Aug 29, 2005

Katrina

The hurricane has made it to shore, barely. I don't want to know how bad New Orleans is right now.

I have to say, though, anyone stupid enough to stay there deserves what's coming. I know that's ruthless, but it's not like anyone thinks we're particularly safe from flooding and storms when one in four storms seems to run aground on us, and New Orleans is known for it's above-ground mausoleums because burying people in the ground is useless--the first good rain makes the sealed coffins pop up out of the ground like some ultra-low budget zombie flick. It's not like these people know they're living about five feet BELOW sea level. Even I know that New Orlean's levees* are built to withstand only up to a Category 3 floodrise. It's not like New Orleans is known for something called a "Hurricane Party."

So anyway. I guess I shouldn't be an arse. I know damn well there are people down there who don't have the option to flee, or simply can't. Not everyone owns a car, nor has the money to buy a plane ticket or pay bus fare. No, I feel nothing but pity and sorrow for what those folk are going to have to go home to this evening. No, what has always mildly galled me is the fact that if New Orleans had not been declared a state of disaster and manditorily evacuated there would have been many tens of thousands of people there right now, partying their fool heads off. Pat O's would be mixing Hurricanes with feverish speed and making money hand over fist. Hurricane parties have never made much sense to me, but then again I'm not a confirmed moron.

I can remember the last few storms which have gotten this far inland. Andrew left a fair bit of destruction behind him, and what was the one a few years before that, Iris? Both of them left us without power for a few hours and, like the syster said last night, with a yard full of pecan branches. But then again, pecan branches fall when it's perfectly still outside, so nothing new there.

And the fact that the track placed Katrina moving north northeast didn't stop folks like Wal-Mart and Lowe's making a fortune on bottled water, flashlights, batteries and sandbags. You'd figure people even this far north have figured it out already and stockpiled a few jerry cans for water, some sandbags for putting around doors and at least a box of candles. My parents have kept, from long before I was born, a storm cabinet in the kitchen cabinets. There one could find box matches, candles galore, a pair of big lantern-battery flashlights, and when I was a very little boy there used to be a case of C rations (that'd be Old School MRE's (Meal, Ready To Eat) for the non-military families amongst us.)

I can well remember a handfull of really powerful storms that knocked out trees and power poles when I was a kid, and can remember the little glass bowls coming out, with their red candles. They'd be brought down out of the cabinet almost ceremoniously, placed on the table, and Daddy would be walking around with the flashlight making sure that things were secure. My Mom was and is still an Olympic-class worrier, so she'd be in Full Panic Mode, and of course we kids would have caught it from her by that point, so she'd bring out the massive family Bible, this huge tome covered in white leather, with gold edging on the paper and huge full colour images, and we'd flip through it slowly, looking for favourite passages--Job suffering his torments with aplomb, or Ezekiel seeing the wheel within a wheel, or perhaps that same old-time prophet preaching to the dry bones, and we'd try to read to each other while the wind screamed and roared around the eaves and tore trees to pieces.

And the next morning we'd wake up to find that we were still alive, and intact, and we'd begin the long process of cleaning up. Hang on, New Orleans--it'll be over soon. The worst for you, I fear, is still to come. Next time do us all a favor and try to be a little more prepared?

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* For you Northerners and those of you in non-flooding states, a levee is a long pile of dirt. See, 'levee' is the French term for the far less politically correct word 'dyke,' and the Weather Channel folk would have to be constantly embarrassed when talking about the water containment sytem that New Orleans and most of central to south LA uses.

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