Report from Louisiana: Waiting for Gordon

Tropical storm Gordon.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Last night as I was watching LSU’s trouncing of the Miami Hurricanes on television, I received a text message from a friend which included a screenshot of the new tropical storm in the Gulf, Gordon, with the question “Am I the only one who can feel a faster heartbeat and creeping anxiety over a pic like this?”

It’s an ongoing group text thread with five of us teachers and every one of us knew exactly what she meant.  I’d been watching that cone of probability all day long as it centered this storm right over New Orleans.

It’s only a tropical storm, it’s not a hurricane, and it’s probably not that big of a deal, but this is what living in Louisiana is like, especially after Katrina which was much in the news the past week with the thirteenth anniversary of that devastating storm.

Add to that the flooding along the south Louisiana coast with Harvey last year and, well, we can be forgiven if we look at tropical storm warnings a little differently than normal.

The New York Times has a story today about Hurricane Harvey and about how many poor neighborhoods in Houston are “slow to recover” :

A survey last month showed that 27 percent of Hispanic Texans whose homes were badly damaged reported that those homes remained unsafe to live in, compared to 20 percent of blacks and 11 percent of whites. There were similar disparities with income: 50 percent of lower-income respondents said they weren’t getting the help they needed, compared to 32 percent of those with higher incomes, according to the survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Episcopal Health Foundation.

And while Louisiana escaped the brunt of Hurricane Harvey, areas along the coast received up to twenty-two inches of rain which just added insult to injury after the devastating 2016 Louisiana floods.  In August 2016 much of south Louisiana received devastating rain totals as a slow-moving storm drenched the state and left many homes uninhabitable.

So, yes.  Whenever we see those weather graphics with those cones of probability slamming right into our fragile coast, we get a little nervous.

It doesn’t stop us in our tracks, though.  We are used to this.  It comes with the territory (literally!) and the flooding and storms are part of our routine.  We prepare, we wait, we watch, and sometimes the predictions are wrong.

But I do believe that Katrina changed things for us.  I’m in northwest Louisiana and so Katrina as a weather event didn’t affect me very much, but Katrina as a human drama certainly did.  I’ll never ever forget the haunted eyes of those refugee children in my classrooms.

With this little storm, Gordon, who is making its way over the coast this week and up into my corner of the state this time, what I worry about most is our very fragile coastline and vanishing wetlands.  I wonder why we have no better answers to protect them and I worry about places like Isle de Jean Charles, for example, that are already so endangered.  What must those people be thinking as they look at the weather forecast this week?

In the meantime, we celebrate our LSU Tigers’ performance last night, and I think I will go start a pot of gumbo and hope that the storm moves quickly through.

 

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia.  Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25.