Please forgive my whining on the previous post, “Are You Kidding, Katrina?”. I just find myself overwhelmed at the prospect of being slammed by yet another storm. In less than a year, we have been visited by Hurricane Ivan, Tropical Storm Arlene, Hurricane Dennis, and now Katrina.
Once again, I am in Montana while a monster storm looms in the Gulf. Last year, it was Hurricane Ivan that threatened and thrashed the Pensacola area. Now, Katrina sets her sights on the Gulf coast. I feel so deeply for those in the path of Katrina. Having faced evacuations so often in the last year, I can fully empathize with them. My concern is especially for the people of New Orleans. As well as being below sea level, they do not have the experience taught to us by Hurricane Ivan. It has been 40 years since a large storm has struck them. That’s wonderful on the one hand, but on the other – if it has been a generation since a hurricane affected your family, the severe conditions can be underestimated.
Evacuation and hurricane preparation are far different now for the residents in my area than when I moved here 11 years ago. Gone is the complacency or illusion that it can’t really be all that bad. For days before the storm makes landfall, gasoline is difficult to find and water is a premium commodity. Before Ivan, people prepared, but it was a more relaxed atmosphere. Now, it feels like everyone assumes that any hurricane will be another Ivan. I know I do. Much more trepidation is attached to the tropical storm season for me now than before last year’s Hurricane Ivan.
The post traumatic stress was evident on the faces of Ivan’s survivors as we prepared for Hurricane Dennis last month. Overwhelming despair and resignation resonated from the people I passed. Blank stares or streaming tears met my somber gaze.
If Katrina strikes as the monster she presents herself to be, the emotional trauma and scars will be evident long after the waters have receded. When people finally understand they may not have a home any longer and all of their memories have been washed away, the initial gratefulness for just surviving plummets into a deep grief. Grief for the friends you will know longer see on a daily basis; grief for the inability to have your support system near you in your greatest time of need; grief for the loss of your job; grief for the loss of mementos and pictures that have personal intrinsic value; grief for the life that will never be again because you are irrevocably changed.
And the thought that there are people without transportation to leave the city has me mortified. I am in a deep state of sorrow for the upcoming victims of this storm. It should be a human right to have a way to escape an oncoming storm that gives us several days notice.
Even this afternoon on Pensacola Beach, water was rising significantly. After Ivan, there was a set of construction posts that hadn’t been seen in decades uncovered. Hurricane Dennis covered them up last month. Early this afternoon, they were uncovered half way again. So, we are definitely expected some storm waters to flow over the island — yet again.
I am tired, stressed, and worried for my neighbors and friends. I know the Dome will fare as well as any structure out there, but I am sad to see my neighborhood become a debris pile yet again.