I've just had a major inspiration -- a new season of "Survivor" -- Survivor, Hurricane! Contestants can compete in: cleaning rotting food out of refrigerators without vomiting; mopping up backed up sewerage without getting it all over yourself; sharing "shelter" with 300 or more total strangers, their ailing relatives and bored and screaming children; the decision making processes between "red or green cold drink"; tactful responses to smiling faces offering you "mystery meat"; the intricacies of opening and heating MREs; and trying to make plastic knives and forks do anything but break. Then there could be endurance categories of hacking through downed tree limbs, jumping over downed power lines, living in houses with internal temperatures of 90 degrees plus, tarp stretching, speed of mosquito slapping, and the pressures of knowing it could all be repeated again in the next few days no matter how well you score!
So, I obviously survived it -- again. This time I decided to stay, as I did not do well in any of the above categories, with the exception of the MREs. as I learned how to do that in the Naval Reserve on several occasions. And, having spent most of my summers at my grandmother's house in New Orleans throughout my younger years (before there was air conditioning), I am an "old hand" at houses with unbelievable internal temperatures and mosquito slapping! I was "mostly" prepared -- over a week of canned goods, bottles of water frozen to act as ice blocks in the freezer and refrigerator, candles and batteries for light and power, an extra laptop battery just in case, Duck tape, extra TP, bleach and a large bucket for sanitary needs! (One thing you'll never hear a Southerner say: "Duck tape won't fix that!:)
Thankfully, this hurricane decided to be a wind event first and a rain event later. The power went out early, then the winds finished off the trees that Katrina had only damaged. Finally, just when we thought it was over, we were hit with severe rainstorms over three days that dumped over 10" of water onto streets whose drains were clogged with all of the wind debris. Fortunately, there were no reports of major flooding here, but small communities to our west and south had to deal with storm surges of over 6 feet, and they still don't have power, water, sewerage, ice or medical facilities. The other blessing that came with the rains was heavy cloud cover, which kept the temperatures under 85 degrees and provided a strong south wind that helped ventilate the house.
Power returned to my house shortly before 5:00 this afternoon, after five days without. The storm hit our state capitol of Baton Rouge very hard, and wiped out all fourteen of the electrical transmission lines that provide service to the lower half of the state. The winds also took out major cell phone towers, so the only phone service available for about 60 hours were the old "land lines". Some 9,000 electrical workers have made their way into Louisiana from all over the country, and in our area the lines had to be restored over major lakes and wetlands, which required repairs made by helicopter! We were originally told that we would be without service anywhere from ten days to four weeks. Our recently elected Governor had the state incredibly well prepared for this disaster, but was briefly caught off guard by this development. He put pressure on the energy companies by offering National Guard help, and the three transmission lines that provide power to the New Orleans area were restored in three days. That left local power outages to be dealt with. What a totally positive change from three years ago!
I have had hot and cold running water and gas to cook with throughout, but we are still being asked to conserve as much as possible in giving water and other "byproducts" back to the government. While the major "water treatment" facilities are functioning, the "lift stations" that move the effluent along are not. Until power is restored to the approximately 450 lift stations, there is a serious danger of backup. Such fun!
But this is the Old South, where politics is the sport and football is the religion! Moans and groans from the LSU faithful when Saturday's game against Troy State had to be postponed to November have been mitigated by the Saints' game that will take place on Sunday! The Superdome was not damaged, the evacuees are returning in droves (including some 20,000 that were moved out by chartered buses and trains last Friday, Saturday and Sunday), and all of the suppliers have guaranteed that service personnel, food vendors and security forces will be there. Talk about flying in the face of Mother Nature!
Well, in the morning I will return to my side yard to hack away again at broken trees, and pile the debris between the sidewalk and the curb for pickup sometime in the next two weeks. Regular garbage service returns on Monday, and I actually had a mail delivery today. Life returns in bits and pieces, every day bringing better news. Grocery stores are opening, gas stations are pumping again, lights are coming on and traffic is becoming congested. But it's the little things that make such a difference. Have you ever noticed the sound of ice cubes being dumped into the dispenser by your freezer's ice maker? I hope you never have to equate it with victory over the elements like I do!
I'm still looking forward to the reunion. As soon as the date is set, I'll make my travel reservations. I am truly looking forward to seeing YouAll again!
Pat Powers (Patsy Burgdorf)