I am mentally and physically drained after being an evacuee from Hurricane Ivan. New Orleans and the surrounding area were part of a voluntary evacuation except for the coastal areas which were under mandatory evacuation. I have never evacuated before.
I lived out of the New Orleans area for nine of the last fourteen years and during the years I was here, no major storms threatened. My family was a victim of Betsy in 1965 - I was only three weeks old when it hit - and we lost our home and car in the flooding. But during my childhood, we owned land and a house north of New Orleans so we went there for storms.
It took my sweet Juannie, our two well-behaved little pupsters and stressed me ten hours to make a trip that is normally two and a half hours. We went from Kenner, LA to Lafayette, LA where my brother and his family live. We joined my youngest brother, his wife and their four-month old twins as well as two other extended family members there. All of us struggled with the rest of the evacuees through horrendous traffic to get to Lafayette and were grateful for the hospitality and safety we found there.
Everyone in southern LA was extremely lucky that we were not the victims of a direct hit. The area where the eye passed is a place all Southern folks know and love - Gulf Shores and Pensacola Beach. In fact, my husband and I along with my youngest brother and his wife were going to Gulf Shores in two weeks for a weekend beach trip. Now that's not possible because the island is devastated and it will be months before it approaches anything resembling normalcy.
The article below has a group of pictures showing the extensive damage. It is wrenching to see these pictures. Over the years, I have spent lots of time in this part of Alabama and Florida.
So I am tired, relieved and very sad after this week. I can only imagine what the folks in AL and FL are facing as they wait to return to their homes and begin the difficult and lengthy journey back to the lives they knew before the hurricane. As I locked the door to my little house on Tuesday, I said a teary good-bye in case the storm veered in our direction. And I was so happy to unlock the door to my little house on our return knowing that we had minimal wind and no rain here. But I also know that next time the people in New Orleans may not be so lucky.
I hope others here in the path of Ivan are okay.