Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hurry Up and Wait

People who live in the-parts-of-Louisiana-that-are-not-New-Orleans are used to being overlooked. I suppose it’s possible that the reality TV show Swamp People has led to the realization that the Cajun population of Louisiana does not live on Bourbon Street, but I would hate to have to swear to it in a court of law. Most of the time I find popular misconceptions about Louisiana amusing (and a reminder that I no doubt have my own misconceptions about other states).

During hurricane season, however, it is frustrating to listen to weather reporting that divides Louisiana-bound storms into two categories: those that will hit New Orleans and those that won’t. Once it has been established that a storm won’t hit New Orleans, it might as well have evaporated into thin air. It would actually be nice if those non-New Orleans bound storms did, in fact, evaporate into thin air, but no, they wreak their damage on those other parts of Louisiana, the ones that are not-New-Orleans.

Hurricane Gustav was one such storm. Gustav was the second worst hurricane of 2008, although much of the damage it caused was out in the Caribbean. It appeared to be heading right to New Orleans, still reeling from Katrina in 2005. The state and city government did a remarkable job of evacuating New Orleans ahead of the storm.

Then Gustav bypassed New Orleans and came through Baton Rouge. Here is how Wikipedia describes the storm:
In Baton Rouge, wind damage from Gustav was the worst of any storm in memory. The damage was severe enough to effectively shut the city down for over a week. While most residents chose not to evacuate further inland due to the miniscule threat of major flooding, large numbers of people fled the city after the storm due to the crippled power system in the city. Because most storms dissipate to below tropical-storm levels by the time they reach Baton Rouge, many trees that survived weaker storms in the past fell onto homes, cars, and power lines. In many of the more heavily wooded sections of Baton Rouge, large trees and fallen power lines blocked streets, causing relief to come slowly to those living in residential areas. Nearly all businesses remained closed through September 5, five days after landfall. Power lines along Baton Rouge's tree-lined streets were easily brought down as thousands of trees were uprooted and snapped in half by Gustav's fierce winds. Entire sections of the city were cut off by the mountains of debris. Few homes escaped roof damage as the storm passed over the capital city. Most schools were closed for at least one week, and many for two or three while power was restored to the area around the school. Many signs were blown down, including a large portion of the Interstate 10 Highland Road/Nicholson Drive exit sign, which blew off of the Bridge and into the Mississippi River. It would be three weeks before power was restored to all residents. Debris cleanup was still ongoing at the end of 2008, four months after the storm had passed. 

After the storm had passed and we had phone usage again, I called my family to assure them I was all right. “Why wouldn’t you be?” my sister asked. 
“Hurricane Gustav, you may have heard of it?”
“But that was in New Orleans. You said you don’t live that close to New Orleans,” my still puzzled sister responded. I had to explain that the center of the hurricane that missed New Orleans had hit us. When the power was finally turned back on and I had access to news again, I realized why my sister had been so clueless. The fact that the worst storm in its memory had hit the capital of the state of Louisiana was not the big news that the same storm sparing New Orleans had been.

I only bring that up because I am trying to figure out, from the maps on The Weather Channel and the National Hurricane Center website how badly we are going to be affected by the storm. The NHC 5 Day Forecast map is too small to give much detail.  TWC is busily promising that Isaac is going to turn into a hurricane any minute now to mention Baton Rouge. Local forecasters are dependent on the same models the big boys are.

As close as Isaac has come to shallow waters without becoming a hurricane, it looks like we won’t get anything worse than a tropical storm here. One map I saw showed Isaac coming up the west side of the Mississippi, putting both NO and Baton Rouge on the east side of the storm. Normally, that is not where you want to be, but Isaac has been funny in that regard, having a hard time forming an eye wall. I have taken to thinking of it as Isaac, the ADHD storm, due to its difficulty concentrating.

Meanwhile, we are taking precautions, watching what news we can get, and waiting.

ETA: As of 11:20 Am, Isaac has been upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane.

Tree next to the neighbor's house, uprooted during Hurricane Gustav

Our fence after Hurricane Gustav
Around the corner from our house, a tree from one yard fell on a neighboring house.
At Target, the day after the storm, there were no fresh or frozen foods.
They all had to be thrown out.

1 comment:

  1. I have to admit that when I tried to think of what I knew about Louisiana most of it was actually from True Blood. OK, television is occasionally not actually your friend.

    I sincerely hope that Isaac misses you, and that damage is minimal.