All the talk about preparing for Hurricane Irene for residents in the northeast reminds me so much of the time when Katrina hit Mississippi. I would tell them to do the best they can to protect everything that is valuable including their documents such as insurance policies, shot records for children, military records, along with any other important records. That just goes along with buying batteries,water, gas, and food that doesn’t require the use of any heating or cooling resource.
It is also not the hurricane itself that will be the source of problems and frustration since the aftermath can be just as bad. As Katrina approached Mississippi and Louisiana, it was nearly as large as Irene is now and was a category four hurricane. Residents along the Gulf were asked to evacuate and many did but some didn’t. My daughter, Alicia, and her husband, Will, lived in Hattiesburg which is ninety miles north of the Gulf and I was in Jackson which is about the same distance north of Hattiesburg.
They along with their dog, Zappa, hunkered down in their duplex’s hallway. She called at 6:00 am on a Sunday morning saying, “Mama, Katrina is nearly a Cat 5. You need to go get some water and batteries.” They had already made their grocery run and were nailing down everything else. It was expected to hit the shore the next morning. Clouds were already coming into Jackson, but they were still fairly thin.
Foolishly, I never even thought about filling up my car and it was down to a quarter tank, but the water was purchased. I hunkered down with my dog and prepared to wait it out. I knew I wasn’t in any real danger, but Alicia and Will were another story. They were a lot closer to the ferocity of the winds, tornadoes and rain. They had picture windows on the front and the house was older. This storm was huge and mean, and with its current path Hattiesburg would be on its eastern side where the damage is known to be more severe.
The waiting tears at your nerves with the quiet almost unbearable. The air conditioning hummed along keeping the house cool while outside the weather was sweltering in the late August heat and humidity. The local weatherman cut into regular programming often with updates and preparation advice for everyone from the Mississippi coast to Memphis. The two main interstates were all one way heading north allowing everyone to evacuate in an orderly manner and still they were clogged with traffic slowed to a crawl.
Hotels from Hattiesburg to Memphis were all full with actual visitors or reservations. Shelters were opened where there had never been shelters before. Mississippi was as prepared as is possible with all the emergency plans prepared years before coming into fruition. Governor Haley Barbour gave news conferences asking everyone to remain calm and to follow all evacuation orders. He tried to be encouraging while remaining firm about everyone doing as they were asked due to the size and strength of the storm. All the while, we waited and watched.