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NOAA/The Xylom Illustration

Hurricanes and Hope

Every year since I have had access to the Internet, on June 1st, I start watching the National Hurricane Center for tropical cyclone activity.


This is a pretty common practice in South Louisiana. When I was a child most grocery stores had hurricane tracking charts at the registers for people to take with them. Knowing if a storm is coming is a way of life here.


The first storm I remember was Hurricane Andrew in August 1992. It slammed into Florida as a Category 5 from the Atlantic and then slid into the Gulf of Mexico and a few days later made landfall as a Category 4 not far from my hometown. Because my brother and I were children my parents decided to evacuate to Lafayette, which is a little further inland. I remember the major anxiety attack this storm brought on. I was a month from ten years old it was difficult to process what was happening.


When I was a child most grocery stores had hurricane tracking charts at the registers for people to take with them. Knowing if a storm is coming is a way of life here.

I still remember the drive home and all the devastation around us. I thought that a lot of people would never recover. My family was lucky our house made it through the storm with little damage. We did not have running water or electricity for days. It was very hot in August with no AC. But we, like everyone else, got through it.


But through all the misery and heat, I remember the outpouring of help my small town and others received. People from all over the country showed up to help rebuild, there was also a drive from everyone to help each other to rebuild. I was shocked. There was much more hope than despair in the air.


As I got older and began to understand storms, I learned just how resilient the people around me are.





The next major storm that really impacted my life was Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The world remembers what happened to New Orleans in the aftermath. What most people don’t know is that Hurricane Rita hit less than a month later. Rita also caused massive flooding, but it didn’t get much news coverage. Smaller towns got 6 to 8 feet of water and many shrimp boats were beached. But the people of Southeast Louisiana banded together again and quietly rebuilt their towns again with help from others.


South Louisiana has a very different culture and way of life than any other place I have been in. I grew up in Acadiana, but I am not of Acadian descent. My mom and dad are not even from Louisiana, but they moved here because of the culture. My father is from the Bay Area in California, but he came for the food, the music, and the friendly people. My mom is from Hunstville, Ala., and attended Lousiana State University. They both loved being here so much they never went back home. Now hunting and fishing so much a part of my father’s life you would never know he grew up in a metropolis. Jeanerette, La. is a small town, but it became home to us.


As I grew up I learned a lot about Cajun culture and just how resilient the people were. How they learned to live and make do with had they had here. That resilience is why their culture is still thriving. Randy Newman once sang in his song “Louisiana 1927”, “Louisiana, Louisiana, they’re trying to wash us away.” Many storms have tried but none have succeeded.


Randy Newman once sang in his song “Louisiana 1927”, “Louisiana, Louisiana, they’re trying to wash us away.” Many storms have tried but none have succeeded.

A few years later, even though Baton Rouge, where I live now, is pretty far inland, Hurricane Gustav hit the city head-on. For the first time since Hurricane Andrew, I was directly affected. I had just moved into a house and had not unpacked yet. We did not have power for over a week.


A tree fallen by Hurricane Gustave blocks a driveway in Baton Rouge, La., on September 1st, 2008. It was estimated that 85 percent of the city had lost power; 34 parishes were declared disaster areas..(Veronica Dubroc)


I was teaching at the time so I was at least off work. My husband and I decided to go volunteer at my church. It is a large church with an even larger gym area. I again was amazed by how many people just show up with anything and everything that was needed: The entire gym was filled with goods and supplies to give to people who had lost their homes or much of their things due to large trees toppled by the high winds of the storm. These goods and supplies included common everyday things a person needs, like clothes and toiletries, and much more, but the biggest thing we give is food.