Friday, May 6, 2011

Governor visits Vidalia

Okay, so I'm on my way to get crawfish again and I get a call from a friend who says, "Did you hear the governor was on TV this morning saying there was a problem with the levee at Vidalia." Like a good girl, I say, hold on, I'll call you back. As the officials said, if you hear a rumor call us. So I called the radio station and the police dept and they assured me that everything was still status quo, that we should not pay attention to rumors, the governor didn't make any such statement.

Hmm, then my writer friend who lives in Vidalia calls and says, her sister talked to someone who worked at the Corps of Engineers and he said if his sister lived in Vidalia, he'd tell her to get the hell out. This kind of jives with the other two sources who said the river would go to either 67.5 or 68, but where is it officially being reported.

On the way back with crawfish I'm passed by a governor's office vehicle, sirens flashing and I think, okay, this has something to do with the levee. I get to Vidalia and I hear that the governor has visited and on the Facebook page there are lots of pictures of a serious governor, and a bunch of politicians taking photo ops, grinning and posing. How insulting.

Then, a big black motorhome kind of vehicle passes on the road and the printed words on the side say, "Federal Marshalls Command Center."

Oh, boy. Today we will take a couple loads to Mississippi. If all it takes is effort and gas and exhaustion on my part, I will protect my possessions to the best of my ability. Otherwise, I'd be letting myself down.

ON a lighter note, I found myself thinking yesterday as I packed the bathroom, that I should go ahead and dye my hair - yes, it is my natural color but I'm one of those people who plans to never know how much grey is really at the roots. I figure if I'm sitting on top of the roof waving for rescue and CNN comes along, I'll at least have red roots.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The River 2011 - perspective

It's a roller coaster of course. One day you're not even paying attention, the next the world seeems to be collapsing around you. least we are getting some advance notice to prepare, unlike the unfortunate in Alabama. The needs of your household and livelihood which seemed out of your control yesterday, dependent on the whims of a swollen river and weather north of you, and on officials with a multi-million dollar agenda - to preserve the future of the Riverwalk and the businesses there, seem somewhat more stable today.

Rumors abound and they are easy to believe as reality is all too scary on its own, but as officials deal with some of the more outragous rumors they realize the need to set the record straight and inform the public as to the truth (we hope).

As I drove down the levee, Tuesday, seeing the river nearly at eye level, I felt the sudden urgency to make a plan, find a hole to stash our belongings, somewhere safe. I was nearly shivering with it by the time I got the crawfish unloaded and began visiting storage businesses. The fear, uncertainty, lack of control and lack of a plan was the worst. Where would we go? What should we do about our businesses? disconnect and move and lose income? Stay and trust the officials when they say they have confidence in the levees to hold 65'. If the worst happened and we do flood, okay, we'd lose the house and everything left behind but suddenly friends have stepped up to offer places to store the businesses - at least they can be moved if necessary. And others have said if you get evacuated, bring everything here.

But something else - Mary touched on this yesterday in her comment - the feeling of gratitude for friends, community, our home and the serene surrounding that could be lost, suddenly appreciated more. These things I've taken for granted.
And good health.

I ran into a friend, I'll call her Bobbie, at Wal-mart yesterday when I ran in to buy more totes for packing. She asked if I was preparing for the flood. I asked if she was and she shrugged. Then I really looked at her. Beneath her ball cap, she was bald, and I knew. I saw the sadness and fear in her eyes. She mouthed, "I have cancer." I felt so humbled, so guilty for my selfishness, that I didn't see it right off. So pray for Bobbie, for her needs and her health.

Our officials and community are coming together more to stay informed. Facebook pages have sprung up for everything. The picture is of our parish surrounded by the levees, with the Mississippi on the right in blue.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Dreading and Hoping - Record flooding of 2011

Two years ago, I blogged about the river rising - it was the last time I worried enough to rent a storage unit in nearby high n' dry Natchez, Mississippi. Back then I had trouble sleeping and my heart ran fast in anticipation. It went to nearly 58 feet, the third record flood year in five. 

As of two days ago, we knew this year would be worse with officials saying 60 ft (flood stage is 48) on the 20th of May - just a little over two weeks. Yesterday morning on my way down the levee to pickup crawfish, I received a call from a friend asking if I thought there would be any storage units left in Natchez. I replied, oh sure. Then I met a very depressed farmer at the convenience store who said "You better be getting your stuff out. My father was on the levee board and it can't hold 65'." At the time I didn't know they'd revised the assessment. Within just a few hours, that declaration went from 60 to 65 feet, and a couple of unofficial corp engineers say likely 68'. This would be twelve feet above the river level in 1927 when much of Louisiana was under water and you could boat just about anywhere from the river to north Louisiana. 

So from my somewhat lackidaisical attitude yesterday morning when I thought it was going to 60 to quiet desperation yesterday afternoon, quite a change. I tried to rent a storage unit in Ntz yesterday and they were ALL taken. Finally I found one in Brookhaven which will cost a fortune to make several trips. 

I’m torn between trusting the levee officials and the levees and leaving most of the furniture and a couple appliances to seeing if we can move everything. The thing is we don’t know where the water will come from, what the result will be as far as evacuation, and if or when. So we must prepare for all, whether we know ahead or get caught in the middle of the night with no vehicles. We are also hearing that the Black River behind Monterey is rising and if it jumps that levee we may be screwed even if the Mississippi levees hold.

Is it any wonder, I heard on CNN that the only state that had a rise in anxiety in the last couple years was Louisiana - the hurricanes, the river flooding three out of the last five years, the oil spill and now this.

I’m sincerely hoping I’m going to all this trouble for nothing because the devastation will be catastrophic. We’re even planning on shutting down the crawfish business early and probably our snow ball biz if necessary and dragging them to Natchez to a safety. We’ll put stuff inside each of them as well. It will mean pulling loose from utilities and resetting afterwards, but it’s better to be safe. If we lose our house AND our livelihood, it would be difficult to recover. 

Ironically, yesterday was the last day anyone was allowed to drive down the levee. If you drive it now for any reason, you'd be arrested. Here are a couple shots I took while driving with the river at 50'. Picture it at 65!

I'll be blogging each day about the process of packing up, the decision making, the questions, the fear and trembling, and the hope.
Stop by.

And if you've been through a similar situation or are one of those affected by the Alabama tornado outbreak, God Bless you. 
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