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Lesson in timely evacuation: Katrina

My husband and I are shrimpers from Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, where we have lived for over 40 years. It is the last town on the east bank of the Mississippi River before it hits the Gulf of Mexico.

 

I remember watching the weather news about the approaching storm. I remember packing all the pictures and placing them in garbage bags securing them on top of my dresser and chest of drawers. Also, the fishermen were busy moving the boats around try to get them to safe harbor as best they can. So I decided to take a ride on my motorcycle to check out the action. I rode up and down the road as if in a panic because I feared the worst, only to have the bike lean over and fall on my leg breaking a bone and tearing up my knee. Not good.

 

My husband brought me to the bone and joint clinic the next day for an ex ray..They could not cast the break because of the swelling. We went back home to wait for the storm.

 

The next day the news is talking about a possible category five which may impact the city of New Orleans. We make plans to head out after the boats have been moved..ha ha ..to what we thought would be a safe place.

 

I get on the phone and call my daughter to find out where she is going..She tells me she is staying on a jack up boat in the bayou..I said what? We are going to stay on a boat in this storm? She says yes..we will be fine…Oh Lord. So early in the morning we bring our dog way…50 miles up the road where we figured she would be safe…wrong again.

 

We are getting last minute phone calls…saying our good bye’s..I remember saying “Run Forrest Run”!

 

We spent a good night when the storm came thru…Not a vibration at all. I thought it passed us by. The next morning we all got up to check everything out. Beautiful sky, nice as could be …until the captains on the jack up boat started blowing the horns and screaming and hollering.. Well, I am thinking what the hell…I am getting off.. When they grabbed me and said…THE WATER IS COMING..PREPARE TO JACK UP! What?

 

The captains were true heroes. They jumped from one boat to the other to get all of them jacked up …several boats were tied up by our boat and they saved them all…and all loaded with people. I stood in awe as I watched the water coming up like a scene from the bible. I watched the deer’s scrambling to get to high ground. I watched all the trucks and then houses go under water. We all stood and watched, not too much was spoken.

 

We prepared a Mickey Mouse pancake breakfast for the kids..The men, I think knew the trouble we were in but said nothing. We all took our turn on trying to get TV service to no avail. The jack up boat had a satellite phone on board which the captain used to notify the coast guard of our condition.. We were all good no emergency on board.

 

That night I remember wrapping my leg in Scott towels and then wrapping duct tape around the break of the leg. I did that every couple of nights I learned what skid tracks are (don’t ask)..the kids and I found a DVD The Never Ending Story ..Oh Lord ..We watched it over and over.

 

The next day the guys got busy on trying to get the flooded 4 wheeler to start. The trucks were all under water and we were trying to plan some type of escape. The girls learned to wash clothes in a mop bucket and hang them out over hydraulic lines to dry. A song came to mine..Did Momma say there’re would be days like this? Anyway..we were truly fine and healthy ..just very much stuck in the toxic soup. This is a saying we learned about later. After a couple of days the guys finally got the four wheeler running, only, to have it seized by the St. Bernard Sheriff’s office. I stayed angry about that for a long time.

 

Later on, way, way later ..we found out that these stores located in a disaster area, cannot legally sell any of the products that may or may not have been flooded…So we were right in getting the medicine. The guys worked on getting the front end loader running and began transporting people via the bucket..from the boat to the high ground. Sharing trucks that were running, trying to find gas, we eventually were able to leave. We headed to Lafayette, God bless my daughter for taking us in. We stayed on that Jack Up boat for 9 days. It saved our lives. I am very grateful to the crew of EBI .

We became known as ‘The refugees’ upon our arrival. We had to stand in line for ‘free benefits’..We did not want to, but we could not go home. My house was gone, land under water..one of the local boys had to break the levee with his back hoe to allow the water to flow back out.

 

Eventually we had to buy a camper to get back home. Coming home was nasty. Hot, animals wondering all over the place cows and horses who survived the flood were now thirsty and starving. All the grass had died due to the saltwater flood and there was no fresh water for them to drink. We inherited a cat who kept us company during the night. I have never seen the nights so dark. We stayed without power for months. We waited for a FEMA trailer to arrive which was a wonderful thing. I do not care what anyone else thought about their FEMA trailer. I loved mine. It had an ice box and a Air Conditioner and a stove and a microwave. When you have nothing..it is a wonderful thing to have.

 

When the phone service was restored many sad days passed then. Fighting with the home owners insurance, people calling threatening me to turn me over to a collection agency because I have not paid my bills?..Good Lord..Finally I enjoyed getting the calls and laughing about it. (For example) Dish Network..”Mrs. Donna, we are coming to pick up our equipment…” “ha ha, good luck, I said, finding it. I can’t find my house, my freezer, My barn, My garage, My dog shed..Common over..I will help you look!’ Idiots! I said have you heard about Hurricane Katrina?

 

The military showed up and I remember having a conversation with a service guy. He tells me

Almost crying … Mrs Donna, I fly an airplane and we do bombing exercises. I, and crew of ten more planes would have to fly for a week dropping bombs constantly, and, we would not be able to do the damage that this storm has done. I have witnessed from the air the entire Gulf Coast has been whipped out. Puts the whole damn thing in respective doesn’t it?

 

And in closing…There are tons of more stories, like the conversations we had over cleaning up the mud and lots of crying over the devastation and nastiness of it all. Two hundred dead Satsuma and navel trees… But…. Mostly I remember the way neighbors helped each other with sharing the saved tractors to the kindness of bringing down a pack of bologna. How driving around pieces of houses on the road and searching for missing boats and etc.

 

The lesson I will like to share with anyone else that may have to go thru this. If the weather man says bad storm approaching, pack your dog and you pictures and get the hell out.

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