As many of you know, one of my sisters lives on the Gulf Coast…Gulf Shores, Alabama, to be exact. She and her husband live in a charming home that sits on stilts, high in the air, right on the intracoastal waterway. She and I have spent quite a few pleasant hours sitting on her screened porch, overlooking her pretty garden (on which she has worked very hard), and the waterway…watching brown pelicans, pleasure boats and big barges loaded with coal glide past, to parts unknown.
They’ve had to evacuate several times…of course…The very first time, my bro-in-law George had tied their boat up under the house , every which way from Sunday, when an old timer came along and said, “Son, I don’t care how you tie it, if the water comes up, that boat is gonna be in your living room.” They moved the boat. And since then they have a “list of what must be done” when they leave….such as, take up every other plank on the pier in hope of saving it, putting all their potted plants(and there are lots of them-too many George says) in a trailer and haul the trailer to someone who lives on higher ground, carry all the lawn furniture upstairs into the house, move everything on the screened porch into the house, take the blades off the porch ceiling fans, empty the freezer and fridge in case the power is out for a while….you get the point. It’s exhausting. Hurricane Ivan was their worst hit in Gulf Shores….they lost their pier when a big barge got loose from its anchor in the canal, and careened wildly downstream, knocking out piers along the way. They had lots of water under the house, of course the cars and boat were moved…the windows were boarded up so the worst of it was they couldn’t get back to their house for at least a week or so, because the roads were covered with trees and refrigerators and boats and everything you can imagine. And even though that was three years ago, there are devastated houses there that still look it happened last month. And her garden wasn’t the same for a year or two, after being soaked in sea water. Since Katrina, they’ve been lucky along the Gulf Coast.
I called sis this weekend as they were making preps to go to their son’s house…she was agonizing about how much to do …as Gustav really wasn’t really expected to hit there, but you don’t want to be sorry, what if it changes course…you can imagine. And everything that you do, when you come home, must be undone. Boards back on the pier, furniture thumped back downstairs, …another day or two of labor. She says it’s worth it to live there…right now anyway…though their insurance has skyrocketed to the point that if they get another big hit, they really might not be able to afford to stay. And they have talked frankly about leaving, even though she loves it there…they both do. That has been the scenario for lots of folks in those parts….just too much trouble and too much money to stay. Same for New Orleans. But this time….this time, they were lucky. Lots of people were.