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Just scouring back through old files, I found this e-mail sent from a friend in Florida on the Saturday evening before Katrina. To read it now sends a chill down my spine, and takes me back to that night two years ago.

From: leviolberton
Subject: Yo Hurricane Host
Date: August 27, 2005 10:21:01 PM CDT
To: editor_b

Dang, bubba, it’s bearin’ right down on ya.

Of course, there’s infinite possibilities between now and then, but the models are all pretty much in agreement on this one.

A lot of locals are pretty smug about it. I think it comes from all the attention we’ve had over the past couple of years from the Hurricane Gods, but seems to me that Nola stands to lose a lot at one time if a Cat 4 comes rollin’ in.

I’m not quite sure why, but Nola has had a certain “’bout time” feeling for me and a lot of others. I’ve seen a few documentaries about how humans have spent a lot of time/effort/money keeping Nola bove water…or is it slightly below water. Tons of effort went into keeping the river where humans wanted it so that Nola could be what it is.

And I like the town. I’m comin’ there for vacation. So, it’s not like I’m hoping for disaster.

My buddy John grew up in Mobile and has suffered a few outragous storms. His attitude is that if a Cat 4 comes into Nola, it’ll help wash the urine smell outta town. He’s not the least bit sympathetic.

In a way, I think it’s good and humbling that we’re seeing hurricanes at their normal pace. There’s a reason why the Native Americans didn’t populate the beaches of the Gulf…so I’m told. So many of us humans have poured a ton of money into Florida’s gulf coast to make a quick buck. A few more of these storms and it’ll pop this market in a hurry. What’s satisfying about it is that the folk investing, and pricing the locals out of their own housing market, aren’t from ’round here and they’re the ones who will lose big if the bubble pops.

I just glad I don’t have to nail plywood this time. It’s a drill now. There’s no thrill. You see the strom rollin’ in, you know what amount of your personal time will go into preparing for it, and you just get tired and pissed off.

Good luck tomorrow as you try and decide when to leave and what to take and how to nail down yer house. Three hours away from the storm seems the norm. Pack the car with whatever you really care about, watch the NOAA site and plan a route that doesn’t take you into the storm’s path. I know that sounds simple, but it’s amazing how may folk will retreat right into the storm’s path. I don’t mean to sound condescending. It took me a few storms to learn this. And, I still wait until my buddy John makes the decision to bug out before I make a move. I always defer to the experts.

If, for whatever reason, you end up going up I-65 towards Montgomery, take US 231 South to Troy Alabama and you’ll find motels with rooms. It’s about a half hour or so from Montgomery. When we bugged outta PCB last storm, we were amazed that Montogermy was sold out, yet the parking lots in the Troy motels were pretty much sparse.

Good luck. It sucks.

Of course, my friend didn’t know that Katrina would jog east at the last moment and miss New Orleans. He didn’t know that the floodwalls on our drainage canals would fail because of faulty design and flood the city. Hell, I think most of America still doesn’t know that’s what happened.

Published inKatrina


  1. Garvey Garvey

    Isn’t the difference largely semantic, though? Without the hurricane as the inciting incident, then the flood would have never happened. In life, and especially in our society, we tend to reduce everything to the shorthand. In this case, the shorthand is one word: Katrina. To those of us on the outside, the specifics of exactly what happened, how it happened, and why it happened are too long for our reductionistic thinking. To folks on the inside, these things matter because you don’t want to see them repeated.

    I know what you mean, though. This is what happened when a hurricane had an indirect hit, so imagine a direct one.

    BTW, are there any real plans of restoring the wetlands, etc., which would in turn absorb a lot of storm water (and have other benefits)? I can’t say that trying to lock the Mighty Mississip’ into place for eternity, thereby turning it into a swift chute, isn’t a fool’s errand, doomed to fail.

  2. Some folks down here have taken to calling it the “federal flood” for just the reasons you mention, to create a sort of mental shorthand that this was not a purely natural disaster. But “Katrina” or “the storm” is more poetic.

    Perhaps the important distinction is that our flood control systems were not overwhelmed beyond what they were supposed to withstand. Katrina’s surge revealed design flaws. The protection we were supposed to have turned out not to be there.

    Yes, there are real plans to restore the wetlands. I believe of Louisiana is dedicating some of its offshore revenues (to which we finally won some rights) to restoration. There’s also some money for that in the current water resources bill which Bush is threatening to veto.

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