I will spare you excuses for my blogging absence, because that is what they are, excuses. Sometime soon I will share my news with you all. Today we are going to learn all about hurricanes. Yay!
As many of you know, I moved to Louisiana in January. Having spent all my life in the midwest and then two years in Boston. So, this is my very first hurricane! In case you live under a rock, Hurricane Isaac is slowly but surely coming to Louisiana.
My knowledge of Hurricane survival comes from a book I remember reading in late middle school, early high school called Louisiana Hurricane 1860 by Kathleey Duey. It’s part of a series about romance in crazy, abnormal, historical situations. My initial reaction was to call them natural disasters since the ones I remember the most are Louisiana Hurricane 1860, The Great Chicago Fire 1871, San Francisco Earthquake 1906 and Washington Avalanche 1910. However, there is also Hidenburg 1937 and Pearl Harbor 1941.*
Anyway, back to real Hurricanes. I freaked out Sunday night and Monday (was close to tears a couple times yesterday) because I have no desire to be in a natural disaster. I don’t want the air to go out. I don’t want my cell phone to die and have no way to call my mother. I don’t have a radio and all the stores were out, so once the power goes out and my ipad dies, well I’m screwed. Nothing about this sounds like fun. Neither does filling my bathtub with water to flush my toilet. So many people told me to clean my tub, fill it with water, then put some bleach in it, and then use that for toilet and drinking water if I run out of bottled water. Frankly, I refuse to drink bleach water out of my tub, so I ran around the house filling every bowl, pitcher, and even the crock-pot with water, in case I run out of previously purchased water. Frankly I’m glad the boy is with me right now, because I’d be going crazy (not to mention when I et nervous I need to use the restroom and that will deplete the toilet flushing water pretty quickly!)
Yet, even though this Hurricane is beginning to scare me (we now have tornado watches too) I cannot help thinking about the people who lived through Hurricanes long ago. Back before the radio was invtented. Back before meteorologists could tell storms were brewing long before they manifested themselves. Back when most people lived miles and miles away from each other, so you couldn’t pick up and travel to a friends house 50 miles away when a storm approached your home.
According to HPC the first documented hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico occurred on October 23, 1527. According to the paper by David Roth of the National Weather Service in Camp Springs, MD, “the earliest reference that can be found to a storm in the Gulf of Mexico occurred on a voyage of Panfilo de Narvaez, whose nemesis was Fernando Cortes…he was sent to settle Florida, until forced to leave by hostile natives and hunger. His five boats of less than 250 men hugged the coast and sailed westward. As they were passing the Mouth of the Mississippi River, a storm caught the barges and ‘tossed them like drift wood’ (ChiPMan).”
After that, the first “well-documented” storm occurred between September 22-24, 1722. During that storm 36 huts were destroyed and 3 days of flooding rains occurred around the 27th (Roth). Granted the area was most likely scarcely populated at the time, but 36 seems like a lot! Later, on August 17-18, 1779, a hurricane landed in New Orleans. At this time Bernardo de Galvez officiated as mayor of New Orleans and Spain and Great Britain were at war. According to Roth, “Almost of all of Bernardo de Galvez’ ships that were to be sued to secretly seize the British post at Baton Rouge were grounded or destroyed, thus ruining his plans for the invasion until the 27th…some of the ships were found in the middle of the woods after the storm!”
Moving to the 1800s. On August 16-17, 1831, “the Great Barbados hurricane, very destructive, hit just west of Last Island, just west of Baton Rouge…and killed 1500 people along it’s path from Barbados to New Orleans (Roth).” Along the way, it destroyed a fishing village on Grand Isle due to six feet tidal waves.
The weather itself is the same. However, our housing structures are so much stronger. Yes, the wealthy lived in incredibly sturdy, well built houses. Otherwise we would not have historic houses and plantations today. However, think of all the slaves. The bulk of Louisiana economy came from plantations. Those plantations required slaves, and I can guarantee their houses were not of sturdy construction.
Louisiana is also filled with poor swamp people, or Cajuns. These homes are oftentimes directly on the water and, again, now always sturdily built. Also, it was unlikely that these people had easy access to evacuation.
I know I could talk about recent Hurricanes like Katrina and Gustav. But honestly, it’s the older hurricanes that fascinate me; how people survived and almost embraced the crazy weather of their homeland. I truly believe that Louisiana is in your blood, because as a transplant, I see no reason to stay in an area so susceptible to natural disaster.
* The books are just as the titles suggest–fluffy teen historical romance. I actually reread Louisiana Hurricane 1860 when I moved down here, and wow. Not the greatest book ever. It’s actually pretty bad. But it totally entertained me as an adolescent! I loved the “forbidden romance” of the wealthy plantation creole and the cajun worker. I also read all the other books in the series, besides Pearl Harbor 1941 and they all followed the same line. Fluffy, enjoyable, clean, historical romance. But, based solely on the covers, I hid them from my mother when I checked them out from the library. I was such a dork.