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hurricane on the way


I'm very tired, so this will be jumbled. A category 2 or 3 hurricane is on its way here, and my neighborhood was evacuated. I'm staying with Amy and Adam; Christy and Amy are staying with Amy's dog's puppy raisers. (I'm so glad they live so close and were available!)




I've been trying to figure out the proper perspective for this event. I remember Dad riding out a hurricane like this in 1983. Mom, my sister, and I were visiting Mom's dad in Oklahoma. All I remember is that Dad took the animals into the big closet in the master bedroom and slept there. My sister asked where he put his head, and he said in the shoes, which she thought was very funny. To my knowledge, we had no damage to the house.



During the fall of my junior year, I got on the bus one morning and heard some banter about a hurricane headed our way.. When I got to school, I asked a teacher about it and she said that yes, it was headed our way and it was a category 5. I didn't and still don't understand how a category 5 hurricane can develop without a bunch of newscasts building up to the announcement. I guess it had been out in the Gulf for quite a while, and that's just proof that it's impossible to know the path that these storms will take or how soon we will know about them.



My parents decided that we would take the opportunity to drive to see Dad's parents in Oklahoma City. We started packing the car and planned to leave the next morning. But by the next morning, the storm had moved farther west. A couple of days later, Gilbert gave southwest Texas and eastern Mexico a gift of 175-mile-an-hour winds. I was so glad it hadn't come to us but so sorry for them!



The next summer, we were visited by two tropical storms, Allison and Chantal, and one hurricane, Jerry. Interestingly, Allison was the most damaging to our home. We lost quite a few shingles. I don't remember the sound of the wind very well, but I do remember the plop of the shingles falling off. I remember wondering if eventually we would have gradually lost the whole roof. I don't remember Chantal at all, but I do remember Jerry. I remember that this was a category 1 storm, and a big to-do was made about it. We ended up just getting a bit of rain, and people dubbed the storm a dud.



I know all the preparedness steps because we lived them every summer when I was a child. I remember taping and boarding windows, buying supplies, Dad creating a pet carrier large enough for two cats, etc. But I don't have any experiences with a storm this size. If it had stayed small, I would have compared it to Allison. But it didn't stay small.



The only memory I have that might give me any meaningful context for understanding what I may experience this weekend is something that happened one summer when I visited Dad's parents in Oklahoma City. I don't remember all of it, but I suspect that this was the year the lightning struck and blew out the TV. I was probably ten or eleven years old--after I turned 12, my sister started visiting with me; and she was not there for this event.



Anyway, something happened and we went to the cellar. I had always wondered what the difference was between a cellar and a basement. The difference is probably only in the usage--and cellars are smaller from what I can tell. Grandma and I were down there with the dog, and the wind began to pick up. We later found out that it reached 80 miles an hour. What I remember is a sound like the sound of a bus engine. I suspect that part of what I'm remembering is the sound of a bunch of trash cans being blown around--I remember Grandma commenting about this later. So perhaps I don't know what pure wind at high speeds sounds like.



Right now it's very still and quiet outside--just a normal night. I can remember standing outside on the day that I found out about hurricane Gilbert and feeling the same way. How could anything happen? It was pretty outside. People were mowing their lawn, driving around. But then I remember Allison... It was dark and windy and rainy, and we couldn't let the dog out. Is this how it will be tomorrow? Will the winds sound like buses? Will we have tornadoes? A tornado is my worst fear!



From what I have been able to piece together, the storm surge is the greatest concern. This is where my perspective has to change. I'm not in Houston. Houston is 50 miles inland and not at sea level. Here we are only a few miles from the water no matter which side of town we're on. I discovered while thinking about all this that I don't really like living in this area and someday I hope to move somewhere away from the water. Anyway, flooding is the biggest concern. The newspeople are saying that the surge could be as high as two stories and have waves on top of this. That seems very dangerous, and I am actually concerned about being stranded away from home for several days. I really hope I'm not--and I really hope that God will spare us water damage. We could lose so much, and we already have so little! But what a selfish prayer! Some people lose everything--and some of them have so much less than I do.



The other thing that makes this perspective different is the fact that this area hasn't had a direct hit from a storm since 1921. So none of the new buildings and procedures have been tested. That makes me realize that some of this caution may be overdone; but it also helps me to understand why it's overdone. We need to err on the side of caution because there is so much we don't know. It's just sad to me that hundreds of thousands of people are displaced. And I think that the overcaution intensifies my fears. My response to that cannot be complacency. That's dangerous. I must exercise caution without being consumed by fear.



I'm actually doing better with this than I thought I would be. I am comfortable, and I feel reasonably safe. I'm with people who know how to assess danger and keep their heads about them. But I miss my cats. I boarded them at a boarding place here in town. Mom thought they could survive on their own, and maybe she's right. But my cats are like parts of me, and I couldn't live with myself if I didn't make sure they were cared for. They don't have someone personally looking out for them who knows their quirkks, but at least they are being fed and physically cared for and they don't have to fend for themselves in potentially dangerous water. I know that everyone is at risk right now and my kitties aren't completely safe, but I do feel better that they aren't alone. But I miss them so much, and I want them. I want to feel their warmth and hear their purrs. I want to feed them and see them eat and settle down because they're satisfied. I even want to hear their calling in the night. I have Meghan here, and she helps me stay calm, but I miss my kitties so much and I'm so afraid something will happen to them and I won't be able to "say goodbye."


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Sarah Blake LaRose
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