I think I was in denial about Laura and Marco until Tuesday. And then I couldn’t ignore it. I started getting texts saying gas was running out, there was no water left, and you couldn’t drive on our main highway because the evacuation had started. I was starting to remember everything that happened over 15 years ago. 15 years. Yeah, it’s scorched in my brain forever.
Katrina had just devastated New Orleans and all eyes were on that. Until...Rita. The category 5 storm (it lessened to a 3 later thankfully) was headed straight for Southeast Texas. People panicked, and the late evacuations started.
This morning, I started looking Rita up to see if it was half as bad as I made it up in my head, and somehow I found it was worse.
Our area set up makeshift shelters out of our schools and churches. So many people fled here, only 100 miles up the road, thinking it was the best option because honestly it was impossible to get very far with millions leaving.
Our highways were turned into north bound ONLY as people fled. Most cars were stalled on the highway in a gridlock. If you were a local, you had better hope you could use a back road or even the grass to get to your home. Over 100 people died trying to evacuate. There were people getting out of their cars, fighting each other. A bus carrying nursing home evacuees caught on fire. People had heat strokes. Their cars broke down. They were stalled for over 24 hours. The were angry, scared, and hopeless.
It turned out stopping in our area wasn’t a good idea for them, we couldn’t offer a lot. We were drilled by the storm. We ran out of gas, food, and we were without electricity for 9 days with nowhere to buy generators or gas for them.
When I saw everyone in town a few days ago, the traffic, and the first predicted forecast, I panicked and I wanted to leave. I found a hotel. But it was too late; I couldn’t talk my family into going. I was in a constant state of fear and panic. I couldn’t make decisions, I couldn’t hold a conversation. I aged myself 30 years. I bought all the essentials, I secured my house and yard as best as I could, packed my family and dogs and went to my moms. Our house has way too many trees around it for me to have stayed here without sending myself straight into a stroke.
I slept on the floor, in the middle of the living room away from the tree on the opposite side of the house and away from the windows. Surrounded by my dogs and son, and taking my anxiety medicine as soon as it wore off. The only thing that was on my mind was the worst case scenario the news told me. My phone was constantly sending updates, warning to prepare for up to 75 mph winds.
I finally fell asleep. When I woke up, we had electricity. There was no damage. It wasn’t as bad as predicted. I’ve never felt relief like that. I realized, traffic never got completely unbearable. The stores were still getting shipments. Most people were able to leave and go home today.
So many mistakes were made years ago. We’ve learned. We know how to prepare. We’re okay. We will be okay next time. I won’t disrespect Mother Nature by mocking the storm that curved and didn’t hit us. Instead, I’m thankful, but I’m hurting for everyone it hit.
Friends, if you aren’t in a state that borders the ocean, send all of your love, prayers, and anything you possibly can to your friends that are. We have a long way to go in 2020. And I need you to know, a hurricane isn’t just a storm that hits a city and moves on. It last hours. It usually effects the entire state(s) it hits. It’s floods. It’s unimaginable winds. It’s tornadoes. It’s trying to find supplies. It’s leaving your home and not knowing if it will be there when you return. It’s not having electricity for days or weeks. Years to rebuild, knowing it’ll never be the same.
So, right now let’s help Louisiana in anyway we can. Let’s not forget. Let’s always band together, be there for each other, love each other, and I promise, these awful times will get a tiny bit easier.