My thoughts are with those in New Orleans and other cities in the path of Hurricane Katrina today. May the impact be as light as possible and everyone have a safe outcome. One of the most vivid and frightening memories from my childhood revolved around a hurricane that made a direct hit on the Houston area when I was quite young. My father made the decision that our family would prepare the house and ride out the passage of Hurricane Carla when I was five years old, something he admitted immediately after the storm passed over us was a big mistake. He had carefully covered all the windows with tape and plywood and while we were lucky our home suffered no appreciable damage those few hours we were huddling in the house were absolutely terrifying, and not just to me as young as I was at the time but also to my other sister and parents. The noise– I can’t describe the noise the constant winds made ripping against our house. It was so loud we couldn’t even speak to one another because we couldn’t hear over the wind. And the rain. It sounded like our house was being pelted with bullets the rain hit so hard and so relentlessly. My entire family was absolutely terrified the entire time.
After what felt like an eternity the storm finally subsided and I tried to get my parents to let me go outside and see what happened but they wisely said no because they knew what I didn’t, the eye of the storm was over us and it would soon begin anew. And it did with a vengeance and it was just like before. What made the storm even more scary to me was the inability to see what was happening due to having all the windows boarded up. I’ll never forget that experience as long as I live. When my father judged the storm had passed us by and we tentatively went outside to assess the damage we were glad to get out of the enclosed house but scared what we would find. Our street was flooded which was enjoyed by all the kids but my parents were watching it warily out of fear it would rise up far enough to get into the house. It didn’t but the aftermath of the storm seared mental images I can’t escape even today.
We had a big pine tree in the front yard and every tree in the yard looked like a porcupine with brown pine needles embedded in every one of them, sticking out parallel to the ground. Debris had been blown everywhere and we found more than a few dead squirrels that had been thrown who knows how far. The single most frightening thing we saw that day was the VW bus in the driveway of our neighbors across the street. It was sitting in their driveway exactly like it was parked and seemed to be totally unaffected by the monstrous storm. Upon closer inspection (the neighbors were the smart ones and fled) we saw a trash can sitting in the back seat, standing up as if put there deliberately. You remember those old solid metal gray trash cans that were quite heavy and sturdy. As we approached the bus I was asking my dad why they had put the trash can in the bus, that didn’t make sense even to a five year old. My dad looked at the roof of the bus (he was almost six feet tall) and silently lifted me up on his shoulders so I could see the roof. There was a perfectly circular hole where the hurricane had shot the trash can right down through the roof.
So I am thinking of the people in the path of Katrina today– may you get through this safely and with minimal affect. Don’t try to ride it out– even if you do so successfully the terror is not worth it.