No, not our wedding anniversary. Today marks 5 years since Katrina hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast Region. As I sit here and type this, we are having very nasty weather with almost constant rainfall varying between sprinkles and gully washers and it is reminding me of that fateful day.
I stayed in the city when it hit while my wife and her daughter left for higher, dryer ground in central La. at her father's house and her son headed back to LSU for his sophomore year.
It was about this time of evening that the worst of the storm was over but we still had some gusty winds and occasional rain. The streets in my area were flooded with about 1 ft. of water but it was nowhere near the house and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. The termite eaten 40 foot pecan tree my neighbor had near the rear of my property did blow over crushing my fence, but my house was relatively unscathed. I called my wife by cellphone to tell her all was well and it may take a day or two to clear the streets of all the debris from fallen trees, windblown parts of houses and assorted trash.
It was about 3 hrs. later that I began to think something was not right since the water that should have been going down was actually coming up at a steady pace. First it overtook my lawn, then the walkway directly in front of the house then------inside the first floor. I started scrambling because my stepson lived down there and had tons of electronics, books, CD's, clothes------------plus all the things a 20 yr. old leaves behind when going off to college. Inside of an hour, the water was waste deep and still rising and I put things up as high as I could after carrying what I could upstairs. I locked the door and hoped for the best. Two ladies across the street caught my attention since I didn't know they had stayed too. We talked and I offered them to come to my house since it was a 2 story if the water got in their house. They declined.
Tuesday morning I awoke to cries of help from the 2 ladies across the street. Their cats woke them up by jumping from dresser to bed and they realized water was a foot deep in their house. By Tuesday morning it was me, the 2 ladies from across the street and their 2 cats. I dipped my hands in the water and gave it a little taste and it was saltwater, so I knew the lake was now in my front yard. Now it was a matter of just how deep it would get.
Wednesday rolls around and the water has stopped rising. It leveled off at 4 1/2 ft. inside my first floor. It was hot as all get out, the only wind blowing was when the mosquitoes buzzed our heads and the rescue helicopters flew overhead looking for folks to save. I was still in a "wait to see if the water goes down mode", had tons of food, over 100 gallons of potable water and 4 propane tanks full of gas to cook with.
Now, as if things aren't bleak enough, my brother-in-law shows up at my house and informs me he has 8 people at his house and want to move them over to my house to make plans to get out the next day.
By Wednesday night, I have 12 people in my house, the oldest being an 81 yr. old woman and the youngest being 18 male, 4 cats, 3 dogs and a hamster. We ate like pigs since I had a good bit of food in my freezer that got cooked that night. I even had ice, a commodity that was more precious than gold at that point in time. We ate our fill, bagged up the rest of the food and put it on my back porch to rot till I could return home to deal with it, then cleaned the dishes and put them away. There was no sleep that night. The heat was unbearable, there was not a trace of a breeze.
Thursday morning we waded, paddled, swam our way out to high ground and walked along the railroad tracks near my house. We walked for a couple miles to an overpass and a rescue boat brought us to higher ground and relative safety where we could get out of the city. I have some stories of that experience but will spare you folks a lot of the details. Suffice it to say, it was not nice and a lot of folks were panicking, others were just suffering with the oppressive heat and the most unsanitary conditions I've ever been exposed to.
That evening, my brother-in-law got a high ranking, good friend of his from the State Police to allow his son who evacuated 100 miles outside N.O. to come in with a Suburban. We packed everyone but the 2 ladies from across the street who disappeared once we hit high ground into that vehicle along with the animals. My legs fell asleep from the cramped conditions in minutes. We had 11 adults, 3 dogs, a cat and a hamster crowded into that vehicle, along with what we all carried out in personal papers and some clothing. It was a ride I will never forget if I live to be 100.
It wasn't until mid October until I saw my house again. Something else I'll never forget. My wife, daughter and I moved back in on January 1, 2006.