Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Friday, September 16th

This was the second year in a row that we'd be driving home from a hurricane evacuation on her birthday. Last year, it was Ivan and Nacogdoches. This year, I handled it a bit better. Last year I fumbled her birthday present (not all my fault, really it wasn't) by giving her a pair of shoes she'd picked out weeks before, but I told her I had something else on queue for her. That something else never came through, and I had to eat crow for it later. This year, we'd evacuated over two weeks before her birthday, so I didn't even have a chance to get something small.

My only shopping choice was Wal-Mart. So, the day before, as Michelle sunned at the pool, I ran into Wal-Mart and bought some art supplies. I figured the supplies she had at the house would be ruined, so I got her a sketch pad, some pencils, good pens, better paper for drawing on, and a portfolio. It went over well. Yay me.

We left our hotel at 8 a.m. Instead of heading straight to my parents' place, we decided to go to Greenville, Arkansas to visit Michelle's mother and stepdad. They'd evacuated Slidell the day after we left New Orleans, and wound up in a Red Cross shelter in Mississippi. Someone offered them use of a trailer in Greenville, which is just over the Arkansas border, and since their house in Slidell was demolished, they took it. Michelle had no idea when she'd see her mother again, so we decided to go out of our way to visit.

They seemed happy, Michelle's stepdad had some leads on jobs, and their trailer was quaint and more importantly paid for for a year. We stayed with them for a couple of hours, and at 1 p.m. we were on the road again, finally going someplace familiar.


Because I-10 was unpassable in points, we couldn't take a straight shot home. Instead, we were on I-55 South, which we took until we got to Highway 51, which we took to Highway 61, which we took to Interstate 310, which we took to Highway 90. Highway 90 is a stretch I'm pretty familiar with. We drove that stretch from Lafayette into the N.O. area after Ivan last year, and in the N.O. area, when I still lived with my parents, I made that drive almost every day for the dayjob, from Metairie over the Huey P. Long bridge into Westwego, into Marrero.

Around 7:30 p.m., when we got into Avondale, things began to look different.

The weather was pretty clear, and I immediately knew the skyline was different. Without noticing anything specific, I could tell trees were missing, making the skyline more open. Very few buildings were drastically damaged, but almost every building had roof shingles missing. It was impossible to tell how bad off the roofs were. Traffic, oddly enough, flowed almost freely. We got into Marrero with no problems.

My parents' house was pretty much okay. The stench was terrible, but my parents' gracious neighbors, the ones who checked on the house, had already emptied the freezers and refridgerator, sparing us the foul task of burying all the spoiled food. The street was littered with tree branches, roof shingles, and garbage. Nothing that couldn't be cleaned.

Not only did we have electricity, but the cable and internet was on! Having seen the destruction of New Orleans on television, the differences between the Eastbank and the Westbank seemed phenomenal. Power AND internet? It was as if only a simple storm had passed.

It was all good until 11 p.m., when the power abruptly went out.
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