Updated: Jul 24
Preface: Anticipating hurricanes has become a way of life in Louisiana. Two stand out in memory, Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina. As I relay my experiences, note that Baton Rouge is located in a Humid Subtropical Climate Zone, about 50 miles from the Gulf of Mexico as the crow flies but two hours as the car drives . This poem was written mainly for my family as a life writing exercise, but with a little rhyme and beat to make for a more fun and concise read. Luisa Candela asked, “Why Write in Rhyme?” I say, “Give it time.”
August 1992 – thirty-one years ago
It would be wise to stock up on supplies we were warned.
Hurricane Andrew was headed our way; be alarmed.
Every hurricane season we packed water, batteries, and such.
At the end of hurricane season, we had not used much.
Veterans of hurricanes were smug, as rookies feared of what’s to come.
Our luck was about to end, as Hurricane Andrew began to blow in.
The air was dry and stagnant; every breath was a gasp for oxygen.
A feeling new to me; now I know it means a hurricane is near.
The power went out. To the children’s delight we ate by candlelight.
With no AC, it didn’t take long for the house to become sweltering,
No one in the family slept well that night.
Our sheets and bed clothes were drenched in sweat.
Torrential rains came down and gusts of winds blew through the cracks and
crevices of our well-built brick house.
The roof felt as if it were going to lift off the house.
The front door creaked and threatened to blow open.
Peeking out a window, we saw flying in the air shingles, big branches, and other
Heavy rain was blowing horizontally.
A six-foot pine tree sapling was pinned to the ground by high winds.
Long overdue, the eye of hurricane Andrew swept through Baton Rouge.
As the top of the wall of the eye passed through at 2 a.m. there was a calm.
The sky looked like a light yellowish dawn.
Birds began chirping oddly warning nature that something wasn’t right; Sit tight.
The back wall of the eye came through. Darkness returned and heavy rain and winds blew.
The next morning, at dawn, the Hurricane was gone.
We tiptoed outside to assess the damage Andrew left behind.
We were lucky. No shingles lost. Lots of debris on the ground.
No flooding, except the lawn was saturated with water.
Our feet sank deep into the grass. “Squish,” “squash,’” “squish” was the sound our rubber rainboots made as we plodded across the lawn.
If the sun came out, it would take days to dry up the excess water, the humidity
would be 100%.
Some large trees in the neighborhood were uprooted and some fell in houses.
We saw a better picture by sunrise and like-minded neighbors waved hello,
relieved that they also had no surprises.
No power for three days was an awakening, as to how much we depend on
A few months after Andrew blew through, I sat down to see what else I could do.
Whew! We survived Hurricane Andrew.
Wait! All the pictures on the walls were askew. Darn that Andrew!
The first dawn after Katrina passed through, you could almost hear sighs of relief
from residents of Baton Rouge.
During the night, the hurricane took a more easterly path avoiding much of its
Things could always have been worse, and they did get worse -- much worse.
After dawn, sunrise brought us a nasty surprise.
Levees in New Orleans began to breach. No one could be reached.
New Orleans flooded badly AFTER Katrina passed.
All resources went to New Orleans, which was in complete disrepair, for years.
Mandatory evacuation of New Orleans and an establishment of contraflow
Brought over one hundred thousand evacuees to Baton Rouge,
who stayed much longer than expected.
Causing traffic gridlocks for weeks as the adults foraged for food and water.
Grocery shelves had been emptied for days,
Inventory remained low through the Christmas Holidays.
“New Rouge” became our city’s sobriquet.
Military came in Black Hawk helicopters or boats to rescue New Orleanians from their rooftops, collect the dead, and protect people from gangs.
Entire hospitals and nursing homes were evacuated.
The New Orleans airport was closed due to the floods,
making the Baton Rouge airport a major hub.
A steady stream of black hawk choppers flew overhead since our house was close
to a hospital and staging area.
That was the way it was going to be, eerie.
It was just luck that the that in seven days we had electricity.
All hotels and motels statewide were reserved for first responders.
Blue tarps on roofs became commonplace.
There were so many downed trees that getting around town was a journey,
Tripling the time to get from here to there.
Tempers flared, everywhere.
Civil servants, waiting a week for power to be restored in their office buildings,
came back to find that they were assigned to homeless shelters for a few
days to help families apply for aid.
By springtime, the Feds gave up validating records and declared
every child in the State would receive free lunch for the entire school year.
Five months after Katrina hit Louisiana, my work took me to review a school
in Orleans Parish.
My first time in the area since Katrina left such devastation.
I was told to fill up the gas tank before I left Baton Rouge. It was hard to find a
working gas station.
The New Orleans sky was overcast emphasizing, large black patches of darkness
where no electricity had been restored.
The stench from sewer and drainage overflow was unbearable.
Abandoned cars on and under the interstate were still rusting.
There was an odd silence over New Orleans -- a city that’s usually buzzing.
Hurricane Katrina became as famous as Cher; we shortened its name
to Katrina and knew that we were referring to the hurricane.
Each teacher interviewed had a Katrina story from Hell to tell.
Not sure Louisiana and New Orleans will ever fully recover.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder