Hurricanes are a fact of life along the Gulf Coast. When I was 13 years old, Hurricane Betsy wrought destruction in the lives of Louisianans, but my main memory is of how exciting the winds were, how interesting it was to have part of a tree in our kitchen, and how much fun it was to paddle around the neighborhood in the family canoe. There are advantages in undeveloped frontal lobes.
In 1965, of course, there were more coastal barrier islands and wetlands than today, so the big storms may hit us harder now. Evacuation, unknown when I was a teenager, has become a standard response to approaching hurricanes. Forty years after Betsy, I left New Orleans for what I thought would be a couple of days of storm vacation in the old family farm home in Washington Parish, only to spend the following couple of months in exile and wandering. When we did return home, we settled in a trailer in the front yard of a house with a collapsed ceiling in the main bedroom upstairs and downstairs walls ruined by floodwaters.
Hurricane Isaac, now moving toward us, does not look like it will be as bad as Katrina. There is something undignified about running away from the weather, so I’m staying in place this time and hoping the ceiling doesn’t fall on me while I’m asleep. At any rate, I still have the old canoe.