I stayed for Hurricane Laura. My two minis, my 130lb Great Dane/lab mix, and myself.
I stayed, as so many others chose to do for various reasons, because I did not have many other options honestly. I stayed because, although many places and family members would gladly welcome the humans, my four legged child would not be welcome and leaving him in my house alone while we evacuated is simply unacceptable. To me. I get it. Everyone doesn’t like pets and, considering mine is the size of a small horse and takes up a similar amount of space, mine can be a bit overwhelming even when you are used to him.
Now, let me be clear that we do not live in Calcasieu Parish but in Beauregard Parish and, although our parish has been declared a disaster, my family is absolutely blessed since we had minimal damage compared to so many others. We prepared as much as possible and had amazing and irreplaceable friends looking out for us before, during, and after the storm.
Here is how we prepared.
I believe it was the Monday before the storm hit when my staff and I were discussing the storm and preparing for it. I reminded them that we needed to be prepared and to get supplies like water, snacks, flashlights (I had one shipped from Amazon), supplies for little ones like wipes, pull-ups, batteries, formula, diapers, extra dog food, have plenty of cash on hand, portable battery chargers for our phones and tablets, and to fill up the vehicles with gas. I even discussed packing “go bags” for each person and locating important documents. I think we even left early that day in order fill up our vehicles to ensure it was available. And I’m so glad we did.
Tuesday was absolutely chaos. Calcasieu Parish was under mandatory evacuation and our area was overrun with traffic. Our court system shut down Tuesday for the rest of the week and scheduled to reopen Monday. At the office, we finished up last minute work and left to prepare our homes for the storm. I was blessed to be able to borrow a generator and scheduled to pick it up the following day along with some gas cans and last minute supplies.
When we woke up Wednesday morning, Laura was a Category 4 and pretty much scheduled to hit Lake Charles head on. At that point, both of my secretary’s evacuated. Before noon, I learned how to gas up and start a generator. We got it loaded and I dropped it off at my home and I turned my air down to 64 degrees. At this point, there was no question if we would lose electricity; only when and for how long. My mother lives about 10 minutes away from me, so I left my kids at my mom’s house to get the generator. When I returned to her home to collect them, I helped her neighbor, who was also my friend from high school, set up my mother’s generator. Let’s be clear – by help, I really mean I had to bully my mother into setting it up, take it out the box and hover to see if he needed anything while he put it together. After that task was done, we loaded up, my mom kissed the kids and we headed home to lock up for the night. The kids watched television while I cooked, cleaned, and finished up laundry. The kids had one of their favorite meals, “‘ghetti and me’balls” with corn and rolls. I threw a little cheese on the spaghetti to make it fancy for their palette. While they ate, I continued preparing for us all to sleep in my room and double checked that the “go bags” were fully packed and accessible. I even did a walk through video of my home to document it’s condition and my property. I made sure everyone was bathed and ready for bed by 7:30 p.m. and asked kids if they “wanted” to sleep with me. They thought it was the greatest idea I’d had their entire lives. After many giggles, fake snoring and finally having to lag between them, they were out.
Throughout the night, I’d doze in and out of sleep and pray. I had close friends I texted throughout the night to keep track of everyone. One is a State Fire Marshall and she rode out the hurricane in Lake Charles. After she scolded me for staying, I sent her my address in case we needed to be rescued. Another friend told me where she was and what her wishes were if anything happened to her. My son’s godmother and my best friend from college stayed in contact with me to keep me appraised of the storm. By the time Laura got close to land, I was having trouble accessing weather information so she was my only lifeline. She told me when Laura made land.
All night I listened to the wind and the rain. I could hear tree limbs cracking and things hitting the roof. My kids slept until the night light went out at around 1:45 a.m. It was pitch black inside the house and outside. When my daughter woke up and asked where the night light went, I lied to her. I told her I turned the light off so that I could sleep better. I felt so awful but she went right back to sleep. I was grateful that they slept through the storm.
While the eye was passing over, I checked on my mom, my Fire Marshall, my red-headed troublemaker, my daughter’s godmother, and let my dog out. As I watched him try to maneuver his way around all the limbs, I couldn’t help but try and think if it had ever been pitch black outside. I had tree limbs scattered throughout the backyard and a limb blocking the front door.