Almost exactly four years ago, my husband and I evacuated from New Orleans, in order to get away from Hurricane Gustav. Residents of the Gulf Coast accept hurricanes as part of life; since I had never evacuated before, and didn't know the first thing about hurricanes, I found it scary. Instead of packing, I wrote about what I should be packing.
When Katrina hit a few years before that, I still lived in Minnesota. Up there, I know that I was not alone in wondering why more people hadn't evacuated, but when faced with an evacuation myself, I began to understand it better. Now, I believe that most people, when faced with a significant threat to their home and possessions, would feel tempted to stay home, where they are most comfortable and also where they can see exactly what happens. Not only is evacuating an unexpected travel expense, but it is also packing as an extreme sport, not just requiring selection of garments, but instead necessitating that favored garments be pitted in the competition for space against favorite photos, important papers, and family heirlooms. Especially maddening is the unpredictability of hurricanes; you can feel a little silly for packing up the family silver and driving to your cousin's house, only to find your house perfectly snug and intact when you get back.
Life on the Third Coast has a special set of circumstances, and hurricane watching is included in that. From May until November, it is a little game of weather-life roulette. Everything is quiet, and then along comes a storm bouncing across the tropics. You are vaguely aware of it, the way you may know sports scores or the outline of an international political scandal. But then, once and a while, the little storm that could makes it past the gates of the Caribbean, and suddenly it's the Superbowl. You know something about it, even if you are technically not a fan.
Hurricanes are obviously a menace, but it could be argued that they have at least one silver lining. People on the Gulf Coast seem remarkably relaxed in general, and I think it could have something to do with hurricanes. Hurricanes occasionally force people to stop what they are doing, to step away from life even when it's inconvenient, to accept that nature is in charge, and sometimes to just throw up their hands and admit that things are bigger than us. I heard a man in the seafood business interviewed on the radio today, who is from way down the bayou in Louisiana. He was so calm. He said, basically, and without a trace of frustration in his voice, that water is his life and gave him everything he has, but that sometimes, water also takes it all away. I aspire to roll with it the way he does.
All of this is to say, my heart goes out this week to everyone getting messed with by Isaac. Hopefully, losses with not be tremendous and people will remain safe and dry.