Hurricane Gustav Evacuation – 9-1-08


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Friends:

It’s been another long day but at least we were in the comfort of the hotel. The day started out like any other – we all gathered for breakfast around 8:30 a.m.

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Breakfast 9-1-08

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Breakfast 9-1-08

Except this was no ordinary day. We ate breakfast in the hotel lobby with tons of other evacuees, all glued to the television for news on Hurricane Gustav.

Once breakfast was finished, we headed back to the room. We watched national news capture Gustav’s fury. Making dramatic camera footage, news media caught New Orleans’ industrial canal levees overtopping. Because of storm surge and winds, the canal filled up quickly. Roaring winds caused surf-like white caps and spillage over the top of the levee, splashing into the 9th ward. Fear gripped us as we remembered Katrina. It was an eerie feeling to see the same levee that caused such heartache just three short years ago. Around 11:30 a.m., Gustav’s eye passed over the Houma area (Terrebonne Parish).

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Industrial Canal Overtopping 9-1-08

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Industrial Canal Overtopping 9-1-08

To get my mind off the news and because I had to, I prepped to remove stitches from Eliana’s (my 8 year old) knee. Last Monday, she had a little accident at school. Her foot got caught in a drainage ditch and she fell. A gash in her knee required a couple of stitches.

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Eliana's Knee Stitches 9-1-08

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Eliana's Knee Stitches 9-1-08

Today, her doctor was supposed to remove the stitches. Since we were away from home, there were only a couple stitches, and it was an easy procedure, I decided to remove them myself. They needed to be removed otherwise, there was a risk of skin growing over the stitches and scarring. I used surgical gloves, created a tent over her knee, thoroughly sanitized the knee area with iodine and antiseptic cleanser, and sterilized my instruments (tweezers and scissors). There was a lot of drama at first, Eliana crying fearful tears. But once I began the procedure, she stopped crying and watched intently, Antonio behind her for support. Camrynn “documented” the event by taking these photos. In less than a minute, Eliana’s stitches were gone. No pain!

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Eliana's Stitches Gone! 9-1-08

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Eliana's Stitches Gone! 9-1-08

Once it was over, I cleaned her up, applied some antibiotic ointment, and covered her knee with a non-latex fabric bandage. She was good to go. Later in the day, she even went swimming with her cousins. Thank goodness for military first aid kits. I felt like “Dr. Dianne.” LOL

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - "Dr. Dianne" 9-1-08

The kids played games while we watched Hurricane Gustav make landfall midmorning in the Houma area (Terrebonne Parish). He came roaring into Louisiana as a Category 2 hurricane. We watched news coverage and I Twittered what I learned, the live updates posted to my website.

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Dianne twittering 9-1-08

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Dianne twittering 9-1-08

My brother (MCLNO Police Officer Gary James) called to let me know that he had spoken to Antonio’s cousin, Lt. Cdr. Alex Norman of Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office. The West Bank was doing well. The Harvey Canal was holding its own. There was no flooding. We sighed with relief but still continued to monitor the news, both national and local, for information on the effects of Gustav.

Around 2:00 p.m., we had lunch from Zaxby’s Real Chicken. We set up our own little “restaurant” in the hotel lobby dining area. Here is a picture of Soleil, enjoying lunch.

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Soleil Enjoying Lunch 9-1-08

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Soleil Enjoying Lunch 9-1-08

Again, we watched media coverage on Gustav on the hotel’s large screen TV. Around 2:30 p.m. Gustav pounded Baton Rouge as a Category 1 hurricane, packing winds of 90mph. It is the strongest hurricane to hit Baton Rouge in quite some time. There was fear that the Mississippi River might crest and spill into the city. Baton Rouge was a staging area for medical teams and local and state government officials. We were concerned because my mother-in-law chose to stay in Baton Rouge with Antonio’s sister, Pam. We were able to get in touch with them and they were okay, albeit without power.

During all of this, my mom had to switch rooms. So they had to move all of their stuff into our room. Our room was stuffed with stuff. It’s a strange feeling to pack for evacuation, choosing what to take and what to leave, knowing you may not see your house again. What’s important? People are, of course. But after Katrina, we evacuated more purposely, choosing items that would help us in the event we had to be away for a while – sleeping bags, an air bed, folding chairs, kitchen ware, games for the kids, blankets, pillows, and of course, clothes and food.

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Room Stuffed with Stuff 9-1-08

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Room Stuffed with Stuff 9-1-08

Here is a picture of Mom in the new room, which happened to be right next door to the room she was in previously. LOL

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Mom in the New Suite 9-1-08

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Mom in the New Suite 9-1-08

Around 4:00 p.m., Clay decided to take the kids swimming. Antonio and Soleil went to Barnes & Noble to pick up a book for school. I decided to take a nap. I was so exhausted.

After I woke up, we decided to cook dinner, grilling steaks, hot dogs, Italian sausage, and hamburgers. We divvied up the tasks. Antonio went to the store to pick up dinner supplies. Mom prepared the meats for grilling, seasoning and marinating them. I cooked the side dishes in my makeshift kitchen consisting of two portable electric burners.

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Makeshift Kitchen 9-1-08

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Makeshift Kitchen 9-1-08

Clay grilled the meats on the outside patio adjacent to the hotel lobby dining area. The steaks came out sooooo good. Mmm, mmm, mmm!

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Clay Chillin' n Grillin' 9-1-08

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Clay Chillin' n Grillin' 9-1-08

I cooked chunky mashed potatoes, green beans with real bacon, and corn. Dinner was delicious.

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Dinner 9-1-08

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Dinner 9-1-08

We ate like royalty and had enough to save for lunch on Tuesday. We made a friend at the front desk, Miyoshi, and fed her dinner too. All the staff at this hotel has been wonderful. Miyoshi is a sweetheart. This is Miyoshi, who lives up to her Japanese name which means “kind-hearted.”

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Miyoshi at the Hotel Front Desk 9-1-08

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Miyoshi at the Hotel Front Desk 9-1-08

Soleil spoke with her at length and the kids really took to her. I can see why.

Speaking of the children, last time, the children all suffered with post-Katrina stress. My brother’s children lost everything, including their dog. They lived in Meraux, a town in St. Bernard Parish. Eliana had 4 kindergarten teachers while we lived in Houston, apart from my husband for a year. This time, we tried to keep a sense of normalcy while letting them know the truth, but not allowing them to dwell too much on the media coverage. While swimming at the hotel’s heated pool, I was told that they were invited to join another evacuee’s birthday party. So they had cupcakes and fun. On Tuesday, we plan on taking them to the McWayne Science Center.

All in all, today was paradoxical. We were nervous and relieved. By the end of the day, the levees held. Levees that were breaching or overtopping were repaired and water seemed to be receding. Still, Hurricane Gustav packed a punch and many Louisiana and Gulf Coast residents will have to deal with damage to their properties. I hope that damage is minimal. Hopefully, Tuesday morning will bring more good news. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin held a press conference today and I Twittered it live. We hope to be able to return home by week’s end.

Until next time…

Warmly, Dianne