On the Ground

Personal Writings

Baton Rouge   &nbsp23 days of Exile!
She said, it was eerie going into the city.

The airport area had not been a problem really.  Traffic was bumper-to-bumper from LaPlace (about 20 odd miles across the Bonne Carre Spillway from the city) to the Airport area on Airline Highway — revisiting old Highway 61.  You could only pay to spring the truck from Park n’ Fly’s lot with cash, because there was still no electricity working, but the good news is that they only charged for the four (4) days before Katrina and the rest was on them.  The great news was that the truck was unscathed.  Windshields were still there.  She drove it right off the lot.
The truck would be an embarrassment to many.  Big, old white 1998 Chevrolet Suburban with a rack on the top for a canoe, tools and all manner of paraphernalia inside, and shovels, saws, and assorted gear.  It’s a Texas Cadillac as we call them.  Since gas has gone up, it probably is unaffordable.  But, here in the time of Blade Runner, it looked official and sturdy and like something that somebody who belongs in Apocalypse Now should be driving.  It had 4-wheel drive and good water clearance, and I’ll make my contribution to the Sierra Club later, but that truck earned its keep on this tour.
No one was there of course.  Private guards here and there.  Checkpoints at different locations.  Military and their accouterments of course.  This was a city under siege of course.
She managed to Bogart her way past the office — and it could have been a lot, lot worse and then down St. Claude to Burgundy.  Our house had not been flooded, so after that one has no complaints — we still have a house! — We had been on high enough ground.  We had sky lights in our son’s aerie in the attic that we had never paid to install, but that just meant a new roof and presumably insurance would pay for that.  We had banisters down on the front porch.  Windows were broken here and there on the 2nd floor in the bedrooms.  Weather boards were down, but, hey, this is still all good news. 
We also had new security in place now that the alarm system wasn’t working.  A tree was down in front blocking entry through the front, wrought iron gate, so that made it harder to think about mischief.
We also had an entire National Guard unit decamped directly across the street from us in the backyard of Fredrick Douglass High School!

Downed trees and utility poles meant that not even the truck could get the 8 blocks between our place and where my brother lived closer to Marigny on Burgundy.  No reason to believe it had flooded there in the mid-point, but no confirmation.
She then decided to try and see my folks’ place near UNO.  Here it got sketchy.  Water was too high on Elysian Fields to cross, especially around Robert E. Lee Boulevard.  She managed to get over with the truck towards City Park and somehow had a couple of Guardsmen from Massachusetts in a slow moving Humvee escort her for part of the way, but they couldn’t keep up so she ditched them on Lakeshore Drive coming around on the high ground between the levee and the Lake until she could sneak around to the neighborhood.
From all appearances the water had come up the street and left a water mark indicating about 1 1/2 feet of water had risen in the area, but it only went to the middle of the lawn, stopping there a long way from my folk’s house with their cars still safe and sound under the carport.  Their next door neighbor also seemed in good shape.
She was close to curfew, and had to still drive back to Baton Rouge semi-relieved and semi-hysterical, but she’s a “ride or die chick” as the song says, and she could do that part on cruise control.

Rescue boats on Elysian Fields Ave. near UNO