The situation grows more dire on the Gulf Coast with every tick of the clock. First the winds blew in from above and now the water is rising like a monster from below. The reality of the situation is beyond comprehension. It’s something that none of us can understand. I certainly can’t.
The question I keep hearing on TV this morning is how long will it take to rebuild. I look at those aerial shots and ask how long will it be before they can even think about rebuilding. First you have to evaluate the problem before you can even begin correcting it.
Almost one year ago to the day, our own house was hit headon by hurricane Frances. We lost our roof protection and as a result our house leaked like a sieve as inches and inches of rain poured down. Our power wasn’t out for a long period of time but our gas connection to the house broke so we had turn off our gas outside resulting in no hot water or cooking ability. There were trees down everywhere but fortunately none on our house. When we were able to get out in our car all traffic lights were down and nothing was open. Cell phone systems were overwhelmed and useless. Most land lines were out. It was desolate. It was an unfamiliar world.
We covered what parts of our roof that we could with those awful but wonderful blue tarps. In about a week (guessing here because everything was so disastrous my mind refused to record it in days and weeks, it was just one big blur.) Ivan circled back around and was beginning to form again. As it passed over us it sat and rained inches and inches and inches. As I recall we got 12 to 14 inches of rain in a day or so. More leaks occurred. I went into the utility room one morning and stepped into two or three inches of water. The vent for the hot water heater had come loose and water was flowing down. I rigged up a deal with towels and plastic storage containers so that the towels caught the water at the ceiling where it was leaking and the towels dripped down into the plastic containers. About every half hour I would slip out one container and insert the other one, then empty the water from the first one. We were afraid to flush our toilets because we didn’t want to overload our septic system. I won’t go into details on that.
Within three weeks of Frances’ visit, I awoke one morning to discover that, like Frances, hurricane Jeanne would make a direct hit here. We put everything that we could in big black plastic trash bags and sealed them up. All our linens, shoes, clothes that weren’t on hangers, just everything that would fit in a bag. We put all out hanging clothes on our bed and covered them with another big blue tarp. Our minivan was in the garage so we put things like the computer and antiques that would fit, in the van. Our house looked like a giant group of black plastic bag monsters had invaded. Then we packed up some clothes, our pets and our insurance records etc. and we headed out for a family member's home in Tampa. Our house was just too dangerous to stay in during another hurricane.
When we came home everything that had been wet during the first storm was wet again. Most of the blue tarps on the roof were gone. But we were really in no worse shape than we had been after Frances, just as bad again.
Now, almost one year later we aren’t yet where we were before the hurricanes, but we will be very soon. Because of the overwhelming demand for roof replacement in this area and all kinds of other repairs, we all were placed on waiting lists and all we could do was wait our turn for everything. As of this morning the flooring company will begin replacing what remained of our carpeting. (After the hurricanes we had to cut out big chunks of wet carpet and toss it before it began to mildew, so we have parts of our floor that are bare concrete. We have covered much of it with plastic runners for all this time.) This morning at 10:00am we will finally begin the end.
One year of living differently is finally coming to an end. Tonight when I go to bed, I won’t be stepping on concrete and plastic. Tonight I’ll be stepping on beautiful, plush, new, wonderful carpeting. This was supposed to be a big day of celebration for Mr. Pop and me. After a year of all the repairs, replacements, painting, fixing, this was to be our big day. The day that marked the end of a year of frustration and difficulties and yeah, a lot of crying and cursing. But, we just don’t feel it would be right to celebrate today, we can’t, it wouldn’t be right. Not now when so terribly many people aren’t even to the point of thinking about rebuilding, they are still trying to survive. Last night Mr. Pop and I donated to the Red Cross. We are finally to a point now where we can use what we have to help people who need it so much. Maybe it’s okay to celebrate that.