My step-cousin Shannon’s house as a result of hurricane Gustav. // Photo Tom Snyder.
Of the natural disasters we have to worry about in the Inland NW hurricanes are not one of them. My Dad in Baton Rouge is not so lucky. The hit that Baton Rouge took has been underreported in the news. As of today over 200K still don’t have power and our trying to cope with 95 degree temps. My Dad sent me this first person account of the storm along with pics of my step-cousin’s totalled house.:
I don’t know where to start, but I will start with a day by day of this week, as it has been quite a week, one I will never forget. I just regained internet access about two hours ago (Saturday night)
• Sunday, August 31- Hurricane Gustav is hitting Cuba hard as a Category 3 Hurricane, and appears to be headed directly for New Orleans. People in New Orleans are told to evacuate and Governor Bobby Jindal, the smartest man in Louisiana, and maybe the United States, and also the youngest governor, tells everybody to prepare for a very big storm. People strip the grocery stores of all their food, and also buy generators and batteries at Home Depot and Lowes. Diane’s mother comes to stay with us. The Hurricane is predicted to hit Baton Rouge by Monday morning.
• Monday-September 1-Labor Day holiday, so we didn’t have to go to work, but about 8:00 A.M., it starts raining and the wind is very strong with a constant roar. Our power goes out around 10:00 A.M, thankfully just after I took my last hot shower for a long time. I took a little nap, and Diane woke me up and told me that a big tree had fallen on Shannon’s house, while her kids and ex-husband, Shane, were in the house. We find out that the kids are okay, but the house is a mess. Shannon is working a 72-hour duty during emergency conditions, and the hospital will not let her leave, because nobody can come in and replace her. The storm slowed down a little bit in the afternoon, so we went over to the house and it was unbelievable how bad it was. Hailey was in her mother’s bedroom doing some art, and she noticed the big tree outside was starting to fall. She ran in and told her dad and Connor and Reece, who were in the family room, and they moved to the other side of the house quickly. It actually took about 30 minutes for the tree to fall, and Shane was able to save a TV and a mirror and some pictures before the tree fell. The tree fell directly onto the boys room on the second floor, and it was so lucky they were not in it, as they spend so much time in it. The tree knocked out the boys bedroom floor and and fell into the family room directly below where they and their dad had been. In the afternoon we and Shane’s parents helped moved as much stuff out as we could, especially pictures, games and some toys, so they would not get wet.
• Tuesday, September 2-It was raining off and on, but Diane and I spent five hours bagging all the leaves and debris from our lawn, and ended with two giant piles, including large branches, and 13 large plastic bags. The phone lines were jammed and you could not call out, but I did get a hold of Jon for a few minutes. With the power out, we did not have cable TV, of course, but a transistor radio that did not have much news, but mostly emergency information, and also no paper was delivered, because the newspaper printing plant did not have power, so we had no idea how bad the storm was, or if New Orleans got hit very bad. It turns out that New Orleans did not have any flooding, or levee breaks, but did lose power. Baton Rouge got hit really bad, but the national media talked about New Orleans, and did not mention the rest of the state. Gustav was much worse than Katrina for BR, and even President Bush was here for a while, said that the nation should focus on BR and the rest of the state north of BR, who got hit the hardest. Some people said it was worse than Betsy, which hit BR in 1965, and used to be considered the worst storm ever to hit here. The local utility, Entergy, said it was the worst one for them.
• Wednesday-September 3- Without power, and not enough ice, all the food in the two refrigerators and freezer spoiled. We finally bought a 5000 watt generator for $765, and were able to power both refrigerators and the freezer, plus a fan. Hardly anybody has power, and all fast food places and most grocery stores are closed. It was very hard to find gasoline, so I got up at 4:30 two mornings in a row to wait in line at Wal-Mart to buy gas for the cars and the generator. The second morning a deputy sheriff told me to move on, because I was violating the 8:00 P.M. to 6:00 A.M curfew. I was in third in line, and did not want to leave, and told him I needed gas. He talked to the two guys in front me, and they didn’t budge, and so he finally left us alone.
• Thursday-September 4- I worked 3 ½ hours at my office, and had to quit because we did not have air conditioning. It was not mandatory that we work, as the company paid everybody for the entire week, and will pay overtime for anybody who came into work. Shannon finally got out of the hospital and was able to see her house for the first time after the storm. She took it well, and already started to have ideas, what the new house would be like. She and the boys stayed with us that night. A few places are starting to open, mostly grocery stores, who had generators. It is very irritating to drive around, because none of the traffic lights work, so everybody has to stop at 4-way stops, and inch their way through. Since we had no AC, we brought a window air conditioning unit to use in our bedroom, so at least that room would be cool, and could be run off the generator.
• Friday-September 5- The power came on in our part of our neighborhood and our house at 5:12 A.M., while I was waiting in line for gas at Wal-Mart. We finally shut the generator off, and would not miss its loud roar, but some of the neighbors behind still do not have power. One of my bosses said he did not expect to get power to his house for a month, because they had above ground power lines in their sub-division and trees fell on the power lines. We have underground lines in our sub-division. I worked four hours in my office, and most people came in. We went over to Shannon’s house in afternoon, and watched Shane’s brother-in-law take down the tree from the house. Shannon and Shane have spent a lot of time going through the house and salvaging things. Shannon’s bedroom and kitchen were not damaged, and a third room had minor damage. I will send some pictures later. Shannon and the boys stayed with us again at night. Saturday-September 6- I had nothing better to do, and went to my office to work another 6 hours on one of my big projects, which was already behind schedule before Gustav. Diane and I did yard work in afternoon, and at around 6:00 P.M., the cable TV came back on, along with my internet access, which I get through the cable company. Shannon and the boys are here again tonight along with Hailey will stay here for about a week, and then move into a two-bedroom apartment about two miles from our house. She is getting a good settlement from the insurance company for her house, which will have to be completely demolished. They will also pay her apartment rent until the house is ready.
• Diane did not go to work all week, as state offices have been closed all week, except for emergency personnel. I have heard people from other parts of the country say why should they have to help pay for insurance for people hit by hurricanes, but they don’t have to worry, because the country is broken up into regions by the insurance companies so each region is separate. In other words, we don’t have to help pay for Iowa floods and tornados and you don’t have to help pay for our hurricanes.
Kids: An update: As of today, Sunday, half of the households in BR still do not have power. The kids will have another week off, but most of the schools do not have power. After all is said and done about Shannon’s house, we have to consider the kids, and we are so thankful that nothing happened to them. Shannon is taking a very positive attitude about the house, and already has a design with the layout that she wants for the new house, which helps the kids feel better, although Hailey did have a breakdown a day later, and cried hard, because she was so worried about her dad getting hurt, when he tried to save stuff in living room, before the tree fell. Already another hurricane, Ike, is headed toward New Orleans, but we hope it veers off to the west.
I am enclosing a few pictures, and will send more later. In the third picture you can see what is left of the boys bunk bed on the second floor.