Dear Mom and Dad,
With yet another hurricane season rapidly approaching, I have been studying my grocery bag (Helpful Hurricane Hints for Happy Disaster Shoppers). It has a tracking map I can cut out and a check list so I can see how unprepared I am to face yet another hurricane season. I don't know what happened. I was on top of the things last season with a truly impressive supply of candy bars (to keep my energy up when I'm getting blown about). Course, the chocolate was the first thing to go when we "stood down" last November. But I know I didn't touch the batteries (Jonesy's contribution to our preparedness effort). I suspect foul play (Our Son does have several devices that require battery propulsion), but I don't think I'll hurl accusations when I still have chocolate on my hands.
I'll confess to being a little complacent because we've lived here eleven years and in that time no major hurricane has hit New Orleans. We are told by hopeful weather people that this is not a Good Thing. It's a Bad Thing because it increases the chances of us taking a major hit, instead of merely getting blown into our neighbor's trees while our belongings head for parts unknown.
Even a little hit involves flooding, so I find my grocery bag seriously lacking in a few items I consider important to my personal survival. No where can I find any mention of getting a Large Boat -- an obvious preparedness device in a place where the land mass is zero to six feet below sea level and the water is ten to fifteen feet above sea level.
The bag also doesn't list fans (the old-fashioned, hand-held kind) for when the 200mph+ winds blow the power lines down -- ending air conditioning as we know it.. I know there are those who think the A/C is luxury, but none of those people live here. They all moved to a cooler climate. To say it gets hot and humid here is like saying that Santa Claus is a trifle plump. That the Pope is a little Catholic. That Clinton is bit -- well, I'll let you fill in the blank on that one.
Of course boats and fans aren't necessary if you Opt to Evacuate. Unfortunately, you have to do this long before you know if you actually need to evacuate. The City Fathers, after spending a lot of money and time on a Study, have come up with an evacuation plan that consists mainly of everyone praying the hurricane goes somewhere else. Apparently there isn't a good way for over a million people to leave this area in a twenty-four hour period -- not when The Official Evacuation Route turns almost immediately into The Parking Lot.
Those who decide to evacuate, have two choices:
- They can evacuate to Higher Ground -- which can be found somewhere around Ohio. Most evacuees usually head for Other Ground -- an inland area where the tornadoes that spin off from the hurricane can blow their car -- loaded with all that is most precious to them -- into Ohio for newsmen to film.
- The Parking Lot is the reason some people head for a Handy Red Cross Evacuation Shelter. These shelters are a great place to be totally out of touch with what's happening while sleeping on army cots, eating candy bars, and wondering if your house is getting blown to Ohio. Shelter evacuees have the rare privilege of being filmed for the news at six and ten while sleeping with their mouths open, or if awake, they get to look pitiful pinned under bright lights being asked questions like, "Are you comfortable?" and "Does it upset you that your home is in Ohio right now?"
This is why we usually Opt to Sit Tight and watch the weather people try not to show how much they are hoping the hurricane will come our way. They always pretend to be relieved when it goes somewhere else, giving another weather person the higher ratings a backdrop of disaster from which to broadcast while looking serious and sad. Yes, it's selfish to want a natural disaster to boost their ratings. But I can't blame them for wanting a little drama in their weather reports. It's not easy finding new ways to tell us it's going to be hot and humid nine months of the year. (The other three months they get to tell us it will be cool and humid.) A good, devastating hurricane gives them a chance to use fancy graphics showing where New Orleans won't be if we take a direct hit. And it lengthens their camera time when they get to interview survivors of past hurricanes, show clips of past devastation. And don't forget the live remotes wearing yellow slickers while getting blown across the beach. Those shots have boosted many a lagging rating.
Jonesy and I have our own, time-tested method of coping with potential devastation.
We tape our windows.
Really. It works like a charm. I think it's one of those cosmic things. The act of putting tape on glass, which will then bake in the sun and become impossible to remove, creates this strange synergy that sends the hurricane elsewhere. And over time, the tape (we buy the cheap stuff) eventually wears off, so we can do it again for the next big storm. We don't tape for the little hurricanes. Have to have a few Storm Stories to share at the company picnic. We can't spend the whole time talking about the cockroaches.
A version of this column first appeared in The Lovell Chronicle on May 3, 1990.
© 1990-2013 Pauline Baird Jones All rights reserved.