Before the storm

#72: Journal notes and photos from the hours leading up to Ida's landfall

To keep grounded in the chaos that was underway, for some time I took to journaling. It kept my mind at ease, until it didn’t. What follows is a personal account of anxieties in the midst of luxuries — a documentation of a very privileged preparation and hunkering down during a historically awful storm that left Louisiana’s River Parishes decimated.

If you do not have the bandwidth to read my own account, I simply ask that you follow along with the work being done here and consider making a donation to the cause that most moves you:

@imaginewaterworks
@houseoftulipno
@BvlbanchaCollective
@nolablackyouthfund
@anothergulf.ispossible
@cultureaidnola
@mutualaidlouisiana
@transqueeryouth.nola
@cajunnavyrelief
@redbeansparade
@2ndharvestgnoa
@no_musicians_clinic
@telelouisiane
@united_houma_nation
@mosquitosupperclub
@familiasunidasen
@dtbmutualaidfund
@idasupportnetwork
@feedthesecondline

P.S.

If you’re reading this in the Gmail app, it’ll likely cut off. See the complete issue in your browser here.


Friday

08 27 2021, 12:38PM

I just remembered what Allen said this morning – ‘the storms have been missing us lately, so you know this one’s gonna hit’. It really does feel that way.

08 27 2021, 2:51PM

Mary called. We've been offered a room at the hotel if we want it — free meals, better power grid, other people around.

08 27 2021, 3:54PM

The latest reporting has it at a Category 4 just before landfall on Sunday. This is quickly becoming pretty serious, and the hotel stay may be the best move. Damn.

08 27 2021, 7:56PM

Just walked a few miles of the lakefront with Keegan. Gorgeous sunset - which is par for the course in a Hurricane week.

Saturday

08 28 2021, 8:07AM

Archie, my neighbor's cat, thinks I’m his dad. He’s not so keen on his real parents, but last night they asked me to help get him inside for the storm. So this morning I called him onto the porch and handed him over to his momma. Sorry, Archie.

08 28 2021, 9:26AM

One last dose of normal before last minute prep ramps up. A shot of espresso and some light reading.

08 28 2021, 10:55AM

The Bearcat manager came by and dropped off some freshly baked Churro donuts and I stopped by Barracuda for a free jug of margaritas. Essentials.

08 28 2021, 12:50PM

We've decided to stay at the hotel, so I've begun to move plants inside and packing my essentials and some valuables. I don't want to leave the house – I want to be able to take care of things if water does get in. But this is our best option and the right choice.

08 28 2021, 2:11PM

We're nearly packed up and headed out. While Mary was on the phone with her mom, I was reminded of one comforting fact – the house we are living in did not flood during Katrina. I feel good about the safety of our home.

08 28 2021, 3:38PM

Checked into Hotel Saint Vincent. We have a nice corner room that has an entrance to the front 2nd-floor balcony. Maggie is visibly nervous, and naturally does not like being enclosed in small unfamiliar spaces. I think she can feel the storm coming – like the birds.

08 28 2021, 4:30PM

Just got back from a walk to the park with Maggie. Was hoping to get some nervous energy out. Those who’ve stayed are on their porches now, chopping it up. Reggae music drives down Magazine. It’s quiet, but the few remaining signs of life are comforting.

08 28 2021, 5:26PM

Just went home to grab Maggie’s bed and ended up having to save Archie again. He scratched me up good this time. The roads are empty, everyone is gone.

08 28 2021, 9:22PM

Got back to the hotel and had dinner. Been sitting out in the hotel courtyard with their skeleton crew. The Hurricane party has begun, as the staff engineer has been DJ’ing a small Hurricane party. But things will take a dark turn soon. All forecasts maintain the D-day scenario.

Sunday

08 29 2021, 8:16AM

Woke to a possible Cat. 5 on the anniversary of Katrina. Ida is due for a direct hit on Grand Isle with a path right up into the city. Not good. I'm thinking this morning about all of the people who couldn't evacuate to a safe place — and how their housing situations are subpar. I'm thinking this morning about my family and the pine trees. I'm thinking this morning about my state, my home, my love, my people. I hope we're all okay. I’ll take one churro-donut, please. And a margarita, too...

08 29 2021, 10:01AM

Just got our first gusts while up here in the room after breakfast. If this is just the tiny beginning of what’s about to happen, many places will be unrecognizable tomorrow. As ida approaches landfall, the final projected path:

08 29 2021, 12:52PM

Power's been in and out, so not quite there yet. Spent some time with Bobby in the stairwell (it's his first hurricane) and described to him some detail about the path forecast that many typically misinterpret. We're about to head down again for some pulled-pork sandwiches — our last meal before conditions deteriorate later this afternoon.

08 29 2021, 3:38PM

Played some Bourré (a favorite old cajun card-game) with Mary and the chef after lunch. The wind has picked up. The track seems to keep moving west as it moves inland, so it’s possible that we don’t get the worst of it. Still have power.

08 29 2021, 4:05PM

The eye of the storm, though completely over land now, has not dissipated whatsoever. Not good, not normal:

08 29 2021, 4:46PM

Water's coming in the room through the ceiling and down into our window. Just droplets, but lots of them. We’ve placed towels and bathmats in the window sill to catch the leaks. A small inconvenience while we still have power and secure lodging. Winds are crazy but Maggie is restful, thanks to the Trazodone that Mary’s boss gave us.

Monday

08 30 2021, 6:39AM

No power and no cell service, but we made it.

08 30 2021, 7:44AM

Drove back to the house to no damage. Seem relatively unscathed. Now planning for potential weeks without power.

08 30 2021, 12:22PM

After breakfast, I took a cold shower. We drove by Jonathan and Darlene’s to check in — but Darlene was busy and Jonathan was out. So we talked with the kids through the screen window for a bit as the radio played in the background. On the way back to the hotel, we ran into Jonathan at his coffee shop. Opting for a change of scenery, I hitched a ride back to Jonathan and Darlene’s, where there were sweet moments of youthful resilience and the quiet strength of Darlene, who is currently very pregnant. I am thankful to know them.

Tuesday

08 31 2021, 2:05PM

I stepped away from this journal for a bit. I was spiraling, and I never took the walk I intended. Sometimes the photos are not in you, and sometimes you’re not meant to take them. Or maybe I am making excuses for missing an opportunity to document the damage. Anyway — I came home to my parents this morning and helped clean up the rest of the yard. Mary’s driving over here tonight and we’ll head to Austin, Texas until our power is restored.