Forces of Nature

I’ve watched the development of Hurricane Katrina with foreboding. As the time for it to make land approaches, I find myself in distress, nearly in tears, as I observe what looms. This is the terrible storm that New Orleans has fearfully awaited, and great destruction may occur. One of my sisters lived through the ordeal of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, a category 5 storm that leveled south Florida. She worked as a nurse in Homestead, which was hit hardest. She and her husband rebuilt, but it took years. They subsequently moved to a desert state, because the annual stress of hurricane season diminished their quality of life. My other sister flew to Florida after the storm to help them dig out from the wreckage. I recall her speaking of it as a life-changing experience. It was harrowing, she said; it looked like a war zone.

I have a friend whose parents and sister (along with her husband and children) live in New Orleans. I contacted him today and learned they safely evacuated to relatives in Mississippi. I’m glad they are safe, but my heart aches for them. The Big Easy has been their home for decades, and if the predictions are correct, the city may be uninhabitable for a long time. Beyond this I feel concern for all those who could not make it out of the area, and for those who are required to stay, such as refinery workers. My husband explained to me that the refineries must be attended to and remain operational. They can’t simply be shut down; takes about a month (his father was a chemical engineer for a major oil company). Hospitals, fire stations, and police station must also be staffed; such people are brave and honorable. The projected scene is grim. There is nothing to do but wait it out, and provide what assistance one can in the aftermath.

[Update, 11:15 p.m.: my concern and empathy for the future of this city and its residents is in no way intended to negate the impact this storm had on Florida, nor to minmize the threat to other areas that may be battered by this storm. This post reflects the power of personal connection. The fact that I know people in this situation fuels the emotion.]

[Update, 11:40 p.m.: I found a blog being written in real time by a man who could not get out of New Orleans. He’s going to wait out the storm at home. Read his blog. Thanks to Fran for the heads-up.]

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