Editor’s note: I had intended to publish this GUSTAV UPDATE late last night, but wouldn’t you know, my internet connection took a hike then, and didn’t come back until a little while ago. I’ll attempt another update later this afternoon or early afternoon.
Preparations for the arrival of Hurricane GUSTAV in about four days, continue here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, as the storm gains speed and strength as it approaches the Gulf of Mexico today, the three-year Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
GUSTAV made a serious transition today, from a Tropical Storm into a Category 1 Hurricane and will probably soon go to a Category 3 storm, as it continues its trajectory towards the Gulf of Mexico and landfall somewhere on the Gulf Coast.
As the following figure illustrates, today’s National Hurricane Center’s projected trajectory map of GUSTAV’s path to the Gulf Coast changed only in a minor way, from that of yesterday.
Most weather experts’ guesses (and that really is what they are at this point), are that GUSTAV will make landfall somewhere in southern Louisiana, west of New Orleans.
If that happens, that may be very bad for The Big Easy, as well as for the nearby Mississippi Gulf Coast (and yours truly and my neighbors here), depending upon how large and strong GUSTAV has grown to by that point. So much of what will happen with it, is still very vague.
So we on the Gulf Coast wait…
And wait some more…
And we continue to get ready.
Today, I personally observed considerable activity here in the Gulfport – Long Beach – Pass Christian coastal area, as may residents continue their own preparations for whatever GUSTAV brings their way on late Monday, Labor Day, and Tuesday.
The following types of retail outlets were doing a rather brisk business around here today, associated with GUSTAV’s approach, including gas stations, pharmacies, hardware and food stores, and the local Lowes and Home Depot stores. The number of cars and trucks filling the parking lots of these stores
was large, indeed.
During work at the Center today, we continued preparing for GUSTAV, removing awnings from buildings, boarding up windows, moving beds around between Client Cottages, assisting with preparations to evacuate our 135 clients in the morning to other facilities more north in Mississippi, moving many of our fleet of vehicles to the highest parking lot and a few other things.
Most of the clients don’t realize what is going on with Campus preparations for GUSTAV in their behalf, and will probably be slightly agitated during the moving process tomorrow. But, then most of them enjoy riding in the Center buses and vans to places, so I imagine overall, they will enjoy their adventure. At least they will be in a safe place during GUSTAV.
Today, I also had the opportunity to ask a number of my fellow employees at the Center where I work weekdays, about their own preparations for GUSTAV, and their feelings about Katrina and the fact that today was the third anniversary of when Katrina came ashore with its 30′ storm surge and hurt so many families living here.
Many of them admitted that they were having painful memories about what Katrina did to them, and how much they suffered from her powerful forces.
And then, some fellow employees admitted that they had not yet made any preparations for GUSTAV. But, they might start on that tomorrow…
LIKE, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR, PEOPLE???????
One of the fellows I work with in Maintenance said that thinking about Katrina was quite painful for him, as it brought back such sad memories of him, his sister and his brother all losing their homes and all within them during Katrina.
He and I will be two of the four Maintenance guys staying at the Center in one of the administration buildings during Sunday evening, Monday and Tuesday, when GUSTAV comes through. He currently lives in a Katrina Cottage, in Pass Christian, on a lot that had probably 15′ of storm surge water rushing through it during Katrina.
Another employee, a lady, who I am going to call Melissa here, had incredibly stressful memories of the morning when Katrina came to visit her and her family.
Melissa, along with her spouse, were at her parents home, along with her spouse’s parents, the six of them, the house in an area in Gulfport that was not formerly classified as being in any flood zone.
Katrina came chugging and churning in that fateful morning, exactly three years ago this morning. The storm surge waters surrounded the home, and rose steadily in a short time, until the waters started coming inside.
As Melissa and her family members watched in disbelief, the water came into the home and the level in the home quickly grew higher and higher, until they frantically decided that the rapidly rising waters were a serious threat to their lives, and they must leave the home and reach higher ground in order to survive.
As they forced the front door open and waded onto the front porch and steps area, Melissa’s father, who was in the lead, was suddenly swept away by the swiftly flowing and rising waters. The frantic family members quickly lost sight of him, as they, themselves, with considerable effort, made their way through the deep water, all the way around the corner of the house and into a nearby large, Live Oak tree growing there.
They climbed high into the tree, desperately hanging on for their very lives, all the while consumed with grief and worry that Melissa’s father had probably not survived in the waters that took him away so quickly out of sight, as he led them from the house.
For six long, wet, windy hours Katrina raged and raged, while the five of them clung to that Live Oak tree, waiting for the terrible conditions of the storm to lessen, so they may climb down to the ground and go searching for Melissa’s missing father.
At long last, the wind and rain lessened, and practically numb from their perilous experience, they climbed down from the limbs of the tree, into the knee-deep water, and began their search.
A short time later, miraculously, they found him, alive, also in a large tree.
All during those six hours while they were clinging to life in the tree, they had no idea if he was alive or dead. And, he, also in a tree, had no idea if the five of them had perished or not. Tremendously stressful, physically and emotionally.
When I first met Melissa, about six months after Katrina, it was very difficult for her to talk about this life-threatening experience. And for the first two months after I met her, she just couldn’t bring herself to talk about it. Finally, she consented to share her story.
So, one evening while we were having supper in a large, white FEMA food tent, speaking very slowly and with some difficulty, she shared her terrible memory with me. As I listened, tears appeared in my eyes, and I slowly wiped them away as she continued.
When she was almost finished with her story, she looked down and then went on to describe that almost drowning wasn’t the worst part, nearly losing her father wasn’t the worst part, losing her home and all her clothes and furniture wasn’t the worst part, the worst part was losing her pets which she and her husband had left in their home when they had gone over to be with her and his parents. Because their home also was not officially in a flood zone, they had thought they would be safe there.
Tragically, they weren’t.
I have heard so many tragic stories from area residents during my time here with them, each one seemingly more tragic than the previous one. I don’t know how many times my heart was broken listening to them, crying tears with them as they remembered and shared those painful memories.
This evening, I journeyed through Long Beach, over into The Pass (Pass Christian), and observed many families there preparing their homes for GUSTAV’s arrival.
I also shot many images of how buildings near the beach (like I am), look now, before GUSTAV gets here. I also stopped at SHAGGY’S CAFE in The Pass Harbor, one of my favorite seafood places to eat, and had a fish sandwich, before heading back to Long Beach and a quick stop at the food store for some milk and juice.
The Gulf there near The Pass Harbor, was beautiful this evening, with some children playing in the shallow water, probably not even suspecting that in only four days, that same water would be absolutely treacherous, unforgiving and merciless, to all who may be in there.
During that trip, I marveled at how much recovery the area had made since Katrina, how beautiful so many of the new buildings are now, after Katrina reduced them to rubble three years ago. As I looked at them, I silently wondered how many of them would be changed by GUSTAV.
Along Highway 90 in Pass Christian, work is still under way to rebuild beaches there which were severely eroded by Katrina’s storm surge and wave action. Will GUSTAV reverse the tremendous progress made in that effort to rebuild the beaches after Katrina?
I wondered how GUSTAV would change my life.
I decided it already had.
This evening, after arriving back at my trailer, I ran across my dear friend Maggie-Dammit’s post about the friendship we share, and how very much it connects with my life here on the coast. Maggs is such a sweet soul, she just blew me away with her sweet words. She is such an incredibly gifted writer, great mother and spouse!
Tomorrow morning early, I will assist many of the staff at the Center with the evacuation process, including fueling up all the buses and vans that will be used for the moving process. After that, I will concentrate on my own last minute preparations for GUSTAV, here at my trailer, including installing the three new 27′ tie-down straps over the top of the trailer and get the anchors into the ground, buying a few gas cans of extra gasoline for my car and generator, packing my suitcase for when I will be at the Center during GUSTAV, and packing up and moving most of the trailer contents over to a secure room at the Center, for the duration of GUSTAV.
That should take most of the day I think. And, I’ll respond to any calls from the Center that need attention, being the Maintenance guy “On Call” during this weekend and this coming week. With the clients being evacuated in the morning, hopefully it will be more quiet there Saturday and Sunday.
Depending upon what happens with GUSTAV during its approach to the coast, I may be called in to do more window boarding and other things at the Center.
And somewhere during the weekend, I am hoping to get a little sleep. Yeah, right!
Thanks so much for all who stopped by today to check out the GUSTAV posts, over 300 of you, and offered encouragement and prayers for those of us here on the Gulf Coast. Your thoughts and prayers and encouragement are so appreciated!
Please continue to stop by for more Updates, and images, as I will try my best to keep them coming before and all during when GUSTAV gets here, depending my internet access.
I am anxious to see if the Cell towers go down when GUSTAV is here, too. That would suck!
See, there’s no panic in my voice…
We’ll see how it goes…