GUIZERIX: Ida brings back memories of surviving Hurricane Ivan

Published 4:00 am Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Everyone who grew up near the Gulf Coast has a hurricane story.

Whether they had a few limbs or an entire tree knocked down in their yards, or endured something far more traumatic, like watching a loved one be swept away in floodwaters, the elements are often not our friend during hurricane season.

I remember being 9 years old, watching the 10 o’clock news before bed, when the reporter came across the screen and said, “There are no shelters in our coverage area strong enough to endure Hurricane Ivan.”

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My parents hemmed and hawed about evacuating before that point — after all, we typically stayed home if it was a Category 3 or less — but once we heard there was nowhere truly safe to go, we got in the car and headed northwest to Louisiana.

I remember seeing my mom grab our photo albums, and my dad rifling through our important documents. Following suit, I ran to my room, frantically packing everything that held value to me: my Barbie computer games, a favorite teddy bear, my musical jewelry box… Things I grabbed in a split-second attempt to preserve normalcy in a scary situation.

We loaded down my mom’s green jeep, packed up the cats and got on the road at midnight. My parents took turns driving all night to get us to safety, and, too nervous to sleep, I stayed up most of the way, too.

At that moment, I realized for the first time how high the chances were that we wouldn’t have a home to come back to.

When we returned home after days spent glued to the television, watching places familiar to us blown to bits by the storm, all we could do was cry.

Our home sustained somewhat minor damage. Ten trees down in the yard, one of which landed on the house — the chimney broke its fall — and about an inch of standing water in the living room. A large tree limb was inches from coming through my bedroom window, so close that it scratched the glass when the wind blew just right.

And it was hot. God, was it hot. We spent a total of 14 days without electricity — eating MREs and drinking canned water that Budweiser and the Red Cross distributed. One day, the local Domino’s pizza was handing out free slices — my mother managed to snag us a whole thin-crust pie.

The evenings, as mosquito-bitten and dog-tired as we were from cleanup efforts, were the best part. Out of all the sights I probably shouldn’t have seen at that age, the one thing I look back on fondly is gathering with our neighbors at the top of the hill. We’d pool our resources — food that was in our freezers and likely to spoil otherwise — and one couple in our neighborhood would turn it into a feast.

We stayed up talking and laughing by the light of a few oil lamps, and it made the darkness looming around us seem less scary. It broke up the silence of a town with no lights, with little water. It helped us all get through the storm.

As I watched the utter devastation Hurricane Ida caused in Louisiana and parts of coastal Mississippi, I remembered how scared I felt as a little girl — and feared for those who weren’t able to get out in time.

Local efforts are underway to bring aid to those who were hit by Ida a lot worse than Warren County. The Post is going to write about those efforts, and I encourage everyone who can to do their part. God help Louisiana — for many, the storm is only beginning.