Here's the latest Hurricane map - we have Gustav of course and close behind is Hanna heading for Florida and probably the Eastern seaboard. But notice there are two more major storms brewing, gaining strength. Hurricanes in this part of the world form off the west coast of Africa and line up in the Atlantic Ocean like planes waiting for takeoff at La Guardia Airport. Some become big, like Category Three Katrina, others are nothing more than a much needed rain storm like Eduardo, the Category 1 hurricane that hit Galveston last month. And then there are storms like Dolly that never quite made it to hurricane category strength but still caused so much damage to the popular tourist destination of South Padre Island that the town was closed to vacationers this summer season. In terms of dollars lost, it is probably immeasurable.
Hurricane watching is a way of life for those of us who live on the Gulf of Mexico. I've braved a few myself, starting with the massive hurricane Carla way back on September 11, 1961 (!) when she came onshore south of Houston. Back then, hurricanes were fun. You would fill up the bathtubs with water and light candles around the house and eat lots of canned tuna and salmon. The best part was we got to miss a week of school! Of course being just six years old, I had no knowledge of the death and destruction that the Category Five Carla caused - 43 deaths, 1/2 million evacuees, and $2 billion in damages in today's dollars. Forty-seven years later, hurricanes have ceased to be fun in any sense of the word. Instead, they are dreaded occurrences that keep us glued to the television, praying it misses us, but knowing it's going to hit somewhere and it's not going to be pleasant.
As for Gustav, I think Houston is going to miss the brunt of the storm - we're on the west side of the hurricane, which is the best place to be. We can expect less rain and wind than if we were east of Gustav. Unfortunately, New Orleans looks to be east of Gustav. Everyone is praying the levees hold this time, and it certainly looks like NOLA has her act together. There won't be a repeat of the Superdome fiasco that accompanied Katrina. Who can forget these famous words "You're doing a heck of a job, Brownie?" that our President Bush lavished on Michael Brown, his crony-appointed head of FEMA.
Famous Bushism scrawled on abandoned New Orleans refrigerator following the disaster of Katrina.
I know that fellow blogger from New Orleans, Valorie Hart, published author, tango instructor, world famous dancer, interior designer, Bed and Breakfast owner, (I think that about covers it) left New Orleans for higher ground in Baton Rouge. Be sure to check out her fabulous blog Visual Vamp here for her unique updates on Gustav. Valorie and her husband were among the lucky to be able to drive out while tens of thousands of other New Orleans left on buses. At least provisions are being made this time to provide dogs and cats with shelter!!! During Katrina's aftermath thousands of animals had to be abandoned when pets were ripped from their owners arms as they boarded the buses taking them to safety. It took an enormous amount of effort and manpower to reunite the homeless pets with either their owners or with new parents.
The Houston Astrodome, 2005, filled with Katrina evacuees from New Orleans.
This morning, 1-10 was bumper to bumper with New Orleans evacuees, many heading to the somewhat safer ground of Houston. Houston and New Orleans have a unique history we share. After Katrina, when New Orleans' Superdome was finally emptied, Houston agreed to house as many of these unfortunate souls as we could. Emergency makeshift shelters were set up throughout the city to house the 25,000 that came. The majority stayed here - above - in our Astrodome. One night, my daughter Elisabeth and I went to Old Navy and bought lots of pajamas and playclothes to donate. We weren't alone. In fact, so many donations poured into our Astrodome that they were eventually turned down! A great many of the people who ended up in our shelters decided to make Houston their permanent home. Houston was proud to have been able to help out our neighboring Louisiana and we know they would do the same for us. But, there was yet another Bushism that rankled and embarrassed. Barbara Bush, the President's mother and a Houston citizen, had this to say about the evacuees at the Astrodome:
"What I'm hearing, which is a little scary, is that all of these people want to stay in Texas! Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And most of the people in this arena are underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them." Just lovely.
While we wait for landfall, everything is on hold, even the Republican Convention's schedule will change and be more somber in mood, it was just announced. Gustav is going to be horrific and will cause massive destruction wherever it lands. We just don't know exactly where that is going to be yet. And that is very scary.