Nate Update

Nate ended up being a no-show in NOLA.

After making landfall along the mouth of the Mississippi River, he blew to the east of us and made his second U.S. landfall around Biloxi. Even there I gather the damage was not severe. In New Orleans we got 1½” of rain and that was it. No high winds even. We never lost power and did not experience any flooding.

I’m glad of that, obviously. I’d rather prepare for a disaster that doesn’t materialize than be caught unprepared.

But don’t sneer at Nate. He is blamed for 38 deaths in five Central American countries. That number could rise; six people are still missing. This was another killer storm in a season that make break records.

Nate Cometh

Nate cometh.

I first heard about him as Tropical Depression #16, forming off the coast of Nicaragua on Wednesday. On Thursday morning I saw he had been named and was predicted to be headed straight for New Orleans. I contacted a friend in Memphis about the possibility of bunking there over the weekend.

But then I learned more about Nate. He’s a fast-moving son of a gun. He was expected to be in the middle of the Gulf Saturday, making landfall on the Gulf Coast in the wee hours of Sunday morning, and be all the way up in New England late Monday.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a storm that fast.

Contrary to what you might think if you don’t live in this zone, fast is good in some ways. A slow-moving tropical storm that dumps a ton of water can be worse for a flood-prone area than a fast-moving hurricane.

Because Nate is moving so fast, he may not have time to strengthen significantly over the Gulf. He’s officially a Category 1 storm right now, and not expected to get much stronger, though the latest update says maybe Category 2 by landfall.

Current estimates say New Orleans might only get a couple inches of rain, but we’re on the edge of a heavier rainfall prediction zone. If we get more, we could have some street flooding, but right now it’s looking like winds will be more significant. We could lose power, and it might be a long time before that’s restored.

Then again maybe Nate will blow to our east and this will be a non-event for New Orleans.

So we’ve stocked up on essentials and we’re preparing to ride Nate out. Xy is alternating between complete blasé and full-on panic. She seems to have no middle ground. Me, I’m trying to maintain an even keel.

How Long the Storm?

Street Salad

Isaac is gone, but his odor lingers on.

Seriously. There’s a smell in the air, a certain peculiar smell I can’t describe. I’m not sensitive to smells. I often think if I was more tuned in to my sense of smell, I’d have a radically different way of being in the world, more animalistic perhaps and less hyper-rational. I don’t notice many smells. But this smell I do notice. It reminds me of the smell after Katrina, which at the time I thought was all mold and rot. Now I’m not so sure. There was plenty of mold and rot, to be sure, but this is maybe something else that was also in the mix. It sprang up almost immediately after Isaac’s winds died down. There were massive amounts of live oak leaves scattered all over, damp with rain. Could that be the source of the smell? Those leaves don’t decay quickly. But perhaps they have some kind of mold growing on them, there already before they fell. Who knows.

It’s not an unpleasant smell. Not entirely pleasant either. I might say it smells like mold without any mustiness if that makes sense. Fresh mold. I’m trying to invent terms to describe a sensation for which my vocabulary is inadequate. But every time I catch a whiff, it brings back memories from 2005.

How long does a storm last? My boss speculated that people who haven’t lived through such storms don’t understand. The storm itself was only on us for a day and a half, right? But we were watching Isaac since August 21st. Most people around New Orleans lost at least a week of work to Isaac, factoring in the preparation and the subsequent power outages. When I got back in my office, it took a full week of rescheduling and catching up before things got back to what is laughably referred to as “normal” around here. For some, though, “normal” is still a long way off; some offices were compromised by the wind and rain and mold has set in. Remediation is under way.

As of today, two full weeks after Isaac’s landfall, our city streets are still lined with piles of debris, mostly branches and sometimes whole trees that have been cut down to size, stacked and bundled. They sit waiting to be carted off somewhere. (Probably a landfill, more’s the pity.) It’s a massive task and the city just doesn’t have enough crews to get it done quickly. I fully expect there will still be plenty of work remaining to be done in a week’s time. At that point, Isaac will have dominated our attention, or at least impinged upon our collective consciousness, for a full month.

I’m talking about those who weathered the hurricane with minimal impact. For some individuals, some families, some communities, the road to recovery is much longer. For those folks, the consequences of Isaac will linger long after his smell has faded from the street of New Orleans.

Isaac Calculus

Isaac: Hurricane Force Wind Speed Probabilities - 120 Hours

Isaac cometh. Looks like he’s headed our way for sure. Forecasters say he won’t be superstrong, “only” a Category 1 hurricane when he makes landfall on the anniversary of Katrina. But then forecasters aren’t so adept at predicting hurricane strength. And it’s looking more like we’ll be on the wet side of this storm.

To bug out or hunker down, that’s the question. It’s not always easy to calculate the best course of action. A host of factors come into play, and for each person the calculus is slightly different. When I stated that there were actually many good reasons to stay in place, a friend of mine challenged me to name twenty. An intriguing challenge, but I won’t have time for that now, because our decision has been made.

We’re buggin’. I think we could have ridden this one out. Ultimately, though, our decision was made because of private external factors which I’m not at liberty to divulge. Not trying to be all mysterious, but there are certain things I just can’t put out there for public consumption.

This will be our third evacuation in the thirteen years we’ve lived here. Once for Katrina. Once for Gustav. And now for Isaac.

Sooo…. Catch you on the flip side. Good luck, New Orleans.

Iked

I got Iked on my bike this morning.

I was partway to work, and I noticed the sky was getting dark — really dark. Hope I can make it there before… And then the heavens opened and the water poured down.

By the time I got to campus, the rain had practically stopped. I guess that was a feeder band for Hurricane Ike.

Ike in the Gulf

I got soaked. I mean drenched. To the skin. Every piece of clothing I had was saturated with rainwater, even my underwear.

I don’t remember when I last had such a thorough soaking on the way to work. That’s why I keep a set of clothes and a towel at the office. It’s always nice to have a legitimate reason for getting naked at work. Now if I can just get my shoes dry before I head home I’ll be happy.

Ike Is Wearing a Cowboy Hat

Sometimes a phrase gets stuck in my head and just keeps repeating like a mantra. Last month it was a random remark by my mother-in-law: “It’s only going to get worse.” But for the last two days, the phrase echoing in my mind comes courtesy of GJ:

Hurr.Ike is wearing a cowboy hat. Looks like he’s going to Houston. Beware.

And it looks like GJ’s right. Actually, with the southerly trend of the last few tracks, Ike’s headgear is starting to look like a sombrero.

Ike

In any case, he doesn’t appear to be headed our way, and I’m feeling extreme relief, not that I wish devastation on anyone. Still we can’t let out guard down. Ike could shift to the north unexpectedly, like Katrina did, and then we’d have to get out of town fast.

Here’s hoping this Ike is no Turner.

Myanmar

Xy and I were getting lunch at Minnie’s Catfish Corner (highly recommended) when we heard the news about the hurricane in Myanmar. Apparently the geography there is very similar to Louisiana. The reports are at least 10,000 dead with thousands more missing. This reminded us of the worst predictions immediately after Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures in New Orleans. One never knows what to think or say or do in the wake of such unbelievable tragedy. I was surprised when Laura Bush got on TV and gave a very political speech, she refused to use the name “Myanmar”, damning the military junta in charge there for their handling of this crisis. And it sounds like they deserve it, thug I have trouble accepting this kind of cricism out of the mouth of anyone named Bush on a subject like this.

Update: My friend John Clark recommends:

If you are looking for ways to send aid to storm victims in Burma I suggest that you consider the program of the Foundation for the People of Burma, which has been doing grassroots work there for a number of years. Information on donating to their aid program can be found at:

http://www.foundationburma.org/may-cyclone-message.php

Information on the work of the Foundation can be found at:

http://www.foundationburma.org/aboutus.php

Dean

I wasn’t going to make any mention of Hurricane Dean until such a time as New Orleans is in the National Hurricane Center’s five-day forecast cone — which I hope won’t happen. But now Dean is bearing down on the Lesser Antilles, and is already affecting the lives of some people I’ve come to know from a distance through the miracle of the electronic communications.

At least one Dominica blogger is really, really scared.

According to another, people are seriously freaking out.

Hey, I know it doesn’t help much, but I’m pulling for y’all.

Prayer for God’s Protection during the Hurricane Season

I’m not the praying type, but all the same I thought I’d pass on this prayer, written by Sr. Loretta McCarthy, SBS.

Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on us. You who hovered over the waters and brought all into being, grant us the grace to be people of peace and hope during this 2006 hurricane season. Help us to trust, to make wise choices, and to offer all we are and do each day for the good of all your creation. In the name of the one who calmed the waters and winds, Jesus our Brother, we pray. Amen.

An Ode on Future Storms

If Alberto avoids us
If Beryl doesn’t break us
If Chris doesn’t crush us
If Debby doesn’t drown us
If Ernesto doesn’t exile us
If Florence doesn’t flood us
If Gordon doesn’t gank us
If Helene doesn’t hammer us
If Isaac doesn’t ice us
If Joyce jogs away at the eleventh hour
If Kirk doesn’t kill us
If Leslie doesn’t level us
If Michael doesn’t maul us
If Nadine doesn’t nail us
If Oscar doesn’t overwhelm us
If Patty doesn’t pound us
If Rafael doesn’t ruin us
If Sandy doesn’t swamp us
If Tony doesn’t topple us
If Valerie veers away from us
If William doesn’t wallop us…

Then maybe we’ll live to masque another Mardi Gras.

Hurricane Refugees

We made it out of New Orleans with our three cats and not much else. We’re now safely ensconced with the in-laws in Bloomington, Indiana.

We got up at 3AM on Sunday morning, packed a few things, choked down some hash browns, checked the weather reports, and hit the road by 5AM. Five hours later we got a hotel room in Winona, Mississippi. We were thinking maybe the storm wouldn’t hit New Orleans too bad, maybe we’d be able to return quickly.

Obviously, that’s not the case.

We spent the night in Winona, glued to CNN. When we woke up Monday morning and saw Katrina ripping the roof off the Superdome, we realized a quick return was unlikely, and decided to continue northward. We spent last night in Bloomington. Today we’re being inundated by Katrina rain here, too. There may even be flash floods in parts of Indiana.

It looked for a while like New Orleans had escaped the doomsday scenario, but then the levee broke on the 17th Street Canal. Our neighborhood is most certainly flooded now. We just don’t know how bad. The mayor says 80% of the city is under water. I’m worried about what’s become of our friend and neighbor Michael Homan. You can read what he posted to his blog before the power went out; it’s scary.

Calls to the 504 area code are problematic, so if you call our cell phone, you might not reach us. If you need to give a call, try 812-336-4656.

Buggin’ Out

We’ve never evacuated for a hurricane before. But we’re evacuating for this one. Katrina looks like she’s headed straight toward New Orleans, and she’s now a Category Four. Worst case scenario: Lake Ponchartrain floods the city, and our neighborhood is under many feet of water for many weeks to come. We wouldn’t want to be here for that.

Holiday or Vacation?

I’d originally put in for last Monday as a vacation day. But I came back from our trip a few days early, and was ready to go in to work — only the University was closed because of Hurricane Dennis.

My first thought was, “They’re going to screw me. I deserve to get that vacation day back, but they’re going to screw me out of it!”

Then I calmed down and for some reason I actually thought, “No, they’ll be reasonable, and I’ll get my vacation day back.” I don’t know why I thought that. I must have been momentarily insane.

Yesterday I got an e-mail from HR that confirmed this:

You’re crazy if you think you’re getting that vacation day back.

So I’m getting screwed. But somehow I no longer care.

Hurricane Holiday

Life is pretty much back to normal in New Orleans, now that the threat of Hurricane Dennis has passed. We had some gusty winds yesterday and a sprinkling of rain. Today is beautiful and cloudless. All schools are back in session today — except Xavier and Dillard. That means I’ve got an extra day of vacation, so we’re headed to Fountainbleau State Park.

Trip Metrics

We got home last night. This was the longest vacation Xy and I have been on together, ever.

  • Days away: 16
  • Miles travelled: 2,506
  • Gas burned: Maybe $150 worth, but I kinda lost track.
  • Money spent: No idea.
  • Beds slept: 7
  • People visited: About 20?
  • Flags burned: 1 (on International Flag Burning Day, of course)
  • Lost along the way: My ignition key. Fortunately Xy brought hers too.
  • Automobile disasters: Only one! A flying rock chipped our windshield on the way home.
  • Chigger bites: numerous (Thanks, Scott & Justine!)

Itinerary: New Orleans > Forrest City, Arkansas > Silverleaf’s Ozark Mountain Resort, Missouri (in Mark Twain National Forest) > Waynesville, Missouri > St. Louis, Missouri > Monrovia, Indiana > Bloomington, Indiana > Indianapolis, Indiana > New Orleans

We got home last night at about 9:40pm, which mean it took almost exactly twelve hours to drive the 816 miles from Indianapolis.

We’d planned to stay in Bloomington until July 10th for a big anti-I-69 protest which I wanted to videotape for ROX, but we didn’t because it didn’t seem to be actually happening as planned, perhaps in part because of news the previous week that I-69 is going to be on hold for 10 or fifteen years. (But my sources say this is a smoke screen designed to short-circuit the protestors.)

We also hurried home because of weather. We just missed Tropical Storm Cindy by a few days, but we’re back in time for Hurricane Dennis. It seemed possible we’d have to rush home, grab the pets, and evacuate, which would have sucked. Looks like we’re now just outside the cone of probability, so we’ll ride this one out.

Plus, we were tired of being on the road. We enjoyed the trip a great deal, but it’s good to be home again.

Other random observations:

  • Cottondale, Alabama, is an epicenter of stupidity and should be avoided at all costs.
  • Downtown Indianapolis sure has changed — for the better.
  • All those high-rise apartment buildings in downtown Bloomington seem like a net positive to me.

It was great seeing everyone I saw, and if I missed you this time — sorry! Hopefully next time.

I’ll be posting pix to Flickr soon.

My Ears Are Clean

The Green Party had a media training workshop; since it was at Xavier I had to be there for the duration. Attendance was not so good; in fact it was pathetic. Blame it on Ivan, or the fact that it was an election day, or both. Besides myself and Debbie (the organizer) and Scott (the trainer) there were only two people who showed up. But the quality of the information was good.

Afterwards Xy and I voted.


Once every three years or so, I take out my earrings and clean them, whether they need it or not. And they always need it. They are hollow and they get filled up with wax or dead skin cells. Anyway, that’s what I did Saturday night.

Optional Work Day

There was some confusion as to whether Xavier was open today or not, so around 8 a.m. I called campus info and learned that campus was “open for staff” but that school would not be in session until Monday.

So I took my time. Xy and I went to City Park and tried to play tennis. The courts were closed, but we bounced the ball off a wall and then took a nice long walk. Came back home and had a breakfast of eggs and leftover potatoes and pork chops marinated in red wine. I showered and shaved.

At last I rode to campus; I got there shortly before 11 a.m., just in time to learn that they were closing the library. The police officer let me go up to my office, where I watered my plant, then turned around and left. I could have stayed, but no one else was there and I would have had to call the police to let me out. As it was, the officer locking up the library kept asssuring me, “You’ll get paid anyway.” OK, OK, twist my arm.

So almost this entire week has been a vacation of sorts, though not very restful. I’d been planning to take next week off, but now I think I’ll work instead. Today I’m puttering around the home office trying to get things in order.

Anticlimax

I went for a jog around the bayou this morning. It’s a very pleasant day. Kind of breezy, which is nice. There’s a little debris here and there that got blown about last night, but no damage that I could see. The grass was not wet, because we didn’t really get any rain.

34,000 people did lose power in the metro area, but not us. Xavier’s website has been down for the duration, but I didn’t even lose my Internet connection once. In fact, I used a combination of the Web, radio and TV to stay informed about what was happening, and I note the Washington Post has a story about online coverage of the hurricane.

New Orleans got lucky once again. Ivan veered north and east, much as the models predicted. Pensacola got hit worse than Mobile. Hmmm… Bonnie, Charles, Frances, now Ivan, and guess what? Hurricane Jeanne is taking aim. Florida is really taking a beating this season. And it’s an election year. Clearly, it’s a Republican plot.

We stayed home and rode out the storm, only it turned out there wasn’t much storm to ride out. I’m relieved, but I’m not patting myself on the back. I think Xy and I need to review our hurricane plans and be a little better prepared to leave or stay. I also want to know what exactly those worst case scenarios would mean. I’ve read lots of stories about 20 foot floods in the Quarter, but what would that mean for us in Mid-City? Would our second floor be submerged? Our house has about 30 windows; covering them all with plywood just doesn’t seem feasible. So are there some alternatives? I bet we could do something to better prepare our lower floor for a minor flood.

But for now, here’s a nice picture to remember Ivan as he looked yesterday:

Ivan Water Vapor