Pearl River We got lucky. We took a chance and left Natchez, Mississippi, where we had sheltered, and bet that despite the Katrina anniversary horrors wrought by Ida, that we might be alright near the Pearl River on the Mississippi border. The odds were all in our favor. We had cameras at the camp and Chaco could see Tuesday morning that they were on and that the water had receded. Cameras working meant wireless working, and wireless working, meant electricity from the Coastal Electric cooperative was up and running. We found that water had swept through in the surge, coming in from the bayou, moving things around all over the acreage, along with detritus and assorted garbage from near and far. Some trees were uprooted. Some damage done, but we counted ourselves lucky.
As we drove to the Pearl Tuesday, Chaco ventured into the city. The coffeehouse had to be checked as well as the office and our homes. A couple of window panes out, an awning down, an oak tree split in two, all because of the wind this time, not the ravishing water of Katrina, but that’s New Orleans. We shared an elevator with a family from Houma, where everything was gone. Headlines in the New York Times indicated more than 40 had died in the rains and floods that Ida brought to the east.
Chaco and mi companera went into the city on Thursday on a mission to deal with refrigerator hell, while I moved to replace a downed cellphone. Refrigerators are amazing inventions. They will stay cold longer than we might realize, but not as long as we might hope. They separated and did two in one house, a cousin’s house, the coffeehouse, a leader’s house, and more. Swollen locks meant that the iron gates could not be opened at the office.
Ida for New Orleans was not Katrina. This was a different kind of systemic breakdown, thanks to the failure of the giant utility Entergy to do what was necessary to protect the grid. The New Orleans City Council oversees the utilities operations in the city, so heads should roll. As an investor-owned utility, infrastructure investments on existing properties are not covered as easily by the rate system under the Public Service Commission, so Entergy tries to get by on the cheap. Transmission lines were reduced from 13 to 8 since Katrina, making it more likely that all could fail. Lines continue not to be buried. The company is warning that it may add an assessment to the already high bills for hurricane recovery. All of this will be an issue in the coming elections, both locally and statewide.
Power is gradually coming back in some areas. The French Quarter was first, an issue in itself. We may have power at our office. The phone is ringing. People still need food and shelter. Evacuations continue and the mayor is urging everyone out until everyone can return.
What’s it all mean? Nothing good. This is no longer just cry-for-us-New Orleans or the Gulf Coast. Climate change is here now, and we’re not ready here or anywhere else. Privatized public services and necessities are have failed. Public response is timid. President Biden will visit the city and talk about infrastructure. The bill is past due. Talk is cheap, and action is expensive.