Hurricane Gustav Evacuation Update – Tues. 9-2-08


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Friends:

When I woke up this morning to catch the news, I was so dismayed to see that most of the stations halted their coverage of Hurricane Gustav or provided only brief sound bytes about the damage Gustav caused. I guess an impending catastrophic storm and mass exodus makes much better news than a weakened storm that left little “catastrophic” damage in its wake.

At home the story is much different. 13 out of 14 power grids in Louisiana were damaged. Louisiana residents may be without power for days. Evacuees anxiously awaited news as to when they could return home. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin announced that residents would be allowed into New Orleans on Thursday, September 4 at 12:01 a.m. Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard announced residents could return on Wednesday, September 3, at 6:00 a.m. Bad weather pummeled parts of South East Louisiana – tornadoes touched down in Abita Springs, Franklin, and Westwego, Louisiana. A waterspout spawned off Lake Pontchartrain near the 25 miles Causeway Bridge.

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Waterspout Over Causeway 9-2-08

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Waterspout Over Causeway 9-2-08

Clay and Antonio decided that the kids needed to get out of the hotel and have some fun. I stayed behind to work. They took the children to The McWane Science Center, a hands-on science museum in downtown Birmingham. This is Eliana lying on a bed of nails!

Hurricane Gustav Evacuati9on - McWane Science Center - Eliana on a Bed of Nails 9-2-08

Hurricane Gustav Evacuati9on - McWane Science Center - Eliana on a Bed of Nails 9-2-08

The children had a ball shadow dancing, experiencing hurricane force winds, watching a show on combustion, and hunting for dinosaur fossils in the archaeological dig. Below: Ashlynn and Eliana enjoying their new “digs.”

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - McWane Science Center - Eliana & Ashlynn Digging for Bones

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - McWane Science Center - Eliana & Ashlynn Digging for Bones

I spoke to a good friend who expressed such anger over the fact that the national news coverage didn’t include stories of “real” people – the plight of the evacuees. She said that reading my blog was so enlightening because it shared so much of what the news didn’t cover. She said that she preferred reading the story of an ordinary family’s evacuation journey over Al Roker being blown around a little bit by the wind (Thank you, Sue. I appreciate it!).

After talking to Sue, I decided to head to the library so that I could focus on getting my book done. The final review of the edited proof for my book, Tangram Tales, is due tomorrow (Wednesday, September 3, 2008). I went to the Fultondale Public Library, just down the street from the hotel. Very convenient. Here is a picture of the dragon hanging over the Children’s Section. So cute!

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Fultondale Public Library - 9-2-08

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Fultondale Public Library - 9-2-08

The library was very quiet and I thought I could get some work done when I met with — frustration. I was unable to open the zip file that contained the edited copy of my manuscript. Ugh. So, I tried to personally answer all the emails and messages that have come in over the past few days. That was harder than I thought because I had so many messages, and from all over the world – Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Philippines, Japan, China, Canada, India, and even Ethiopia! I am so extremely touched by everyone’s care and concern for my family. I just want to say that if I didn’t respond to your message, I apologize. Know that I am sincerely grateful for every word, every hug, and every prayer you send our way.

When I returned back to the hotel (after a trip to Target), my family had laid out the most delicious meal — grilled steaks, pork chops, chicken breasts, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, and rice. Again, the food was scrumptious, as usual. Look at the kids enjoying their dinner.

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Kids Eating Dinner 9-2-08

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Kids Eating Dinner 9-2-08

Once more, we fed Miyoshi at the front desk, along with new front desk clerk, Melinda. Miyoshi could not stop talking about the steak. She said it was one of the best steaks she had ever tasted – “It needed absolutely no steak sauce!” Go Mom (the seasoner) and Clay (the griller). Miyoshi said she gnawed the steak to the bone. LOL

After dinner, I needed to work. So I took my laptop to the hotel’s business center. Eliana, Camrynn & Ashlynn came over to give me a shoulder massage and hugs. They were so sweet and comforting.

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Dianne & the Girls 9-2-08

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Dianne & the Girls 9-2-08

The day ended with great news. I spoke with my brother, MCLNO Police Officer Gary James, who was able to drive to the West Bank to check on my house. He said that a 10 foot section of fence in the backyard was blown away, we may have lost a Crepe Myrtle (leaning and uprooting), and we may have some roof shingles missing. He inspected our house at night in the pitch black (no electricity) so we can’t be certain but it’s a great preliminary report. No flooding, very minimal damage. Yes!

My brother suggested that we stay away until power is restored. He said that it is pitch black on the streets and in the neighborhoods – it is unsafe and uncomfortable. We don’t want to return until power is restored anyway because we have small children. In addition, essential business such as gas stations and grocery stores will need to get back in business.

The children are out of school until Monday so that is a relief. LSU Baton Rouge will resume classes on Monday so we have time to get Soleil back to college. Hopefully, power will be restored by this weekend so that we can return home and resume life as usual. I am concerned about the journey home. I hope it is not fraught with the same perils we encountered on the way to Birmingham – heavy traffic, no gas, no food, and no patience!

In the meantime, we will make the best out of our displacement and try to enjoy the Birmingham area. The people here have such beautiful Southern hospitality and the city is gorgeous.

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Birmingham, AL 9-2-08

Hurricane Gustav Evacuation - Birmingham, AL 9-2-08

Until next time…

Warmly, Dianne