I was reading through some of my personal journals from last year and found the one I kept during the 2004 hurricane season. It's filled with newspaper clippings, little pieces of torn screen, photos of the destruction and my thoughts as we endured one storm after another.
August 13th (Hurricane Charley)
You never feel smaller or more insignificant than when you're in the middle of a hurricane. Nothing can prepare you for the force or size of it, not even the last one you went through.
You feel worse only when it's over, and you see what it left behind.
September 6th (Hurricane Frances)
Going on our third day without power, water or comfort. Can't sleep; the house is like an oven. Trying to keep the kids distracted with board games but it's so hot. Roads are still blocked by power lines and trees so we can't get out. Phone lines are down. I still don't know if my parents made it through.
September 14th (Hurricane Ivan)
Last night my heart started hammering so hard I couldn't catch my breath. The stress of this is unbelievable. God, please, give us time to clean up from the last one! I'm ready to collapse. Can't be anything but ready. Have to get ready. Collapse later.
September 27th (Hurricane Jeanne)
More trees and powerlines down, some of the houses down by the lake are buried under huge oaks. We and our neighbors drive under a powerline pole sitting at a 45 degree angle over the only road to town so we can get fresh food. No water, no gasoline, no ice yet. We're letting people take water from our pool in buckets to flush their toilets.
We are experienced hurricane survivors, and for every storm I had stocked enough non-perishable food and water to last us three weeks. We managed one hot meal every day by cooking on our gas grill. We had a small, battery-operated television and radio that allowed us to stay in contact with the rest of the world. We had cell phones. Each day the temperature was 95 degrees or more, so we also used three gallons of water -- first warmed up on the grill -- to bathe.
Despite this, by the time Jeanne hit, we were exhausted, in terrible spirits, and oddly passive. During the middle of Jeanne, I remember sitting on the enclosed porch and watching the roof vibrate in the 80 mph wind gusts. I was alone, it was 3:30 am, and I wasn't even scared by the fact that if the roof went, the porch and me would likely go with it. After so much stress, you can get that numb.
It's been a year now, and there were a few lasting effects. I keep a three-week supply of bottled water and non-perishable food stocked permanently now -- no more waiting for the official hurricane season. I have boxes of batteries, extra cell phones and radios, and checklists of things I have to do before, during and after a storm. I keep a tracking map on the wall of my kitchen, and I use it for every storm that comes off the coast of Africa. I still jump a little when the power flickers, or we have a bad thunderstorm, or the TV reception turns to snow.
What these folks who survived Katrina are enduring is far beyond my personal experience. They did not have the supplies we did, so I can only imagine their suffering. Most will not be able to repair, and rebuilding will take so long that they may decide to go somewhere else and never return home.