Ten years ago today, we woke up on a Sunday morning and took another look at the forecast for Hurricane Katrina. She was big. She was bad. And she was bearing down on the Louisiana/Mississippi coast. And we lived right in her path.
Two days prior, on Friday morning, I was in San Diego, getting ready to fly back to New Orleans. I knew there was a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, but at that point, she was forecasted to hit the Pensacola area. When I landed in New Orleans later that afternoon, I called Jon to tell him I would be home in about an hour. He told me the Hurricane Center had changed the forecast and Katrina was now forecasted to hit Mississippi. It sounded like we might have an exciting weekend.
Jon called me again on my drive home to tell me he had received a phone call from Jonny’s daycare. Jonny, our youngest, 7 at the time, had broken his arm and Jon was taking him to the Keesler AFB emergency room. Just another thing to add to the excitement. Heather, our oldest and a freshman in college, drove home from Pearl River Community College that evening. Daniel, a freshman in high school, was already at home.
Saturday was a bit chaotic. We made some precursory preparations. We boarded up the windows, thinking it would provide some protection from the storm. Jon filled up the vehicles. I checked our hurricane supplies and pulled out our important papers folder. We discussed whether we would stay or leave. It was kind of surreal. As we drove about our neighborhood, it seemed like no one thought about the hurricane heading our way. Kids held car washes. People walked their dogs. Only a few seemed to make preparations. We decided we would take a look at the forecast in the morning and decide then.
Back to Sunday morning. Katrina still headed our way. And she was a category 5 hurricane. We were a bit conflicted. We had been through Typhoon Paka on Guam (where everyone hunkers down; no one evacuates except the planes) and although it had been a bit scary, it was also kind of an adventure. We were weather forecasters. We liked weather. The kids liked weather. We often sat outside to watch thunderstorms roll in. Jon had been tornado chasing before (although he never found any). But Katrina was not something to underestimate. She was dangerous. And as a mom, I knew I couldn’t stay and keep my kids in harms way. What if something happened to one of them? That was not a risk I was willing to take.
We headed to church to see what our friends were going to do. Hardly anyone was there. We talked to our pastor and his wife. They planned to pack up and head north. We decided to head to San Antonio, where Jon’s parents lived. We called a friend and coworker and asked him what he and his family were going to do. They decided to join us.
They loaded up their kids in their truck, we loaded up our kids in our van and our car, along with our beloved pets, and headed out, knowing that it would be a mess when we came back. We really had no clue as to what the very near future held for us and all of those who lived along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.
Over the course of the following months I will post, on the corresponding anniversary, the emails I wrote throughout our journey in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It is a journey that still causes tears to flow. It is a journey in which God walked with us so faithfully. And it is a journey I invite you to remember and rewalk with me.
Grace and Peace.