Katrina’s lessons

Published 9:26 am Friday, August 29, 2014

The following is a column written by Bob Ann Breland, who was Lifestyles editor at The Daily News when Hurricane Katrina struck. It first appeared on Sept. 20, 2005.

Hurricane Katrina certainly showed the fury of Mother Nature at work, and she was far from maternal! She was definitely no lady.

I kept a journal during the storm and was glad I did, as one day merged with another and sometimes I forgot what day it was and what happened on what day. Reading back over the notes, I am truly grateful that my family was spared. We were mostly just inconvenienced.

Since everything has been so serious, I thought a little levity might be in order. I realize things are still very serious, but sometimes we need to laugh to keep from crying.

I sat down and listed some things I learned from this particular hurricane; some serious, some strange and hopefully some funny.

• I learned that I really do remember how things were before electricity and air-conditioning. Those were not the good old days…we’re living in the good old days (pre-Katrina, that is!).

• I learned that a grill is indispensable when you live in an all-electric house and the power goes off, especially if it is a gas grill and the gas tank is full. With imagination and a little adaptation to the grill, I learned to actually cook many things as the freezer melted and we cooked whatever was thawed out the most. (No, I didn’t bake a cake!) My freezer had a melt-down because it is at least 35 years old and decided to die.

• I learned to bathe and get pretty clean in a minimum amount of water warmed on the grill and carried to the bathroom sink. Add a few baby wipes and it was close to pure luxury (for a few days anyway.).

• A generator is a life-saver when power is off, even if you have to travel 200 miles to find one and the gas to run it — which we did. My sweet brother Mike Lang went with me to Vicksburg to find one for our place. We had been sharing one with our friends Paul and Nan Herrington, but we needed our own, and they needed theirs, too. To have a fan running on a hot night is pleasure beyond measure.

• I can do without soft drinks and coffee — but coffee is harder! Luckily we had enough to tide us over through the storm. We made coffee every morning as we cooked breakfast on the grill.

• Drinking water is essential, and dehydration is a great danger. I had to force myself to drink water as I am not normally a big water-drinker. In the country where we have wells and our pumps run on electricity, the generator was great to have to pump up fresh water.

• Pool water makes toilets flush like magic! You learn just how to pour it in to make it work. My daughter’s pool was handy to provide water to haul in buckets for this purpose. That’s another thing you have to worry about if you are not on a water system.

• If you don’t have a clothesline, clothes washed out by hand will still dry if you hang them on bushes (or whatever!). If light-weight underwear is among the wash, you have to be watching when they get dry, or the wind could blow them into your neighbor’s yard. How embarrassing!

• The right to bear arms was a very important item decided by our forefathers in early American history. There were some pretty scary and very dark nights when telephones were not working and the law could not be contacted if you needed them. We were on our own, and should the occasion have arisen, we could have adequately defended ourselves, which unfortunately, I hear a few people had to do. The bad guys (and gals) will always manage to have weapons.

• Neighbors are ready and anxious to help — if they know you need it. Communication can be slow or not at all in the case of no telephones for days. The only people we could call were our close neighbors. We watched out for each other.

• You can stand to have the entire family at your house for days on end — if you grit your teeth and remember how blessed you are to have them.

• I hope that we never truly become a cashless society. Anybody without cash after the storm was in a pretty big predicament. Nobody took checks or credit cards.

• I have learned to be truly thankful to my Creator and give Him praise. Many of my prayers were answered during this stressful time. The older we get, the harder it is to cope with stressful situations during a disaster. My heart went out to helpless people, especially children, the elderly and those in nursing homes.

• I was thankful that we had no television during the time New Orleans was in such turmoil. I don’t think I could have taken on such misery with everything else that was going on, including some trips to the emergency room, one made the morning after the storm. We made it driving slowly with only a small path through debris, downed power lines and trees where a highway had been only the day before.

• I realize we chose wisely when we decided to build our house on a main highway 35 years ago. We get power on much faster than on the little road where we once lived, which always seemed to be the last place in the parish to get power back after an outage.

• And finally, I learned I am totally addicted to air-conditioning! Being off it for two weeks at home and another week at work didn’t cure me at all. The only sure cure for this addiction is cooler weather.