EVENT - Yellow Alert

50 YearsLiving in any region affected by hurricanes - and especially on the gulf coast - is like living on a missile range.  You never know when things might get exciting... 

Fortunately, whoever is firing the missiles doesn't shoot too many of them, and their targeting system obviously leaves much to be desired.  You can also see these missiles coming from a long way off, and track their slow progress.  This allows all of us living on the missile range to avoid being there when a missile lands.

Over the last 50 years, six major hurricanes have affected Louisiana.  That's an average of one every eight years or so.  Louisiana has a large coastline, so just because a hurricane affects Louisiana, not all Louisiana residents are greatly impacted.

Despite the risks being low, whenever a hurricane enters the Gulf of Mexico, we all watch it.  People who are new around here and have never experienced this are rather excitable, and take to running around in some kind of mild panic trying to buy some bottled water and last minute groceries.  Those of us who have lived here for awhile tend to watch hurricanes with a bored malaise. 

Track 1When the Missile Tracking Hurricane Center issues a tracking advisory, we all check it and read the relevant theories about where the storm is tracking and why.  When we saw this we said, "We won't even get rain from that one.  We didn't get any rain from Ivan...not one drop..." 

The people in west Florida, on the other hand, were not in the position to slack.  They had work to do.  Of course, everyone takes these predictions with a grain of salt.  Modern meteorology is a fascinating science that mixes the latest advances in technology with voodoo and chicken blood to concoct an untrustworthy 'forecast' that has the same vague feel as one of Nostradamus' quatrains.  Despite all the various weather prophets, the weather goddess rarely reveals her hand ahead of time.  That's why we all dearly loved a man named Nash Roberts. 

Nash Roberts

People outside the religion (and region) may know Mr. Roberts as a man who helped develop the modern 'science' of Meteorology.  He was on the first airplane to pierce the eye of a hurricane.  The man knows more about weather than the entire staff of the Weather Channel combined. 

Local people recognize Nash as something else.  He is the True Prophet of the Weather Goddess.  Nash would get up there on TV, with his black markers and paper drawing map from the early 1950's and work his voodoo.  Wherever Nash said a storm was going to go, there it went.  All the younger guys were standing around with their computer models and their dicks in their hands while Nash proved time and again that he is the Master. 

Nash retired in 2001 to take care of his ailing wife, and the Faithful were left without their Prophet.  We have no True Guidance except for the cunning priests of NOAA and all their fancy-schmancy technology.  Without Nash to guide us, we are at the mercy of the NOAA.  We don't like it, don't trust it, but we need it because it's all we've got.  While some people take the NOAA predictions as Gospel, there are others of us who use various other forms of augury, from anticipating the worst to reading the zodiac.  I, myself, like to use water vapor motion maps and bear fat.  I had the feeling that Katrina would be closer to us than the weather service was predicting.

Track 2It came as no real surprise then, when the updated forecast came out at 5:00.  NOW we've got something to be excited about.  It's time to turn off Oprah and start watching The Weather Channel.  We've got 72 hours on the outside to be ready if this is going to be the big one.  Our bored malaise turns into an eyes-wide-open malaise and we start asking questions like, "I wonder if Home Depot has any plywood left?"

Still, Ivan went in on that track, and not a drop of rain fell on my house, so even such a close pass wouldn't be so bad.  I'd need to have the house ready and be prepared to lose electricity for a little bit, but it would just be a long weekend.  I just didn't trust those water vapor maps...they were trying to tell me something, and I had that queasy feeling... 

Track 3When the 11:00 advisory was posted that night, I was heavy on the REFRESH button.  The image didn't change, though, and a pattern was starting to emerge.  I was starting to GET A CLUE.

The eyes-wide-open malaise turns into a HOLY SHIT! moment and now it's time to say a prayer to Saint Nash Roberts even though he isn't dead yet.  I try to go to bed, but my brain is spinning like Cray Supercomputer.  I'm reviewing my situation, which isn't all that great.  A storm of Katrina's size and magnitude isn't something I am entirely certain my house will withstand.  I've got a four year old and a three month old baby, and I have a duty to take them out of harm's way.  I have no idea, however, where anything is that I need.  I most definitely do not Have My Shit Together, and I've got 48 hours on the outside to make an escape.

Track 4I awake at 4:00 AM, CST, which is when they post the 5 AM EDT update.  This is getting better all the time...

My friend Billy (Hi Billy!), was in pretty much the same situation I was in.  He lives a few miles from me, and has two daughters about the same age.  Our three month old babies were born in the same week...  Billy, however, had his shit together in a way that I didn't, so he put the kids in the van that morning and drove them over to Lafayette to visit with family for the weekend.  No mess, no fuss, no lines at the gas pump, no traffic.  Zoom. 

I, on the other hand, was still trying to figure out if we were really going to need to leave.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I was having a bad case of stupid that morning for some reason.  When most disasters hit, they are rather sudden.  The earth quakes and your house falls down.  There really isn't any time to think about it.  You're either ready or you aren't.  With a hurricane, you sort of sit there watching it.  You start cheering for it like it was a sports team, only you're cheering, "MISS!  MISS!"  This leads us to two lessons that are closely related.  The first lesson is:




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