There’s been a lot of waiting and watching on Gustav up to this point. I had told myself I’d know to switch gears to full on ‘hurricane survival mode’ when I started hearing the helicopters coming in. Choppers overhead in Baton Rouge are my enduring memory of Hurricane Katrina. On the Friday before the storm hit I was at Independence Park up on Lobdell which is right next to the State Emergency Response Headquarters, hitting baseballs on one of the fields when the helicopters started coming in, landing a few hundred yards away to shuttle officials into disaster planning meetings. It drove home the fact pretty quickly that something big was going down even though we still didn’t have a clue as to how big that something was going to be. After the storm they were the constant reminder of how bad things were down in New Orleans: for a number of days the only way into and out of the city was by helicopter, all of which were using Baton Rouge as home base. For at least 6 weeks after the storm the sound of rotors cutting the air was a constant companion to life post-Katrina.
So when I heard the sound of a helicopter going over about an hour ago while sitting in a project manager’s office here at work I decided it was time to quit waiting and seeing to start really making sure we’ve got everything we need to ride out a storm. Maddie Potter and I have already taken care of food and water, but I started forming the mental checklist of the little things that needed to be taken care of, plus trying to remember any lessons I learned from our last go round with Katrina.* I also started worrying about the huge dying tree in our front yard right next to the road which is practically hollow and that the city was already supposed to have cut down. With a strong enough wind it will at least take out all the utility lines to the house and make the road impassable and that’s assuming, based on the way the weight of the top leans, that it falls away from the house. If it falls on the house? Well, maybe I should have waited a few more weeks to buy that new TV.
Then I heard the sound of another helicopter. And another. And another. I thought I counted at least 8 alone while sitting in the project manager’s office and as I left thought I could hear more in the distance. One helicopter was enough to set me on edge and here is a whole convoy. Shit! So I leave the project managers’ side of the office, walking outside to cross over to the side of the building that I sit on, and find that I’ve been hearing a lawn mower making passes behind the building the whole time.
Which just goes to show you where we are at right now in south Louisiana. The tension is a good motivator to make sure we are better prepared this time around, but it isn’t taking much to psyche ourselves out. So now I’m back in wait and see mode. The big worry right now is that Gustav is going to be a storm along the lines of 1992’s Andrew, which messed Baton Rouge up pretty good by spawning tornadoes, downing trees throughout town making many roads impassable and knocking out power to some people for up to 2 weeks. But until the next lawn mower passes by, I guess I’ll just wait and see.
* The best lesson I learned was that I acquire some type of somnolent super power during a hurricane. I was only awake for about 2 hours when Baton Rouge got hit by Katrina. For the other 16 hours of it I was out cold. It’s not a bad way to weather a big storm.