I am unprepared for natural disaster. My “worry serves little purpose” attitude has served me fairly well so far in my lifetime, thus far spent in a geographic region mostly spared by natural disasters. But hurricane season approaches, officially kicking off on June 1 and extending through November 30. So I have learned.
Last year, I tracked down a “Louisiana Preparedness Guide” at the United Way. Bottom line, I now have a stash of Catholic prayer candles, available at any grocery store, along with canned tuna, bottled juice, granola bars and six gallons of water. One year later, do I need to replace this stuff with new items? Or should they just keep vigil as a talisman against actually needing them, like the protein bars I once kept in the trunk of my car, intending to ward off desperate acts of cannibalism, were I to become stuck in a snowstorm with a friend in the passenger seat?
The government does its best to alert me to impending weather events. At some point, in an attempt to be a responsible citizen, I signed up for text alerts from some agency who knows these things, and I hear from them surprisingly often. “A Flash Flood Watch is no longer in effect for your area Reply YES to confirm,” on May 4. “A Severe Thunderstorm Watch has been issued for your area Reply YES to confirm,” on May 12. She has also notified me of Coastal Flood Advisories, Tornado Watches and Tornado Warnings. I don’t actually know the difference, or how I should behave in any of these situations.
In fact, I was shopping, aka “making groceries,” at the Winn Dixie when an EF-3 tornado actually did touch down in New Orleans East this past February, the strongest on record ever to hit the area. Everyone’s phones started beeping and buzzing simultaneously, and a stern, insistent warning voice superseded the muzak, urging all to seek shelter. Honestly, I didn’t even know we got tornadoes here. My neighbor’s friend was also in a grocery store, one that was ripped in half by said tornado.
Meanwhile, this past summer, strong storms caused catastrophic flooding about an hour north of us. The governor has been pleading for months with two different administrations for recovery assistance. My ladies’ Mardi Gras group sprang into action (more on the Dames de Perlage later), with the shared knowledge that the longer you wait, the more the mold sets in, and the shared conviction that if we could help, we would. People owned a surprising number of industrial-strength blower fans, and everyone except the Yankee knew to install drywall sideways so that, if you take on less than 4′ of water, you don’t have to replace the top panels.
Meanwhile, when a sinkhole opened up in the middle of Canal Street last spring, the invitation to a “Sinkhole de Mayo” party went viral.
Clearly, I have a lot to learn.