After many days of watching, wondering, waiting and agonizing, finally GUSTAV has arrived. At least the first outer bands.
This morning crowned as a beautiful, sunny day here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast at Long Beach.
Not as warm as it has been, and with a very light breeze flowing through the nearby Magnolia and Live Oak trees, giving no hint whatsoever of how different things will be in just 24 hours.
Due to unexpected interruptions yesterday, mostly at the Center, some of my planned preparation tasks on my GUSTAV To-Do List, did not get finished. Such as installing the three new tie-downs over my trailer.
That little task was the primary job that needed to be, must be tackled, first thing this morning. So, I laid out the six anchors in the spots where they needed to be screwed into the ground, grabbed a short two-by-four, and started auguring them into the ground.
Tough job when you are not used to doing that every day. When I was about half done, with the three rear anchors deep in the ground, my “On Call” cell phone rang, with my Director calling to say he needed me to come over to the Center to help reposition the large, gasoline, diesel and water trailers up to high ground, and maybe a few other things.
Damn! Was I never going to get those tie-downs installed? Before GUSTAV arrived with its testy winds?
So, over to the Center I went, assisted with the trailer redeploying, and then got volunteered to go with the warehouse manager to deliver more specialized lift equipment, supplies and food up to the Specialized Treatment Facility, 12 miles to the north of the Center, where the last 40 of our clients were evacuated to today.
As I heard myself saying, “OK, I’ll go with Ray and get it taken care of,” I was acutely visualizing those three 27′ yellow tie-down straps laying in the grass besides my trailer, not doing a hoot in hell’s worth of good to anybody. And the countdown clock continued to tick.
Ray and I made the trip up to the STF, delivered all the things that were needed there, and headed back to the Center, where hopefully we would be done for the rest of the afternoon and evening. On the trip back, we gave a ride back to one of our Center co-workers, Stephanie D., who shared what her experience was during Katrina. Perhaps I can share that with you in a day or so. Very harrowing and incredibly stressful for Steph.
As we drove up Beatline Road to the STF, I noticed a lot of traffic moving north, especially vehicles towing boats and travel trailers. Most of the businesses along the route were already closed and most had boarded up windows and doors.
After Ray and I arrived back at the Center, I talked hom into letting me borrow a few plastic tote boxes, so I could put some important papers and things in, and haul them to a more secure place than my little fragile travel trailer. Ray offered to drop them off at my trailer on his way home, so away we went.
Arriving at my trailer, Ray asked if I needed any help with installing the tie-down straps over the top of my trailer, to which I replied: “Thank you, Jesus!”
Fifteen minutes later, we were done and the new restraints were all in place. It was as if a heavy burden had been lifted off my shoulders, and my stress level went down by half of what it was running all day to that point.
About 45 minutes later, as I was starting the next important task of assembling my gear for the transition over to the Center tonight, Ring – Ring – Ring, goes my personal cell phone this time. Dorothy, the Assistant Center Director, and my friend, was calling to ask if I could arrange to get 20 air mattresses out of the warehouse, get them inflated, and bring them up to the STF, as our Center staff members up there caring for our clients didn’t have any place to sleep, and they were needed.
As I deeply exhaled, again going visual – seeing all my gear sitting in my trailer, not in readiness for the transition, I said, “Sure, Dorothy, we’ll get it taken care of and have them up there in a little while.
Miss Dorothy is one of the nicest people (and fellow employees) I know down here, and when she asks, I’ll do everything I can to see that her request is taken care of. Dorothy has two sisters, Sally-Ann Roberts, who is one of the Anchors at WWL-TV in New Orleans, and Robin Roberts, Anchor at ABC’s Good Morning America.
So, I called Ray on my cell and told him we had another delivery to make up to the STF, and we agreed to meet back at the maintenance complex to dig out the 20 air mattresses and get them inflated.
A minute before 6:00pm, Ray arrived at the complex, and at that moment, an incredibly huge, black, rolling wall cloud, like something right out of the movies Independence Day or Close Encounters, rolled right over our heads, followed a minute later with the hardest downpour of sideways rain and wind I have ever seen.
HURRICANE GUSTAV HAD ARRIVED!
Or at least the first serious outer band of the huge storm.
Ray and I quickly inflated the 200 air mattresses, loaded them onto the box truck, and we headed up Beatline Road again towards the STF, with me following in my car. My gas tank was half empty, and I just hadn’t had time to top it off in the past two days, so I knew I should do that on this trip, or else risk not having a station available in several days or perhaps a week or two, depending upon how bad GUSTAV ravaged our area.
And wouldn’t you know the first several gas stations we went by were either closed, boarded up, or out of gas, due to all the last minute buying from people either evacuating, topping off their own tanks, or filling spare gas cans for generator use, if it comes to that. People remember what it was like after Katrina, and that’s good.
At any rate, I finally found a station at I-10, and filled up my tank, and we continued on to the STF and delivered the 20 air mattresses.
While carrying the mattresses inside the building several of the clients called out to me and said Hello, as they often do when I am doing a work order in their Cottage home. It was very heartwarming to see virtually all of them smiling and having an enjoyable experience there at the STF, out of harm’s way.
All of our Center direct care workers and support staff up there with them have done a great job of making them feel as comfortable and as un-stressed as possible, to their deserved credit, during this major disruption of their routines and normal schedules.
It was also heartwarming to note the staff’s dedication to that large and important care need up there, especially when many of them had families of their own still in a danger area along the coast, with GUSTAV approaching.
As I drove back down Beatline, traveling under I-10, towards my trailer, I checked my watch to see that it was about 7:30pm, and I suddenly realized that I had not eaten all day! Which is not an especially good thing if you happen to be a diabetic. My focus today was on many other things, and not on my health.
Ever try to find a place open to eat at, when a major hurricane was expected to start bringing its handiwork ashore? Absolutely nothing was open! Food stores, restaurants, all closed and most boarded up.
I finally found a place open, had a quick sandwich, and arrived back at my trailer, where I am finishing this post, relating to you all (or y’all) the process of continuing to prepare for Hurricane GUSTAV’s landfall.
What it’s like to be in the target zone of one of these monsters of nature.
And now it is time to finish gathering my hurricane gear, and move over to the Center to my place of (what I hope is) safety for the next few days.
Hopefully, I can continue these updates as GUSTAV continues to come ashore during the next day or two. I’ll do my best.
It is my sincere prayer that GUSTAV will not inflict the terrible carnage on any of the Gulf Coast area, like Katrina did three years ago. I don’t want anyone to have to be a GUSTAV hurricane relief volunteer. Please God, if you have anything to say about it!
Again, sincere Thanks to all of you many souls who stopped by for these hurricane updates these past few days, and for all of your expressions of support, your thoughts, prayers and encouraging and comforting words; they mean so very much.
Take care and God Bless!