While living in Shreveport, a hurricane meant a lot of rain to me. The weather could get windy enough to knock over a few trees, but life would go back to normal after a day or two.
When we moved to Baton Rouge in 2015, I was unaware of what to expect for hurricane season I would hear in the news and around the office about a thing called: hurricane preparedness plan. Sandbags and taping or boarding up windows was a very new concept to wrap my mind around.
When Hurricane Ida was initially forecast to hit the Gulf Coast, I remembered thinking that it wasn’t going to be that bad. Neighbors reassured me that we lived too far north and saw mostly flooding in our area. We had already experienced a few hurricanes that grazed the city. I was thinking this hurricane would be similar.
But as the days passed and the category of Ida’s strength increased, I started to get nervous. I remember asking my husband if he’d be open to us going to Shreveport to wait out the storm and work out of the local office there. His calm demeanor reassured me that we would be alright. Besides, we wouldn’t be able to bring our four-year old son, David, to the Shreveport office.
I recall that we stocked up on essentials like bottled water, chips, nutrigrain bars and what-not. We picked up sandbags and put them where we thought we might be most vulnerable to flooding. I thought we were more than prepared to be without power for a few days. And yet I was still nervous.
My mother-in-law offered her home as a safe haven. Without a second’s hesitation, I accepted her offer. All that was asked for in exchange was to let her youngest, my brother-in-law, park his car under our carport during the storm. That was an easy “Yes, of course!” She scooped all of us up in her giant Land Rover and brought us to her home.
The power went out, so we started playing board games by candlelight to pass the time. By bedtime, the hurricane had made landfall and was heading right in our direction! I did not sleep that night. The wind howled like nothing I had ever heard before. I couldn’t understand how my husband and son could sleep so peacefully. I became so rattled that I scooped up our boy and moved him with me to the laundry room where I felt the safest. I sat on the floor with David in my arms until I felt as though the wind had died down.
Once everyone was awake, we assessed the damage. There was significant tree debris everywhere. But the house was spared because the storm veered eastward in the nick of time.
When we went to check on our house, it looked as though Godzilla had tromped through our neighborhood! The fence line was mostly destroyed. Several carports were missing. When we pulled up to our townhome unit, I found the metal beam of our carport was lifted off the pavement and onto the sidewalk near our home entry. Inside our home, there was one spot on the ceiling where we noticed some discoloration. The rain must have blown sideways so hard that it blew into our dryer/air duct. But we knew we’d dodged a bullet as that was nothing a little paint couldn’t fix!
Our son’s daycare had sent out the mass notification that it would be closed for the remainder of the week. Without power to our home, Cameron elected to go work in the office. I had no idea how difficult it would be to stay home all day with no air conditioning. I’m a Louisiana girl, I thought I had this! We were hearing in the news of gas shortages and crime at the pumps. There was so much damage to trees and traffic lights that I considered it too dangerous to drive around town. After staying in our hot house for three days, we decided to pack up the car and try to make our way to Florida. We had already scheduled time off for that weekend to be in Florida and thought, “Why not get a jump start?”
As we drove East, we reflected on just how violent the storm was, and how fortunate we were to have come through it relatively unscathed. We saw trees along the interstate practically mowed down. We saw long lines of cars at gas stations extending as far back as the interstate at every exit until we reached Mobile, Alabama.
When we reached our destination in Florida, we fueled up our car with a heightened sense of gratitude. I took a hot shower and made a warm meal. I was so happy to be in a room with air conditioning!
The only thing I’d lost was a good night’s sleep, but I’d gained some wisdom and a greater appreciation for hurricane preparedness! The biggest takeaway for me was to heed the warnings, round up the family, and get ourselves to a safe place where we can watch the hurricane on TV rather than listen to its wrath from the laundry room floor.