returned from Iraq two weeks earlier, and last, but not least, two youngish senior citizens), 9 dogs, 3 cats (including one cat from Houston who went amiss the night before we arrived) and one lonesome gerbil.
We were 75 miles away from home and Rita was expected to make her presence known in that area as well. In fact, the people on the radio (God love 'em) were saying if you were evacuating to this area, you were not going far enough. We lost electrical power at 11:00 p.m., which was no surprise. We were surprised it stayed on as long as it did. They tend to lose power if someone up the line farts too loudly.
Being in the dark, and with no news to watch, we all turned in for the night. I was a little nervous about sleeping right next to a window, but I dropped off to sleep pretty quickly.
Saturday, September 24, 2005
I am told Rita rolled in around 2:30 a.m. I never heard her when she came in. My cousins lost several trees, including a large oak about 30 feet from the house. We were not able to get out much until later in the day, the wind was still pretty strong.
Sunday, September 25, 2005
No church today. People are still digging out from under all the debris and assessing damage. Spent much of the day hauling limbs to the burn pile. It was hot work. We stopped around the middle of the day to cool off, drink lots of water, and a few of us took quick naps. It was too hot to be moving around much.
We cleaned leaves from the pool, mostly to keep busy. The wind was still stirring them up. The pool water came in handy for flushing toilets. They were on a "city" water system (originally designed for about 75 homes, now serving over 200) so we had no water. The pool also provided a place for a cool and quick "bath" for those who were not afraid of the bugs (and snakes?) that also shared the pool.
We ordered a generator from some guy in Texas who was bringing a large welding generator for the preacher to use and delivering whatever else anyone wanted to buy. Gasoline was hard to find and he brought in several gallons.
(I thought we'd be returning to our own home today. I did not pack much. Been wearing the same grungy clothes for three days now. When packing to leave, one has to decide what things are valuable enough to bring with them. You can't bring much, there is not enough room. I packed with skepticism, thinking we would be coming home today. If my home was lost, I have lost everything except the few clothes I packed, my Bible, a copy of Mere Christianity, my two cameras, and my current journal. We still did not know at this point how our houses had fared.)
Monday, September 26, 2005
My two daughters and my aunt from Houston headed back to Houston this morning (taking with them 6 of the dogs and 1 cat).
The cat from Houston who was missing had turned up some time during the night. We think he accidentally got locked up in the pool shed the night of the storm. They had nailed the door shut because it did not latch. Poor cat. I bet he was glad to get back to normal life in the big city!
The aunt from Houston locked her keys in the car with the car and air conditioner running. Thank goodness because her 3 dogs and the cat were already loaded in the car and they would have suffocated otherwise. We would have had to have busted a window. As it was, we only had to wait an hour for a deputy to come and open the door with a "slim jim" tool. All I could think of was all that precious gas being burned going nowhere.
I think I will stop here for now because we left this "shelter" and moved on to my uncle's house later this afternoon. These were cousins on my father's side. I really did not know them well at all. But they took us all in like we were, well, like we were family. And I am grateful.