Hurricane Isaac: Home again, home again, jiggity jog!

Well, it wasn’t exactly a jiggity jog home after a trip to the market, nor was it the things that nursery rhymes are made of, but we made it through one more storm and are none the worse for the wear.

As we spent all day last Monday making preparations at our Miracle Bayou Tree House and at Camp Dularge, I snapped photos to share with you, forgetting that our evacuation destination did not have any internet capabilities; and since I don’t own a laptop with wireless service, or an I-pad with wifi, the photos just sat in my camera until today.

It’s sort of anti-climactic at this point to share them and the stories behind them, but I will do so for the new readers who didn’t follow us through the catastrophic duos of Gustav and Ike back in the fall of 2008.

Underneath the Miracle Bayou Tree House is a hodgepodge of things that really belong in a (non-existent) shed, plus the kitchen cabinets (flooded twice already), refrigerator, and clawfoot tub salvaged from our old storm-ravaged home.  We huddled them altogether under the center of the house, tied them down, securing them from high winds the best we could.

On the front porch, we tied things together, including my baby cypress tress that will soon be planted behind our house to serve as a hurricane wind-break in future years.

Oh, and I have to mention this sad little Satsuma tree that our oldest son brought The Captain last fall from one of his boat ventures.  The tree has been through a lot of stress–with all of its leaves dropping to the ground about the time the blossoms came out earlier this spring.  I thought it was dead for sure, but one blossom obviously managed to hang on, and this little Satsuma was destined to grow to ripeness–unless it gets blown off by Hurricane Isaac.

Even though the newly-installed storm shutters gave me a great sense of security from wind-blown debris, they did very little to banish that sinking feeling that our home was still easy prey for would-be looters who will stop at nothing to get what they came for during the throes of the storm when no one is around to see them or stop them.  I guess once you’ve been looted, no amount of security can ever hold those thoughts at bay.

My thoughts were a lot like those as we departed for Hurricane Rita back in 2005; namely, that we would probably be back the next day.  And then I caught myself.  Did I not learn anything from our experience with Hurricane Rita back in 2005?

Some of you already know the story.  After finally coming home to clean up wind damage from Hurricane Katrina, Rita was growing bigger by the minute in the Gulf and heading west of us.  Even so, we were under mandatory evacuation and headed north 30 miles to Thibodaux, where our three adult children were living at the time.  We didn’t take an abundance of things, as the storm was scheduled to make landfall 180 miles to the west and not pose much of a threat to us at all, making us think we would return the very next day.  Such was not the case.

Most of you know the rest of that story–our home flooded and was looted at the height of the high water, all of our valuables were taken and most of our things tossed into the muddy, nasty waters during the ransack.  Six weeks later, we finally returned to our blighted property, and things just never seemed quite the same.

So, this time I changed my thinking, said a prayer, jumped in the truck knowing it might be for the long haul.  If by chance our home gets looted again, then we will deal with it when the time comes.  The hurricane slogan went through my mind as we drove away, “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

I’m thankful to say that the worst thing we experienced before, during, and after Hurricane Isaac was boredom.  My son’s house does not have any kind of TV reception, so we could not watch hurricane  tracking updates, and it doesn’t have any kind of internet.  However, it did manage to maintain electricity throughout the whole storm, and we didn’t suffer at all.  Not one bit.

I read a book, the boys watched movies and played X-box.  I took a couple walks when it wasn’t raining too hard to what they call the downtown marina in Houma, which sits on the edge of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and Bayou Terrebonne.  I wanted to see how high the water was rising in the Intracoastal to help me gauge whether there might be more flooding down the bayou.  (I didn’t have my camera with me, so I used my cell phone.  Okay, I know everyone does that, but this wasn’t an I-phone, and the quality isn’t that great, but I will use them here anyway.)

Sometimes, boaters coming across the Intracoastal stop at this little marina, tie up, spend the night, etc.  It’s a quaint place, with a walking track, a playground (I helped build a couple years ago), and a fountain that features a Houma Indian standing in the middle holding up a fish.  I love that statue.

Even though I walked there to check the water levels, I was rewarded with something totally unexpected–a small fleet of shrimp boats–all sizes–tied up bow-to-stern, generators humming.   As I looked inside the first boat, I saw people in the wheel house talking and laughing.  On another boat, the crew was cooking something delicious smelling on the back deck.  On yet another, folks sat in the galley drinking, talking, laughing, maybe playing cards.

There seemed such a sense of peace and camaraderie among them–something that landlubbers can’t possibly comprehend during the time of a hurricane.  Many years ago, my inlaws (and even The Captain) always took refuge from a hurricane on their boats, and they passed the storms in great safety.  That is where this sense of security comes from–tradition and experience.

These sea-going families were in the safest, most secure place they could be–on their boats.  The atmosphere around them seemed almost festive, as though they had not a care in the world and not a second thought about not having cable TV or internet.

And I was envious.

This image speaks volumes to me, and that is why I asked my friend, Shoreacres, to share it with you until I could get back here and give you the background story.  I hope the photo evokes in you the feeling of safety, security, and community that it did in me.  Those feelings are still with me, which makes me want to go deep inside myself and find out why.

Maybe it’s because my Danish ancestors were Vikings (as Capt. Swallow, our resident historian, has pointed out to me), and those feelings are a throwback to times when my ancestors were in their own safe harbor.  Maybe the feelings emanate from my Grandmother Anna Christina Hansen, who came over from Denmark on a ship at the young age of 14 to find her own safe harbor in America.

And maybe the envy I feel is just a deep-seated desire to return to safer times and stay there forever, escaping the uncertainty of Hurricane Isaac and the future.

Whatever the reasons, we are truly safe here at home, with nothing but broken branches and leaf littler to deal with.  Even Lady Gray and her daughter offspring fared the storm quite well in their little chicken tractor.  For all these things, I am very, very grateful.

And as I sit here typing this to you, Alligator Season has re-opened, having been postponed since Wednesday, shrimp boats are heading back out to see what the storm pushed in, and this captain is turning her monocle toward launching her boat early tomorrow morning to see just what kind of fishes the storm surge pushed into her nearby lake.

Safe harbors, my friends!


PS:  The little Satsuma made it through the 80 mph winds!

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  1. So glad to hear your story and know all is well down there, for you. Your precautions and efforts paid off, it seems. I have a northern landlubber question for you. Why is it safest on the boats on the water? I’m assuming you mean tied at the dock in safe harbors. Is that better than in a building?

    1. Good question, Carolyn. Yes, it is, because they tie the ropes in such a way that the boats rise with the high waters. Because boats are designed to withstand the beating of strong waves, they can withstand hurricane winds (well, up to a certain strength). Of course, I’m sure they would secure their boats in safe harbor and evacuate for a tremendous storm like a Category 4 or 5. They have on board everything they need to cook, eat, sleep, bathe, etc. It just makes sense.

  2. So glad you returned to your world all intact! Love the story behind the pictures. I think you are right about storm stirring up comradarie in communities. Hope you fill your boat with a good catch . . .

  3. Well, I don’t know. I’m assuming that if the storm had been forecast to be more significant, they wouldn’t have been on those boats, in that place. If those pilings are the only thing they’re tied up to – I just wouldn’t have done it.

    Of course, I may not understand the mooring system, but it looks to me like a 5′ surge would have lifted the boats above the pilings. Maybe that’s a natural hurricane hole – that would make a difference. But it still makes me nervous to look at the photo.

    Of course, Ike is fresh in my mind. When that storm surge reversed and came in from the west, that was it. There were BIG powerboats and sailboats – up to 75 feet – scattered over highways and parking lots for miles, not to mention stacked on top of one another and sunk in their slips. The pilings in Portofino are 20 feet above mean low water, and it came within a foot of lifting the floating dock system off them. Every now and then I look at my photos, just to remind myself that I lost half of my customers in that baby, because my customers lost their boats.

    But all is well, and you’re home, and your little Satsuma survived. With luck, this will be it for the year and in a month or so we can start to breathe a little more easily. I hope so. In the meantime – happy fishing!

    1. Linda, your assumption is correct. If they had anticipated a larger storm, they would have moored with 3-inch lines to huge trees down the bayou where they came from. But these salty seafarers knew that the north wind gave us an advantage ahead of this storm by dropping tides below normal. Closing the floodgates at just the right moment kept the waters from rising when the wind switched. And not making landfall to the west of us decreased our chances for significant storm surge. And one more thing, Houma has never seen flooding from storm surge, so their thinking was, most likely, even an 8-foot surge at the coast would not have pushed them up another 3 feet onto the wharf. Like Ike, the storm surge of Katrina threw big boats around like bathtub toys–not something any of us ever want to see/experience again. At least not in this lifetime.

      1. Ah, ha! There’s the magic word! Floodgates! That makes sense of things.

        It was interesting to follow some discussions during the storm, too. People who don’t quite “get” Louisiana couldn’t understand why Isaac didn’t start to weaken immediately after the first landfall. They didn’t understand that Plaquemines, for example, is as much water as earth. Makes such a difference!

  4. Ah, glad to hear that you folks are back home and none the worse for wear. Other than the usual cleanup of storm related tree debris.

    And even the chickens came through OK!

    I can just picture the scenes you related about the shrimp boats, the folks on them and can almost smell whatever it was they were cooking. A rather comforting mental image.


    1. We like watching Swamp People, too. Exciting things coming next season! By the way, today is the first day gators will be caught and sold down this bayou, and I hope to get some photos for y’all later today.

      1. Oh, goody! Get me some gator pics! Man came in to the store the day before Isaac hit wearing a “Choot ’em” t-shirt.

  6. Thanks for sharing such a great little journal with us…sounds like all went according to plan. We watched some o’ the live camera footage from downtown Houma – wind and rain there didn’t seem too bad for a Hurricane – also sounds as if Dularge had a lower scale surge this time. Glad all are well…let us know if ye see Ricky (and tell him Ahoy from us).

    BTW, if ye want to feed yer Satsuma (or any other plants) ye can add a packet o’ plain gelatin powder to a half gallon o’ water, give it about 4 sprays o’ Windex (or equivalent o’ any ammonia) – give it a swishm and water – adds food (gelatin) and pumps up the Nitrogen in the soil (ammonia) which gives the plants a power boost. Ye can also bury table scraps (fish heads are good as are apple cores IF ye remove the seeds) to boost the Nitrogen too. I’ve brought plants back from near dead with this…and made a “Christmas Cactus” (blooms only once…allegedly) pop out a half dozen blooms 2 years after it’s “only bloom”!

    1. I will have to remember these “boosts” for plants. I usually buy prenatal vitamins and put one down in the roots as I plant them and then dissolve a few in a 5 gallon bucket of water that I use a cupful at a time to add to my tomatoes, peppers, etc once a month. Works really good. I had pepper plants at one point that were as tall as the 6′ privacy fence!!

      1. Be careful using any pharmaceuticals (including vitamins). While they are allegedly “safe for human consumption” (the side effects say otherwise) they may have adverse affect on yer plants by absorbing/combining even changing excess doses o’ ingredients with the plant ecosystem which may then be eaten by ye to adverse personal effect.

  7. Bill and I are so glad to hear that you and your family made it safely through yet another storm. Our prayers were with you. We are enjoying watching Cajun Justice to see a little bit of Terrebonne Parish. Maybe you feel safe on a boat during a hurricane, but Bill’s dad’s boat was completely destroyed in Hurricane Hugo in 1989. It was 200 miles inland at the dock on Lake Norman near Charlotte, NC. The storm pulled the whole dock loose and blew the boats to the other side of the lake. Give our love to everyone in your family.

  8. Did you have any flooding under your house this year? I’m guessing you didn’t since Lady Gray fared well. I’m glad to hear things were safe and sound when you returned home. I don’t know if I could put up with the stress you’ve had with so many storms in so few years.

  9. welcome home. Chatted you up with new diabetic chatter from Bossier City. What with Heather’s site down or extinct?
    Have a great weekend…..

  10. Glad you returned to find your home as you left it. I can’t imagine the pain, anger and fear of finding ones home has been looted. Especially during a sad and stressful time such as a hurricane. That is kicking a person when they are already down.

    I swore I saw you on the news at the start of the storm. Since there wasn’t any flooding at your home, it had to have been another lady who looked like you and was standing on the balcony of a home that resembled yours also. The reporter was with someone in a boat I believe and drove by the house and yelled up to the woman. I thought he called her Wendy but, may be mistaken. I think he asked if all was ok.

    1. You hit the emotional nail on the head where looting is concerned, Cam. I didn’t see that news piece, and it wasn’t me, but maybe my alter ego? Whomever she was, thank goodness her home was elevated and she didn’t get flooded!

      1. I hesitate to say something like this (it’s NOT ladylike or Christian) but someone that loots your home during or after a storm? To kick you while you’re down? That is the lowest of the low. I kinda wish someone like that would step on a rusty nail hidden by the flood waters. And is way overdue for a tetanus shot.

        1. Oh, Gue`, your wish is way nicer than mine was! No worries, though. I knew who it was, and not satisfied with the detective work, I started doing my own; and before long, they believed me and arrests were made. Even got a couple things back–but nothing of value, monetary or sentimental. My great grandmother’s wedding ring is gone forever, but we have our home and our lives, right? Gotta keep things in perspective. The culprits served time in big jail, as it is a major no no to loot under a state of emergency in this state, punishable by at least three years hard labor. So, hopefully, they learned their lesson and won’t ever do anything that bad again.

          1. Hehehehehehe…. I posted one of the lesser things that came to mind, since this is a family blog. I had a couple others; real doozies!

            Glad to hear that the ones responsible did get their punishment. Sad, though, that your items of value (monetary and sentimental) were long gone and irretrievable.

            You’re right: you do have to put things in perspective. Your family, your lives, the roof over your head, your friends and your livelihood… Those are the important things.

  11. Electricity, it’s an underappreciated miracle. Some man burns coal (or breaks an atom), 500 miles away and my house gets cooler. That’s just amazing! Most never truly appreciate it until is unavailable. I tried burning fallen limbs, not only did my house not get cooler, it caused me to sweat even more. Go figure……

    Glad it was all OK for you. I was really impressed with the preparedness, planning and leadership this time around.

    I heard a radio talk show host reply to a caller’s comments about how well all the elected officals had done by saying, “This is why you either vote for or against a politician, not because they voted down the new parking lot new your office, Never thought of it that way, but it certainly made sense.

    Missed opening day of dove season, missed opening day of football season, Got electricity back…. I is one happy camper!!

    1. Oh, boy do I know the joys of getting power back. After two weeks of stomping clothes in the bathtub, I was never so glad to turn on the washing machine as I was when we got power back after Hugo! First, though, I ran around the house, laughing as I flipped light switches on and off!

  12. Hope you get a lot of bites, be easier to find a trained one that way…

    Maybe I should send a couple prospects down…

    later… fish thawing for big fry… to Sunday papers.

  13. neighbors sister 25th wedding anniversary good chance to unload freezer of crappie to catch more… 50 white bass I plan on force feeding them too. Soaking the whities in buttermilk till fried.

  14. Awesome, you are back at home and no damage. Love the pictures, especially the shrimp boats at dock!
    Enjoy your boat trip…with each time, an opportunity to be at peace in the waters, you love!

    1. Glad to hear your family was safe, too. I’m so sad about the flooding in Madisonville, though. But what matters most are our loved ones and our lives, right?

  15. I’M BACK! I never left my home, had 11 1/2″ of rain, and had electricity the whole time. Just didn’t have a computer! Bought a new one!
    I knew from someone ( who rode Issac out in Dulac) that y’all were ok in Theriot, but it’s good to read it for myself!

    1. Wait, wait, wait. You don’t just casually throw it out there that you know someone that rode out a hurricane in Dulac. Tell us, did they GO there to do that? Are do they LIVE there?? There’s a big difference, lol! Glad you survived and had no damage. And so happy you got a new computer, too!

      1. I actually wrote the wrong town. They are on the other side of the bayou. They actually live in Bourg now. They used to live in Dulac.

        You just don’t know how glad I am to have a new computer! I was having withdrawals! I had a quick fix once last week when we borrowed a computer from one of my sons for a few hrs., but it didn’t last long! LOL!

  16. Sorry for the late reply, I sure am glad that you all are fine and safe!! We got remnants of Isiac last night. Just rain and a little lightning and some wind. No damage that we have found yet. Look foward to more stories and great pictures.

  17. We got just a bit from Isaac/Isiac. My husband said 10″-12″ in about 30 seconds. In other words…for about 30 seconds, we had some sprinkles fall about 10″-12″ apart!!”) But the wind was a bit brisk and it was hot so, they dried before the next one fell.