New Orleans A year ago, August 26th, Ida pushed us out of New Orleans and all of the surrounding area. Seventeen years ago, Katrina had us running and in some cases swimming against the surge for way too many on August 29th. We never get used to this. It surprises me that anyone living along the water doesn’t stay ready to batten down the hatches and run for it, if need be.
I came back from Canada and spent some of Sunday putting stuff in the under camp higher up and out of the way. All that despite knowing that this storm, Ian, was heading towards Florida in the eastern Gulf, not Louisiana or Mississippi in the central Gulf. I had already texted back and forth with Willie Cosme, a KABF and AM/FM stalwart, in Puerto Rico. He was out of power for a while and still a week later reported both lights and water were an on again, off again phenomenon. As the path became more pointed towards Sarasota, I emailed Tony Dunbar, who I knew well from New Orleans, and who is now living and writing books about the Sarasota area. As Tampa and St. Pete hit the headlines, I reached out for Mary Gundel, our Dollar Stores leader to make sure she had a place to run, and to my old companero, Rick Smith and his family, to make sure they were safe and sound in North Carolina, not St. Pete. One of our staff had relatives in Fort Meyers hitting the road at 5am. We wondered if that was early enough? This is what we do. This is the routine.
Mi companera had already been on hurricane alert for days and was scouring the news and weather channel. She shook her head reading a tweet from a trailer owner in central Florida who wondered whether or not to fight or flee. Her response was flee! One of her colleagues was in Jacksonville on a boat, weathering whatever. Another was closer to Orlando, a New Orleans post-Katrina transplant, and knew what to do. A colleague was closer to Gainesville and ready for the storm to get down to a 1 or 2. She was on a mutual aid call earlier in the day getting ready for the deluge and advocating for Puerto Rico before Florida takes center stage. Later I heard ACORN leaders on a conference call arguing with Louisiana officials about why contraflow was vital as storms encroach.
We all hope for the best and prepare for the worse. Nonetheless, we are still perplexed as weather warrior veterans, how surprised so many are. This is the new normal, except it is probably just a warm up for what will be a worsening normal to come. There’s nothing about climate change that will come easy. We have to be ready, if we want to live near the waters and wetlands we love. It won’t be easy, but there’s no way to pretend that hard rains and water are not going to come. They are here now.
What we have to ask ourselves for our children and those who come after us is why we aren’t doing even more to face reality, rather than hoping for the fantasy, that it won’t happen here or won’t happen to us. This is real life!