I was born in New Orleans; I’ve lived most of my life in Louisiana. Some things you might associate with Louisiana are Cajuns, gumbo, jambalaya, and zydeco.
Another constant we live with is hurricane season.
The year I spent six weeks in Edmonton in September and October, I was struck every day by the lack of hurricane coverage. I mean, that’s the height of hurricane season! You need to know; you need to plan. Except you don’t, in Canada. Talk about culture shock.
What do you think of when you hear hurricane? Probably Katrina, the costliest of them all.
It’s been ten years since Katrina, and no one seems to think anymore about Rita or Wilma, the two stronger hurricanes from 2005.
We were lucky. We were very lucky.
My family, my parents and my two brothers, 8 and 13, lived less than twenty miles, as the crow flies, from the Gulf of Mexico. They evacuated, of course, but it turns out they didn’t need to; Katrina passed to the east and Rita passed to the west.
We weren’t that worried about the house; the house survived Andrew in 1992 with minimal damage, and he was a direct hit. But it’s still scary. You don’t know what’s going to happen, even if you’ve been hit a dozen times before.
I was here, in north Louisiana, biting my nails and fearing for my friends and family, glued to the weather.
Katrina came, and it was terrible, even up here; we didn’t get the weather, we got the refugees, and where there are refugees, there’s resentment and anger from the locals. We’re not New Orleans, but we are still dealing with the aftermath. And it was the first time I saw gas over four dollars a gallon.
It was also the first time Ian and I had planned to go to Morgan City for the Shrimp and Petroleum Festival, and we would learn that every single year we planned to go, that meant landfall in Louisiana. We had to do it on the spur of the moment, or the festival would be postponed or cancelled. Superstition can be a deadly thing.
We didn’t get much wind and rain from Katrina; that came a couple weeks later with Rita. That was bad. But we made it okay. A tree limb grazed the front of my truck, but nothing hit my house.
Ian and I took advantage of the eye and risked a trip to town: it was deserted, every window taped, every traffic light flashing or out. We quickly returned home to finish waiting it out.
And then it was over.
Over the next few weeks, I would notice damage here and there, as I went somewhere I hadn’t been since before. The twisted remnants of a long-closed gas station on the middle of nowhere stick in my mind.
It’s hurricane season now, but I haven’t watched the weather this year. My parents live here with us now, and one of my brothers is in Lafayette with enough sense to evacuate. My other brother would probably host a hurricane party in Morgan City. He’ll learn one day. Maybe.