Thursday, September 16, 2021

Hurricane Ida and beyond some 18 days later

 Hurricane Ida, a strong Category 4 storm, visited our corner of the world some 18 days ago.  While most national reports want to focus on New Orleans, the brunt of this horrible hurricane was in places to the south and west of the Crescent City.  Now New Orleans and her suburbs did take a hit but the worst impacts were in places with names like Grand Isle, Port Fouchon, Lafitte, Barataria, Houma-Thibodaux, lower Terrebonne Parish, lower Lafourche Parish, lower Plaquemines Parish, Hammond, Ponchatoula, Laplace, Lutcher-Gramercy, Luling, Destrehan, Hahnville, Des Allemands, and so many other places in southeast Louisiana.

Many are comparing this storm to Katrina, minus the flooding from a levee failure, and others compare Ida to the 1965 beast known as Betsy.  As the storm made landfall and that first Monday morning dawned it was reported that over 1 million did not have power.  The effort to restore power has been herculean but still today almost 50,000 folks still wait.  And some areas may not be able to receive power for weeks to come.  In many areas, a loss of electricity also means a loss of water and sewer; imagine, not having the ability to flush your toilet for weeks.  Roofs all over the place are damaged and many now sport the famous blue tarp roof.  Tree debris is everywhere you look, piles of tree limbs, trunks and root balls can be found on streets across 20+ civil parishes.  Gas was impossible to find for the first week, it's much better now.  Grocery store shelves are light.  Folks are learning the intricacies of running generators.  

The direct hit of a strong hurricane is awful.  For us in Louisiana, this is the not the first storm in recent memory; no, Ida, followed by the much less powerful Nicholas brings the total # of named storms to hit Louisiana since June of 2020 to 8.  That's right; 8; unprecedented.

How did I handle this storm?  Options abound for many including riding it out, taking shelter or getting the heck out of town.  For me and my family, we opted to go.  We were lucky that we could muster the funds to find hotel rooms about 4 hours north and east of the impact zone.  It's not cheap to go with 3 adults, 2 young toddlers and 2 dogs, including one that weighs 80 lbs.  When we realized we would be without power for quite some time, we ventured off to Orlando since there was a relative that could help us and we got the most ridiculous "good deal" on a 4 bedroom house.  It was great for the kids as they got to visit Disney way earlier than ever expected.  Wendy and I opted to stay near the house and work the FEMA and insurance gauntlet from the house.  In all, we stayed away for a total of 12 days.

By the time we arrived back home the power was back in my world, we even got internet and TV and phone back within 1 day.  But we were shocked at the tree damage on my property.  We were thrilled that the house stood strong, but the tree damage was not insignificant.  Fortunately, we have had friends already remove the largest and most complicated of the felled trees; what a relief.  Still some remain, including the one laying on my barn's roof.  

Returning home allowed me to get back to normal; returning to work at my church parish, ministry as a Deacon, cutting grass, and sleeping in my own bed.  But it's hard to accept that so many neighbors, fellow Louisiana people were still struggling with extreme heat, and broken roofs overhead.  So many great people have rallied to the aid of those in most needs.  Supply drives, free food, volunteers with chainsaws and equipment to remove all the debris.  We were blessed to have a supply drive at our own parish in Abita Springs of St. Jane de Chantal.  Through the organization of two parishioners and the generosity of an entire community, we were able to help more people than we ever thought possible.  Motivated by this effort we are know getting ready to drive down to St. Charles civil parish to help the good folks in and around St. Gertrude the Great church parish.  Even our Knights of Columbus are preparing to feed hot meals to anyone who needs one.  In many ways, despite the horrific impact of Ida, we have witnessed the hands and feet of Jesus, the goodness of so many people and the realization that, even in storms, God is with us and so very much loves us.

I'm never sure if readers who live no where near a hurricane zone can fully understand the issues related to getting ready for a storm and then the subsequent recovery; just like we don't comprehend a blizzard or earthquake.  But we get by with lots of prayers, neighbor helping neighbor and whatever help comes from insurance and various government assistance.  

I hope this gives some insight into hurricane experiences for those of you that have never been through it; and we hope you never do.  Send some prayers to the victims of Hurricane Ida and if you can, find a worthy program to support the rebuilding of southeast Louisiana.

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