Another “Close Encounter?”
Those of you who have been reading here for awhile, might remember a couple of posts appearing here talking about “Close Encounters…”
With the long anticipated arrival of Hurricane GUSTAV finally at hand, another hand, perhaps the hand of providence, reached out and gave Hurricane GUSTAV just a little nudge to the west, into the south Louisiana coast, away from a direct hit on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, three years after Hurricane Katrina didn’t veer away.
With Gulf Coast residents either evacuated or ‘hunkered down’ to wait it out, Hurricane GUSTAV finally arrived in south Mississippi Sunday evening, almost dead on at 6:00pm, announcing its coming with a spectacular dark, cloud roll and torrential rain deluge, as the first major ‘outer band’ rolled in ashore.
The highways were virtually empty, stores and gas stations closed and boarded up, as those area residents still in town, waited to see how bad it might get.
During the night Sunday, additional bands of rain, accompanied by tropical storm force winds, buffeted homes, buildings and trees, rattled metal siding and picked up anything that wasn’t secured down and sent it on a ride, as the storm increased in momentum as the hours of darkness passed, and GUSTAV stormed on into the Labor Day morning.
After a long Sunday spent helping evacuate our remaining 42 special needs clients and transport supplies and equipment from the South Mississippi Regional Center in Long Beach, up to another State Mental health facility 12 miles north, the Specialized Treat Facility, your correspondent, Coast Rat, closed down his little trailer home across the road from the SMRC, and literally moved into an office at the Center to ‘hunker down’ hopefully safe from whatever GUSTAV would send our way.
As I got settled in, set up my cot, and unpacked a few things for the evening, I could hear the winds outside, howling and whistling as it flew around the building. Just down the hall, I could hear a Weather Channel announcer talk about what GUSTAV was doing, as the various correspondents gave their on-the-spot reports, one hand holding tightly to their microphone, and the other holding on to the top of their specially-made rain jackets from L.L. Bean.
My ‘home-away-from-home’ during the past two days.
With 2-3 hard days of preparation for GUSTAV telling on my body’s energy level, I just could not watch or listen to any more weather news, or even listen to the howling winds or watch the building entrance door at the rain coming down in sheets. What I desperately needed, was SLEEP!
My last act as I lay down on my cot, was to say a prayer or two for all those folks in harm’s way of GUSTAV, especially everyone in southern Louisiana, that they stay safe during this long, stormy night and through tomorrow, when GUSTAV would finally come ashore, somewhere.
When I put my head down on my pillow, I don’t think it took more than a minute or two before I was fast asleep. The next thing I knew, it was 6:00am and my alarm was ringing to wake me up.
After getting dressed and putting on my rain parka, I stepped out through the entrance doors and watched in amazement as the rain came down so heavy, it was in thick sheets, so hard that you could hardly see across the road, being driven sideways by the 40-55 mile per hour winds, with gusts higher, that were also making the trees dance around as if they were all in some huge musical and each one was trying to out-do the other.
Frankly, I was in awe of this tremendous display of power!
It was incredible! And as for me, a ‘first-timer’ in a hurricane’s path, I immediately decided that I didn’t really want to be in the path of anything stronger that this level of a hurricane’s fury. I have one strong memory of Monday morning, sitting in my work truck, and having the truck literally rock back and forth vigerously from the string gusts of wind. Yeah, that stuck in my mind.
As I watched the trees, even the Live Oak limbs, bend and sway, caused to do so by such a powerful force, my thoughts went immediately to my little trailer home, and I said another prayer that it would be spared destruction or serious damage. I prayed that the three new, bright yellow tie-down straps would keep it anchored, and that no trees or limbs would would be blown loose and fall to strike it.
I also said a prayer of Thanks for all of those people who had sent thoughts and prayers my way, and and to the way of all the others on the Gulf Coast who would still be here for whatever reason. And the last one was again, that all here stay safe.
At a few minutes to 7:00am, I drove down to the maintenance complex to meet 3 of my fellow workers there, to talk about what we needed to do during the day.
The first thing I noticed as I drove into the maintenance parking area, was that the rear side metal roof of our Maintenance office building was coming apart. Not really the way I had wanted to start this Labor Day morning dealing with GUSTAV. This was a part of the roof that had been repaired the summer before, by a repair crew. Yeah, right.
As I took a drive around the 45-acre campus, I notice that downed tree limbs and branches were lying everywhere. But, so far, damage to campus buildings seemed to be minor. In some of the older, flat-roofed buildings, there had been some roof leaks, and several wet tiles fell and literally exploded into pieces as they hit the hard floors.
In the afternoon, I was asked by Master Naturalist Buddy John, who also happens to be the Director of Residential Services at the Center, if I would help him deliver a load of relief supplies up to the Specialized Treatment Facility (STF), 12 miles north of the Center, where the staff had evacuated 42 of our special needs clients to Sunday afternoon, to be safe out of harm’s way from GUSTAV.
John gave me a list of things that needed to be gathered up from various cottages, so I went about assembling all those items, and stacking them in one of the 20-bed cottages so we could pick them up and make the trip when there was a break in the weather.
One of the stops to pick up supplies, was to the cafeteria, for food and soda for the staff at STF, who were caring for our 42 clients there. As we loaded there, again, it rained in sheets.
Note the wind-driven rain, going almost sideways as it falls.
As John and I were making our way carefully up Beatline Road, the 12 miles up to the STF, I said to him that I hoped we didn’t get stopped by the police and turned back, due to the entire area being under curfew.
Just then, my cell phone rang (yes, the Cellular One tower was still operating), and the calling party advised that she was with the BBC News in London, and was calling to talk with me about what was happening with GUSTAV, my involvement in preparations for it, both personal and work-related, and about my personal mission work on the Mississippi Coast helping the recovery from Hurricane Katrina.
She said she had come across my Blog, which had been providing update posts about preparing for Gustav, and decided to contact me, as I was here on the coast, and might be able to help their listeners and website readers to better understand what was happening here. We talked for about 12-15 minutes, and by then, John and I had arrived at the STF.
And, low and behold, I am humbled to say, the BBC used my interview comments and a picture of my trailer in two separate abstracts on the front page on their website, at:
or you can also see a PDF version.
As we drove through the two tall, locked wire gates to enter the facility, and brought the supplies inside the STF, and passed among the various clients, some of them again gestured or said some greetings, and had smiles at seeing more people they knew from various day-to-day contact, back at the Center.
After leaving the STF, we made our way back down Beatline, and made a quick swing over to John’s home, located on the Arcadia Bayou, and nearby Wolf River.
For comparison purposes, here is an image of John’s home last year:
And here is the view from Monday afternoon:
The surge water level from GUSTAV at John’s home on the Arcadia Bayou, north of Pass Christian, MS.
WOW! The water level, from the storm surge, was up to the bottom of John’s concrete slab, which he advised was the second highest he had ever seen the water level since the 20 some years he had been out there. The highest level, was some 15-18 feet higher, during Hurricane Katrina, when the water lever was 5 feet deep in his home up on pilings. John was visibly impressed with the surge level, as was I, even more so. That was an incredible amount of water to see.
That evening then, I made my first trip across the road and back into where my trailer was located, to see if it was OK. Driving back in on the narrow blacktop road was made treacherous by having several large, fallen trees sticking into and along the road, including two large, dead, southern pines that were killed by Katrina, and were leaning towards the road, that went down Monday in Gustav’s winds, just around a small corner from where I live.
Every single time I drive back on this road to my trailer, I watch these two ‘widow makers’ standing tall and dead, leaning towards the road, as it to silently crushed one of us some day when we least expect it.
GUSTAV’s winds blew this dead pine down beside the road, crushing an aluminum gate as if it was made out of paper. Thank you GUSTAV!
I finally arrived at my little home, tremendously relieved as I approached, that it was still there, apparently in once piece, and, miraculously, with no damage! Thank you, Jesus! I felt so blessed, to have escaped Gustav and not lost my little home, as so many thousands had during Hurricane Katrina.
Fortunately, my trailer, sitting on a north-south axis with the back pointed south and located approximately 2-3 blocks north of the Gulf, weathered the storm OK.
As I parked, got out and walked around behind the trailer, I saw several tree limbs lying there within a few feet of it. Yes, indeed, I was blessed.
One thing I also noticed while walking around, was the sound of electric generators humming away all over the neighborhood. The power was off! I thought to myself, I wonder if it will come back on this evening…? And then, I remembered that for thousands of families after Katrina, it was several days and weeks before the power was fully restored.
OK, here goes another night on my cot at the office. No build deal; after all, is will only be the second evening.
And, another day and evening without internet and blog access. Oh well.
During the day, I talked with my wife and also youngest son, about what was going on, and that I was OK through all of it. They were relieved, and it was good to talk with them, too. I also talked briefly two of my Wisconsin buddies, Maggie and Michael, who were in the image by the huge Life Oak a day or two in one of my update posts. It was also good to talk with them.
Today, I worked around the Center campus, doing various things, including cleaning up two of the cottages, getting them ready to be looked at by State building inspectors, who must certify that the building was ready to receive clients again.
Several of the people at work remarked about how GUSTAV was so much weaker than Katrina; that it was “just a little wind and a few drops of rain.” Well, to this Yankee, it was much more than that, as as much of a hurricane as I really care to be a part of. Almost unanimously, people I talked with after GUSTAV had passed, expressed tremendous relief that it had not hit here with the eye, and concern and thoughts for the people in Louisiana that it did hit with the eye and the high winds and water.
It would have been an incredible tragedy if GUSTAV had destroyed all the rebuilding that has occured here since Katrina, an incredible tragedy, indeed.
As I was working in one of the 20-bed cottages during the mid-afternoon, standing high up on my stepladder changing a fluorescent fixture ballast, my cell phone rang, and low and behold, it was Ana again from the BBC, calling for an update on GUSTAV.
We talked for about 10 minutes, without me falling off the ladder, and she said she would send me a link to the comments they would use on their website from the two interviews. It was kind of one of those little neat things that happen to one’s self periodically through life. A very, very brief moment of fame, or, perhaps maybe it is infamy…
Earlier this evening, Ray and I headed back up to the STF facility with the box truck to pick up the specialized equipment there and bring it back to the cottages as soon as possible, as the cottages were approved this evening by the State Building Inspectors for use, a d all 42 clients resideing there were being bused back to their cottage homes at the Center.
This evening, I drove over into Pass Christian to check for possible storm damage on my storage building over there, and again, it was a blessing to find it weathered GUSTAV OK.
I made my way to the street just above the beach Highway 90, to the Pass harbor. I wanted to check on Shaggy’s Cafe, too, to see if was still there or had been damaged at all.
Well, it is there, but may not be serving sandwiches for a few days or weeks. It seems that two large shrimp boats were inadvertently parked by GUSTAV on Shaggy’s access road when the storm surge came ashore. Now, what those two shrimpers were still doing in the harbor, defies all logic, when every other shrimp boast was moved out prior to the storm surge arriving.
Two large shrimp boats were moved by GUSTAV a bit from their normal slips at the pier in Pass Christian harbor Monday
Hopefully, a big crane can pick those boats up and set them back in the harbor, out of Shaggy’s customers way to get there for that great Gulf Coast seafood!
I noticed while driving in The Pass they had numerous trees down from the storm, and that, in response to downed power lines, there were literally several dozen, large, electric utility trucks, either working, driving around or parked in the city. Their aim, to their credit, is to get the electrical service back up and working as quickly as possible.
I must say here that all during these past several days, hundreds and hundreds of folks stopped by for a visit to this blog to get GUSTAV updates, and many of them left expressions, thoughts and prayers of concern, safety and encouragement for those of us remaining on the coast in front of GUSTAV, for whatever reason(s). Again, I want to express my most sincere appreciation for all the visits, the incredible comments, emails, and calls from you to myself and others here.
Maggie, Quin, Mandy,Dawn, Christine, The West Virgina Watcher, THANK YOU ESPECIALLY, for your beautiful posts and words of encouragement. You are an amazing family, and I love you all!
Now. I don’t want to hear anything about no Hanna, Ike, No. 10 or any other storm deciding to start steaming this way! I think that maybe God heard all your prayers and moved Gustav away from hitting us dead-on. I don’t know if he/she will be able to honor all our prayers again…
Yes, there will be a little more to come, as I get around and talk with more folks around here, and get some more images.
Take care, Thanks again, and God Bless!
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