I'm a California girl. I do earthquakes. Not hurricanes. So in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina came barreling toward Louisiana, I was thankful that the area that we live in (Southwest Louisiana, right near the Texas border) was spared. I was working as a medic at the time and worked in the shelters in our area that were set up for the New Orleans area residents and provided them with basic medical care and helped pass out food or whatever else they needed me to do that day.
About a month later, we weren't so lucky. Hurricane Rita was a category 5 storm that was projected to hit Texas. Houston was evacuated. At the last minute, it changed course and veered straight for Southwest Louisiana and made landfall as a Category 3 storm. Rita never got the attention that Katrina did because we didn't have the widespread flooding that New Orleans did, but we had a TON of damage to our area.
My husband and the kids and I rode the storm out at his grandparents house about an hour away from our home. It wasn't supposed to hit our area, so we weren't really worried. My husbands grandparents area was spared any major damage, but we were without electricity and running water. I'd never felt so helpless in all my life. I couldn't cool my babies off, they were so hot they were running into walls and lethargic, but I couldn't even give them a cold bath to help cool them off. It was awful. We made the decision to load them up into the car and drive straight through to my parents house in California.
I had to leave them there so that I could come back and work on the ambulance. We thought it might be a week or two before they got power restored to our area. They had our parish (county) closed off, so we had no idea what to expect when we got back to town. Luckily, I was there first to assess the damage and didn't bring the kids back home to see what I found.
I ended up having to leave them for almost two months. I'm so glad they were spared from the initial heartache. They spent an amazing time poolside in sunny So Cal before their 'new' reality set in.
This is the home we left:
THIS is what I came back to when I got back to town....
Yep. Total loss. The house. Everything in it. Gone.
I know it's easy to joke about having a "Hurricane Party" and think you are immune to the damage that a storm can cause. Trust me, we were completely blase about it. We thought we'd be home by the end of the week. And I'd be lying if I said that we haven't ridden out storms (selectively) since then. But please, don't be too careless and carefree. It CAN happen to you. To this day, 6 years later, our kids STILL hate the rain and a thunderstorm panics them.
So please, if they issue a Mandatory Evacuation, please think seriously about leaving. Don't try to be brave, especially if you have children.
Be safe friends!
Stepping off soapbox in 3....2....1....