This isn’t my first rodeo with a hurricane. Being on alert each June to November has become a way of life for me, but the only time a hurricane has completely uprooted my life was 15 years ago for Rita. Back then I was a senior in high school with ambitions of moving to New Orleans to attend Dillard University. Today, I’m an adult who is more mentally aware of the effects of a natural disaster to my livelihood.
When Laura and Marco burst onto the scene as a threat to my area, I shook my head and wondered how much more I’d have to endure in the year 2020. The hourly updates from meteorologists let me know I should activate my game plan. Sunday, I cleaned my entire apartment. If I had to evacuate, the best case scenario would be returning to a tidy home. I called my dad who lived two hours east and told him to get his extra bedroom ready just in case there was a mandatory evacuation. I packed 7 days worth of clothing, important documents, and all of my electronic devices. I filled up my gas tank in case of price gauging and long lines.
Monday, I placed my suitcase in the back of my trunk and went to work. By then, my plan was to “ride it out” at my mom’s sturdy brick house on the north side of town instead of my small one-bedroom apartment in a low-lying area. A category 2 hurricane was nothing worth evacuating for, and all of my coworkers had the same plan to stay home.
Tuesday, I got up early to buy a few “hurricane party” snacks and some cleaning supplies. Around 10:30 am, I checked the news to see my local government officials issuing a mandatory evacuation for our parish. I didn’t even finish listening to what he was saying. I took out the rest of my trash, locked up everything, and evacuated to my dad’s home.
Wednesday was a day of angst, but I was grateful to be in a safe space outside of Laura’s projected track. Laura arrived around 1 am Thursday, and I spent the entire day watching live streams of the chaos. I saw video of the destroyed brick church at the entrance of my neighborhood, and knew that my small apartment probably didn’t make it. I saw destruction on each street and knew recovery would take much longer than Hurricane Rita took.
Although I appreciated a comfortable bed and daily home cooked meals at my dad’s house, I was ready to leave for several reasons. So I left Friday and drove another hour east to a hotel in Metairie for this weekend. I’m writing from there now with hopes that electricity gets restored to my grandmother’s house – which is 30 minutes east of Lake Charles – by the checkout time Sunday.
Laura has been different from the others for several reasons. My family and friends didn’t have much damage to our homes and workplaces back then, and I was a teenager with a lack of responsibility and maturity. Now, I have to maneuver this new normal as an adult. I truly don’t know what the future holds, and I’m making decisions based on minute-by-minute updates. I made it through Rita, Ike, Gustav, Lily, Cindy, and a few others whose names I don’t remember. This time it feels like Laura is more than just another name to add to a list.