Monday, September 29, 2008

My biker friend

In those dark days following Hurricane Katrina few things were certain. Among them, I knew I must return to the city as soon as possible. I also knew I had no place to live when I did.

In an incredible turn of luck, a friend introduced me to a UNO professor named David. Luck, seemingly in short supply in September 2005, became suddenly plentiful. Not only did David have a house that probably had not flooded, he was not planning to return with his family for a few months. David told me I could have free use his house for as long as I needed. And luckier still, he had evacuated to within a 45-minute drive of where we were in Virginia. I picked up the keys as I headed back to the city in late September.

I lived in David's house for about a month and he has never asked for anything in return.

Next week, David will once again be pedaling his generosity as he participates in this year's National Multiple Sclerosis Society Bike Tour. It's a 150-mile ride to raise money for those who cannot ride for themselves. David will join with a thousand or more cyclists in a mass demonstration of care. When I heard he was looking for sponsors, I did not hesitate to toss a few dollars into his hat.

If you'd like to make a donation or join the team, please visit the National MS Society Bike Event page. Let David know we all support his efforts and his dedication.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

'Tis the Season

Hurricane season continues, at least according to scientists, until November 30.

While I'm sure they put a lot of thought into selecting that date, it remains rather arbitrary. There's no reason why hurricanes can't develop and strike after that date (and they certainly have). Nature has relentlessly resisted all our attempts to fit the seasons into neat little boxes on our calendars since long before Roy Rogers sang, "Don't Fence Me In."

The good news for the people of coastal Texas and Louisiana recently whacked by Gustav and Ike is that statistically at least they are in the clear. Scientists say there's two more months of hurricane season, but the worst part of hurricane season is over. Those on the wet and battered coast have reason to be optimistic as they continue to clean up, repair and rebuild what they can.

My Darling Wife forwarded this little bit of hurricane season levity via an infinite string of forwarded emails. I don't know how long it's been making the rounds, but I think it's the first time I've seen it and I think it's a clever contrast.

So here now are the Top Ten Reasons Hurricane Season Is Like Christmas:

Number Ten: Decorating the house (with plywood).

Number Nine: Dragging out boxes that haven't been used since last season.

Number Eight: Last minute shopping in crowded stores.

Number Seven: Regular TV shows preempted for "Specials."

Number Six: Family coming to stay with you.

Number Five: Family and friends from out of state calling you.

Number Four: Buying food you don't normally buy . . . and in large quantities.

Number Three: Days off from work.

Number Two: Candles.

And the Number One reason Hurricane Season is like Christmas:

At some point you're probably going to have a tree in your house!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Evacuation is the wise choice

There's been some ongoing discussion around town about whether or not people would evacuate should another hurricane turn toward New Orleans. The one thing everyone agrees about is that evacuating is unpleasant and costly.

But that's not the point. Evacuation is a matter of safety. That is, it could be the difference between life and death.

To help the more stubborn arrive at a fully informed decision, I've created an Evacuation Decision Matrix. Please click on it for a closer view.

Evacuation Decision Matrix - Click for larger view

Feel free to print it out for easy reference if you need to. For those wanting a more detailed comparison, check out this story from The Galveston County Daily News. They say experience is the best teacher. In the case of hurricanes, it's even better if you can learn from the experience of others.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Outlook grim as Ike approaches

That's the title of reporter's blog entry from The Galveston County Daily News at 8:00 pm Friday night:

"I hope that the staff at the National Hurricane Center and the local National Weather Service are wrong...

"...[W]e are facing the highest tidal surge since at least the 1900 Storm and possibly even exceeding that if the highest projected tidal surge materializes...

"If the surge threat is not enough, the National Weather Service is calling for 80-95 mph sustained winds with gusts to 105-mph. Hurricane force winds are expected to last for an incredible 8-10 hours on Galveston Island..."

When hurricanes lurk in the Gulf, everyone hopes it doesn't come his or her way and everyone is relieved when a hurricane misses their community.

But no matter where these monsters make landfall, no one is really happy. No one can feel glad knowing what is happening to Galveston tonight.

Our hearts are with Texas tonight.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Running a long race

Back home, power on, minor damage to the house and yard. We didn't have Internet, so I haven't been able to post an update for a few days.

In New Orleans, Hurricane Gustav will not be remembered for doing billions in physical damage. The majority of my friends and neighbors will remember Gustav for leaving everyone's nerves frayed. Indeed, some have already proclaimed they will not evacuate again.

I've collected a few of the reactions from friends which I think paint the picture well.

"House is a wreck, but I'm comfy and wired now, and oddly exhausted. I think my airplane rubber band unwound. Pent up survival adrenaline all left me in a rush."

"[Road Home] gave all us employees an emergency number on a laminated card to put in with our ID badges. Yer supposed to call it to find out about work. They said they'd have it going, no matter what. Of course, it doesn't work."

"After cleaning up shards, branches and debris off the gallery just now, I started crying. When [my husband] asked me why, I said I feel like I just got done running a long race and don't know if I have to run another one."

"I am soooo tired. I too just wander around the house and don't see any point in doing anything. Depression I guess but in reality, there really is no point in cleaning the house if I have to leave again in 4 days."

Goodbye, Gustav. Hello, Ike.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Notes from the road

Evacuated to Greenville, Mississippi, waiting and hoping for the best for us and all our friends and family.

Yesterday we ventured out into this little town to get lunch at a local restaurant called Tabb's Barbecue. My Darling Wife had seen an advertisement describing it as, "The best dang barbecue in the whole dang delta." We found it tucked in the middle of a typical strip shopping mall.

And as you could have guessed, it was filled with red checked tablecloths spread over wooden furniture. Each table was outfitted with a roll of paper towels and squirt bottles of barbecue sauce. There was also the obligatory vintage farm tools and product logos nailed up on the walls.

I ordered the pulled pork platter and split it with our Precious Daughter. All-in-all a nice meal, but it was hard to forget the current crisis besieging South Louisiana. Especially because the decor included framed photographs of The Great Flood of 1927. Yes, Greenville is situated on the same river as New Orleans and so they have their history of misery by flooding, too.

Today I saw a story from the AP with this line from hizzoner: "I would not do a thing differently," Nagin said. "I'd probably call Gustav, instead of the mother of all storms, maybe the mother-in-law or the ugly sister of all storms."

Except of course, Gustav is a MAN'S NAME, so HE would not be the mother, mother-in-law nor sister of anything or anyone. Try again, Ray.

News from the neighborhood is almost all good: branches and a tree or two but otherwise all in tact. No power as of this afternoon according to some who remain there.

I've been using Twitter to keep in touch with the NOLA Bloggers and credit them with helping maintain my sanity through this. As I noted in another post, the mainstream media made a total mess of this one. Had it not been for the fact-checking and on-the-scene "tweets" from the hearty NOLA Bloggers I'm sure I would be an emotional wreck right now.

Monday, September 01, 2008


If you're like me, you've suspected it for quite some time. The main stream media (msm) often don't have a clue.

But does that stop them from broadcasting?

Absolutely not.

Last night I saw a weatherman from Anywhere-but-Louisiana standing in front of a beautiful satellite montage photo of greater New Orleans. As he spoke and gestured dramatically about the likely path and power of Hurricane Gustav, the photo rotated and zoomed in that fancy Google Earth way that makes you wonder how the heck we got along without this stuff before. As the graphics were doing their thing, the weatherguy continued to talk about the potential storm surge and the threat to St. Bernard. And right smack in the middle of the graphic was "St. Bernard" with its levees all highlighted and easy to see.

Except it wasn't St. Bernard he was showing us--it was New Orleans East.

Doubtless the dramatically gesticulating dude did not know 7th Ward from 9th Ward, either, but who cares? It's just news for goodness sake.

Today, CNN was reporting breaches in the Industrial Canal. Except there were no breaches.

And later, there was a phoned-in interview with someone from the Corps' public affairs office to explain why the London Avenue Canal gates were being closed. There was discussion of the safe water elevation and the need to coordinate pumping with S&WB. During the interview CNN decided to show footage of the Industrial Canal with water to the top of the wall and waves and wind splashing and spraying over the wall. So I'd bet most of America looking at that broadcast thought they were looking at the London Canal floodwalls.

As Maitri advises, "PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DO NOT WATCH CNN AND FOX NEWS!" and she gives a nice link to web page that allows you to watch feeds from four local television stations all at once. Easy and accurate.

Get your news from people who know what they're reporting about.