This was my first hurricane and was it ever a motherfucker. I’ve been in thunderstorms, snow storms, hail storms, Nor’easters, and even a few shitstorms, but they were nothing compared to this bitch. I’m typing this from the office and it’s about 9:30 Friday night. My group is on rotating 12-hour shifts for the next several days to keep our claims center up and running. I work for a large regional insurance company that has a big presence in MS and LA. We may have handled close to 10,000 claims already and if the center goes down, we’re in deep doodie, so I’ll be sleeping up here tonight.
I’ve had to ask people several times what day it is because I honestly can’t remember. They’ve blurred into this fuzzy picture of long hours, horrendous destruction, and overwhelming change. And please, don’t get me started on the looters…I agree with our governor, they should be handled ‘ruthlessly’ and without mercy (that last part is mine).
Anyway, I thought I’d share with you my hurricane story. It’s not much, but it’s something to share nonetheless.
For hours, I did nothing but walk from the back door to the front window to the office window to my bedroom window…hitting all corners of the house to make sure nothing was being torn apart. I watched the trees in the back yard lean over like they wanted to kiss the ground. I watched my Bradford pear tree bend over like a two-dollar hooker, only to stick straight up when the wind died down. Several times I thought my fence was going to fly away, but it stayed put, although it is now a little bent.
The worst part, besides the 80 mph winds and the tornado sirens, was the waiting. You couldn’t do anything but wait. You could try and eat, but my stomach was in knots so that was out. You could try and sleep, but hell that sure wasn’t going to happen. All you could do was wait and watch the news. It got worse when the power out and the sun went down.
The winds were pretty steady through most of the night. Once the power went out, I tried to read. Thank goodness for Stephen King. If anyone can take my mind somewhere else, it’s him. I would disappear for about 15 minutes at a time, only to be brought back by the wind. And my house creaking. That, my friends, is a scary fucking sound.
Believe it or not, I had to leave my house and head into the office about 9:00 p.m. because someone in Texas couldn’t get an ftp job to work. They called our CEO about it and the shit rolled downhill till it landed on my buddy and me. We had to go out, in the freakin’ hurricane, to fix an ftp job. If I ever find out who called this in, I’m going to personally drive over there and kick them in the nuts. Twice.
Our normal 15 minute drive took us close to an hour. I wasn’t scared, but let’s just say that I was puckered tight enough to bend quarters. We had to back track and start over again twice due to downed trees or downed power lines and almost ran into a tree surrounded by power lines. It was an adventure, to say the least. Fortunately, we were able to pass the time by coming up with creative ways to kick the bastard who caused this in the nuts.
When we arrived, the building was pitch black, although I could hear the generator running which meant my computers were still working. Turns out a mild power surge happened when the gennie kicked in, causing a reboot of our machines. It took about an hour to pinpoint the problem, and then we hung around to bring everything else back up. I got back to my house about 11:30, packed a bag with flashlight in mouth, and stayed with my buddy and his family since they had power.
As we drove into work the next morning, it was pretty surreal. The roads were paved with green leaves, twigs, branches, and in some cases, whole trees pulled up at roots. We saw half an oak tree buried in the roof of one brand-new home, which happened to be unoccupied. On our campus alone, we must have lost close to a dozen trees. Traffic lights were out all over the place, but folks were smart and remembered to at least slow down before blowin’ through the intersection.
We saw roofs blown off, awnings stripped of their cloth, trees toppled, utility poles snapped like toothpicks, and even a building that had been wiped out. What we got was mild compared to the Gulf Coast and New Orleans. I cannot conceive of winds blowing steadily at 120 mph. My mind just won’t allow it. Stick your face out a car window doing 60, then imagine going twice as fast. Bet you can’t do it either.
Katrina has changed the lives of so many people that I thank God that my family and I came through it with almost no damage. I lost a few small trees that I was going to get rid of anyway, but other than that, my life continues as it did before. It’s weird, but I have a strange feeling of guilt for my good fortune. I’m going to try and turn that into something positive by doing what I can to help others. You should to. There are many places accepting donations and I ask that you give whatever you can, no matter how small. We’re going to need all the help we can get.