Thank Goodness for a Tropical Storm Barry “Nothing Burger”

New Orleans   It was so quiet that it felt like living in the country.  If there had been more stars and fewer houses, I might have thought I was stepping out of my trailer in Wyoming, rather than standing on my porch at 3AM to check on the Tropical Storm Barry.  There was hardly a drizzle.  Hours later walking Lucha at 630 AM, the drops hitting my face weren’t rain, but water that still needed to be brushed off the leaves by the wind.

Mi companera keeps up with Twitter.  She read me a tweet from a New Orleanian calling the storm a “nothing burger.”  If that’s the case, nothing tastes better!

We’re still packed in by the clouds. No one is back.  Nothing is open.  That’s OK, too.  We are still worried about the reports of potentially heavy flooding around Baton Rouge and eastern Louisiana on into western Mississippi, where smaller rivers are still swollen with water. The reports on the giant Mississippi River are all good.  The Bonnet Carre Spillway has been open 108 days already between the city limits and LaPlace, twenty miles upriver, and has diverted 1.2 trillion cubic feet of water into Lake Ponchartrain and Lake Maurpas, hitting the oyster beds badly with so much muddy fresh water, but doing its job of saving the city.  The Coast Guard closed the River to vessel traffic for more than 100 miles.

We ventured out to a food dive called Melba’s at the corner of Elysian Fields and Claiborne which is one of those places that stays open 24-hours a day and doesn’t know the meaning of calorie counts or recycling with everything served “to go” and three entrances, through the back parking lot, through the front door, or through their laundry mat.  The biggest crowd was a gaggle of women who were members of the Delta Sigma Theta who had obviously stayed over despite their convention wrapping up Friday in the wake of the storm.  Almost all of them lined up for the free refill before walking out with their leftovers.  Delta Sigma Theta sorority is a predominantly black organization founded by 22 women in 1913 at Howard University.  The Washington Post reported that they donated their convention’s 17,000 uneaten meals to those affected by the tropical storm Barry in Louisiana.  Second Harvest sent a 50-foot refrigerated truck to hold the meals so that they can be warmed up for flood and storm victims later in the week.  Thanks, sisters!

The Rolling Stones rescheduled their concert for Monday night.  Our son had been marooned at his sister’s place in Brooklyn after having the last leg of his flight home from Turkey and Bulgaria cancelled in New York.  We rebooked our flights to Europe for meetings with ACORN organizers for Monday as well.  Flight trackers are now showing more flights departing from New Orleans than cancellations.  The mayor is taking heat for not passing out sandbags because they clog the draining system, but she made the right move.

We’ll reopen our coffeehouses tomorrow, and things will gradually get back to normal.  Newspapers will be delivered perhaps.  Our offices and others will be open.

Maybe we’ll learn something, maybe we won’t.  Too many will confuse the fact that we were lucky with whether we were good.

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Calm Before the Storm

empty streets

New Orleans    We checked the storm reports on Tropical Storm, wannabe hurricane, Barry, constantly as we prepared to leave Milwaukee.  We were confident that we could get to Houston, but the last leg into New Orleans, scheduled to land at 9PM, might be a different matter, if winds were rising before landfall.  Everything seemed to be “go” though.  The lines were forming by their numbers to board the flight.  The United agent took the mike, and announced there would be a delay.  Our hearts skipped, and then hopes rose again when he said it was expected to be brief.  Seems President Trump and Air Force One were on the runway with the same scheduled 4pm departure time from MKE as ours.  We have all read that he likes to go home, so we had hope, and, frankly, Milwaukee is not really his kind of town, so we crossed our fingers that he wouldn’t be lingering but instead would be ready for the bright lights.  Luckily, we were out by 430pm.

Landing in Houston, the flight board read “On Time,” so we hustled.  All standbys were cleared.  I could overhear the crew talking about whether they would be stuck in the city and whether this might be the last flight out.  We landed in some wind, but less than the 40 mph that shuts down runways.  An airport official was clearing the airport.  He asked me if I had a taxi, and I answered, no, my truck was in the lot.  When I inquired about the deal, he said they were closing the airport after the last flights landed and wanted to make sure no one was caught overnight.  We had the conversation near a young soldier spread out on the floor in camo with his gear everywhere and his orders lying near his leg.

The predawn found the city dry as I hustled to get gas, cash, and check on all the family properties since my son was still in route home and my daughter was temporarily exiled.  There was a car somehow parked in the Fair Grinds patio on St. Claude.  Both coffeehouses were closed.

It was eerie driving the streets.  They were almost totally empty.  Cars were parked in the neutral grounds everywhere.  Cars were parked on sidewalks.  Mostly cars were gone, as if there were an evacuation notice that we missed somehow.  City buses were lined up in a parking lot at the University of New Orleans near Elysian Fields as I left my parents’ house.  As I stopped to take a picture, the campus cops were blocking the street into the campus.  Some gas stations were open, but Loews looked closed, but it was still before 7AM, so who knows?  Our radio station was still broadcasting.

buses parked

This is a post-Katrina experience for so many, for too many.  People have lost trust.  In the city, this is a water-event with rain expected to get up to two feet in some areas.  Pumps can clear five or six inches in the beginning and then one inch and hour or so afterwards.  Landfall is expected to the southwest around Morgan City, a working-class oil town.  The Mississippi River is high, but in most areas should be no problem, and certainly is secure in New Orleans.

We may not be able to fly to France for our organizers meeting as scheduled, but we’ll be fine.  Will this new scare, change the government’s policies on climate?  We can wish, but trust is gone there as well.

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